My Father’s House (Artful Devotion)

Siegl, Helen_Rejoice and Be Glad
Helen Siegl (Austrian, 1924–2009), Rejoice & Be Glad, 1974. Color woodcut, 30 × 30 cm. Edition of 50. Sacred Art Pilgrim Collection.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

—John 14:1–3

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SONG: “Come and Go with Me to My Father’s House” | Traditional African American | Performed under the musical direction of Dr. Markanthony Henry (on piano), with soloist Caterina Finocchi, at Iglesia Presbiteriana San Andrés (Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 28, 2012

[Related posts: “‘As the bridegroom rejoices over his bride . . .’ (Artful Devotion)”; “Let Jesus Lead You (Artful Devotion)”]

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Art collector John A. Kohan has a wonderful biographical write-up about Helen Siegl on his website, Sacred Art Pilgrim—not to mention a select compilation of her art.

A devout Catholic all her life, Siegl was born in Vienna and was a teenager at the time of the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany). After the traumatic years of World War II and during the Soviet occupation of her home country, she emigrated to Canada in 1952. She got married and settled in Philadelphia, where her husband served as conservator of paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She raised eight children with him while also working as a printmaker—mostly woodcuts and linocuts. Her style blends elements of folk art and German expressionism, and her themes were often biblical.


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, cycle A, click here.

Passion prints by Alena Antonova

Alena Antonova was born in Czechoslovakia in 1930. From 1949 to 1955 she studied graphic arts at the College of Applied Arts in Prague under the acclaimed Cubist painter Emil Filla. Since then she has specialized in printmaking. The primary technique she uses is drypoint, which involves incising a picture with a needle onto a metal plate, then inking it and pressing it onto paper, but she has also done etchings, woodcuts, and linocuts. The female figure is a common theme in her work.

In 1997 Antonova created a series of very small drypoints based on New Testament episodes. Here is a selection of Passion-themed ones from the Sacred Art Pilgrim Collection.

Madonna and Child by Alena Antonova
Alena Antonova (Czech, 1930–), Madonna and Child, 1997. Tinted drypoint, 14.5 × 10 cm.

First, a Madonna and Child. This subject—Mary holding the baby Jesus—is obviously not set during Holy Week, but in her interpretation Antonova alludes to the Crucifixion by giving the infant Christ nail prints in his hands and feet. While it’s not uncommon for artists to foreshadow Jesus’s early death in Madonna and Child images by making him appear corpse-like, the overt display of wounds is something I’ve never seen before. I’ve also never seen Mary kissing baby Jesus on the lips—such a tender expression of mother love; she closes her eyes, as if to shut out the formidable omen Simeon had spoken to her at the temple. I’m not sure whether the cat playing with a ball of yarn in the background has a symbolic significance or serves only to domesticate the scene. I guess you could see it as an allusion to Jesus’s future unraveling in Gethsemane, his coming undone.

Last Supper by Alena Antonova
Alena Antonova (Czech, 1930–), The Last Supper, 1997. Tinted drypoint, 14 × 10 cm.

Fast-forward to that day, and we’re at the Last Supper. In traditional fashion, Antonova’s print shows Jesus at the head of the table, with John leaning on his shoulder. Judas is on the other end with his head in hand, stressing out about whether to go through with the betrayal; a moneybag is tied to his waist. I’m not sure where the twelfth disciple is in the picture. Maybe he’s getting drink refills.   Continue reading “Passion prints by Alena Antonova”