Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Solemn Pontifical Mass for the Feast of the Purification, Miami

Our readers in South Florida will be glad to hear Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami will be celebrating a solemn pontifical liturgy in the Extraordinary Form for the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, at 7:30 PM on February 2, this coming Thursday. The mass will take place at the Church of the Epiphany (8081 SW 54th Ct.) in Miami, Florida. Musica Sacra Florida reports:

Musical highlights include Tournemire’s office from L’Orgue Mystique for the day (Purificatio B. Mariæ Virginis), played by Mr. Thomas Schuster, Organist and Director of Music at Church of the Epiphany, as well as a Missa Brevis by Zachary Wadsworth, and a commissioned motet by Dr. Paul Weber (Franciscan University of Steubenville.) Choral works will be sung by the Schola Cantorum of the University of Florida under the direction of Dr. Edward Schaefer. The Gregorian propers of the day will be sung by a Women’s Schola Cantorum under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Donelson of NOVA Southeastern University.
The celebration is part of a Tournemire Symposium organized by the Church Music Association of America (CMAA), and will be live-streamed at www.livemass.net. For more information on the live-streaming, as well as catechetical events associated with the mass, go to the Musica Sacra Florida website.

CORRECTION: [01/02/12, 11:31 PM] An alert reader informs me that the address for the church (as opposed to the rectory) is actually 8235 S.W. 57 Avenue, Miami, FL 33143, Miami, Florida.

Candlemas in the Dominican Rite

As Thursday is Candlemas, called in the traditional Dominican Rite the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I though that it might be a suitable time to post something about the rituals attached to this feast in the Dominican Rite. These rites are the same in both the 1933 and 1965 Dominican Rite Missals and seem to go back virtually unchanged to the thirteenth century.

After Terce on the feast, the prior, in cope, accompanied by the deacon and subdeacon in dalmatics, who carry the missal and the processional, enter the choir preceded by the acolytes in albs carrying lighted processional candles. If the feast falls on Sunday, the priest performs the Asperges, if not he proceeds directly to the blessing. Standing before the step to the sanctuary, where the sacristan has placed the candles to be blessed slightly to the prior's right as he faces the altar, he sings the blessing in a moderate voice, using the tone for collects at the Hours:

The Blessing

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.

Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, who on this day presented your Only-Begotten Son to be received into the arms of the Blessed Simeon in your holy Temple; we humbly entreat your clemency that you would be pleased to + bless, to + sanctify and enkindle with the light of your heavenly blessing these candles, which your servants wish to receive and carry lighted to the honor of your name; that by offering them to you, our Lord and God, we being worthy and inflamed with the holy fire of your sweet charity, might deserve to be presented ourselves in the holy temple of your Glory. Through the same Christ Our Lord. R/. Amen.

The Distribution and Nunc Dimittis

The prior then sprinkles the candles with holy water from the stoop held by the acolyte. The cantor then comes forward and offers a lighted candle to the prior and intones the Antiphon Lumen ad Revelation Gentium. It is sung by the community and followed by the chanting of the Nunc Dimittis, during which the antiphon is sung again after each verse of the canticle. This chant is repeated as many times as necessary for lighted candles to be distributed to the whole community.

The Procession

When all have their candles, the community then moves in procession fashion into the main cloister. The procession has this order, 1. a friar in surplice with the holy water, who sprinkles as he goes, 2. the acolytes with processional candles, 3. the crucifer, 4. the friars, two by two, in order of religion, youngest first, 5. the prior, flanked by the deacon and subdeacon (who carries the book). The procession moves counter clockwise around the cloister, stopping for the four stations, at each of which the acolytes and crucifer turn to the friars so that they can gaze on the cross for a moment. The cantor then intones the antiphon that accompanies the move to the next station. These antiphons are:

At Station 1: Ave Gratia, which celebrates Mary's role the birth of Christ who is light of the world.

