Tag Archives: Saints

Books of the Year Christianity and Art 2012

This is an overview of books in the field of Christianity and art published in 2012. If I had read them all I would be very informed, possibly wiser and also very poor!  However, I hope some of them will come my way in the next few months. There may be some glaring omissions and it doesn’t cover the books published in French, Italian, Spanish and other languages. Apologies in advance for these shortcomings. First, I’ve listed a few books which cross boundaries or are introductions and the rest is chronological by period in art. Some of these books are included because they deal with artists a notable proportion of whose work was for the church.

Overall, there have been a number of books about Michelangelo, appropriately in the year of the 500th anniversary of the unveiling of the Sistine ceiling. There have been a lot of books published about the Baroque age in Italy and Holland, including a number of monographs of Caravaggio and Bernini amongst others. The Byzantine period is also well represented and the Renaissance, too, including Stephen and Michael Cole’s New History of Italian Renaissance Art intended as an update of Frederick Hartt’s original. Of importance also is the revised Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture edited by Colum Hourinane.  Yale have republished a lot of the Metropolitan Museum, New York’s back catalogue, but I have only included some of the latter.There have been new biographies of Cezanne and Titian and a book about the iconography of St Mary Magdalen

General, Theory and Miscellaneous Titles in the field of Christian Art and faith

An interesting publication this year which links an artist working today with Christian art of the past is Michael Landy’s Saints Alive with contributions by Colin Wiggins, Jennifer Sliwka (Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Fellow in Art and religion at the National Gallery) and Richard Cork. British artist Michael Landy (b. 1963) is known primarily as an installation artist.  In 2009, he began a three-year artist residency at the National Gallery, London and chose to base his work around paintings of saints. This is the account of the project.

Sr Wendy Beckett has a new book out: Sr Wendy’s Bible Treasury: Bible Wisdom through the Eyes of Great Painters.  Ashgate, who have published a number of works this year in the field, have published a new title in the series Theology, Imagination and the Arts edited by Trevor Hart, Gavin Hopps and Jeremy Begbie:  Art Imagination and Christian Hope  includes an essay by A.N.Williams on Space and Time: eschatological dimensions of Christian Architecture, alongside essays on other areas of the arts and looks at the theme of hope in the arts of the modern period. Art as Spiritual Perception  is a book looking at the connections between art and faith from a Christian perspective by Marleene Hengelaar  Rookmaaker and James Romaine, the latter is the director of ASCHA and author of a number of monographs on artists working today.

Two books make connections between different periods. Firstly, I would particularly like to read Amy Knight Powell’s: Depositions: Scenes from the late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum (cover illustrated above). Powell takes in medieval re-enactments of the Deposition of the Cross and paintings of the same subject from the period and links them to modern images that anticipate being taken down such as Sol Lewitt’s Buried Cube. Secondly, Alexander Nagel’s: Medieval Modern, which offers a radical new reading of art since the Middle Ages.The author reconsiders key issues in the history of art, from iconoclasm and idolatry to installation and the museum as institution and makes links in the practice of artists across the generations. In this regard the Dusseldorf exhibition catalogue El Greco and Modernism, looking at the influence across Europe of El Greco at the turn of the 20th century is also of interest, placing over 40 paintings by the artist alongside works by modern artists.

There are also two works which take a thematic approach relevant to Christian art. The first by Maria Pia di Bella and James Elkins, the latter a prolific author in the field of art and spirituality, is:Representations of Pain in Art and Visual Culture: . The second by Richard Cork is The Healing presence of Art: A History of the Presence of Western Art in Hospitals. This looks a highly original overview of the subject, taking in works by Memling, Piero della Francesca, as well as Grunewald’s Isenheim altarpiece and other artists’ works though history including Rembrandt and van Gogh. In view of the deep connection between hospitals and Christianity this should very interesting.

In the field of iconography, adding to works already published by Susan Haskins and Katherine Ludwig Jansen there is another book about St Mary Magdalene in art: Michelle A. Erhart and Amy Morris have edited: Mary Magdalene: Iconographic Studies from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. Essays look at the changing image of St Mary Magdalen during this period. This must make paintings of St Mary Magdalen one of the most thoroughly studied fields of iconography. It should be a very interesting read. A new work by the founder editor of Le Point magazine Jacques Duqusne is: Saints: Men and Women of Exceptional Faith an attempt to demystify the notion of sainthood, a richly illustrated introduction and overview.

