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Object of the Month: October 2018

The Fountain of Life

Unknown

French, 16th century

Potmetal and stained glass

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter W. Lee

Every collection object has a life story to tell, and the fascinating narrative of these beautiful windows begins in the fertile flood plain of the Loire Valley in France, near Saumur…

The Windows’ Story

At his mother’s passing, Baron René de Thory inherited estate and lands as the new Lord of Boumois. His wealth included the ruins of a castle once owned by the Counts of Anjou and which was destroyed during the Hundred Years War. Following his marriage to Françoise du Plessis, René undertook the building of Chateau Boumois between 1521 and 1525 on the remains of the former Angevine castle.

The chateau’s designs included private living quarters, guest areas, public entertaining areas, kitchen, bakehouse, pantry, cellar, and towers.  As is fitting the role of the Lord of Boumois who held a seat of authority, the house included a dungeon and space for hearing judicial cases. To run such a household required servants, their living quarters, stables, a courtyard, and a dovecote.  Since the area was a central hub for the activity of those living and working on the estate, there was a chapel for worship; and all at the castle were protected by a surrounding moat.

In Anjou, there are some 1200 castles remaining today; Boumois is classified as a French Historical Monument and is one of the last remaining castles of Gothic architecture. Christian Cussonneau writes, “Boumois still offers today despite some mutilations, the essential features of a manor house at the end of the Middle Ages.”  On a beautiful imposing, carved door at the chateau, there still remains the de Tory coat of arms on the lock (see image). 

The chateau’s chapel was completed by 1525. To appropriately beautify the space, René de Thory commissioned stained glass windows, which were most likely created and installed before his wife, Françoise du Plessis, passed away in 1528/9. The chapel windows consisted of three sections:

  • The central window of three panels: the Fountain of Life
  • On the West wall: two lancets featuring the donor, René de Thory, presented by St. René to the Virgin of Pity (also known as the Pieta). De Thory is depicted as a kneeling knight wearing his family coat of arms; the window includes the Latin inscription: Omniae dei memoria mei meaning “Remembering that all things are for God.” 
  • On the East wall: two lancets featuring Françoise du Plessis presented by St. Francis of Assisi to the Virgin and Child with saints (most likely including St. Barbara, the patroness of the daughter of Lord and Lady Boumois).  These panels have since disappeared and are known only from written sources from the nineteenth century and supposedly by a photograph taken around 1890.

Not long after his wife’s death, René de Thory fell in love with Anne d’Assé, wife of François de Villeprouvée, Baron of Trier, who died under suspicious circumstances in January 1530. Questions arose that perhaps Anne’s husband was poisoned. Since poems written by René about his love for Anne were discovered, the two were accused and tried for murder; however, they were not convicted and secretly married in March 1530. 

While the windows of the chapel honor the first Lady of Boumois, de Thory had the chapel consecrated as the Chapel of St. Anne by the priest at Saint-Martin-de-la-Place on March 15, 1546 in honor of his second wife, Anne. At René de Thory’s death in 1565, Boumois was left to his wife and his son, Antoine de Thory.

The estate stayed in the de Thory family until sold in 1607, and then changed owners repeatedly over the next 300 years including a sale of the chateau’s furnishings in 1833. At the end of the nineteenth century, the architect and designer Stanford White obtained the five stained glass panels. He was known for decorating in the neo-Gothic style favored by his wealthy clientele—the nouveau riche seeking to create the wealth of the Old World in their American homes. After White’s death, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst acquired the panels in 1907. Later, through a gift purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Lee from French & Co, M&G received the windows in 1956.

The Windows’ Imagery

Stained glass as an art reached its peak in the Middle Ages; the cathedrals with the increased buttressing allowed for more windows, whose colored beams of light created beautiful effects in the sanctuary by illuminating the space and using light to “paint” the Scriptural stories.  Jacques DuPont explains “this form of painting is less an ornament than the lyrical expression of a transcendent world” as stained glass creates “an atmosphere befitting the House of God, the Light of the World.”

Having a complete set of windows from this period is rare, and the imagery of the central windows is dramatic. In this crucifixion scene, the cross bearing Christ’s suffering body with five bleeding wounds stands above a fountain in which Adam and Eve are bathing—being cleansed of their sin; Christ’s blood then flows into a larger pool representing the forgiveness provided for all mankind—“whosoever will” may be cleansed and made righteous through faith in Christ’s sacrifice.  Above Christ is a door perhaps referencing Christ’s own words, “I am the door…. I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” 

Interestingly, the four fountain heads are the symbols in art for the four evangelists: an angel (Matthew), a lion (Mark), an ox (Luke), and an eagle (John). The designer may have referenced the iconography of paintings in the region like the Fountain of Life at the Calvet Museum in Avingnon or a slightly different version at Saint Mexme in Chinon.  Emile Male in his book Religious Art in France explains the symbolism of the four fountain heads, “This is an ingenious way of saying that the miracle of forgiveness has the Gospels as authority, that is to say, the Word of God Himself.” These windows present a beautiful representation of several doctrinal truths, such as the love of Christ, the power of His sacrifice to cleanse sin, and the fulfillment of His promise to Adam and Eve. 