At Station 2: Adorna, which calls on all to prepare their hearts, as Simeon did, to be a bridal chamber for Christ, the world's savior.

At Station 3: Responsum, which recalls how Simeon had been promised that he would not see death until he took the Light of the Gentiles in his arms.

At Station 4: Hodie, which recalls how Joseph and Mary brought the Christ Child into the temple. It is fittingly sung as the friars, carrying their candles, reenter the chapel and take their places in their stalls.

The ministers, meanwhile, return to the sacristy and the prior puts on the chasuble for Mass. When the ministers are ready, the friars begin the Officium of the Mass, Suscepimus. Friars hold their lighted candles in their hands until the Offertory. I might add that in the Dominican Rite the famous sequence Laetabundus is sung at this Mass.

The Candle Offering

When he has finished the Offertory Prayers, the prior receives his lighted candle and comes with the deacon and subdeacon, holding their candles, to before the altar. The sacristan comes up with a basket to receive the ministers' candles, which he snuffs and places in it. The friars of the community then come forward in procession, in order of seniority, enter the sanctuary, and offer their lighted candles, handing them to the sacristan and kissing the prior's hand. When all have offered their candles, the prior returns to the altar, receives the censer, and does the incensing and the lavabo. The Preface of Mass is that of the Nativity.

The Proprium Missarum Ordinis Praedicatorum of 1983 provides that these ceremonies may be incorporated into the Mass of the Presentation in the new Roman liturgy. And this includes the Laetabundus, even if the candle rituals are not done.

Vestments from the Era of Pope Clement VIII

These photographs aren't the greatest, and I have very little information on the vestments themselve, but they show a set of vestments which bear the arms of Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) and which I believe are in the Vatican collections. If anyone has more information on this particular set, feel free to offer them in the comments.





Cardinal Koch: “The Crisis of the Church is Above All a Crisis of the Liturgy”

The following comes by way of Vatican Radio, in turn translated by Fr. Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist (of Heiligenkreuz Abbey and the blog Sancrucensis):

Allowing the Old Latin Mass is just “a first step” according to Kurt Cardinal Koch, an official of the Roman Curia. The time is however not yet ripe for the next steps Koch said on the Weekend in Freiburg. Liturgical questions are overshadowed by ideology especially in Germany. Rome will only be able to act further when Catholics show more readiness to think about a new liturgical reform “for the good of the Church.” The Cardinal spoke at a conference on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, which also considered Ratzinger’s pontificate as Pope Benedict XVI. In July 2007 Pope Benedict decreed that Tridentine Rite Masses according to the Missal of 1962 may once again be celebrated world wide. The Missal of 1970 is however still the “normal form” of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Roman Church. Koch is the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. He tried to refute the charge that Pope Benedict is going against the Council [i.e. Vatican II] in liturgical questions: “the Pope suffers from this accusation.” On the contrary, the Holy Father’s intention is rather to implement conciliar teachings on the liturgy which have been ignored up till now. Present day liturgical practice does not always have any real basis in the Council. For example, celebration versus populum was never mandated by the Council, says the Cardinal. A renewal of the form of divine worship is necessary for the interior renewal of the Church: “Since the crisis of the Church today is above all a crisis of the liturgy, it is necessary to begin the renewal of the Church today with a renewal of the Liturgy.

As Fr. Waldstein notes, "Cardinal Koch’s words are given a special edge by the fact that he was speaking at the theological faculty of the University of Freiburg, a stronghold of “progressive” theology"...

Cardinal Koch is the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Implement the Motu Proprio: A Bishop Speaks

Many of our readers will be familiar with the name of Mgr. Mario Oliveri, the bishop of the diocese of Albenga-Imperia in Northern Italy. Recently Mgr. Oliveri sent out a letter to his clergy, addressing them on the matter of the openness (or lack thereof) to implementing the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

The original letter may be found here, but here is a quick NLM translation of the most relevant paragraphs:


Letter to the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum," Pope Benedict XVI
On the Celebration of Holy Mass



Dear Priests and Deacons,

It is with much bitterness of spirit that I have found that many of you have not taken up or made a right attitude of mind and heart toward the possibility given to the faithful by the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" of Pope Benedict XVI, of the celebration of Holy Mass "in the extraordinary form" according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII, promulgated in 1962.

