Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving (and Annunciation Painting)

Happy Thanksgiving to my two US located Massketeers and to all the rest of yuh who might be reading!

I also wanted to share another painting in preparation for Advent (and to test out my image posting abilities).

The painting is The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an American painter.

This probably qualifies as my second favorite Catholic painting (though I have no idea whether Tanner was Catholic or not--I assume not), the first being Velazquez's The Immaculate Conception.

Tanner's painting is another treasure I discovered in Pelikan's Mary through the Ages (recommended to all those devoted to our Blessed Mother). This painting belongs to a school I can only call "Supernatural Realism" (just made that up). There is no halo of traditional hagiography (nothing wrong with traditional hagiography, I hasten to add) and everything about Mary's room is spare and utilitarian. The clothing and blankets (simple and poor but made for function, for warmth) are ample with all those incredibly sensuous wrinkles and folds. The cloth on the wall is the only ornament, but it is probably for warmth more than anything else, as a buffer against the cold stone walls. And you can see Mary's toes poking out from under the hem of her robe, on the cold floor. Yet Mary is, above all, a shy teenager, in a sense like any shy teenager in any suburban bedroom.

The Angel Gabriel is absent the symbolic wings, yet closer to the essence of what an angel should be: from our eyes an incomprehensible manifestation. He is a Thomist angel, or, as someone else pointed out to me, a Lewisian angel (from C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet, the first in his Peralandra series).

Mary is tensed up and hunched up at the end of the bed, probably out of the initial recoil in fear and panic, but now she looks attentive and questioning, as if she's getting ready to say, ". . . but how . . ?" This means that Gabriel must be past his first greeting and announcement and is explaining the first part of God's proposition. Her hands are clasped not in prayer now, but out of habit or reflex, in the attitude of cautious attentiveness, but also for warmth against the cold.

It is an intimate bedroom scene, one whose consummation will introduce redemption into the world.

A beautiful painting. Please click for the larger view!


Athos said...

You are getting very talented, Porthos! And Our Lady, the first disciple, is our supreme exemplar.

Thank you this Thanksgiving Day.

Porthos said...

I didn't know anything about Tanner before linking his amazing painting, but I've searched around on the net today and found some interesting stuff. The Annunciation can be seen in Philadelphia. Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1858-1937, was the first major African-American painter. Son of a Methodist-Episcopalian (?) minister. Deeply religious all his life. Spent most of his productive years in Paris, where he died. The model for The Annunciation was Tanner's wife Jessie.

Athos said...

Yes, Gabriel is a true "Eldil" in Lewis iconography. BTW, one simply owes it to oneself to read the Space Trilogy -- Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra & That Hideous Strength -- for many different reasons and on many different levels.

Mimetic theory abounds from a faith perspective in all three. One could say the "hideous strength" IS the sacred and be in perfect accord with Lewis. His personal secretary, Walter Hooper, converted from an Anglican priest to the Catholic priesthood. Hooper was/is sure Lewis would enter full communion with Rome if he had lived long enough to see what has happened in Anglicanism.

Regardless, thank you again, bro.

David Nybakke said...

Athos, can you provide us a link that confirms where Walter Hooper comments that if Lewis had lived longer he would have converted to Catholicism? I would like to take that to my next study where we are doing Mere Christianity.

Athos said...


Sorry. I hadn't looked in on comments for a while. Where I read it was in Joseph Pearce's C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church

Best to you and yours this Black Friday, friar-friend!