Temple Art

Temple Art

Culture, religion, and materials have dictated art throughout the ages.

Loving Couple
“Loving Couple”, 13th century, Eastern Ganga dynasty, India (Orissa). The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Culture and religion mainly drive the difference between western art and non-western art. Visit a temple in India. Instead of statues of saints or frescoes depicting Biblical stories, you will find many erotic scenes in the form of sculptures. This is due to the Hindu belief that spirituality of a man and a woman is made complete with the joy of sensual pleasure of erotic love. To convey this to their disciples, scenes of erotic love augment sculptures of Hindu deities.


Hinduism, as it is known now, emerged at about the time that Christianity started. The religion is mixed and complex, with no single founder, no single spokesman, or no single prophet. There is an emphasis on the preeminence of the gods Vishnu and Shiva, along with the goddess Shakti (literally, “Power”). The sculptures of these deities have a perception of movement to them.

I chose these two pieces of Vishnu to show his different personas, a protector and a welcoming god.  I am impressed by the detail of the pieces. I can almost feel the strength of Varaha emulating from his thighs and chest as he devours the primeval serpent monster and rescues the goddess Bhudevi (earth), who is hanging from his tusk. His figure look so masculine and strong. The look of adoration from the surrounding figures for defeating the serpent demonstrates how they look to him for protection. The outstretched arm and the relaxing pose of the four-armed Vishnu provide a calming presence.

Bronze was introduced as a material for statues during the 9th century CE, becoming the standard around the 11th century. It is now the traditional material for the dancing figure of Shiva.

Shiva Nataraja
“Shiva Nataraja – Lord of the Dance”. 11th century CE. Musee Guimet, Paris

The fact that they created such an intricate piece from bronze in the 11th century astounds me. The piece has such fluid movement to it – the flowing ribbon, leg and arm movements, and the different rhythms within the flames. One can almost hear the music playing in the background.

The lone goddess I am portraying is Parvati. Parvati is the gentle and nurturing aspect of the goddess Shakti.

I chose these two pieces to represent Parvati. The stone sculpture from Orissa has such intricate details carved in the stone. The painstaking detail of the ornate jewelry allows you to see each stone distinctively.  Although time has worn away some of the details on “Kalyanasundara- the marriage of Shiva and Parvati,” I can see the outlines of the ornate jewelry here also.

Though the temple art of India is far different to the art of Roman Catholic churches, it is no less interesting. It speaks of their East Asian culture and their belief system. Their convictions to their religion are no less than Europeans convictions. They, too, choose to adorn their places of worship with art that tells the stories of their religion and show their disciples how to live within their beliefs.


Works cited:

Cartwright, Mark. “Vishnu”. Ancient History Encyclopedia. http://www.ancient.eu/Vishnu/. November 25, 2012. Accessed April 10, 2016.

Cartwright, Mark. “Shiva Nataraja – Lord of the Dance”. Ancient History Encyclopedia. http://www.ancient.eu/article/831/. September 8, 2015. Accessed April 10, 2016.

Unknown. “Parvati”. Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvati Accessed April 10, 2016.

Dehejia, Vidya. “Hinduism and Hindu Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hind/hd_hind.htm  February 2007. Accessed April 7, 2016.

Shrestha, Prajwal. “Non-Western Art”. Art Appreciation. http://appreciationofarts.blogspot.com/2011/07/non-western-art.html. July 17, 2011. Accessed April 7, 2016.

Feminism & Fiber Art

Feminism & Fiber Art

Women’s right movements throughout the years have sought to give women a voice in society. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century through the end of World War I, feminists focused on the suffrage movement and not on the arts. This time was known as the “first wave” of feminism.

The “second-wave” of feminism (in the 1980s) brought rise to textile artists who chose to bring “a new focus on creating work which confronted cultural issues such as: gender feminism; domesticity and the repetitive tasks related to women’s work; politics; the social and behavioral sciences; material specific concepts related to fiber’s softness, permeability, drapability, and so on.” Fiber arts was important due to the traditional association of women working with textiles within the domestic sphere.