In the "Three days of the Clergy" of September 2007, I indicated with strength and clarity what is the value and the true meaning of the Motu Proprio, how we should interpret it and how we should accept it, with a mind that is open to the magisterial content of the document and with a ready willingness of a convinced obedience. The position taken by the Bishop was not missing its calm authority, strengthened by his full concordance with a solemn act of the Supreme Pontiff. The position of the Bishop was founded by reason of his theological argument on the nature of the Divine Liturgy, the immutability of the substance in its supernatural contents, and was also based on surveys of the practical, concrete, good sense of the Church.

The adverse reactions to the motu proprio and the theological and practical guidance of the bishop are almost always dictated by emotional and superficial theological reasoning, i.e. a rather poor and shortsighted "theological" vision, that is not part of and which does not reach the true nature of the things which concern the Faith and the work the Church's sacramental life, that is not fed by the perennial Tradition of the Church, which looks at rather marginal aspects or at least incomplete issues. Not without reason, had I, in "Three Days" cited above, prefaced with the operational guidelines and principles to guide action a doctrinal exposition on the "Unchanging Nature of the Liturgy".

I understand that in some areas, on the part of several priests and pastors, there was also the manifestation almost of ridicule toward faithful who have asked to make use of the option, and indeed of the right, for the celebration of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form; there is also an expression of contempt and almost of hostility toward Brother Priests who are well prepared to understand and respond to the requests of the faithful...

I ask that you put away every attitude not in conformity with ecclesial communion, the discipline of the Church and the convinced obedience due to important acts of the magisterium or government.

I am convinced that my call will be accepted in a spirit of filial respect and obedience.

[...]

The letter carries with it all my desire that it might help to reawaken and a strengthen our ecclesial communion and of our common desire to fulfill our ministry with a renewed fidelity to Christ and his Church.

Finally, I would ask you for much prayer for me and for my apostolic ministry, and I cordially bless you all.

Albenga, 1 January 2012, Solemnity of the Mother of God

Monsignor Mario Oliveri, Bishop

Now one might wonder why we would publish this letter, a letter directed by one bishop to the clergy of his particular diocese. The answer is rather two fold.

First, it is encouraging to see a bishop who is taking the usus antiquior seriously both liturgically and pastorally -- and I include within this latter category those clergy who also are attached to or interested in this form of the Roman liturgy.

Second, while this letter details an apparent situation, a climate, within the particular diocese of Albenga-Imperia, we know only too well that this same climate can also be found in most dioceses of the Latin rite. For that reason too, this letter and the words of this bishop surely speaks to a broader situation as well.

Monday, January 30, 2012

An Other Modern Requiem Missal


Review: Two Editions of the CTS New Sunday Missal

Having recently undertaken a review of four altar missals, to complete this cycle of reviews I wanted to now review two UK editions of people's missals which have also come out in relation to the new English translation. Those are:

The CTS New Sunday Missal (Standard Edition) priced at £18.00
The CTS New Sunday Missal (Presentation Edition) priced at £25.00

Essentially what we are speaking about here are two editions that have the same internal contents, but one -- the Standard Edition -- is less ornate than the other. As such, let's begin by first looking at this difference, comparing the two, before beginning to look at the internal contents.