Another general work on architecture in honour of Eric Fernie, one of my tutors at UEA in the 1980s, with contributions from several members of the faculty at the time is  Architecture and Interpretation: Essays for Eric Fernie ed Jill Franklin, Sandy Hislop  including essays on the young Michelangelo seeking to transcend genre boundaries and another on medieval masons’ tombs.

Lastly in this section, one of the major works of Bible illumination in our time is the St John’s Bible for the Benedictine monks of St John’s, Collegeville, Minnesota. This year sees the publication of an introduction by Susan Sink, an oblate of the abbey: The Art of The Saint John’s Bible: A Reader’s Guide brings text and illumination together for reflection.

Early Christian. In the early Christian period the main work published this year is Jonathan Bardill: Constantine, Divine Emperor of the Christian Golden Age. It offers a reassessment of Constantine as an emperor, a pagan and a Christian, looking at different imagery to show how Constantine reconciled traditional pagan imperial divinity and worship of the monotheistic God.

Byzantine The period has seen an enormous number of titles:

Ann Marie Yasin’s  Saints and Church Spaces in the Late Antique Mediterranean relates church building to the veneration of saints between 4th and 7th centuries. The book draws on anthropology, ritual studies and social geography to bring fresh interpretation to the field. Another work on architecture is Architecture of the Sacred: Space, Ritual and Experience  from Classical Greece to Byzantium edited by Bonna D. Wescoat and Robert Ousterhout which explores the way space, place, architecture and ritual interact. It looks at how architecture did not merely host events; rather, it magnified and elevated them. The book includes pagan and early Christian examples. Byzantine and Islam: Age of Transition edited by Helen C Evans with Brandie Ratliff is a ‘groundbreaking’ volume and exhibition catalogue from the Metropolitan, New York, which looks at the transformations and continuities from the 7th to 9th century in the south and eastern mediterranean where Byzantine culture encountered the emerging Islamic one, with essays by international scholars accompanied by illustrations of artifacts and icons.Approaches to Byzantine Architecture and its Decoration: Essays in honour of Slobodan Cucic is edited by Mark J. Johnson, Robert Ousterhout and Amy Papalexandrou. It is a collection of fourteen essays reflecting Professor Curcic’s own interests. The Celebration of the Saints  in Byzantine Art and Liturgy  by Nancy Patterson Ševčenko is part of the Variorum series published by Ashgate. This volume deals with images and texts that relate to the veneration of the saints in Byzantium after the 9th century with studies of icons and their relationship to the calendar and liturgy. Another volume in the same series is Henry Bryant’s : Nectar and Illusion: Nature in Byzantine Art and Literature, which focusses on the role of nature in Byzantine art, the first extended treatment of this topic, looking at the changes brought about by iconoclasm. A reprinted publication is The Birth of Western painting :A History of Colour Form and Iconography by David Talbot Rice and Robert Byron first published in 1930. This book links Byzantine art to European painting.In some ways it follows on from Maguire’s study because it shows that the end of Hellenistic naturalism came about with the iconoclast crisis and that this paved the way to the new European art of Duccio and Giotto. Armenia: Imprints of a Civilization written by Gabriella Uluhogian, Boghos Levon Zekiyan and Vartan Karapetian, gives a broad overview of Armenian culture.


As a nice slide from the Byzantine period it may be worth starting with Imagining Jerusalem in the Medieval West edited by Lucy Donkin and Hanna Vorholt, a collection of essays looking at how  the city was imagined by Christians in the middle ages, between 700 and 1500, and at how the Temple and the Holy Sepulchre were represented in particular. The most important publishing event is probably the revised 6 volume  Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture (GEMAA) edited by Colum Hourinane, who curates the Princeton iconographical archive, with over 200 new articles and also updated bibliographies. The encyclopedia covers art in Europe from 6th century to 15th from Ireland to Eastern Europe.

In the field of early medieval studies is Richard Bryant’s: The Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture Volume 10, West Midlands . Much of the material was carved at a time when Mercian art was at its zenith in the late eighth to early tenth centuries. The study also includes a significant body of carvings from the later tenth and eleventh centuries. The Book of Kells by Bernard Meehan, the definitive work on this masterpiece of Irish art has been republished with illustrations of the most important pages and details of the illumination. It was reviewed in the Guardian recently.

