Friday, October 18, 2013

St Luke the Artiste

Today is the Feast of St. Luke.

St. Luke, of course, was one of the Evangelists and also the author of the Acts of the Apostles. Historically, he is known to be both a physician and artist.

One of the great Christian images is of Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is said to be a painting by St. Luke himself.

The painting has been copied many times over. The classic representation is much like the one above. Mary is holding the child, Jesus. Tradition holds that he was frightened by the devil and jumped in his mother's arms. Thus his sandal is hanging from his foot as an indication that he was...well...scared out of his socks. Sandals. Something.

Two angels are depicted holding a cross on the right and a spear on the left.

The child is holding on to Mary's thumb. In art, the thumb represented the Trinity, each phalange dedicated to a person: God the Father at the base, The Son at the second and the Spirit at the third.The base of the thumb, in some theories, represented Mary. Google it.

There are some paintings of Luke painting the painting as well.

van Der Weyden's St. Luke painting the Madonna and Child.
El Greco's St. Luke painting Our Lady of Perpetual Help
St. Luke is part of a grand artistic tradition in the Church. Paintings were catechisms for those who could not read, and for the readers, appealed to the imagination and heart. Worth a thousand words, as the saying goes.

There's a lot of talk these days (like the past 300 years) that the Vatican should get rid of it's art and help the poor. But even this pope, with his advocacy of the poor and love for humility, has an appreciation of art:

Pope Francis admires the latest acquisition to the Vatican Museum. Black velvet was too pretentious.
Oh. Um. Nevermind.