External Aspects

The core difference between the two editions is that the Standard Edition is a typical hardbound volume in bright red while the "Presentation Edition" is a leather covered hardback edition (available in white or in this burgundy edition pictured here):


Standard Edition


Top: Standard Edition, Bottom: Presentation Edition
(As a point of note, while the Presentation Edition includes a box, it is unfortunate that it is not more substantive; speaking personally, it is not the sort of box I would keep)


Presentation Edition


Presentation Edition

Both covers include gold tooled decoration, including the very beautiful cross design seen also on the front of the CTS Altar Edition of the Missal. The same design is also reproduced on the spine of both editions as you can see above. This is very attractive in general and equally well done on both editions. I like how they have included some other gilt decoration on the spines which gives each volume a classic feel.

The cover on the Standard Edition is very nicely done, having a very good feel to it; it comes across as very high end. The leather cover of the Presentation Edition is also very well done, but that much more luxurious.

Both bindings are sewn and feel very tight.

One other difference is that the Presentation Edition includes gold gilt page edges while the Standard Edition does not (both editions include red markings on the page edges which identify the Order of Mass:


These red edges do not show as well on the Presentation Edition when held like this, but once the volume is opened, they show up very clearly.

Speaking personally, both volumes are very well done externally, but for myself, if the extra cost is not an issue, I would personally recommend going with the Presentation Edition to gain on these additional ornamental qualities which are traditional for such people's missals and add to the beauty of the book.

Internal Aspects

Let us now move our considerations to the internal aspects.

The first point which I wish to note is that each edition includes two sewn in ribbons. These are good as far as they go and will be useful for marking the Ordinary and the Proper, but my one wish is that at least three ribbons might have been included -- that way the third ribbon could be used to mark some of the prayers of thanksgiving and devotion for example. Even four ribbons might have been desirable.

What each of these editions includes is:

• The Order of Mass with all Eucharistic prayers, prefaces, concluding rites and blessings
• Parallel Latin-English for the Ordinary and for the priest’s Proper prayers
• Lectionary Readings in the vernacular
• Masses for special occasions and needs
• Preparatory prayers
• Chants of the Ordinary
• Prayers of thanksgiving and devotion

The publishers have also added reflections for the major feasts and seasons.

And of course, while it is called a "Sunday Missal", these people's missals also include the Masses for solemnities of the liturgical year.

Here are a few views.


You can see here how the readings are in the vernacular only, while the priest's propers are in Latin and English


As noted, the ordinary includes fully parallel Latin and English, with the left hand pages being in Latin entirely, and the right hand being in the vernacular entirely. Here is a view of the Roman Canon.


In terms of the art and design of the interior, I was very glad to see that both editions included very classic red drop capitals for the Introit of each Mass. This is a very nice touch:


I was also extremely pleased to see a number of the same plates within these editions as are found in the altar edition:


All around, I would say these two editions are extremely well done and I was very pleased with both.

Mass of Reception from Mount Calvary, Baltimore (Anglican Ordinariate)

Our friend Stephen Cavanaugh recently attended the celebration of Choral Evensong at St. Anselm's Abbey, Washington, D.C. (offered in thanksgiving for the new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the United States) and the Mass of Reception at Mount Calvary, Baltimore (an Anglican parish which recently was recently received into the Catholic Church). The following is a recording of that Mass:



See here for the recording of the homily from the same Mass, and here for the recording of Choral Evensong from St. Anselm's Abbey.

Friday, January 27, 2012

4th Sunday of the Year, Simple English Propers

Simple English Propers





Four Missals Reviewed (Part 3 of 3)

In our first and second part of our review, we have looked at the external binding and some of the internal aspects of the following four missals:

1. The Magnificat "Altar Edition", priced at $199.00 USD.
2. The World Library Publications (WLP) "Deluxe Edition", priced at $395.00 USD.
3. The Midwest Theological Forum (MTF) "Regal Edition", priced at $500.00 USD.
4. The Catholic Truth Society (CTS) "Altar Edition", priced at £230.00 GBP

For our third and final portion of this review, our attention turns to the interior artwork of these missals. Let's get right to it.

Missal Art - Overview

Before we get into specific considerations of each missal, let's give a general overview comparison of the four missals placed side by side.


