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5 February 2013


Worcester Art Museum:
This painting has long been attributed to Stefano da Verona, who was active mostly in northern Italy and who was a proponent of the International Style. Popular throughout Europe toward the end of the fourteenth century, this style embodies a decorative elegance and an interest in minute detail that derive from northern European painting. Here the Virgin is portrayed as the Madonna of Humility: instead of being enthroned, she is seated on a cushion on the ground. In the sky above her appears God the Father with a scepter and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The rose garden symbolizes the purity of the Virgin, while the music-making angels evoke the refined and grace-filled court life of the very end of the Middle Ages.

4 February 2013


Shunkoin Temple:
The Bell of Nanban-ji is designated as a National Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. This Jesuit bell was made in Portugal in 1577 and used at Nanbanji Church.

Nanbanji Church was the first Christian church in Kyoto. In 1576, Jesuit Father Gnecchi-Soldo Organtino established this church with the support of Nobunaga Oda, who was one of the most powerful feudal lords who ruled Kyoto in the late 16th century. In the next eleven years, Nanbanji was the center of Catholic missionary activities in Japan. Also, this church became an important place for traders from Portugal and Spain.

In 1587, Regent Hideyoshi Toyotomi created a law against all Christians in Japan. Nanbanji was destroyed and was never rebuilt. Following the anti- Christian policy of Regent Hideyoshi, the Tokugawa shogunate banned Christianity and systematically eliminated all Christians. Thus, the Bell of Nanbanji vanished from the Japanese history until the bell came to Shunkōin about 200 years ago.

On the surface of the bell ... under an IHS Christogram, there are three nails of the seal of the Society of Jesus. Three nails symbolize the Crucifixion of Christ. Also the Arabic numerals 1577 were engraved on the surface.

3 February 2013


Drawing by Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond

The Golden Legend of James of Voragine, Englished by William Granger Ryan:
Opaque creatures manifested the Nativity, for example by the destruction of the temple in Rome, as above described, and also by the collapse of other statues that fell in a great many other places. For instance, we read in the Scholastic History that the prophet Jeremiah, going down to Egypt after the death of Godolias, indicated to the Egyptian kings that their idols would fall to pieces when a virgin bore a son. For that reason the priests of the idols made a statue of a virgin holding a male child in her lap, set it up in a secret place in the temple, and there worshipped it. When King Ptolemy asked them the meaning of this, they told him that it was a mystery handed down by the fathers, who had received it from a holy man, a prophet, and they believed that what was foretold would really happen.
The story of the statue's creation was inlcuded in the Speculum Humane Salvationis as a prefigurement of the Flight into Egypt, along with Moses breaking the Pharaoh's crown and Nebuchadnezzar's dream.


Sarah Jane Boss:
At Le Puy, it is not only the site that is enveloped in sacred mythology, but also the statue of the Virgin and Child. According to tradition, this too is a pre-Christian image prophetic of Christianity. The original statue is said to have been carved by the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, while he remained in Egypt after fleeing there following the fall of Jerusalem. The statue is thus a visual prophecy of the Incarnation. One tradition recounts that King St. Louis IX of France, on his way to Palestine to join a crusade, was captured by the Sultan of Egypt. Whilst he was there awaiting his ransom, the sultan showed him many of the treasures of his country, amongst which, in the temple, was a black statue of a mother and child.

King Louis immediately recognized the image as a statue of the Virgin and Christ. When the king's ransom arrived, the sultan told him that he could choose a gift, from everything he had seen in Egypt, to take back with him to his native land, and the gift that Louis chose was the statue of the mother and child. The sultan was most reluctant to let it go, but, having given his word, he could not go back on it, and so the statue was taken by Louis to France, where it was given to the shrine of Le Puy.
The Black Virgin of Le Puy was guillotined and burned by the revolutionaries on 9 June 1794. As the statue burned, a secret door opened in its back, out of which a small parchment scroll fell. It was consumed by the fire before anyone could read what was written on it.

Shortly before the statue was destroyed, it was sketched and described by the Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond. The statue currently venerated in the Cathedral of Le Puy is a replica based on this description.

2 February 2013


Its significance, explained in the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Templum cordis adornemus;
Novo corde renovemus
Novum senis gaudium,
Quod dum ulnis amplexatur,
Sic longevi recreatur
Longum desiderium.

Stans in signum populorum,
Templum luce, laude chorum,
Corda replens gloria,
Templo puer presentatus,
Post in cruce vir oblatus,
Pro peccatis hostia.

Hinc Salvator, hinc Maria,
Puer pius, mater pia,
Moveant tripudium!
Sed cum votis perferatur
Opus lucis, quod signatur
Luce luminarium.

Verbum Patris lux est vera,
Virginalis caro cera,
Christi splendens cereus;
Cor illustrat ad sophiam,
Qua virtutis rapit viam,
Vitiis erroneus,

Christum tenens per amorem,
Bene juxta festi morem,
Gestat lumen cereum,
Sicut senex Verbum Patris
Votis, strinxit pignus matris
Brachiis corporeum.