William Cowper, eighteenth-century poet, captured the same visual truth through language: There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Erin R. Jones, Executive Director

Object of the Month: August 2018

The Martyrdom of St. Perpetua and St. Felicitas

Signed and dated, Félix Leullier, 1880

Oil on canvas 

Félix Louis Leullier

French, 1811–1882

In this arresting example of the nineteenth-century Romantic style, Felix Louis Leullier uses all the forces of paint and position to create a gruesome depiction of one of the most famous martyrdoms of the Christian church. Little known outside of France, Felix trained with Antoine-Jean Gros, renowned for his depictions of some of Napoleon’s famous battles: Battle of Arcole, Napoléon on the Battlefield of Eylau, and Battle of Abukir. Gros leaves little to the imagination in the spheres of conflict and conquest, so it is no wonder that his student, Felix, would choose to depict a martyrdom in a context resembling the twisted forms often found on a battlefield.  

The painting’s setting is the Roman Amphitheatre in Carthage, the North African center of Christianity in the early centuries following Christ’s death and resurrection; there is little more than an outline remaining today of the prominent structure that seated 30,000. Although Felix most likely did not travel to that part of the world, he could have easily participated in a Grand Tour, a customary excursion in the 18th and 19th centuries for men coming of age, to see and learn from the culture and histories of antiquity. Such a broadening and experiential trip included significant time in Rome, where the Colosseum was a chief point of interest and which is very similar to Carthage’s own great amphitheater. The combined influence of travel and exposure to prominent depictions like Granet’s Interior View of the Colosseum in Rome, 1804 and Towne’s The Colosseum, 1781, Leullier opts to create only a faint representation of an outdoor arena.  

On March 7, 203 AD, under the rule of the Roman emperor, Septimius Severus, the noblewoman Vibia Perpetua, was executed with her handmaid, Felicitas, and fellow catechumens, Revocatus, Saturninus, and Secundulus. Just a few years earlier in 197 AD in his treatise Apologeticus, Tertullian had posited that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” As providence would have it, Tertullian himself was eyewitness and later chronicler to the gripping event portrayed in this work.  

In addition to Tertullian’s account and Perpetua’s own prison diary, Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, in which she captures much of the detail up until the hour of her entrance into the arena, many attempts to present the event have been created in various media formats. It is contained in older volumes like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563), as well as in more recent accounts like Thomas J. Heffernan’s The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity (2012). It is visible in paintings, drawings, mosaics, stained glass and illuminated manuscripts like Menologion of Basil II; and it has been presented in investigative journalism in the PBS Frontline series, From Jesus to Christ (1998). 

Leullier’s visual rendering is indeed grand both in presentation and size, measuring nearly seven feet high by nine feet wide. Though literary works relate that Perpetua and Felicitas were martyred separately from the men, Leullier deviates from the historical account and instead depicts the entire company—the martyrs, the men that assaulted them, and the many animals that mauled them. By placing the massacre in the forefront of the work, the purity and testimony of these Christians’ story cannot be ignored.

Bonnie Merkle, M&G Database Manager and Docent

For further enrichment:

Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University

 

 

M&G is closed currently to pursue a new building and location.

Located on the campus of Bob Jones University, M&G has been open and accessible to the public since 1951. While the collection’s primary focus is European Old Master paintings, it also displays nearly 200 pieces of Gothic to nineteenth century furniture, approximately 100 works of sculpture, some 60 textiles, over 1,000 ancient artifacts, and approximately 130 architectural elements that range from stained glass windows to fireplace mantels.

Object of the Month: February 2017

Christ before PilateChrist before Pilate

 

Master of St. Severin

German, active c. 1485–1515

 

Click on the links throughout the article to view additional artists’ works and reference material.

Little background history exists for the artist referred to as the Master of St. Severin. While scholars remain uncertain as to his identity, they have confidently identified a body of works they believe to be by his hand. The Church of St. Severin houses what are considered his best works, thus he became known by the pseudonym, the Master of St. Severin. His body of work primarily reflects oil paintings on panel, however, there is some indication that he might have also designed and produced stained glass windows.

