Thursday, June 19, 2014

Two Eucharistic Pieces from My Drafting Board

As it is, in the traditional calendar and some parts of the world, Corpus Christi, I thought I would share two recent commissions on a Eucharistic theme. The first was commissioned on behalf of a religious confraternity in a small Belgian town in the province of Limburg named Hasselt, and illustrates St. Juliana of Liège's vision of the barred or stained moon which ultimately led her to petition Pope Urban IV to establish the feast of Corpus Christi. I studied a variety of different depictions and accounts of her vision, which occurred several times, and which, it was eventually revealed to her, represented the stain or mark on the Church's calendar due to the lack of a feast-day for the Holy Eucharist. I finally settled on a simple depiction showing the saint alone in prayer, asking God what this vision might mean.

She is shown wearing her robes as a canoness and accompanied by a crozier ornamented with a flaming Augustinian heart, representing her devotion to the core principles of her order. The crozier may be something of a historical embroidery in view she served as prioress rather than abbess, but she is occasionally shown in art carrying one and wearing a pectoral cross, so it seemed a justifiable artistic choice, also allowing the opportunity to introduce a vertical element into the composition. She is described in various places as either an Augustinian or a Norbertine, but is shown wearing a black or black and white habit, rather than the usual white one associated with Premonstratensians (or the surplice sometimes ascribed to canonesses); the white habit seemed anachronistic, and the black and white one too easily confused with the Cistercian habit (she sought refuge in several Cistercian houses at the end of her life) and so I opted for black for both compositional and symbolic reasons, primarily as it seems to be the most common way of depicting her. I had originally planned to show her accompanied by an angel, as one sees in several prints of her visions, but as accounts of her vision mention no angels, and several depict her alone, it seemed to me an unnecessary addition. The border depicts grape vines and wheat, and is inspired by some of the art in the old Belgian Bulletin Paroissial Liturgique, appropriately enough, with a small Host at the top, and in the four corners, clockwise, the papal arms, the arms of Urban IV, the arms of Liège, and the arms of Hasselt. You can find more on the image at my Tumblr site.

Earlier this year, I completed another work on a similar theme, an album cover for a single released by the Catholic musical group Theandric on Holy Thursday. Paul Tiseo, the band's lead, writes music on Catholic themes in a variety of popular styles intended for extra-liturgical use. I have done several album covers for him, and he specifically requested a Eucharistic image for the piece. The white and gold color scheme he asked for put me in mind of the wonderful neo-Baroque illustrations of Martin Travers, which I drew on in part for the general aesthetic of this piece, centering on a monstrance and incorporating in the brocade background the nard and star from Pope Francis's arms, which are repeated on the foot of the monstrance. If you may recall, a few years ago I also did a rendering of Benedict XVI's arms for Mr. Tiseo. As you can see, he continues to be a discerning client!

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