Gaude, mater genitoris,
Simplex intus, munda foris,
Carens ruga, macula;
A dilecto preelecta,
Ab electo predilecta
Deo muliercula!

Omnis decor tenebrescit,
Deformatur et horrescit
Tuum intuentibus:
Omnis sapor amarescit,
Reprobatur et sordescit
Tuum pregustantibus.

Omnis odor redolere
Non videtur, sed olere
Tuum odorantibus:
Omnis amor aut deponi
Prorsus solet, aut postponi
Tuum nutrientibus,

Decens maris luminare,
Decus matrum singulare,
Vera parens veritatis,
Via vite pietatis,
Medicina seculi;
Vena vini fontis vite,
Sitienda cunctis rite,
Sano dulcis et languenti,
Salutaris fatiscenti
Confortantis poculi!

Fons signate
Rivos funde,
Nos infunde;
Fons hortorum
Riga mentes
Unda tui rivuli:
Fons redundans
Sis inundans;
Cordis prava
Queque lava;
Fons sublimis,
Munde nimis,
Ab immundo
Munda mundo
Cor immundi populi. Amen.

Englished by Digby S. Wrangham:

Let us, the heart's shrine preparing
With a heart renewed be sharing
In the old man's joy again,
Joy, which, held in his embraces,
So his long-felt heart's wish raises
Once more in the long-lived man.

Set an ensign for the nations,
Shrine with light, song with laudations,
Hearts with glory filleth He;
Now a child for presentation,
When a man, a sin-oblation
On the Cross for sin to be!

Saviour! here, here, Mary lowly!
Holy Son and mother holy!
Move us all to glad delight
By that work of light perfected,
Which we now, for prayer collected,
Image with our tapers bright!

The true light the Word from heaven,
Virgin's flesh the wax, hath given
To Christ's candle, bright as day,
Which to hearts that wisdom showeth.
Through which virtue's path he knoweth.
Who by sin is led astray.

As one, love t'ward Jesus bearing,
In this festal custom sharing.
Doth a waxen taper hold,
So the Father's Word supernal,
Pledge of purity maternal.
Did old Simeon's arms enfold.

Joy thou, who thy Father barest!
Pure within, without the fairest!
From all spot or wrinkle free!
Pre-elect of the Belovèd!
By the Elect of old approvèd!
Darling of the Deity!

Beauty of all kinds seems clouded,
Sore defaced and horror-shrouded.
When we see thy beauty shine:
Bitter groweth every savour,
Hateful and of filthy flavour,
After we have tasted thine.

Every scent the sweetest smelling
Seems not sweet, but most repelling,
When thy scents our nostrils fill;
Love of all kinds is rejected
Instantly, or else neglected,
Whilst thy love we cherish still.

Lovely light o'er ocean's waters!
Mother, peerless 'mongst earth's daughters!
Parent true of truth immortal!
Way of life to grace's portal!
Medicine all the world to heal!
Duct of wine from life's fount bursting.
For which all men should be thirsting!
Sweet to those in health or sickness!
Health to all, who in sore weakness
For its cheering draught appeal!

Fountain duly
Sealed as holy!
Outpour for us
Rivers o'er us:
Fount of showers
For hearts' flowers!
Water ever
From thy river
To all thirsting souls impart:
Fount o'erflowing!
Through hearts going,
Grant ablution
From pollution:
Fountain, given
Pure from heaven!
From earth, wholly
Impure, throughly
Purify man's impure heart! Amen.

1 February 2013


Her life, according to Oengus the Culdee.

Fragment of an abecedarian hymn by Ultan of Ardbraccan:

Xps in nostra insula que vocatur Hibernia
Ostensus est hominibus maximis mirabilibus
Que perfecit per felicem celestis vite virginem
Precellentem pro merito magno in mundi circulo.

Ymnus iste angelice summeque Sancte Brigite
Fari non valet omnia virtutum mirabilia
Que nostris nunquam auribus si sint facta audivimus
Nisi per istam Virginem Marie sancte similem.

Zona sancte militie sanctos lumbos precingere
Consueuit diurno nocturno quoque studio
Consummato certamine sumpsit palmam victorie
Refulgens magno splendore ut sol in celi culmine.

Audite virginis laudes sancta quoque merita
Perfectionem quam promisit viriliter impleunt
Xpi matrem se spopondit dictus et fecit factis
Brigita aut amata veri Dei regina.
Englished by Mary Francis Cusack:

Christ in our isle was shown to men,
By Brigit's saintly life;
Excelling all who came before,
She conquered in the strife.

Like her no other saint was found,
But Jesu's mother blest;
Her virtues and her wondrous fame
Can never be expressed.

With holy fervour girdled round,
The victor's palm she gains;
And like the glorious sun above,
In heaven refulgent reigns.

Then listen to this virgin's praise:
To Christ she gave her vow,
Faithful she kept it; her reward
Is reigning with Him now.