The Getty Apocalypse   by Nigel J Morgan, a specialist in art of the Apocalypse is a study of a single 13th century English illuminated manuscript in the Getty collection, set in context with an analysis of the style of the work and its iconography and with all 82 of the illuminations reproduced in colour. Another publication focussing on manuscripts is Virginia Reinburg’s: French Books of Hours . This interdisciplinary study explores the book of hours as a book – how it was acquired, how it was read to guide prayer and teach literacy. It is based on the study of over 500 manuscripts and printed books from France, and shows how the hours were a link between the liturgy and home. Also in the field of illuminated manuscripts, from the British Library comes Kathryn A. Smith’s: The Taymouth Hours: Stories and the Construction of Self in Late medieval England

There are two works about the Virgin Mary and art of importance: Joseph Goering’s: The Virgin and the Grail: Origins of a Legend. looks at how images of the Virgin and the Grail appeared in churches in the Pyrenees 50 years before Chretien de Troyes wrote his influential story. The book links these images with the later writings. The other is Gary Waller’s The Virgin Mary in Late medieval  and Early Modern English Literature and Popular Culture.

The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine in the original translation by William Ryan has been republished by Princeton with a new essay by Eamonn Duffy. It is an essential book for understanding medieval and Renaissance art, though available on the web.

There are several works on architecture of interest: Design and Construction in Romanesque Architecture: First Romanesque architecture and the Pointed Arch in Burgundy and Northern Italy by C. Edson Armi makes fascinating links across Europe at the time when the pointed arch was developed in Burgundy and in Northern Italy.Two works on monastic archtecture, the first a reprint are Cistercian Art and Architecture in the British Isles edited by Christopher Norton and David Parks a comprehensive survey of Cistercian art and architecture in the British Isles including Rievaulx, Fountains and Tintern. It looks at art as well as architecture. The second by Julian M. Luxford is Architecture of the English Benedictine Monasteries   focussing on the Benedictine monasteries and nunneries in south-west England including Glastonbury during the 240 years leading up to the dissolution of the religious orders under Henry VIII.

Yale University Press have reprinted an enormous number of publications from the Metropolitan museum, who have recently made a lot of essays and pubilcations available online in pdf format.  Amongst the republications in the medieval field are Elizabeth C. Parker’s: The Cloisters. Essays in Honour of the 50th Anniversary Forens Deuchler, Hoffeld and Helmut Nickels’: The Cloisters apocalypse: A 14thc Manuscript  and Elizabeth C Parker and Charles T. Little’s: The Cloisters Cross: Its Art and Meaning 

Renaissance Italy

In the field of the Renaissance I have included works about Trecento artists. Francesco Benelli: The Architecture in Giotto’s Paintings analyses Giotto’s painted architecture to show the importance of the archtecture to create pictorial space and contribute to the narrative and iconography of the paintings. Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance 1300-1350 is an exhibition catalogue from the J.P.Getty Museum for an exhibition currently on show there running into spring 2013 .The catalogue is edited by Christine Sciacca.The exhibition features panel paintings, manuscripts and stained glass. It looks at worskshop practice and crossovers between illumination and panel painting. Included is an account of the commission for the book of hymns the Laudario of S’ Agnese, the most important commision of the period. The 26 leaves of the manuscript are on display in the exhibition. Francis Ames-Lewis’ Florence looks at the works produced in the city between 1300 and 1600. It is one of a series from CUP and the subject is a challenging one in terms of its vastness. It looks at the different periods of art chronologically and the major political, social and economic events as well as at secular and religious patronage. Carl Brandon Strehlke has edited a volume on a particular building: Orsanmichele and the History and Preservation of the Monument is a collection of essays focussing on the sculpture commissioned by the various guilds including works by Ghiberti, Donatello and others.

Amongst the most exciting new monographs is Tom Henry’s definitive: The Life and Art of Luca Signorelli. the first book-length study of Luca Signorelli (1450–1523) involving twenty years of archival research on a painter who believed art was divinely inspired. Though eclipsed by Michelangelo and Raphael he was still influential in the 16th century. Part of the book is on the Last Judgement in Orvieto cathedral, his most important work. Also of interest is Antonio Focellino’s Raphael:A Passionate Life  which has been newly translated into English.

There are a number of different works on Michelangelo, in two cases biographical ones which involve further future volumes. These are Michael Hirst’s  Michelangelo: Volume I The Achievement of Fame 1475-1534  the first of two volumes in what will probably be the definitive modern biography of Michelangelo this volume from his apprenticeship in Ghirlandaio’s workshop to his final move to Rome in 1534. Hirst is the leading Michelangelo scholar, and this volume is based on fresh archival research and new editions of the artists correspondence. Alongside that is the first of three volumes by John T. Spike: Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine, which has also been favourably received. Michaelangelo’s architecture is the focus of Giulio Carlo Argan and Bruno Contardi’s:   Michelangelo Architect 1475-1564. Lastly, another extremely interesting volume, breaking new ground in a particular area is Michelangelo and the  English Martyrs by Anne Dillon of  Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. The book links the late paintings of Michelangelo to a 1555 broadsheet produced in Rome depicting the sufferings of the English Catholic martyrs and shows the links in Rome between those who produced the broadsheet and the religious and artistic circles of the time. As well as analysing the text, the author looks in depth at the images.

