Easter, Day 6

LOOK: Empty Tomb (detail) by Claire Curneen

Curneen, Claire_Empty Tomb (detail)
Claire Curneen (Irish, 1968–), Empty Tomb (detail), 2018. Porcelain, h. 31 inches.

I encountered this striking image on the cover of Image no. 97 (Summer 2018). I’ve not been able to find a photograph of the full piece, but Curneen created a variation on it last year.

In the article “Beauty in Brokenness: The Sculpture of Claire Curneen,” Richard Davey writes that in Curneen’s body of work,

indications of internal states of transformation or transfiguration are not confined to gold. . . . Recently Curneen has begun to use a deep blue to create a similar effect. Like ultramarine, which was reserved for only the most significant parts of medieval paintings, this blue glaze is used only sparingly, painted onto faces, hands, and other areas where it will have the maximum impact. The effect is dramatic, with faces dissolving into an incorporeal void. For unlike gold, which reflects light, this deep blue holds light, absorbing our gaze into its pellucid depths. Curneen exploited this difference in one of her most recent works, Empty Tomb (2018), where blue and gold ooze from a series of gaping wounds, like the unmingled blood and water that flowed from the side of the dead Christ. With the tip of one finger, this elegiac figure gently points out one of these openings, echoing Saint Thomas, who needed to touch Jesus’s wounded side before he could believe. This gesture is the only moment of animation in a work that is otherwise still, but it is not the focus. That is to be found in the wounds themselves, which stand out starkly against the limpid porcelain. These are the empty tomb of the title, apertures exuding blue and gold, dark and light. They draw us in so that we find our attention focused entirely on these small rings. For a moment, as we teeter on this visual precipice, with solidity melting around us and the figure dissolving into the background, time stands still.

LISTEN: “Empty” by The Sowing Season, on The Fox & the Sparrow (2017)

Oh Mary, why have you come?
Come drop your oils and run
You’ll find no one
Find no one

Oh Thomas, can’t you see?
Where bone and sinew meet
You’ll find a hole
Find a whole

Oh Saul, look down at your hands
All red and dripping in the sand
It’s the wrong blood
The wrong blood

Come find the blood of the Son

Jesus meets people where they’re at: Mary Magdalene in her grief (John 20:11–18), Thomas in his doubt (John 20:24–29), Saul in his murderous zealotry (Acts 9:1–19). And he transforms them. After their encounters with the risen Christ, Mary’s tears give way to joy; Thomas’s doubt transposes into belief; and Saul goes from persecutor of Christians to key apostle, with a ministry of preaching the gospel, planting churches, and writing letters of teaching and encouragement that have become sacred scripture.

The song “Empty” by The Sowing Season reflects Christ’s gentle invitation to behold his transfigured wounds and to move, with him, from death into life.

This song is on the Art & Theology Eastertide Playlist.

Lent, Day 29

LOOK: Allegorical Representation of the Crucifixion with Saints Andrew and Paul by Francesco Traini

Traini, Francesco_Crucifixion
Francesco Traini (Italian, active 1321–1363), Allegorical Representation of the Crucifixion with Saints Andrew and Paul, ca. 1350–60. Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 41 1/4 × 16 5/8 in. (104.8 × 42.2 cm). Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones. [object record]

In this panel painting from late medieval Italy, two of Christ’s apostles—Andrew and Paul—embrace the cross where Christ hangs crucified, his blood running down from his hands and side. The Latin inscriptions unfurl as speech from each. Paul, on the right, says, MICHI AUTEM ABSIT GLORIARI NISI IN CRUCE DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTU PER QUEM MICHI MUNDUS CRUCIXUS EST ET EGO MUNDO (“But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” [Gal. 6:14]).

And Andrew exclaims, SALVE CRUS SPETIOSA SUSCIPE DISCIPLULUM EIUS QUI PENEDIT IN TE MAGISTER MEUS CHRISTUS (“Hail lovely cross, receive the disciple of him who hung on you, my master Jesus Christ”). This is one of the antiphons from the Feast of Saint Andrew, spoken by Andrew in response to being presented with the instrument of his martyrdom.

Traini, Francesco_Crucifixion (detail)
Traini, Francesco_Crucifixion (detail2)

Francesco Traini is one of the few artists of the period to use raised gesso (plaster) and gold leaf texts on the surfaces of his paintings. He also often used punches, as here, to create elaborate borders.

I’m really compelled by the portrayal of the cross as a forked tree. (Note the similarity to Friday’s featured painting!) Granted, that artistic choice was probably dictated mainly by the narrow dimensions of the panel.

LISTEN: “येशूलाई क्रूसमाथि सब हेर” (Yeshulai Krusmaathi Sab Hera) (Down at the Cross) | Original English words by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1878 | Music by John H. Stockton, 1878 | Performed in Nepali by Psalms Unplugged, 2019 [HT: Global Christian Worship]

१. येशूलाई क्रूसमाथि सब हेर, हाम्रो दुःख उनैले बोकेर, डाक्दैछन् सबलाई प्रेम गरेर, येशूलाई हेर ।

कोः येशूलाई हेर हेर त जिउँनेछौ
येशूलाई क्रूसमाथि सब हेर, येशूलाई हेर ।

२. पापको बोझालाई उतार्नेछन् अमर जीवन पाउने पार्नेछन् मृत्यु नदीदेखि तार्नेछन् येशूलाई हेर ।

३. चिहान देखि प्रभु बौरेछन् बढाऔं सबै जब बेला उनको शक्तिले शोक दूर गर्छन् येशूलाई हेर ।

४. येशू स्वर्गलोकमा बस्दछन् पापीको सब दुःखलाई जान्दछन् साँची नै प्रभुले डाक्दैछन् येशूलाई हेर । [source]

Original English lyrics:

Down at the cross where my Savior died,
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried,
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to his name!

Glory to his name,
Glory to his name;
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to his name!

I am so wondrously saved from sin,
Jesus so sweetly abides within;
There at the cross where he took me in;
Glory to his name!

Oh, precious fountain that saves from sin,
I am so glad I have entered in;
There Jesus saves me and keeps me clean;
Glory to his name!

Come to this fountain so rich and sweet,
Cast thy poor soul at the Savior’s feet;
Plunge in today, and be made complete;
Glory to his name!

Vocals: Jeena Lama
Keys: Sujit Lama
Violin: Prabhat Lamichhane
Bansuri: John Rashin Singh

I love the coming together of all the instruments on the final chorus!