The three artists I have chosen to highlight are great examples for turning the textile arts of old on its ear.


OLEK was born Agata Oleksiak in 1978 in Poland. In 2000, she received a BA in Cultural Studies from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland and relocated to New York City, where she is currently based. Through colorful yarns, OLEK’s art examines sexuality, feminist ideas, and the evolution of communication.

Crocheted Taxi. “I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone”. Tony’s Gallery. London, UK 2012.

The colors and the taxi remind me of Austin Powers. By bombing the taxi in crocheted yarn, it speaks of a time when the world was questioning the reason behind warring. The colors demonstrate that there can be hope for peaceful resolutions.

Projet B
Project B.Crocheted Wall St. Bull. NYC 2010.

I love the nature of guerilla art (uncommisioned public projects). Though many may see this as vandalism, I see beauty. The bull is such an iconic piece in NYC. It represents the opulence of western society. Taming it down with pink camouflage, seems to bring it down to represent the middle-class.

Project M-6
Project M/6. Urban Nation Gallery. Berlin 2014.

Oh, this message speaks of our society. One really doesn’t need to look any further than a social media page to see similar messages. The use of doilies and birds, lend an air of domestic disquietness.


Alice Kettle was born in Winchester, Hampshire. She studied fine art painting at the University of Reading (1979-84) and textile art as a postgraduate at Goldsmiths’ College (1985-6). She is currently a Professor in Textile Arts in MIRIAD Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Flower Helix
Flower Helix. National Maritime Museum. London 2013.

This piece shows how women are viewed as delicate figures within society. The white stairs and the black ornate railing conger images of high society. The helix represents the delicate flower of a debutante. It seems to be a lofty, unrealistic picture of how people view women within higher classes. While beautiful, it is also sad.

Rite of passage
Rite of Passage. “Mythscapes”, solo touring show, hosted by The Bankfield Museum in Halifax. January 2003-2005.

This piece is part of “Mythscapes”, an exhibit that pays homage to Homer’s The Odyessy. The image is comforting to me. I see the footprint in the sand, if you will. As a fan of Homer’s, The Odyessy, I love the picture that this paints in my mind, the adventure through many lands and sea to reach home.

Daniel and the Lioness
Daniel and the Lioness. Victoria and Albert Museum. 2006.

What a lovely piece that feels like a dream of Daniel in the lions’ den. The fluid movement of the thread invokes a dream-like sensation to the piece.


Velda Newman is an internationally recognized contemporary quilt artist, author and lecturer from Northern California. Known for her large scale, mostly organic designs, Newman creates original quilts of exceptional beauty and artisanship.

Zinnia. Nevada City, CA. 2010.

This is Newman’s largest quilt to date, measuring 171/2 ft. and over 7 feet tall. I would love to see this piece up close. The grand scale of which this work is must make one feel as if they are a fairy in a flower show. The colors pop off the quilt and have a 3D feel to them.

freedom is fragile
Freedom is Fragile. Nevada City, CA. 1986.

This quilt was made in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. What a patriotic piece to pick in an election year. The title of the piece says it all, Freedom is Fragile. The Statue of Liberty is America’s symbol of hope. Perhaps this piece needs to go on tour again.

As each of these artists have displayed, the domestic nature of textile art has changed from the old of practicality to one of sending a message. Whether that message is speaking of natural beauty or social sciences, it demonstrates that women artists have a voice.

Works Cited:

Marcus, Sharon. Tapestry Topics. Summer 2004, Vol 30 No. 2.  “Critical Issues in Tapestry.”  http://americantapestryalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Critical-Issues-in-Tapestry-SMarcus.pdf. Accessed April 3, 2016.


Unknown. The Art Story: Modern Art Insight. http://www.theartstory.org/movement-feminist-art.htm Accessed April 3, 2016.