There is also a new biography by Sheila Hale: Titian: His Life, which has been very favourably received and an exhibition catalogue from the National Gallery, London by Anthony Mazzotta entitled Titian- a fresh look at Nature which shows how Titian learnt from Durer and from the study of nature in his native landscsape of Pieve di Cadore. The exhibition was focussed on the newly restored Flight into Egypt by the artist. Leonardo’s Last Supper is the latest work by Ross King. The Italian artist Federico Barocci is the focus of an exhibition currently in St Louis and coming to London shortly. The catalogue by Judith W. Mann and Babette Bohn : Federico Barocci,  Renaissance master of Color and Line. Essays by numerous scholars look at his drawings (over 1500 survive), the creative process, the technique of red underpainting and his influence on later Baroque artists in his use of colour and light and dynamic composition.

From Ashgate there is an interesting book on the High Renaissance in Rome edited by Jill Burke: Rethinking the High Renaissance: The Culture of the Visual Arts in Early 16th century Rome which seeks to reconfigure how we see the High Renaissance style. It includes a new essay on Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling.

Renaissance North and Elsewhere

Firstly, in the elswhere category, there is a new interdisciplinary study by Marina Berlozerskaya Rethinking the Renaissance :Burgundian arts across Europe, which focusses on the Burgundian court as a centre of the arts and patronage, and of influence in the early Renaissance across Europe. On the Renaissance in the New World,Fernando Cervantes and Andrew Redden’s: Angels, Demons and the New World traces the effect of the encounter of European ideas of angels and demons with indigenous culture and the resulting cosmology. Ethan Matt Kavaler’s:  Renaissance Gothic: Architecture and the Arts in Northern Europe 1470-1540 looks at the enduring style of Gothic into the 16th century in Northern Europe.

Regarding Flemish painting, the results of the 2009 colloquium at Leuven on Roger van der Weyden, which took place to accompany an exhibition Master of Passions at the museum, have been published as Roger van der Weyden in Context..

Regarding painting in Germany there is a new study of Cranach in relation to his neighbour in Wittenberg and collaborator Luther The Serpent and the Lamb- Cranach, Luther and the Making of the Reformation by Stephen Ozment links the German Renaissance and Reformation. Ozment draws attention to the link between Luther’s preaching and Cranach’s imagery in particular regarding Christian marriage seen in the ‘Lutheran household’ and the ‘Cranach woman’.

There are two new books on Durer. A comprehensive study Early Durer, by Daniel Hess and Thomas Eser, both of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, is the result of the Early Durer project and is intended to be the definitive work on the early life and art of Durer, with many works reproduced for the first time. The other is a monograph on Durer in the Phaidon series by Jeffrey Chipps Smith. Finally, there is an exhibition catalogue edited by Anne T. Woollett, Yvonne Szafran, and Alan Phenix for a show in the J.P. Getty Museum entitled: Drama and Devotion: Heemskerck’s Ecce Homo from Warsaw about one of the Dutch painter Maerten van Heemskerck’s masterpieces(1498–1574)  the Ecce Homo triptych of 1544, once in a family chapel in Dordrecht’s Augustinian church and restored and temporarily displayed in the museum before returning to the national Museum of Warsaw.

Baroque Italy,

 Discourse on Sacred and Profance Images. is the treatise on art of Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti written at the time of the Catholic Reformation in the later 16th century. It has been translated by William McCuaig with an introduction by Paolo Prodi. In the treatise Paleotti emphasises the importance of art as a means to express salvation history.