Four random samples from each Missal
Top Left: WLP, Top Right: CTS
Bottom Left: Magnificat, Bottom Right: MTF


The art used for Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon)
Top Left: WLP, Top Right: CTS
Bottom Left: Magnificat, Bottom Right: MTF

Speaking of each of these missals, one point which I think was lost out upon in each instance was that each Eucharistic Prayer does not include some sort of crucifixion art plate. While this would be difficult where a singular source of the Missal art has been chosen (as for example in the CTS edition), I believe it would have been good for each missal to somehow include such plates for each Eucharistic Prayer.

The Magnificat edition does include a plate for both EP I and EP II, however in the latter case, this is an image of Christ resurrected rather than crucified. The other editions include a crucifixion art plate only for EP I.


Missal Art - WLP Edition

With regard to the art and design of their binding, I haven't rated the WLP edition as highly by comparison with the other three editions under review. However, I have to say that when it comes to the interior artwork, this is another matter entirely.

I very much like what they have done here. The plates are well integrated into the text, both in the way they are reproduced on the paper, and also in the way they relate to the liturgical texts themselves. There is plenty of art within the Missal, but one is not inundated with it either.

WLP went with art from the illuminated manuscript tradition, and thus the artwork very much presents a consistent and unified sense through the book. The images are well proportioned to the page and include white space around them, which suitably frames each plate and integrates it well with the rest of the text.

Here are some examples of the artwork in their edition:






A job well done.


Missal Art - Magnificat Edition

While I was quite pleased by the front and back cover design of the Magnificat missal, its marbled endpapers and its large ornamental capitals, I'll have to say that I was personally disappointed with the way the interior art was handled within this edition of the Missal -- even though I like much of the art used within the missal itself taken on its own. (In fact, in at least one of those instances I quite liked the fact that they stretched our horizons a bit by including such works as Vincent Van Gogh's "The Good Samaritan." That inclusion, for myself, shows some of the positive potentialities that can exist for more modern styles of art within this context. Kudos to them for helping to explore that front.)

Where I was disappointed was not in the pieces selected, but rather in the way the art was generally approached in this missal, taken as a whole and in view of layout considerations. So then, what do I mean by this?

In the first instance, this particular missal includes a rather curious feature throughout it, whereby there are two consecutive pages of colour plates, thereby making for two individual plates and one two page plate:



While it is laudable to not take a minimalist approach to the art within a missal, I personally do not believe this is the way to approach an abundant use of art plates.

The art of a missal should clearly relate to and embellish the liturgical texts, serving as a sort of visual meditation on the particular feast or part of the Mass being entered into. (Hence the crucifixion art at the beginning of the Roman Canon for instance, or an image depicting a saint or one of the mysteries of our Lord to accompany a related feast within the liturgical year). While the art used in the Magnificat Missal does indeed make these linkages to the time of the liturgical year, I can see little purpose or benefit from these double page spreads. Such spreads may be suitable for an art book or text book (though even in that context they are unsatisfying since the centre of the image is always obscured), but not for an altar missal in my estimation for they offer little or no real co-relation to the liturgical text, being pages that would never be turned to in the liturgical use of the missal.

Further to this matter of the layout of the art, I would also comment that, with the exception of the crucifixion plate opposite EP I, the art work lacks any sort of bordering, with the images being published right to the edges of the page. Here I would reference back to the tradition of manuscript illumination and book printing in general where plates and illustrations nearly always included white space and potentially other bordering as well. Within a book context, having art without any sort white space is, to me, comparable to hanging a picture on the wall without a matte and frame; the result tends to look unfinished and informal.

The other issue I would raise with the artwork selected for the Magnificat missal is the fact that it widely varies in style and type. Various periods are covered from the ancient right up to the very modern; art is used that ranges from full colour plates to uncoloured woodcuts and engravings of different styles and levels of detail. The result is a lack of stylistic unity which therefore doesn't integrate as well into the missal as a whole I think.

