Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Photo of Saint Roch Church and the Saint Louis Art Museum, From a Distance

Saint Roch Roman Catholic Church and the Saint Louis Art Museum, taken from the top of the Moonrise Hotel, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Saint Roch Church and the Saint Louis Art Museum are seen from the rooftop lounge of the new Moonrise Hotel on Delmar.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Night at the Museum - Sacred Arts

AMONG MANY museums in the Saint Louis region, the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Forest Park, is the most comprehensive, and is one of the most-visited museums in the Republic. The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Friday nights, and these photos were taken on one such night.

Additional photos taken that night are here: A Night at the Museum - Profane Arts

Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior at night

This Beaux Arts style building was designed by Cass Gilbert on the model of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Gilbert, better known for the Woolworth building in New York City, also designed the Saint Louis Public Library main branch in downtown Saint Louis, and the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

Alabaster statue, "Virgin and Child", German or South Netherlandish, ca. 1460, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Virgin and Child", German or South Netherlandish, ca. 1460

This museum has an extensive collection of Catholic art, some of which I show here. We can debate the fittingness of placing sacred art in a secular museum, but we can still enjoy what is presented nevertheless.

As this is a comprehensive museum, it has art from a wide range of times and places, but structurally the collections give emphasis to the historical patrimony of the visual arts in the United States - and so we can expect a great contribution from classical antiquity and Western Europe. The Catholic sense of High Art and the iconoclasm of the sects deriving from the Reformation ensures that a considerable amount of the historical art displayed is necessarily Catholic. But since the very concept of a museum is a child of the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution, we ought to expect that this Catholic art will be viewed as curiosities or mere aesthetic artifacts of a bygone era.

The cheap industrial production of Catholic sacred art in the late 19th century ensures that much sacred art of that period is not worthy for museum display. Conversely, the degraded worldly quality of much Catholic church art made in recent decades seems to ensure that this art — not fit for veneration — will end up in secular museums.

Painted wood statue, "Blessing Christ", Spanish, late 13th or early 14th century, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Blessing Christ", Spanish, late 13th or early 14th century

This is an odd-looking statue, but perhaps it looked better in its original context, being the central part of a painted altarpiece, flanked by the Apostles.

Tempera and gold leaf on panel, "Crucifixion", Italian, mid-14th century, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Crucifixion", Italian, mid-14th century

This was originally in a convent of the Second Order of Saint Francis, the Poor Clares.

Tempera on wood, "Madonna and Child with Saints Stephen and Nicholas", by Gherardo Starnina, 1407, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Madonna and Child with Saints Stephen and Nicholas", by Gherardo Starnina, 1407

Ave Maria, Gratia plena.

Oil painting, "St. Paul", by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), 1598-1600, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"St. Paul", by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), 1598-1600

The museum says that photographers cannot use tripods, monopods, or flash; sensible rules which nevertheless make photography somewhat more difficult. The photos presented here therefore do not look so good upon close inspection.

Tempera and oil on panel, Madonna and Child Enthroned with Sts. Peter, John the Baptist, Dominic, and Nicholas of Bari, by Piero di Cosimo, ca. 1481-1485, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Madonna and Child Enthroned with Sts. Peter, John the Baptist, Dominic, and Nicholas of Bari", by Piero di Cosimo, ca. 1481-1485

Below the main painting is a predella (Italian, ‘stool’), a word typically used to describe the step or platform upon which an altar is placed, or specifically a series of paintings or sculptures at the base of an altarpiece. Following are detailed photos of the predella in the above painting.

Tempera and oil on panel, predella of Saint Dominic, by Piero di Cosimo, ca. 1481-1485, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Saint Dominic here appears to be preaching to heretics.

Tempera and oil on panel, predella of Saint John, by Piero di Cosimo, ca. 1481-1485, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Saint John the Baptist. This appears to be Saint John leaving his family to preach in the wilderness.