OLEK. Olek personal website. http://oleknyc.com/home. Accessed April 3, 2016.


Manchester School of Art staff bio. Manchester School of Art. http://www.art.mmu.ac.uk/profile/akettle Accessed April 3, 2016.


Alice Kettle. Alice Kettle personal website. http://alicekettle.com/ Accessed April 3, 2016.


Robert Shaw. The Art of the Quilt. Velda Newman quilts. http://www.artofthequilt.com/newmanfreedom.html Accessed April 3, 2016.

The Early 20th Century: The Age of Anxiety

The Early 20th Century: The Age of Anxiety

The early twentieth century saw many changes taking place. Is it any wonder that it is known as the age of anxiety? The world started to get smaller and smaller as progression was made in technology with the invention of the airplane, television, and radio broadcasting. People and news started to move faster and farther. Within a thirty-nine-year span, the world experienced great technological advances and a major war felt around the globe.

Paramount to these changes was the first modern war. World War I was tagged as the first “modern” war, known as the “Great War.” War at this time moved from the primitive rifles, sabers, and cannons to machine guns, poison gas, and tanks. This modernization brought unprecedented carnage; bringing the death toll to more than 9 million soldiers in four years.

War supporter boasted the war that would end quickly and gloriously. As it dragged on, sentiment gave way to disillusionment. Disillusion bred cynicism. As the artists, poets, and musicians returned from the front they tried to make sense of this new reality.

As Friedrich Nietzsche announced God’s death in the late 19th century, the world started to lose its spiritual center. Without this foundation, there seemed to be no meaning to life. Traditions were in flux and were questioned. In Europe, artists and writers started a protest against everything. They named the protest Dada. In Dadaism, everything was nonsense and absurd.

The Chinese Nightingale
Max Ernst, The Chinese Nightingale, 1920

Take Max Ernst’s The Chinese Nightingale. Ernst, an artillery soldier during the war, created collages of illustrations of artillery with human limbs and various accessories to create nonsensical hybrid creatures. A British bomb comprises the body of the nightingale, while the limbs are composed of the arms of an oriental dancer and her fan acts as a headdress. An eye was added above the bracket to create a bird-like creature. The collage exemplifies the mixed emotions and heightened anxiety that war creates. It conveys a feeling of a loss of reality with everything, as we know it.

Dadaism laid the groundwork for surrealism. Surrealism borrowed from the psychotherapists of the times, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, that in our unconscious state our minds are free from reason. Many artists used fantasy and symbolism as a theme to understand their works within a dreamlike state. Salvador Dali is one of the most well-known of this art form.

Salvador Dali, Shirley Temple, The Youngest, Most Sacred Monster of the Cinema in Her Time, 1939

Dali’s “Shirley Temple, The Youngest, Most Sacred Monster of the Cinema in Her Time” is a sartorial piece on the sexualization of child stars in Hollywood. The use of paint and pictures creates a collage that tells an unflattering story of how children with power can be perceived. There is such destruction surrounding her with the bones of her victims and the bones of the shipwreck in the background.

The use of mixed media creates an air of anxiety and confusion. I am sure that not everyone viewed these pieces as pleasing pieces as they may have of Francois Boucher. Artists were not the only ones feeling and expressing their anxiety during this time. Musicians were pushing the limit to try to define their feelings of anxiety within musical notes. Igor Stravinsky was quite noted for pushing the limit from the tame traditional music for the stage to one that conveyed one’s angst.

His The Rite of Spring was a new piece of music that was unusual for a ballet piece. The accompanying dance was more violent in nature than ballets previous. The emotions with in the audience were divided between traditionalists and modernists. The modernists wanted their theater experience to mimic how they viewed the world. Unconstructed. Violent. Tension filled. These differing views caused a near riot in the premier of The Rite of Spring.