Christ before Pilate brings together several of the events of the Passion Week leading to the crucifixion of Christ. He did a similar work called Passion Scene: Christ at the Mount of Olives. Both works embody his style evidenced in the stiffness of the figures and the similarity in facial features and expressions of all figures. In the foreground of M&G’s work, a solemn and calm Christ appears before Pilate for trial. The surrounding miniature scenes reveal the events preceding and following his trial. To the left in the distant background, the artist portrays Christ’s prayer and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane along with Peter cutting off Malchus’ ear. Centrally located in the background and enclosed in a cathedral-like structure, Christ receives beating with the cat of nine tails and then just below He is crowned with a ring of thorns. Finally, to the far back right, Pilate presents Christ to the Jews.

Beautifully detailed in oil, the painting provides a window into the culture of the artist. Click the dropdown below to learn more about the clothing featured by the Master of St. Severin.

Dagging is cutting the edges of garments, hangidaggingng sleeve flaps, or even hats into pointed or squared scallops. This trend was especially popular during the late Middle Ages. The man in red at Christ’s crowning with thorns features dagging at the bottom of his doublet (jacket).

 

Also known as crakowes, these were an elongated, exaggeratedly pointed-toed shoe often worn by nobles or the wealthy. King Edward III poulainestried to take matters into his own hands by declaring a law that “no Knight under the estate of a lord, esquire or gentleman, nor any other person, shall wear any shoes or boots having spikes or points exceeding the length of two inches, under the forfeiture of forty pence.” The law was ineffective, and the trend lasted until 1480!  The man, at right foreground and near to Pilate, models poulaines.

 

These were a special non-functional, decorative sleeve attached to the jacket; in the early Renaissance, they were mostly ushangingsleevesed for ceremonial occasions as seen here on the soldier kneeling in the foreground.

 

Parti-colored is the sewing together sections of different colored fabrics within the same garment. This was used in both men’s and women’s clothing and could reflect the colors of a particular city or families joined in marriage. The man kneeling in front of Christ at his crowning with tparti-colouredhorns featuresparti-coloured2 a parti-colored doublet. At the beating of Christ, the man to the left of Christ also wears a parti-colored doublet.

 

Rebekah Cobb, Guest Relations Manager

Object of the Month: September 2016

King James Bible, Third Folio Edition, 1613
IMG_1191

 

Fore-edge Painting of “Caleb’s Daughter Pleading for a Watered Land” and “Christ at the Well of Sychar”

John T. Beer, fore-edge artist

ca. 1826–1903

On loan from the Collection of Jason and Ruth Speer

 

Click on the links throughout the article to view additional artists’ works and reference material.

The Collection on display at M&G has a wide array of objects—not exclusively Old Master paintings, but furniture, wood carvings, architectural elements, stained glass, and more.  The value of visiting a well-rounded display presents a broad view of the lives and cultures of people in the past.  As you visit, you begin to see how little a difference there is between us today and those hundreds of years ago.  Back then, the people had their innovative technologies, shortcuts, and battles with “old and new” just as we have today.

One such debate between the past and future has to do with books: bibliophiles who love the smell of a book and feel of its pages and others who prefer an e-reader or watching the movie instead.

Successful Victorian clothier from Merseyside, England, John T. Beer was most definitely a book lover in its purest meaning.  He demonstrated his affection for books, not only by collecting hundreds for his library but by decorating them too.

Unlike the spine and covers of books, the page edges are not usually decorated; however this 1613 Bible (on loan from a private collection to M&G) illustrates an obscure art form, called fore-edge painting revealing an image on the fourth edge of the book. Most often, this art is only seen when the edges of the book are fanned open at the appropriate angle; then, when the book is closed shut, the image is obscured.

These two Biblical narratives, Caleb’s Daughter Pleading for a Watered Land and Christ at the Well of Sychar are hand-painted by Beer. He is considered one of the most highly skilled artists of fore-edge painting and one of the most original thinkers in developing scenes to paint. He produced nearly 200 fore-edge paintings in his retirement years using books from his own collection, like this one.

According to Jeff Weber, who has collected data on more than 20,000 fore-edge examples and authored the Annotated Dictionary of Fore-Edge Painting Artists & Binders, John T. Beer is “the only fore-edge painting artist from the nineteenth century that is known by name.”

Bookbinders were primarily the artists applying fore-edge painting and commissioned by book owners; although some anonymous, yet professional artists embellished too.  So, “it is rare for a collector to apply fore-edge paintings to books in his own collection… [but] he decorated his own books simply for the joy of doing so,” blogs Erin Black from the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Interestingly in viewing this large book, Beer beautified a Bible in his collection, which reveals some insights into the era. The religious complexion of Victorian society was varied; however, one uniting factor was the centrality and presence of Scripture. The stories, references, and allusions to the Bible were instantly familiar across the range of Victorian society.  This 1613 King James Third Folio Edition of the Bible provides an example not only of the era’s traditional values, but also the Victorians’ appreciation for literary and artistic skill.