Tempera and oil on panel, predella of Saint Nicholas, by Piero di Cosimo, ca. 1481-1485, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Saint Nicholas of Bari, also known as Saint Nicholas of Myra, or the Wonderworker, and is the prototype of Santa Claus. I'm not sure what this scene represents.

Limestone sculpture, "Virgin and Child", French, ca. 1320, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Virgin and Child", French, ca. 1320

This is a remarkably lovely statue, fitting for its subject.

Wood sculpture, "Enthroned Virgin and Child", French, 12th century, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Enthroned Virgin and Child", French, 12th century

This statue is in very rough condition. But keep in mind that the museum curators have a contemporary aesthetic sense, and the original Renaissance museums often housed broken bits of Roman statuary. The artifacts, when new and pristine, were likely quite glorious.

Oil painting, "Christ Shown to the People (Ecce Homo)", by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), ca. 1570-1576, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Christ Shown to the People (Ecce Homo)", by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), ca. 1570-1576

I make a good — but not heroic — attempt to portray the colors on these paintings accurately.

Oil painting, "Vincent Voiture as St. Louis", by Philippe de Champaigne, ca. 1640-1648, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Vincent Voiture as Saint Louis", by Philippe de Champaigne, ca. 1640-1648

This painting hung in the convent of Mr. Voiture's daughter.

Oil painting, "St. Francis Contemplating a Skull", by Francisco de Zurbarán, Spanish, ca. 1635, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Saint Francis Contemplating a Skull", by Francisco de Zurbarán, Spanish, ca. 1635

Oil painting, "Interior of St. Peter's, Rome", by Giovanni Paolo Panini, Italian, 1731, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Interior of St. Peter's, Rome", by Giovanni Paolo Panini, Italian, 1731

The notes accompanying this oil painting state that the painter took artistic license in one specific detail. Can any of my readers identify this artifice?

Painted wooden doors, "Doors from the Convent of St. Isabel", Hispano-Moresque, 16th-17th century, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Doors from the Convent of Saint Isabel", Hispano-Moresque, 16th-17th century

Moorish art style adapted for Christian use in Spain. This shows two small doors placed inside of a much larger set of doors. The hardware on the door were originally gilded.

Engraving, "Tobias with the Angel", by Hendrick Goudt, 1613, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Tobias with the Angel", by Hendrick Goudt, 1613

Fancy script makes the Latin inscription on this engraving hard to read.

Oil on panel, "Mary Salome and Zebedee with Their Sons James the Greater and John the Evangelist", by Hans Suess von Kulmbach, ca. 1511, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Mary Salome and Zebedee with Their Sons James the Greater and John the Evangelist", by Hans Suess von Kulmbach, ca. 1511

Teracotta statue, "Modern Madonna", by John Storrs, ca. 1918-1919, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Modern Madonna", by John Storrs, ca. 1918-1919

You can see my other photos at the museum here:

A Night at the Museum - Profane Arts

VISITING THE Saint Louis Art Museum is always a delight, and the museum generously has expanded hours on Fridays. These photos were taken during a recent Friday night.

The English word ‘profane’ comes from the Latin word profanus ‘in front of the temple’, and so means secular and not sacred.

Additional photos taken that night are here: A Night at the Museum - Sacred Arts

Here are some art objects that caught my eye that evening over the course of an hour or so. By no means is this any more than a quick selection of photos.

Marble bust, "Portrait of a Woman", by Edmonia Lewis, 1873, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Portrait of a Woman", by Edmonia Lewis, 1873

Oil painting, "Magnolia", by Martin Johnson Heade, ca. 1885-1895, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Magnolia", by Martin Johnson Heade, ca. 1885-1895

Art conservator at work, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Art conservator at work.

Oil painting, "Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion", by John Martin, 1812, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion", by John Martin, 1812

This has long been one of my favorites, and is a mixture of Romanticism and Orientalism. In the story from which this painting derives, Sadak successfully achieves the Waters of Oblivion, rescues his wife, and is crowned Sultan.

