Daniel Mitsui ~ Summula Pictoria


Over fourteen years, from Easter 2017 to Easter 2031, I plan to draw an iconographic summary of the Old and New Testaments, illustrating those events that are most prominent in sacred liturgy and patristic exegesis.

The things that I plan to depict are the very raw stuff of Christian belief and Christian art; no other subjects offer an artist such inexhaustible wealth of beauty and symbolism. Were I never to draw them, I would feel my artistic career incomplete. I hope to undertake this task in the spirit of a medieval encyclopedist, who gathers as much traditional wisdom as he can find and faithfully puts it into order. I want every detail of these pictures, whether great or small, to be thoroughly considered and significant.

I am calling this project my Summula Pictoria: a Little Summary of the Old and New Testaments. It will be realized as 235 drawings. Collectively, these will form a coherent work; every person, place and thing that appears from picture to picture will be recognizable. Their common style and perspective will reflect a proper theology of time and space, light and darkness, sacred numbers and directions.

The drawings certainly will be influenced by artwork of the past; I defer always to the Fathers in matters of arrangement and disposition. Yet I intend to copy no other work of art directly. Everything in them, whether figures, fabric patterns, architectural ornaments or background landscapes, I shall design myself.

I shall draw the Summula Pictoria using metal-tipped dip pens and paintbrushes, with pigment-based inks, on calfskin vellum. The pictures will be in full color. I shall use the calfskin’s translucency for artistic effect, drawing extensively on both its front and its back to create each picture.


The Summula Pictoria will include 40 large (9" ×9") drawings of events in the Life of Jesus Christ. 124 smaller (4.5" ×4.5") drawings will summarize the Old Testament; 56 drawings in this same smaller size will depict the lives of the Blessed Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and the Apostles.

There will also be 13 iconic portraits of holy persons, each measuring 9" ×13.5"; and two larger drawings, one of the Last Judgment and one of the Tree of Jesse.

The full list of drawings, and the prices for commissioning them, can be read here:



I hope to secure advance patronage for most of the drawings. This is most important at the beginning of the project, as I intend to spend the first two of the fourteen years in intense preparation.

Please contact me if you would be interested in commissioning any of these works. I can accept payments for them in advance, or in installments, or in smaller monthly amounts. Patrons will have the opportunity to purchase prints of completed drawings at a discount.

My tasks, from Easter 2017 to Easter 2018 include:
Studying and Practicing Figure Drawing
Designing and Constructing Costumes for Models
Designing Patterns for Haloes, Damask, Carpets
Designing Patterns for Tiles, Architectural Ornament
Procuring Reference Books

Improving my Latin Comprehension
Research: Biblical, Exegetical, Liturgical, Art Historical
Recording my Research and Preparation
My tasks, from Easter 2018 to Easter 2019 include:
Studying and Practicing Figure Drawing
Scheduling and Posing Live Models
Designing Model Buildings
Planning Compositions for all 235 Projects
Procuring Vellum, Ink, Pens, Paintbrushes

Improving my Latin Comprehension
Research: Biblical, Exegetical, Mathematical, Philosophical
Recording my Research and Preparation
From Easter 2019 until Easter 2031, I intend to complete four or five large drawings and about fifteen small ones each year, and to write detailed descriptions of all of them.


As the idea of the Summula Pictoria became clearer in my mind, I realized that the project needed a second component. Visual expressions of theology and symbolism, no matter how profound or beautiful, are ineffective if nobody understands them. The meaning of religious art has become obscure; medieval works that once catechized the unlettered now require written commentary to interpret. Its very strangeness to the modern mind has become part of its appeal, which is not right at all. Christian art is meant to be for everyone.

I intend to use the Summula Pictoria as a tool for instruction. As I research, compose and draw these pictures, I shall make a record of the creative process: sharing notes and summaries of iconographic sources, displaying drawings in progress, providing models to copy. My hope is that this will be useful to anyone who wants to make religious art, or to understand it. My idea is not to make a scholarly text or a university course; it is to offer, free of charge, something more accessible, comparable perhaps to a cookbook in which a professional chef shares his recipes.

To this end, I have launched a web log at www.danielmitsui.blogspot.com, in which I shall post my writings about Christian art: its principles, its symbolism and the methods of making it.


all works copyright Daniel Mitsui / danielmitsuiartist at gmail dot com