Here are just a few examples of some of the art found within the Magnificat edition of the Missal:



I will say that, taken on its own, the EP I page is wonderful. One will note the white space and bordering and how much of a difference this makes in giving a more finished and sophisticated look. I would point out as well the drop capital and how well this all integrates together here.





I want to reiterate that much of the art found within the Magnificat Missal is quite beautiful in and of itself. There are some beautiful engravings and some glorious works in stunning, vibrant colour. My primary issue with regard to the art selected is that I believe it would have been better had the publishers had either chosen one style or period of art, or at possibly two (perhaps one for the colour plates and one for the non-coloured plates) and then given the art a more "bookish" and finished appearance by way of the bordering already discussed.

While I appreciate that there was likely an intent to include art of differing styles and differing periods in Magnificat's case, to accomodate a variety of tastes, and while I can appreciate the desire to not take a minimalist approach, to me this is an example of where less would have been more.


Missal Art - CTS Edition

Like WLP, CTS chose to use art from the manuscript tradition. CTS made the decision to obviously use a singular source for their art and I think the result is very good indeed. Their approach, in this regard, most puts me to mind of the missal printing tradition of old.

Here are a few samples.



The only shame inherited by the otherwise admirable pursuit of a singular art source is that the crucifixion image seen here, opposite EP I, happens to be less pronounced by comparison with the other editions



One will note the use of the white space as a natural 'frame' around the images, and the art depicted is entirely linked to the liturgical texts at hand. CTS opted to use glossier paper for their art plates and while that makes them a little less integrated by way of the different feel of the paper (by comparison with the rest of the pages) it also gives the art a brightness it could otherwise not have. Frankly doing this or not is a trade off either way and I can see merit in either approach. However, what is also pleasing to me is that even though a glossier paper was used, that doesn't mean the art plates were treated merely as extraneous, separate inserts into the missal; rather, missal texts are often found to be printed on the opposing side of these same pages. This was well done I think. (Incidentally, why I believe this integration is important would again relate back to the tradition of the book arts whereby the art was an integral and unified aspect of book itself. The art was designed specifically for the book in question. It is within this unity and integration that I believe we find its particular value and beauty. Anything that approximates it or approaches it likewise is therefore desirable in my own estimation and tends to work.)

Very well done indeed overall and certainly very visually appealing. It is certainly one of my favourites of all the missals I have seen, including those others not covered by this review.


Missal Art - MTF Edition

Finally we come to the MTF edition. While MTF's edition does not use art from a singular source as the CTS edition does, it does however present art of a very similar stylistic quality, and this helps to avoid any sense of disunity in the art. MTF opted, like WLP, to not go with a glossy paper format for their artwork, and as I note this is really a trade off. What they lose in vibrancy of colour, they gain in the very consistent integration of the art with the rest of the printed text.

As with the CTS and WLP editions, MTF uses white space to frame their images, and beyond that, they have also added a gold border around each image in edition. I think this works very well and to good effect.

Here are a few samples:







While I like all of the other "Roman Canon" pages of the four missals shown, I must confess it is very pleasing to see the Velázquez Crucifixion used in the MTF edition, which certain gives a nod back to the Benziger Brothers missals used within the context of the usus antiquior.

They have done a very fine job with their art.


Missal Art - Summary

I will have to say that I appreciate the artwork of the CTS, MTF and WLP editions equally. Each have merits to be seen in their own particular approaches, and each, more importantly, bring dignity and beauty to the respective missal, integrating well with the liturgical texts.

As noted early on, a missed opportunity for the art work in all of the editions is the lack of crucifixion plates for each of the Eucharistic Prayers. I would hope this might be considered in future editions.

My one final comment here about the matter of missal art is that I would generally like to see a revival in our liturgical arts pursued such that we not only rely on the artwork of previous generations, or rely on adapting art from another context to these particular purposes. While we know this can work, as is evidenced above, it seems to me that we should also look to commission original artists to specifically design and execute art for our liturgical books again.