The artists and musicians of the early twentieth century, through the abandonment of tradition, displayed their discontentment with western civilization. They dared to innovate new art that exposed everything that was wrong in society. Exposing things that aren’t so pretty to look at can cause a bit of anxiety.

Sources Cited:

Unknown. History Channel. World War I. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i. Accessed March 24, 2016.

Unknown. The History Guide: Lectures on Twentieth Century Europe. Lecture 8, The Age of Anxiety: Europe in the 1920s (1). http://www.historyguide.org/Europe/lecture8.html. Accessed on March 21, 2016.

John MacTaggart. Artyfactory. Dada – Art and Anti Art. http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/art_movements/dadaism.htm. Accessed on March 24, 2016.

Amar Toor. 100 years ago today, ‘The Rite of Spring’ incited a riot in a Paris theater. The Verge. http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/29/4375736/igor-stravinsky-rite-of-spring-100-anniversary-paris-riot. May 29, 2013. Accessed on March 24, 2016.

View From A Lens

View From A Lens

With the introduction of the camera, early photographers struggled over whether or not to classify their work as art or science. They were correct that science played a large part in the development of this medium. Advances in the chemicals used, the mobility of the equipment and the processing time points to a science form. In fact, if it were not for science, photography would not have advanced as far as it has. On the subject of whether or not to call early photography art. I say, “yes, indeed!”

I was captivated by the photography of Peter Henry (P.H.) Emerson from the moment I saw it, images of common people doing their work. Most of Emerson’s work is centered around the Norfolk Broads.

While many may see Emerson’s work as journalistic in nature, since he set out to document the Norfolk Broads before they changed due to tourism and industry. He viewed his work as an art form…at first. He felt that photos should have a focal point with the rest of the background “falling away.” Emerson believed this “differential focus” technique was truer to the way that the human eye saw the world.

This need for more “naturalistic” works is similar to Gustave Courbet’s work. Courbet, a prominent French painter known as one of the founders of the Realism movement, believed that art should address social issues of the times. Hence, why painting subjects should be of real life and what the artist can see firsthand. Photography was just another medium in the realist art world.


The Stone Breakers, 1849, Gustave Courbet

As Emerson captured the common man working the land, Courbet did the same with paint. In a way, with the use of light and shadows, Courbet used “differential focus” also.

As Courbet was a recognized artist, Emerson, too, saw his photographs as works of art. He would publish the photographs in a collection, and then destroy the plates so that no other prints could be made. Doing so, demonstrated that his works were exclusive pieces, which appeased art enthusiasts.

After a while, Emerson became frustrated with the limitation of photography. The science behind the camera could not keep up with his artistic desires. Emerson published a pamphlet, “The Death of Naturalistic Photograph,” denouncing that photography was the “lowest of the arts.”


Works cited:

Easby, Rebecca Jeffrey, “Early Photography: Niépce, Talbot and Muybridge” https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/early-photography/a/early-photography-nipce-talbot-and-muybridge. Accessed March 8, 2016.

Unknown. “The Old Order and the New: P. H. Emerson and Photography, 1885-1895”. http://getty.edu/art/exhibitions/emerson/. Accessed March 8, 2016.

Jon Stringer, The Life and Work of Dr. P.H. Emerson, http://people.netcom.co.uk/j.stringe/page3.html. Accessed March 8, 2016.

Unknown. “Gustave Courbet”. http://www.gustavecourbet.org/ Accessed March 8, 2016.

Unknown. “Gustave Courbet Biography”. http://arthistory.about.com/cs/namescc/p/courbet.htm. Accessed March 8, 2016.







A Shift in Class Brings a Shift in Art

A Shift in Class Brings a Shift in Art

Although we saw a rise in the middle class during the Baroque era, in the beginning of the 18th century monarchies ruled Europe. Their influence shaped the architecture and the art of the Rococo period. Architecture became light and feminine, with curved lines. The art of the period highlighted the frivolous lifestyle of the aristocrats. Many aristocrats pursued leisure as a lifestyle and created a culture of luxury.

