Sunday, January 21, 2018

Religious Images and Irreligious Anecdotes (Translated)

Carlo Crivelli
Mary Magdalene
ca. 1480
tempera on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen
Saul and the Witch of Endor
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

attributed to Adriaen Isenbrant
Virgin and Child
ca. 1530-40
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"Mme. la Duchesse du Maine one day had need of the Abbé de Vaubran and sent one of her valets to find him wherever he might be.  The man went, and to his great surprise, found the Abbé de Vaubran saying mass in some church or other.  He caught the Abbé as the latter was coming down from the altar and gave him the message, after expressing his surprise at finding him saying mass.  The Abbé, who was a great libertine, said "I beg you not to tell the Princess of the state in which you found me.""

Master of the Good Samaritan
(Dutch workshop assistant to Jan van Scorel)
The Good Samaritan
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

circle of Marcello Venusti after a drawing by Michelangelo
ca. 1550-70
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"A Catholic of Breslau stole from a church of his own faith some little gold hearts and other offerings.  Taken before the court, he said the Virgin had given them to him.  He was condemned.  The sentence went to the King of Prussia for his signature, as is customary.  The King summoned a number of theologians to inquire whether it was absolutely impossible for the Virgin to make little presents to a devout Catholic.  The theologians of that faith, deeply embarrassed by the question, decided that it was not absolutely impossible.  Thereupon the King wrote on the bottom of the sentence, "I pardon the aforenamed N––– , but I forbid him, on pain of his life, to accept any more presents of any kind from the Virgin or the saints.""

Federico Zuccaro
God the Father
ca. 1570-80
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Godfrey Kneller
Elijah and the Angel
oil on canvas
Tate Britain

circle of Carlo Maratti
St John the Evangelist on Patmos
ca. 1680-1720
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Anonymous Spanish sculptor
ca. 1700
Minneapolis Institute of Art

Henry Ferguson
Fantasy Landscape with St Charles Borromeo
(imaginary classical sarcophagus with carved relief of The Nativity)

ca. 1700-1720
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"The Baron de la Houze had performed a number of favors for Pope Ganganelli, and the latter asked him whether there was not something he could give him that would please him.  The Baron de la Houze, who was a sly fellow, asked for the body of a saint.  The Pope was surprised at a Frenchman's asking for such a thing, but he arranged to have it given to him.  The Baron had a little estate in the Pyrenees which brought him next to nothing and had no market for its products; he had the saint taken there and accredited.  The customers flocked in, the miracles started, a village sprang up, the prices of local produce went up, and the Baron's revenue tripled."

William Blake
God Judging Adam
hand-colored relief-etching
Tate Britain

Pierre-François de Noter
The Ghent Altarpiece by the van Eyck brothers in St Bavo Cathedral in Ghent
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Thomas Eakins
The Crucifixion
oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Lovis Corinth
The Temptation of St Anthony (after Gustave Flaubert)
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery, London

"M. de Lassay, a very gentle man but with a great knowledge of society, said that one must swallow a toad every morning, when one had to go out in the world, so as not to find anything more disgusting during the day."

– passages are quoted from Products of the Perfected Civilization: selected writings of Chamfort, edited and translated by W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969)