|So, what is a retired writer of children's stories doing creating a website devoted to
The first and most important reason is that I love the stuff. When visiting the National Gallery (which I do as often as I can) I pay my courtesy visit to see the Impressionists, and of course Turner and Constable, then I'm off to the new extension to gaze once again at the Fra Angelicos and Bellinis, the Madonnas, the Annunciations, the Pietas.
The second reason, I think, is my fascination with myth, and narrative. Like paintings of classical mythology (and yes, I like them too) religious art finds any number of ways to retell familiar stories. As a writer, I spend my life retelling the same stories over and over again, but because I change the characters, the setting, the detail, the ending, the stories come out fresh and new, and no-one notices that it's really just the same old stuff. Artists are equally adept at conning people in this way.
The non religious may mutter about Bible stories, and doubt whether they are true. Truth has nothing to do with the case. Writers generally prefer not to tell the truth - it only invites lawsuits. Novels and soap operas aren't true (though it's astonishing how many people think they are) but these things have extraordinary truths in them. I'm not sure that the more sophisticated Greeks and Romans really believed there actually was a pantheon of Gods, capable of turning into birds and animals in order to have their way with mortal maidens. They knew, though, that personifying the physical and conceptual attributes of every day life helps to move people along the road of understanding.
If you like a good story, the Bible all too often misses the mark. The New Testament gospels have their wonderful moments, but the narrative can be maddeningly perfunctory, with great gaps where one would like more detail. People like good stories, and to provide them the anonymous writers of apocryphal texts did their best to fill in the gaps. Jacobus de Voragine knew his market, or maybe had a sharp agent; The Golden Legend was a medieval best seller, and is still a great read now. Other embroidering of the text was simply folklore that had grown over the years, as folklore tends to do. All of this material was seized upon by artists to enhance otherwise bald and unconvincing narratives.
So I'm setting out to explore the narrative of some of the great themes in religious art. This is not from a religious perspective; I'm not sure I have one. It's about story telling. Maybe I'll discover some of those truths I've been on about on the way. Maybe.
Note: I'm always grateful for comments and criticism from visitors to the site; my email address is on the home page. In particular, my thanks go to Dr Francis DeStefano for his ever helpful comments. Frank's blog, mainly focussed on Venetian painters in general and Giorgione in particular, can be found here:
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