Girl Reclining (Louise O’Murphy), Francois Boucher, 1750, France

This was evident in French art of that time. Francois Boucher, a prolific artist of the time, honed his art in Italy before returning to Paris in 1731. Upon his return, his art had tones of mythological influences. The setting of Girl Reclining was a favorite of his. Girl Reclining (Louise O’Murphy) is one of three that I found with different models. The showing of skin was tantalizing, heightening the sense of romantic intrigue. In this piece, one can practically feel the fluffiness of the pillow, the caress of the silk and velvet against the skin.
As the middle classes started to rise in numbers, there began a shift in the middle class. They became more and more aware that the taxes that they paid supported the expensive aristocracy, whom did nothing to contribute to society except to lead a frolicsome life. The middle class soon started to question the rule of monarchy and the dogma of the Catholic Church. They felt that their voice and opinion was equally as important. Individualism started to rear its head. Anything that smelled of aristocracy started to be ridiculed.

John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera as a satire to the lifestyle of royal courts. By creating a musical, he ridiculed Italian opera, which was very popular with the royal court. With popular tunes of the times, lyrics were changed to convey his message within the piece. He dramatized the common man without judging their moral lapses. The show was an instant hit, the equivalent of a rock opera today.

Across the Atlantic, the colonist of America started to notice the shift, now known as the Enlightenment, toward individualism and the common man. Art shifted from one of frolicking play and romantic intrigue, to pieces that conveyed moral virtues, patriotism, and Roman ideals.

Who better to convey these newfound principles than the “Father” of the United States of America? Gilbert Stuart, the most prestigious portraitist of his day, painted many portraits of George Washington. The Lansdowne portrait is one of the most iconic of all.

Landsowne portrait
George Washington (Lansdowne portrait), Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas, 1796

Stuart surrounds Washington with items that convey a Roman setting – red velvet draped on the golden table, the Grecian columns outside the window. While the setting shows wealth, it is not luxurious as in the Rocco period. It is more subdued. Washington’s outstretched hand welcomes one to want to be in his presence.










Works cited:

Stein, Perrin . “François Boucher (1703–1770).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bouc/hd_bouc.htm (October 2003) Accessed February 25, 2016.

Harris, Beth and Zucker, Steven. “A Beginners Guide to Rococo Art.” In Monarchy Enlightenment. Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/monarchy-enlightenment/rococo/a/a-beginners-guide-to-rococo-art. Accessed February 22, 2016.

Zucker, E.. Cedars, S.R. ed. “The Beggar’s Opera Study Guide”. GradeSaver, 21 July 2013 http://www.gradesaver.com/the-beggars-opera Accessed February 25, 2016.

Unknown. “George Washington (Lansdowne portrait) by Gilbert Stuart.” http://teacher.depaul.edu/Documents/SmithsonianNationalPortraitGalleryWebpageonLansdownePortrait.pdf. Accessed February 22, 2016


Evangelism through the Arts

Evangelism through the Arts

In reaction to the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church assembled the Council of Trent to counter many of the accusations that Protestants made against the Catholic Church and to try and woe back many of the followers that left the church. Pope Paul III convened the Council of Trent in 1545 and the Council disbanded in 1563. While it appears that the Council met for 18 years, discussions were actually held for four and a half years during three separate meetings.

During the last session held in December 1561, the Council of Trent defined the role assigned to art to further the mission of the Catholic Church. In opposition to iconoclasm, the Roman Catholic Church not only welcomed, but supported the use of religious imagery to support their teachings. In fact one passage of the decree demands that

“by means of the histories of the mysteries of our Redemption, portrayed by paintings or other representations, the people is instructed, and confirmed in remembering, and continually revolving in mind the articles of faith; as also that great profit is derived from all sacred images, not only because the people are thereby admonished of the benefits and gifts bestowed upon them by Christ, but also because the miracles which God has performed by means of the saints, and their salutary examples, are set before the eyes of the faithful; that so they may give God thanks for those things; may order their own lives and manners in imitation of the saints; and may be excited to adore and love God, and to cultivate piety.”

