Sunday, July 10, 2016

All Things Testify

"Everything testifies of Christ," my smart and practical friend said.

This was an interesting concept I had heretofore never considered. So I gave it a chance. The chance became like a house with many windows, and if I stepped into a different room, went to the second floor, stood at the kitchen sink, each position offered a new view. I decided to try and see out the same window as my friend, and very soon, I was seeing the same view: everything testifies of Christ.

When observing art in a traditional museum, the majority of Western world art testifies of Christ. It is in part related to the dominance of the church and its ability to commission great works of art throughout the middle ages, but to me there is something more: it testifies of a great truth--that Christ lived.

 As I meandered through the Louvre everyday for two weeks, I picked out different themes: couples, children, and the life and death of Jesus Christ. Each day, if studying in certain galleries, I asked Tony to choose his favorite among the hundred--perhaps thousands of art pieces that supported my friend's thesis: everything testifies of Christ. I wish to share a few of those pieces that inspired me to take photos.

The altarpiece below was commissioned by an aristocratic couple in an Italian workshop in the late 1300s. It is made from ground bone, mixed with other components and formed into this almost unbelievable storybook from the life of Christ. I almost passed by it without looking close--and when I did, I was stunned by the detail and craftsmanship.
 Each little hand-size block creates a scene from the Savior's life, from John the Baptist's life, and included in these scenes are the aristocrats Jean de Barry and his wife Jeanne de Boulogne.
 It is possible that Mary and the infant Jesus were the most often sculpted or painted subjects of art. This piece was my favorite chosen from hundreds. The work is attributed to an Italian sculptor, Delli, in the 1400s.

 French artist Simon Vouet created "Presentation at the Temple" in 1640.
"The Temptation" by Ary Scheffer in 1849 brings up an interesting theological question. Satan is painted without genitals. Was his castration the artist's commentary on Satan's evolution, his inabilities, his differences and damnation, or simply that he never came to earth to receive a body?

 By far, the majority portrayals of Christ are in death. The paintings are glorious and magnificent, but after a while, it is difficult to do more than glance and pass them by. The gruesome becomes difficult.

In 1544, Leonora Lopez de Villanova and Seigneur Antonio del Rio with his two sons, had themselves painted at the foot of the most iconic Christian moment in the history of the Savior--his ascension into heaven. I like to think of this family's utter devotion to Christianity and the incomprehensible notion that 450 years later their silent testimonies would be hanging in the Louvre for an American woman who was searching for yet another theme: that all things testify of Christ.

This was Tony's all time favorite image of Christ. It's title its Emmaus and depicts the resurrected Savior with his apostles after meeting and walking with them. They didn't recognize him at first. This was the moment of recognition.
I am a little puzzled by Tony's choice of such a dark and simple moment in Christ's life. While taking the sacrament on a Sunday afternoon, I am contemplating his choice and have a moment of clarity. I lean over and whisper to him, "I know why Emmaus was your favorite painting. It shows the resurrected Christ, the Christ who lives and cares about us."

Tony nods his head. Sometimes we can't explain our affection for one painting or another, but the idea resonates with him too. As I study the painting as I write, I have another idea. The stunning moment is when a man recognizes who the Savior is and that he lives. This is not an isolated incident in the life of two apostles, but the very blessed moment for which we all seek.