 

Erin R. Jones, Director

Object of the Month: August 2015

August: Inspiration 

Louis Comfort Tiffany (workshop of)

American, 1848–1933

Inspiration

Mosaic

Click on the links throughout the article to view additional artists’ works and reference material.

Though M&G is widely known for its European Old Master paintings, the reach of the collection extends into other genres as well—icons, antiquities, sculptures, furniture, tapestries and mosaics. These various art forms beckon visitors for multiple reasons—the fame of the maker, the artistic medium, the historical time period, or the sheer size. Inspiration by Louis Comfort Tiffany is no exception. It piques the curiosity of our guests for all of these aspects and more.

For most of us the name Tiffany is associated with exquisite jewelry or radiant stained glass. Our limited understanding may have come from hearing about a beautiful brooch once owned by Aunt Isabelle or Grandma’s “be careful when you dust it” lamp. But the cognomen Tiffany has a diversity of artistic expressions connected to it. Born in 1848, Louis Comfort Tiffany was thoroughly exposed to the voluminous jewelry inventory of his father, Charles Lewis Tiffany. Choosing first to explore painting, in his early 20’s Louis settled into what would be his métier—the decorative arts. The range of objects he and his studio produced was extensive—furniture, metalwork, textiles, pottery, enamels, and almost anything else that had to do with furnishing and beautifying interiors.

Mr. Tiffany was ahead of his time in his employment of women.  Clara Driscoll and the “Tiffany Girls” both designed and executed many of the renowned lamps and mosaics; and, as is the case, with many large firms of the era received little to no public recognition for their contributions during their lifetime (neither did the men working for Tiffany’s well-known brand).

M&G’s Inspiration was fashioned in 1887 for the First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, NY. Though originally installed in the sanctuary above the choir loft, during a 1948 renovation it was decided that it no longer fit the décor. As with the acquisitions of many of M&G’s objects, the story is a stunning example of the providence of God. Dr. Bob Jones Jr. “just happened to be preaching at the New York church and was asked if the University might like to have the piece.” Not only did the church gift the beautiful mosaic, but they also transported it to Greenville. Housed first in an outside setting near the BJU Fine Arts building, it was moved to its present location in Gallery 19 around 1965. Installing a work of art 8 feet across and weighing 1500 pounds took nothing less than a crane!

Mosaics of any size are intriguing, but Inspiration features Tiffany Studios’ artistry, craftsmanship and beauty on a monumental scale. Meticulously positioned mother-of-pearl and myriads of tesserae, ranging from gold to deep purple, join to create an image of a magnificent angel poring over a book. Combined with the tongue of fire atop the angel’s head, the artist symbolically portrays the biblical doctrine of inspiration—God “breathing out” His words—as explained in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21.

Louis Comfort Tiffany’s love of design, color, mediums, and techniques poised him as one of the aesthetes of his time, and he has left mankind with a trail of exquisite works of art communicating his passion. Allow yourself the pleasure of visiting M&G and marveling at this handsome example of Art Nouveau.

Bonnie Merkle, Collection Database Manager and Docent

History of Living Gallery

Have you ever seen a work of art that looked so real that the characters almost seem to breathe? In the Living Gallery this is no longer just your imagination—the people in the larger-than-life paintings, sculptures and stained glass are real.

The Living Gallery is an Upstate Easter tradition since 1998. This unique stage production takes masterpieces of art, like da Vinci’s Last Supper or Michelangelo’s Pieta, enlarges the art to life-size, and fills the work with live models. There are only two other similar productions in the country, both in California; the best known is the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach.  

Each year is different, but the program combines original drama, special choral and orchestral arrangements, and breathtaking live portrayals of classic works of art to celebrate the story of Christ’s life and work.

A team of talented artists and technicians spend hundreds of hours creating the sets, costumes, make-up, and lighting required to produce the larger-than-life artwork—a modern application of the Renaissance tableau vivant.  The Living Gallery will change the way you think about Easter and about art.

For more information or to order tickets, visit http://livinggallery.bju.edu/.

French Baroque

During the Middle Ages, France provided the artistic leadership in the Gothic art forms of stained glass, manuscript illumination, sculpture, and a number of the decorative arts. However, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Italians captured the cultural seat of Europe, especially in painting. During these centuries of innovation and advancement, France was embroiled in many religious and political upheavals, stifling the development of strong schools of painting. While France certainly had painters of merit during the Italian Renaissance, it was not until the 16th century that France began to make a significant comeback with painters working in Fontainebleau under the influence of the Italians Rosso Fiorentino and Primaticcio. According to French art historian, Marc Fumaroli, by the beginning of the 17th century, artists made an obligatory trip to Rome for training so that all that was beautiful in Italy could be transferred to France.