It is as wrong to blame the Enlightenment for all that has gone wrong in the world today, as it is to paint a picture of our medieval past as the only source of what is right.
The painting of the image is part of the natural process of growing devotion that always occurs prior to canonization. This is the process by which we collectively and organically recognize the sanctity of someone. The official canonization comes after this and does not make someone a saint, it merely accepts what is already known.
Here are some folios from the Paris Psalter. An anonymous reader brought these to my attention because he thought I might be interested in the similarity in style to the 6th-century Mesopotamian illumination I featured last week.
The Paris Psalter is not French! It was procured by the French ambassador to Constantinople around 1550. The city was in the hands of the Ottomans at this time. They date from a period of Greek art known as the Macedonian Renaissance in which there is a flourishing of a more naturalistic style of iconography which clearly draws on antique classical style. It is this style of iconography that inspired the Romanesque style in the West which is, as with these, an authentic iconographic tradition.
Many modern iconographers look to this period for inspiration, because it is felt that the naturalism would appeal the modern eye. The highly abstracted Russian style of the 15th century, for example, though well known can be too abstracted for some, it is felt.
Here, for example, is David composing the psalms.
These are large - approximately 14' x 10'. Things that struck me about these, are that there is some naturalistic perspective here, even down to color perspective - see how the distant objects are blue. In this sense, they are reminiscent of the style of frescoes of 1st century Pompeii that I have seen.
Nevertheless, the handling of the perspective is still enough off-natural to be iconographic, it seems to me. The relative sizes of the figures do not change from foreground to distance, for example. I would love to know how Eastern Christians view these images. Do you consider these authentically iconographic or do you feel they push the envelope too far into naturalism?
Notice also how Roman the clothing looks also and the beautiful and intricate border patterns.
David Glorified by the Women of Isreal
The Healing of Hezekias
The Reproach of Nathan and the Penance of King David
Christians take note. Legoland have worked something out here. These children are transported in their imaginations and they love it. The fact that the images are made out of plastic bricks, does not put them off, rather it seems to attract them even more. We may hold our noses at the McDisney aesthetic, but we should look and learn. and consider why, despite that, it is so popular.
You can’t be a doctor by studying pre-Med. That’s all most Great Books programs give us - supporting texts. They ignore the story of Christianity that forms us to contibute to and conserve the cultute - salvation history as described in the Bible, and lived out through our participation in the sacraments. The more intimately we know these texts, the easier it is to worship well and to be Christian in everyday life.