Page 3, 22nd November 1957

22nd November 1957
Page 3
Page 3, 22nd November 1957 — Christ, the Apostles and the Artists

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Christ, the Apostles and the Artists


CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES : the changing forms of religious imagery, by F. M. Godfrey (Studio, 45s.).

MR. GODF'REY has chosen a single theme from the New Testament; the relationship of Christ with His Apostles, from the calling of the Twelve up to His appearances to them after the Resurrection. He has selected illustrations of the events in which the Apostles figured to show the successive stages in the development of Christian art.

The idea is brilliant. It shows a complicated story in a small cornpass. There are 100 pictures (some coloured) with a text to match each one describing what was in the artist's mind when he painted it.

To show how it works let us take the section on the Agony in the Garden. Here are twelve versions of the same scene, beginning with a sixth century mosaic, hierarchical, formal, quite undramatic. It is followed by a twelfth century mosaic, all movement and swirling drapery.

Then Duccio's treatment of the theme allows a little reality to creep in; Barna da Siena is full of feeling; Andrea Vanni is gothic and courtly, almost a fairytale; Mantegna is full of antique grandeur and rigid: Bellini is in a gentle and truly religious mood; Holbein the younger is wildly dramatic. violent and ruthless; Correggio. rapturous and exalted; Tintoretto. a noctural and turbulent vision is his; El Greco, ecstatic, other-worldly; and finally Tiepolo, profoundly tragic and

highly spectacular. There are 18 sections worked out in this ingenious manner, The student and layman will see from this book how. as man came by slow stages to understand more and more of the complexities of his own nature, he began also to read them into the Gospel stories; but the essence and heart of these stories was perfectly grasped and utterly absorbed by the earliest Christian artists, and if there had been no development in Christian art the truth was there from the beginning, plainly for everyone to see.

However. since we are complex and there is no limit to the ways of interpreting the Christian narrative, all subsectbent developments have added richness to the elaborate tapestry, and each has meant more to the age in which it was produced; this being so, why has Mr. Godfrey halted history at 1770 and given us nothing later than Tiepolo? Do we not want to know how our own age is interpreting Christianitr?

Number 17

THE SATURDAY BOOK, edited by John Hadfield (Hutchinson 30s.).

Sixteen previous annual issues of the Saturday Book make it unnecessary to recall the various reasons why such a volume is the perfect present for anyone whose taste is not familiar to the giver. However, the inclusion of one or two features in this seventeenth issue may be said to be superfluous

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