While that is admittedly not a small project, neither is it an impossible one. I believe this would be very enriching, if well pursued and well thought out, and would offer a range of potentialities, from the classicist painter to someone operating more within an illuminative tradition.

This concludes the review of these four editions of the new English edition of the Roman Missal

Murals by John Singer Sargent at the Boston Public Library

Yes really, I do mean at the Boston Public Library. It is quite a surprise to go into the public library and find a wonderful set of murals painted by the great American artist. One room has a huge set of murals on an Arthurian theme and then right at the top of the building is a room that the library calls quite simply 'Sargent Hall'. This are adorned with a set of Christian sacred imagery all conforming to a unifying schema.

I had heard about them before but only this past weekend have I seen them for the first time. They are oil on canvas set into the wall, with some painted plaster cast reliefs and were painted in a 20 year period from 1895. What surprised me was how Catholic the imagery is for civic buildings. Boston's Irish Catholic heritage is well known, but I hadn't anticipated that this Catholic influence would have reached up to the level of the dignitaries of the city at this time. Perhaps there is a high Episcopalian influence here as well?

We have murals of the Old Testament prophets, of the crucifixion with the a representation of the dogma of the Trinity and angels carrying the instruments of the passion, Our Lady of Sorrows and the 15 mysteries of the rosary. Apparently when artistic tastes turned against the naturalistic style around the early middle 20th century, they were almost destroyed. Luckily for us were saved and the suggestion to paint over them was opposed.

If these had been painted in England at the same time by any other artist, they would most likely have been in the pre-Raphaelite, and indeed there is some of that feel about them. However, Sargent, who is vastly superior to the English pre-Raphaelites, in my opinion, brings his knowledge of the 17th century baroque (which is the authentic liturgical root of the Western naturalistic tradition) into play. So just we would have seen in this earlier original period, we see in Sargent's work here the controlled intensification and depletion of colour; and variation in focus, carried out selectively to ensure that our eyes are drawn first to the most important points in each composition. The pre-Raphaelites in contrast painted with sharp outlines and even colour and so they overburdened their paintings with detail.

It is very difficult to manage complicated compositions with many figures Sargent handles the variation of these components so brilliantly and subltely that I find it difficult characterise further what he is doing beyond knowing that he is doing it.

The room, which is just a 3rd floor hall in the library leading to others containing library books, is difficult to photograph and so I give you the best I have been able to get hold of. One thing to point out about the style is that even though Sargent was trained as portrait painter, he seems to have understood the difference between sacred art and portraiture. The faces are less emotional and quite often placed in shadow, allowing us to identify with the general human characteristics of the person portrayed. This is in contrast to other sacred art of the 19th century and in accord with what a master of the 17th century, such as Zurburan, would have done. I have talked about this in more detail in an article called Is Some Sacred Art Too Naturalistic? We can see this brought out especially in the sketches for one of the mysteries of the rosary. The ones shown are for the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple.

As I studied these I was trying to picture these as a focus of prayer if they had been placed in a church. My personal taste in this regard is for the iconographic or gothic, so I am not the best person to make a judgement here, but my sense is that for those who are strongly attracted to the baroque style as liturgical art, these would seem appropriate and helpful. Certainly, I think that those Catholic artists who are interested in painting sacred art and have been trained in the academic method should study Sargent's style, which owes so much to the earlier 17th century form. This will help them to avoid the trap of imitating inferior artists of the late 19th century such as the aforementioned pre-Raphaelites and William Bougeureau (the reason that his style should be avoided, in my opinion, is described in the article linked above).





Our Lady of Sorrows


The Sorrowful Mysteries, above, and the Glorious Mysteries, heavily gilded, below is a photo of the full set of 15. This is painted on the arched ceiling of the room.