Saturday, December 24, 2011

Simon Vouet: La Crucifixion

Public Domain Image: La Crucifixion, oil on canvas painting of the first half of 17th century by the French Baroque style painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649), 85 in x 57.5 in (216 cm x 146 cm), currently at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, France.

Yuri Annenkov: Adam and Eve

Public Domain Image: The picture shows a modern version of the Biblical characters Adam and Eve by the Russian artist Yuri Pavlovich Annenkov (1889-1974)

Yuri Annenkov, also known as Georges Annenkov, is mainly noted for his contributions to book illustrations, his design work for theatre and motion pictures and portraits.

Yuri Annenkov was an active member of Mir iskusstva (World of Art), a Russian artistic and literary movement that influenced and inspired Russians to revolutionize European art in the early 20th century.

Though he had worked in the studios of artists Felix Vallotton and Maurice Denis (1911-1912) in Paris, in 1913 he moved to Switzerland for work and a year later returned to St. Petersburg. In Russia, he mostly did magazine and book illustrations and worked for theatres.

Annenkov’s work as a book designer and illustrator brought him fame as he worked for great authors such as Maxim Gorky (Samovar, 1917), Alexander Blok (The Twelve, 1918), Mikhail Kuzmin, and Aleksey Remizov.

Annenkov was also commissioned by the Bolshevik government in Russia for designing and staging shows related to the Russian Revolution. The later part of his life was spent in Paris, where he died, working as an artist and a costume designer for motion pictures.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mystical marriage of St. Catherine with the Child Jesus

Public Domain Photo: Mystical marriage of St. Catherine with the Child Jesus, lime wood sculpture with gold coloring and gilding, Master of Morlin-Epitaphs, Augsburg (1510), Bavarian National Museum, Munich

According to tradition, Saint Catherine of Alexandria (also known as ‘The Great Martyr Saint Catherine’ and ‘Saint Catherine of the Wheel’) became a martyr when she was beheaded on the orders of the Roman Emperor Maxentius.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 282 AD as the daughter of Queen Sabinella and King Costus who governed Alexandria, she was of extraordinary intelligence and a reputed scholar well-versed in sciences, arts, philosophy, etc. Though born a pagan princess, she became a Christian in her teens, and vowed to remain a virgin throughout life. Catherine had a vision of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary who gave her to Jesus in mystical marriage.

On reaching adulthood, Catherine visited the Roman Emperor Maxentius and tried to convince him of his moral errors in persecuting Christians who refused to worship pagan gods. In response, the emperor asked his best pagan orators and philosophers to debate on the issue with Catherine. She defeated them in the debate and converted them to Christianity. But, enraged at this, Maxentius executed all the converted philosophers and orators and tortured Catherine by imprisoning her.

During her imprisonment, over two hundred people, reportedly, visited her, including Empress Valeria Maximilla (wife of Maxentius) and all of them too converted to Christianity. The emperor responded to the conversions by executing all of the converted people.

Convinced that imprisonment and torture did not change Catherine’s views, the emperor tried to win over her by proposing to marry her. But she told him that she had consecrated her virginity to Jesus Christ. Upon this, the emperor sentenced her to death on the breaking wheel (also known as the Catherine wheel), a torture device used for capital punishment. But, miraculously, the wheel was destroyed and Maxentius had to order her beheading in 305 AD.

According to some traditions, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai where, Emperor Justinian (483-565, the Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565) built the Saint Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai (now in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt). In fact, it was dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, an event in which Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant atop a mountain.

Over the years, the monastery has become an important pilgrimage center and repository of early Christian architecture and art that is open to visiting scholars and tourists.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at children's party

Public Domain Photo: Members of the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee aboard USS Bataan enact Santa Claus, Mrs. Santa Claus and their elves at the children's holiday party held at Haygood Skating Center - Virginia Beach, Va. (4 Dec 2007), U.S. Navy photo by Stephen Oleksiak