From this declaration, art took a turn that embraced

  • Dramatic use of color, with dramatic contracts between light and dark/light and shadow
  • Images that invoked emotions to stir the viewer into participating emotionally into the piece
  • An overlapping of figures and elements to create tension

A noted piece that incorporates all of these principles is within the Jesuit Church of Gesù in Rome. Gionvanni Battista Gaulli (known as il Baciccio) was commissioned to decorate the interior of the church in 1672. Bacicco was a student of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a well-noted Baroque Roman artist. With Bernini’s help, Baciccio’s career flourished.

The Triumph of the Name of Jesus
The Triumph of the Name of Jesus, 1676–79 Oil on paper, laid down on canvas, 163 x 111 cm. (64 3/16 x 43 11/16 in.), frame: 175.9 x 123.5 x 6 cm. (69 1/4 x 48 5/8 x 2 3/8 in.) Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund and Laura P. Hall Memorial Fund, 2005-34 (Princeton University Art Museum)

Baciccio’s Triumph of the Name of Jesus covers most of the nave ceiling of the Church of the Gesù. The work uses the technique of trompe-l’œil to create an illusion that the ceiling is open at the center and the damned are being cast down to hell. Figures spill over the edge of the frame to move into the space normally thought to be reserved for the viewer.

Personal Reflection

I see Triumph of the Name of Jesus as a classic piece of Baroque art. The technique of tenebrism draws our draws me into the piece. The lighter area emitting from IHS (the first three letters of the Greek spelling of the Holy Name of Jesus) giving the illusion that the piece is never-ending within the light. The expression of reverence on the figures the ascend to light counter the expressions of anguish on the figures that are falling from grace. The fallen figures fall outside the framework of the piece to give the illusion that they are falling onto the audience below. The emotion of never sharing in God’s glory pierces to the heart.

Difference Between the Periods

My last blog shared how Cranach used art to share Martin Luther’s theory on the plan of salvation, which is counter to the Roman Catholic Church’s plan of salvation. Cranach used art and the printing press to further Luther’s teachings to broader audiences.

Cranach’s works, in comparison to Baciccio’s, are simplistic pieces that may convey a message, albeit without the emotions to drive the message. His pieces are heavy on symbolism. The woodcutting to the right, IndulgencesIndulgences, depicts the Pope Leo X as the lion in the center of the picture. Without someone helping to interpret the piece the work may not get its message across clearly. Whereas, Baciccio’s Triumph of the Name of Jesus provokes emotions without interpretation to the meaning of the piece, Jesus is the way to salvation.


Works Cited:

C.N. Trueman, “The Council of Trent”. historylearningsite.co.uk/the-counter-reformation/the-council-of-trent/. The History Learning Site, 17 March 2015. 17 December 2015. Accessed on February 11, 2016.

Stephen Beale, “Lessons from the Council of Trent”. catholicexchange.com/lessons-trent. December 4, 2013. Accessed on February 11, 2016.

Rudolf Wittkower, “The Council of Trent and the Arts: Rom 1585-1621”. witcombe.sbc.edu/art-theory-baroque-Fall-2008/style3.html. Accessed on February 11, 2016.

“Giovanni Battista Gaulli.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. encyclopedia.com/topic/Giovanni_Battista_Gaulli.aspx. Accessed February 11, 2016.

Father Ryan Erlenbush, “What does HIS stand for? The meaning of the Holy Name of Jesus.” The New Theological Movement. newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-does-ihs-stand-for-meaning-of-holy.html. January 3, 2012. Accessed on February 14, 2016.