Statue of a woman (Venus), at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

I neglected to record the information on this bronze statue. I think it is of Venus.

Bronze wine vessel, Chinese, Western Zhou dynasty, late 11th century B.C., at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Bronze wine vessel, Chinese, Western Zhou dynasty, late 11th century B.C.

Paper screen, "Flowers and Plants of the Four Seasons", Japanese, Edo Period, 18th century, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Paper screen, "Flowers and Plants of the Four Seasons", Japanese, Edo Period, 18th century

Lacquer box, "Box with Design of Auspicious Motifs", Korean, Joseon dynasty, late 18th-early 19th century, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
"Box with Design of Auspicious Motifs", Korean, Joseon dynasty, late 18th-early 19th century

Auspicious is a word that nowadays is almost solely used when translating words from East Asian languages, typically with the meaning of ‘favorable’. But auspicious derives from the Latin word auspex ‘observer of birds’, denoting a type of animal divination.

Terracotta, "Footed Jar with Dancing Maenads", Greek, attributed to the Chicago Painter, ca. 450 B.C., at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Terracotta, "Footed Jar with Dancing Maenads", Greek, attributed to the Chicago Painter, ca. 450 B.C.

Piano recital, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Piano recital.

Oil painting, "No. 4", Piet Mondrian, Dutch, 1938-1942, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Oil painting, "No. 4", Piet Mondrian, Dutch, 1938-1942

Whenever I start liking Modern art, I feel like I ought to go to Confession!

Sugar pine sculpture, "Trid", by Jackie Ferrara, American, 1978, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Sugar pine sculpture, "Trid", by Jackie Ferrara, American, 1978

Oil painting, "Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam", by John Greenwood, American, ca. 1752-1758, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Oil painting, "Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam", by John Greenwood, American, ca. 1752-1758

Another boyhood favorite, a classic on par with Dogs Playing Poker.

Lamp of glass, brass, and marble, "Overlay Lamp", by Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, American, 1865, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Lamp of glass, brass, and marble, "Overlay Lamp", by Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, American, 1865

Chair, by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and George Bridport, American, 1808, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Chair, by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and George Bridport, American, 1808

Gilded bronze candelabra, French, ca. 1804-1815, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Gilded bronze candelabra, French, ca. 1804-1815

Tambour Desk, attributed to Thomas Seymour, American, ca. 1810, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Tambour Desk, attributed to Thomas Seymour, American, ca. 1810

Oil painting, "Portrait of a Boston Clergyman", by James Peale, American, 1811, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Oil painting, "Portrait of a Boston Clergyman", by James Peale, American, 1811

Earthenware bread plate with inscription "Waste not want not.", by A.W.N. Pugin, made by Minton Factory, English, ca. 1850, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Earthenware bread plate with inscription "Waste not want not.", by A.W.N. Pugin, made by Minton Factory, English, ca. 1850

A.W.N Pugin was a brilliant architect and Catholic convert, who figured strongly in the Gothic Revival movement. His statement that “the degraded state of the arts in this country is purely owing to the absence of Catholic feeling” is both demonstrable and is a frequent topic on this website.

Wood cabinet, by Charles Bevan, made by Marsh and Jones, Leeds, England, ca. 1865, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Wood cabinet, by Charles Bevan, made by Marsh and Jones, Leeds, England, ca. 1865

Fall-front desk, made by Charles-Joseph Lemarchand, French, ca. 1800-1805, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Fall-front desk, made by Charles-Joseph Lemarchand, French, ca. 1800-1805

Console table, English, ca. 1740, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Console table, English, ca. 1740

This last object is in one of several period rooms, which show furniture in context of a fashionable room of an era.

I would have taken more photos, but the museum was closing.

You can see my other photos at the museum here:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME FUNDRAISER - TAKE TWO"

FROM SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES ORATORY:
What can you do to:

1) Support the Cardinals at Busch Stadium (a great American Tradition),

2) Support the St. Francis de Sales Oratory (a great Catholic Tradition), and,

3) Have fun?

