Monday, December 28, 2009

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Cornelis van Haarlam, Massacre of the Holy Innocents, 1590.

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating Herod's massacre of infants as described in Matthew 2:16-18. I just wanted to share a few artworks on the subject.

The theme seemed to appeal to late Renaissance and Baroque artists because of the treatment of violence against the innocent and the drama inherent in the tortured faces of the mothers who try to defend or mourn their slaughtered children. I remember being mesmerized by a set of polychrome figures on the theme by José Ginés in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. The series, given the graphically Spanish title Degollación de los Inocentes ("the throat-cutting of the innocents"), got its power from the naked brutality of the slaughter and the crazed, twisted faces of the women as they tried in vain to either hide their children or fight off the soldiers -- a moment described also by Shakespeare in Henry V:

Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.

After extensive googling that resulted not only in the frustration of failure to obtain results but also repeated Mozilla-crashing, I was able to to find only one figure from the series, but it should give you a feel for it:

And here are some other versions:

Guido Reni, 1611.

Peter Paul Rubens, also 1611.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 04, 2009

random cool picture

From fons veritatis, Pope Sixtus IV appoints Bartolomeo Platina prefect of the Vatican Library, fresco by Melozzo da Forlì, c. 1477 (Vatican Museums).

Teaching has rendered me with no time to blog -- perhaps I'll sharpen the cyberquill during the holidays. Meanwhile, this is a pretty picture (I love the background -- I have mentioned before how much I love architecture in paintings). I found it on the fons veritatis page on Bartolomeo Platina, Renaissance humanist and author of the first printed cookbook, De honestate voluptate et valetudine. The cookbook was what I was checking on, as some of the recipes have been adapted in the Historical Cookery webpage (h/t Jeffrey Smith). So here it is, it's very nice.