The Protestant Reformation and the Arts

The Protestant Reformation and the Arts

The Protestant Reformation had a profound effect on the arts during the Northern Renaissance period. As reformers rebelled against the Catholic Church, they tried to distance themselves from the sacred art prominent within the Catholic Church.

The Protestant Reformation can be traced back to the Martin Luther’s writing of the ninety-five theses. These theses outlined how many of the Catholic Church practices were counter to the teachings in the Bible. The Catholic Church preached that man’s salvation could be promised by doing good deeds, which included purchasing sacred art to decorate Christian churches. Luther, however, taught that man’s salvation was through faith alone, not good deeds or indulgences.

As many of the Reformers studied the Bible, they noticed that the Catholic Church practices did not match up to what they were reading. They soon saw sacred art within the church as a form of idol worship and destroyed most Christian art during iconoclastic riots.

While Luther is noted as being the “father of the Reformation”, Lucas Cranach the Elder could be noted as the “illustrator of the Reformation.” Luther used the printing press and paintings to advertise his teachings and publicize his clashes with the Catholic Church. Cranach was the creative means to broadcast the message.

Cranach was trained in Vienna during the Renaissance. After a court appointment by Fredrick the Wise to be the Saxon court painter, his work moved from scared and mythical pieces to more of portrait sittings. During his time at the Saxony court in Wittenberg, he because acquainted with Martin Luther who taught at Wittenberg University. As a printmaker, his woodcarvings were used to illustrate booklets and pamphlets produced by Luther. Cranach’s paintings helped to spread the message. The most influential image that depicts Luther’s teaching of faith-based salvation is, The Law and The Gospel (or Law and Grace.) It was produced as both a woodcut and a panel painting. The image demonstrates Luther’s belief of receiving salvation through grace and the word, as opposed to the Catholic Church doctrine of following Biblical law. The right side of the painting shows man receiving salvation through God’s grace, while man is driven from God by not being able to uphold Biblical law on the left side of the painting.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1529, oil on wood, 82.2 × 118 cm / 32.4 × 46.5 in (Schlossmuseum, Gotha, Germany)
Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1529, oil on wood, 82.2 × 118 cm / 32.4 × 46.5 in (Schlossmuseum, Gotha, Germany)

My Perspective on The Law and the Gospel

I am moved by this piece mainly for the message that it illustrates – true salvation is through God’s grace. Cranach’s attention to minute details keeps me riveted. The face hidden in the burning hell in the lower left corner. The feeling of peace in the town on the right half, as opposed to the destruction of war on the left. The symbolism of the lamb on top of the lizard and skeleton. As most artist of this period, they would add prominent people of the time to their pieces, most often the patron who commissioned the art. Cranach was no different. On the left half, standing with Moses and the Ten Commandments are Protestant Reformers, Martin Luther at the top of the group. As you read the altarpiece left to right, you see that Luther does not say that we should throw out the Old Testament, but use it as a guide toward God’s grace.


Works Cited

Zucker, Steven and Harris,Beth. “Reformation and Counter-Reformation”. Renaissance and Reformation in Europe. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/protestant-reformation1/a/the-protestant-reformation. Accessed January 28, 2016.

Noble,Bonnie. “Cranach, Law and Gospel(Law and Grace)”. Renaissance and Reformation in Europe. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/protestant-reformation1/a/cranach-law-and-gospel-law-and-grace. Accessed January 28, 1016.

Condry, David. Illustrator of the Reformation: Lucas Cranach and the Lutheran Cause. April 22, 2013. https://www.academia.edu/6387760/Illustrator_of_the_Reformation_Lucas_Cranach_and_the_Lutheran_Cause. Accessed January 28, 2016.

Unknown. “Lucas Cranach the Elder.” Reformation 500. http://reformation500.csl.edu/bio/lucas-cranach-the-elder/. Accessed January 28, 2016.

Unknown. “Law and Grace”. http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/image-gallery/c/cranach_lawgrace.aspx Accessed January 28, 2016.