Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Giotto: The Betrayers

Detail from The Last Supper
From today's gospel:

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
John 13:21-27

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”
John 13:36-38

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In this detail from The Last Supper from the Arena Chapel, we see Judas in the lower left-hand corner dipping his hand in the dish with Jesus. We see John reclining at Jesus' side and it appears that the figure in the upper right-hand corner is perhaps nodding. This figure is very similar to Giotto's portrayal of St. Peter in the Upper Church, San Francesco in Assisi.

This scripture brings Judas and Peter into close contrast. Judas knows that he is the betrayer, his price is thirty pieces of silver, and once he is discovered, he leaves. Jesus challenges Peter in much the same way he does Judas, but Peter does not know himself, or what the price of his betrayal may be.

Like Peter, we can never be too sure what our price is. Jesus says, "one of you," but in truth, we are all that one.

All pictures are from the Web Gallery of Art.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Giotto: The Raising of Lazarus

Raising of Lazarus
The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him. (John 12:9-13)
This reading from today's gospel comes directly before Jesus's entry into Jerusalem in John's gospel. I had never noticed until I read this last night, on Palm Sunday, that the gospel gives one of the reasons for the large crowds that came to welcome Jesus as a desire to see the man who had been raised from the dead. Also, we can see in the plotting of the chief priests to kill Lazarus, a portent of what can be expected by those who are associated with the mission of Jesus in the future.

Giotto's portrayal of Jesus in the above picture and in the picture from yesterday are almost identical. The slight differences in color may have to do with differences in the photos and not in the actual pictures. You also see an almost identical representation of Jesus in fresco of the Marriage at Cana.

You can see that Jesus's robe in the picture on the left has much less blue in it than the one on the right. The presentation from the Kahn Academy explains that except for the blue parts, the fresco used is buon fresco which means that the plaster was still wet when the color was applied, and is therefore a part of the actual wall. The blue is fresco secco, which means that the plaster was already dried when the blue was applied. The blue color is made from lapiz lazuli which was very expensive, and the patron of the chapel, Enrico Scrovegni wanted to use fresco secco because it required less lapiz lazuli. Because this method was used, much of the blue has flaked off over the years.

All pictures are from the Web Gallery of Art.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Giotto: Palm Sunday

Entry Into Jerusalem
So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”   (Mark 11:7-10 

Last year during Holy Week, I posted paintings by Fra Angelico (unfortunately this link will show Easter first, so you'll have to scroll to the end to get to Palm Sunday). Most of the paintings were from the Armadio degli Argenti, which is described in one of these posts. This year I thought I'd do the same with frescoes by Giotto from the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua, also known as the Arena Chapel because it's next to the arena.

There is a wonderful four-part series from Khan Academy about the Scrovegni Chapel here. It takes a while to watch, but if you are at all interested, it is well worth the time.

Giotto was probably the first painter in the 14th century to move away from the Byzantine style of art that had been favored for the past two centuries. Although he was not as skilled as Fra Angelico at portraying the human figure with accuracy (see the detail from Entry into Jerusalem below), his work is quite beautiful and detailed--and then there is that lovely blue which I will write about later in the week.

Note the rather squat roundness of this character who has climbed a tree to watch Christ's triumphal procession. I can't even tell if this is a man or woman, child or adult, human or angel. Look at that almost comic foot and the face looks like it is carved from wood. Nevertheless, there is something charming about the figure, and the branches of the tree are lovely.
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Giotto's life was also quite different from that of Fra Angelico who was a Dominican Friar. Giotto was a married man and a father and was quite wealthy. Their work is quite similar, though, in subject matter and in the setting of the scenes of the Bible narrative.

Unless otherwise noted, all the pictures in this series were found at the Web Gallery of Art.