Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ecce Rex Tuus

Lately, as was evident in my post on the Annunciation, I have been spending a good bit of time looking at pictures by Fra Angelico, and I thought that during Holy Week I would post his depictions of the events of Christ's Passion and death. This painting of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a panel from the Armadio degli Argenti, a large silver chest in the at the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence. I'm going to write more about the Armadio tomorrow, but today I want to talk a bit about the scripture references at the bottom and top of the picture.

At the top, we see a passage from the Old Testament, Zachariah 9:9 which reads:

     Ecce rex tuus venit tibi mansuetus sedens super asinam et pullum filium subiugalis.

The words "et pullum" aren't on the scroll in the picture and the word "filium" doesn't look quite like that.

In the Douay Rheims translation it reads:

     Behold thy King will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and 
     upon a colt the foal of an ass.

I know enough Latin to know that it doesn't seem like an exact translation but not enough to be able to tell exactly what's different. Still, the main thing is that its relationship to the scripture at the bottom (from Matthew 21:9) is clear.

     Osanna filio David benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini

     Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord...

And, of course, a few verses earlier we have read that:

     ...they brought the ass and the colt, and laid their garments upon them, and made him sit thereon.

The inclusion of these two scriptures in the picture reveal Christ's entry into Jerusalem as more than a single event in the life one man. It indicates that the the New and Old Testament are integrally woven together and that Jesus plays his part in both. He more than the son the Mary, he is the son of David, and the long awaited King.

Fra Angelico frequently painted the same events in the life of Christ many times, but this is the only painting I can find of the entry into Jerusalem. I can't say that I'm much of an expert; however, so there may be more.

Guido de Pier(t)i was born sometime in the early 1390s and died in 1455. In religious life, he was known as Fra Giovanni, Brother John. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 1982. I don't know much about his life, but Diane Cole Ahl, who wrote the book, Fra Angelico, which is my prime source for much of which I will write the week, writes about, "Gelati's painting [which] was inspired by [Georgio] Vasari's evocative description of the devout friar, who 'never took up his brush without saying a prayer or painted the Crucifix without tears streaming down his cheeks.'" (Vasari had written about Fra Angelico in 1568.) This is the picture about which Ahl is writing.

Fra Angelico is the kneeling figure. 

This isn't the only portrait we have of the angelic painter. Here are a few others.





And that is all for today. Tomorrow, I'll write about the over-arching theme of the Armadio degli Argenti.



  1. Angelico is probably my favourite painter, so I am looking forward to this series of posts. I don't remember seeing The Entry Into Jerusalem before, so (of course) I do not know if there are any in addition to the one above. I have a big book about him at home that I am always thinking I should spend more time with; if I have time this week I will look through it for any other versions of the same picture.

    1. This book I'm reading is so big. It hurts if I try to hold it upright propped on my legs. Heck, it hurts if I lay it down in my lap. It's about 12x13" and an inch thick with a really heavy hardback cover. But the prints are worth it. They are so big and clear.


  2. Sounds nice. 8-) The two books I have on Fra Angelico are this and this. The latter has better, but fewer, pictures.

  3. Mine is the former. I would like to see the latter.