Friends of St. Francis de Sales Oratory cordially invite you to join us to watch the St. Louis Cardinals take on LA Dodgers on Monday, July 27, at 6:10 pm.

20090531_zaf_cj3_045.jpg

For a minimum donation of $100, this special vantage point from the luxury suite comes with convenience and comfort: restroom facilities, and big screen TV for replays. Thanks to a generous donor, the Oratory has 20 tickets for Monday night’s game against the Dodgers, currently the National League West Division leader. Another generous Donor has provided a superb weather forecast (Monday only), making either indoor or outdoor seating a great way to spend a summer evening with Friends of St. Francis de Sales Oratory.

Please reserve your spot by calling the Oratory as soon as possible (314) 771-3100.

Source: http://www.traditionfortomorrow.com/blog/take-me-out-to-the-ball-game-fundraiser-take-two/

A Photo of a Lafayette Square Fountain

Fountain with Corinthian capitol, in the Lafayette Square neighborhood, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

A fountain in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of Saint Louis.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reminder - Book Signing at Borders in Sunset Hills

MEET ME AT the Borders book store in Sunset Hills, Missouri, on Wednesday, July 22th, at 7:00 p.m., where I discuss the book Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History.

I will give a talk and then autograph copies of the book.



UPDATE: thanks to everyone that I met!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Photo of the Discalced Carmelite Chapel

Discalced Carmelite Monastery, in Ladue, Missouri, USA - exterior of chapel at sunset

At the Discalced Carmelite Chapel, in Ladue, Missouri, at sunset.
Classical statue fragment, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Fragment of a classical statue, at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

"The book on the church"

SEE THE ARTICLE The book on the church, by Vicki Bennington, at the Telegraph of Alton, Illinois:
“The Puritans took art out of churches making many of them look like an assembly hall,” Faherty said. “These Catholic churches lead us to see all beauty.”...

Faherty and Abeln both wrote up lists of churches to feature, and then worked together to come up with the final list...

In the end, Abeln submitted about 659 photographs, which included 46 churches, chapels and shrines. About 286 of the photos were used featuring 40 churches that made it into the final book.
From a book review of Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History.





Monday, July 20, 2009

"One small step for man"

FORTY YEARS AGO TODAY, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. 40 years! Such a long time ago! A magnificent feat such as this seems almost inconceivable nowadays, but I remember those days quite well. As a child, the space program had a central place in my imagination. I followed all of the major events regarding the moon shots on television, and even saw the Apollo moon rocket with my own eyes at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The drawings I made as a young child were often of rockets, and I assembled several plastic models of these spaceships.


Video of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon: “That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us that the virtue of magnificence — the virtue of doing great things — is a species of courage, which should be distinguished from mere liberality. While American society was doing many things during this period — such as halting the spread of Communism, providing widespread aid to the poor, attempting to widen civil rights for all Americans, greatly increasing the standard of living, and building massive public infrastructure — none were as magnificent as the lunar program, for its clearly obvious success or failure was intimately tied to national honor. While the value of the lives of the Apollo 11 astronauts who travelled to the moon — Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins — were of no greater value than any other human being, ensuring their safe return was a magnificent goal, and failure would have ensured national shame.

The goal of landing man on the moon was proposed by President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961, before a joint session of Congress:
First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations—explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon—if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.
I find it so amusing that some youths today — who cannot remember that time — have doubts that this moon landing ever took place. Perhaps this is due to a wrong notion of progress (people couldn't have been so smart back then), or because of the great strides made in technology today, especially computer and network technology. Most likely of all is the fact that these moon landings have not been duplicated within their lifetimes. Rather, doubtful youth ought to study some of the history of the era, in particular Wernher von Braun, a German scientist captured after World War II, who developed the general architecture of the moon rocket. Apollo technical information can be found here and here.