31 January 2013


British Museum:
Aldegrever's work shows more than any other artist since Schongauer the close association that persisted between the engravers' and goldsmiths' professions. About one hundred of his engravings are designs for ornament, of which his designs for goldsmiths' work fall into the period 1528-39. He produced seventeen designs for sheaths of swords, daggers or domestic knives, most of which show the sheaths alone. [These] display large-scale designs for the scabbard and hilt; they represent his most impressive achievement in this genre and are probably the most famous ornament prints of the period. Such objects would have been extremely costly to realise and were intended for ceremonial use by the nobility or wealthy patrician families. Daggers of this type are seen buckled to the men in Aldegrever's engravings of wedding dancers of 1538 and in drawings by Urs Graf and others.

30 January 2013


Art Institute of Chicago:
The Venetian printmaker and book publisher Cesare Vecellio is best known for a book of over 500 woodcuts of ancient and modern costumes from 1590. The following year, he printed and produced this equally popular book [Corona delle Nobili e Virtuose Donne] of sewing and lace patterns. Literally a hands-on manual whose pages were often ripped out to produce decorative accents for women’s attire, it continued to be published in new editions as late as 1891. Intended for household use, the book was one of the hallmark innovations of the Renaissance, giving print media an economic application in fostering the amateur production of luxurious textiles.

29 January 2013


Echo Germanica:
The Golden Madonna, so called because it is draped with a [1/100 inch] thick layer of gold, is the oldest known sculpture of the Virgin Mary in Western Europe. It was commissioned by Abbess Mathilde of Essen in 990, when the city consisted of little more than a cloister for unmarried noblewomen and the craftspeople they helped support. The Golden Madonna is the centrepiece of the Essen cathedral’s extensive collection of medieval art, much of which was acquired through the cloister’s close connections with the German imperial families.

26 January 2013


Dürer Journal:
The Mexica (Aztec) king Motecuhzoma greeted Hernan Cortés in 1519 with gifts of gold, silver, and precious stones, including jewelry, ornaments, headpieces, disks, garments, shields, and helmets. Cortés sent the tribute to Charles V, King of Spain and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, who placed them on exhibit in 1520. Albrecht Dürer, the master German artist, viewed the exhibit in Brussels and extolled its beauty in his travel journal.
27 August 1520

At Brussels is a very splendid Townhall, large and covered with beautiful carved stonework, and it has a noble, open tower.... I saw the things which have been brought to the King from the new land of gold, a sun all of gold a whole fathom broad, and a moon all of silver of the same size, also two rooms full of armor of the people there, and all manner of wondrous weapons of theirs, harness and darts, very strange clothing, beds, and all kinds of wonderful objects of human use, much better worth seeing than prodigies. These things were all so precious that they are valued at 100,000 florins. All the days of my life I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things, for I saw amongst them wonderful works of art, and I marvelled at the subtle ingenia of men in foreign lands. Indeed I cannot express all that I thought there.
None of the Aztec art sent by Cortés to Spain is known to exist today.

25 January 2013


Its significance, explained in the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Jubilemus Salvatori
Qui spem dedit peccatori
Consequendi veniam,
Quando Saulum increpavit
Et conversum revocavit
Ad matrem Ecclesiam.

Saulus, cedis et minarum
Spirans adhuc cruentarum
In Christi discipulos,
Impetravit ut ligaret;
Et ligatos cruciaret,
Crucifixi famulos.

Quem in via Christus stravit,
Increpatum excecavit
Lucis sue radio;
Qui consurgens de arena,
Manu tractus aliena,
Clauditur hospitio.

Flet, jejunat, orat, credit,
Baptizatur; lumen redit
In Paulum convertitur
Saulus predo nostri gregis;
Paulus preco nostra legis
Sic in Paulum vertitur.

Ergo, Paule, doctor gentis,
Vas electum, nostre mentis
Tenebras illumina,
Et per tuam nobis precem
Presta vitam, atque necem
Eternam elimina. Amen.

Englished by Digby S. Wrangham:

Let us joy, that Saviour praising,
Hope in sinners' bosoms raising,
That they pardon will obtain.
When He Saul severely chided,
And, converted, called and guided
Back to Mother-Church again.

Saul, still threats and slaughter breathing,
With blood-thirsty purpose seething,
'Gainst the Lord's disciples tried,
Powers obtained for apprehending,
And, when bound, with torture rending
Those who served the Crucified.

As he journeyed, Jesus struck him
To the earth, and, to rebuke him,
With His radiance made him blind;
Till, once more his feet regaining.
He, a guiding hand obtaining.
In a lodging is confined.

He laments, fasts, prays, believeth,
Is baptized, his sight receiveth;
Changed to Paul that Saul became
Who had been our flock's oppressor;
Paul, henceforth our law's professor.
Into Paul thus changed his name.

Therefore, Paul, the Gentiles' teacher!
Chosen vessel! as our preacher,
Light on our dark hearts outpour;
And, for us thy prayers employing,
Life for us obtain, destroying
Death that lasteth evermore! Amen.

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