There are three books about Caravaggio: Sybille Ebert Schifferer’s: Caravaggio: The Artist and His Work is a critical re-evauation of all the sources and the works and an attempt to present an accurate portrait of the artist. J. Patrice Marandel’s is an exhibition catalogue:  Caravaggio and his Legacy,and looks at his influence on painters throughout Europe. Rosella Vodret’s: Caravaggio’s Rome:1600-1630 looks at the work of the artist and his contemporaries in Rome itself in the first 35 years of the 17th century, bringing to light artists who worked in his shadow, but under his influence. A well received and ground breaking book dealing with the 17th century in Rome is The Art of Religion: Sforza Pallavicino and Art Theory in Bernini’s Rome by Maarten Delbeke, in Ashgate’s Histories of Vision series. This volume concerns the close relationship of  Bernini and Pallavicino, the Jesuit cardinal, at the papal courts of Urban VIII and Alexander VII. The book offers an analysis of Pallavicino’s writings on art as a means to make manifest the fundamental truths of faith,  also dealing with questions of idolatry, mimesis and illusionism.

There are books about Bernini, too, Genevieve Warwick’s: Bernini: Art as Theatre and Bernini sculpting in Clay  an exhibition catalogue by C D Dickerson III, Anthony Sigel and Ian Wardropper, which looks at the expressive clay models the artist made as sketches for works


There is a new book about George de la Tour by Valeria Merlini, Daniela Storti and Dimitri Simon: George de la Tour: The Adoration of the Shepherds, Christ with St Joseph in the Carpenter’s Shop. An analysis of the styles, techniques, and subjects of de La Tour, with detailed references and notes. The book focusses on two masterpieces then branches out to look at his oeuvre as a whole.


Jonathan Brown has produced a new edition of  Murillo Drawings: Revised edition. An essential part of Murillo’s creative process for both the overall design and for dealing with particular details, this is a comprehensive catalogue with new additions, revised entries and an updated bibliography.

Holland and Flanders

There is a very interesting new volume on religion and Dutch landscape painting: Landscape and Religion from Van Eyck to Rembrandt, by Boudewijn Bakker and Diane Webb. Others which have a focus on Rembrandt are James A. Ganz’s:  Rembrandt’s Century,  based on the graphic arts collection of San Francisco Museum, which has a large holding of Rembrandt prints drawings and other 17th century works and Peter Black and Erma Hermens’: Rembrandt and the Passion linked to an exhibition at Edinburgh around the Entombment sketch in the Hunterian Art Gallery. It looks at the influences on Rembrandt’s painting and at the sketch in the context of other religious works in particular hi Passion series.

There are two interesting books from the Ashgate stable: The Religious Paintings  of Hendrick ter Brugghen: Reinventing Christian Painting after the Reformation in Utrecht by Natasha T. Seaman is the first in-depth study of the Utrecht artist to look at the work in context and makes links to other Northern Caravaggist studies. The book focusses on four paintings of New Testament subjects and looks at the way the paintings diverge from Caravaggio’s Seventeenth-Century Flemish Garland Paintings: Still Life, Vision, and the Devotional Image by Susan Merriam is a well received book which looks specifically at the work of Jan Brueghel, Daniel Seghers, and Jan Davidz de Heem and at the emergence of garland painting from 1607-8, and onwards in the context of iconoclasm and devotion in the 17th century.


Esther Gordon Dotson with photographs by Mark Richard Ashton’s  J.B. Fischer von Elrlach is about one of the most influential European baroque architects who worked in Germany and Austria. The book illuminates his use of drama and lighting effects and movement through the buildings he designed.


19 and 20th century

Johannes Grave’s Caspar David Friedrich is a lavishly produced and illustrated volume on the 19th-century Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich, which looks in depth at the landscape paintings. Alex Danchev’s  Cezanne: A Life is a new biography of the artist who was a person of faith whose spirituality was expressed in his landscape painting. Another giant of the modern movement who was also a Catholic is Josef Albers. This side of his work is the subject of an exhibition formerly in Cork now in Umbria. The catalogue Sacred Modernist : Josef Albers as a Catholic Artist  edited by Nichloas Fox Weber includes an essay by Colm Toibin.

Toby Kamps and Steve Seid have written a book looking at silence as subject matter in film painting and composition: Silence: examines the work of 29 artists in all including Bruce Nauman and Joseph Beuys. Anselm Kiefer, Next Year in Jerusalem is an account of a monumental installation and exhibition by Anselm Kiefer using a variety of different media, and drawing on the Old and New Testament, poetry and Kabbalah with an essay by Marina Warner and the acceptance speech by the artist for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Mark C. Taylor’s: Refiguring the Spiritual in Modern art: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy looks at four artists whose work is transformative and who draw on Eastern and Western spirituality. I mentioned at the beginning Michael Landy’s Saints Alive the result of a three-year artist residency at the National Gallery, London based around paintings of saints.

I hope to review some of these in more depth during 2013. Happy New Year!