But the Apollo moon landings were magnificent, and such acts of magnificence can only be done once in a generation, otherwise they would not be great acts, but rather ordinary and wasteful acts. By their very nature, magnificent acts are to be looked back upon and admired, and not duplicated. By comparison, the construction of a great Cathedral is magnificent, and it is an act that need not be duplicated as long as it stands.

The Apollo moon program was cancelled before completion. While having a total of two or three landings was prudent, perhaps the plan of having ten total landings was wasteful, turning the great act of traveling to the moon and back for the very first time into the very expensive and ordinary act of visiting the moon regularly. While significant scientific information was gained during subsequent landings, the single most important scientific result was already known.

Photograph of Buzz Aldrin in his spacesuit, taken by Neil Armstrong who is seen reflected in the visor.

Our contemporary scientific view of the heavens is surprisingly consonant with the Medieval notion — the moon and planets have mere existence and are otherwise likely cold and dead, a “magnificent desolation”, in the words of Buzz Aldrin. But the genre of science fiction has the starry heavens filled with life and persons, with travel between the planets being relatively quick, simple, inexpensive, and ordinary, and that genre reinforces this view even today. Rather, both Medieval and contemporary science both agree that the Earth itself is more important than the stars.


The Saturn V booster launches the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

The Apollo 11 moon landing is perhaps the crowning achievement of the era that we may call High Modernism, a period which also includes the Second Vatican Council. This was an era of optimism, the culmination of the Enlightenment, and the moon landing was the greatest achievement that man himself had ever performed, when man actually had the will and ability to do what was merely dreamed of before. But let us not forget that this was an era of great decline, especially moral decline.

Almost exactly one year before, Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae was loudly rejected by many, causing splits in the Church that exist to this day, and youth were rioting in the streets against the very structure of society in all its forms. These rebels were promoting both Libertarianism — you will not tell me what I may do; and Marxism — I will tell you what you must do. Rather than a reaction against the Modernism which led to the moon landings, this was rather the radical culmination of the Enlightenment project, taking its assumptions of subjectivity to its limits. The old philosophical notions handed down from Socrates and the churchmen, still assumed even if not explicitly held by society, were discarded by the new regime.

The U.S. space program consequently suffered under this new regime. The manned space program was to become both businesslike and also politically correct. A business of course, seeks to maximize its own profit, while political correctness has political goals placed above mission objectives. The manned Space Shuttle program clearly failed in the goals that were initially promised, seeming to be more self-serving than anything else. Certainly it isn't magnificent, nor could it be, even though it is expensive, and it is not profitable either. But on the contrary, I must commend the unmanned space program, which has generated a continuous stream of valuable scientific information at a prudent cost.

When he proposed the lunar mission, President Kennedy also had practical applications of space in mind, profitable and useful things that we now take for granted:
Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.

Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars—of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau—will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.
Although Kennedy is often recalled nowadays for his scandalous private life, I think that his Catholic upbringing may have given him a few good ideas about the virtues anyway. The magnificence of his lunar program should be compared to his own military experience and his insistence that he appear before the people largely unprotected. As the Medieval kings who would ride into battle at the head of their army, Kennedy would ride exposed to the hostile world in an open-top automobile. And like the ancient kings, he was attacked, and he died. According to the old ways of thinking, a ruler who was not willing to take the same risks as his subjects is hardly suited to rule.

The original astronauts in the U.S. manned space program were specifically selected because they were healthy, virtuous, and professional. They were expected to get along with their peers and mission staff and were expected to both do exactly what they were told and to creatively come up with good solutions independently as needed. These men had long proven military experience and were already approaching middle age when selected. They also recognized that their missions were likely fatal, and astronauts did die. Anxiety, denial, and self-absorption were not options. (By the way, my middle name ‘Scott’ is taken after one of the seven original astronauts, Scott Carpenter.)

I remember fondly the magnificent achievement of the lunar landing! If such greatness is not to be found today, it is because society does not value virtue. Magnificence can only be found with courage.