Friday, 13 January 2006

Essential paintings for theologians

“All art is nostalgia for God.” —Alexei Jawlensky

“The past is not dead. It is not even past.” —William Faulkner

I invited Kim Fabricius to create a list of essential paintings for theologians. Kim has studied art and has spent time in many of the world’s great art museums, and he laboured long and hard to produce this list of 20 paintings. To make the list manageable, Kim imposed the following limits: Western art only (so no icons, no African or Asian art); paintings only (with one necessary exception); paintings “with a signature” (so no anonymous works such as manuscript illuminations); only one work per painter; and finally, Christ himself must be depicted in the painting.

Here is the list, ordered chronologically:

1. Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319): “The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain”
2. Ambrogio Giotto (1267-1337): “Noli me Tangere”
3. Tomaso Masaccio (1401-1428): “The Tribute Money”
4. Piero della Francesca (c.1420-92): “The Resurrection”
5. Hieronymous Bosch (c.1450-1516): “The Crowning with Thorns”
6. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): “Madonna on the Rocks”
7. Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528): “Christ among the Doctors”
8. Mathias Grünewald (c.1475-1528): “Christ on the Cross” (from the Eisenheim Altarpiece)
9. Sanzio Raphael (1483-1520): “Sistine Madonna”
10. Hans Holbein (1496/8-1543): “The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb”
11. Pieter Brueghel (c.1525-69): “The Adoration of the Magi”
12. Michelangelo Caravaggio (1573-1610): “The Calling of St. Matthew”
13. Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640): “The Descent from the Cross”
14. Diego Velasquez (1599-1660): “Christ Crucified”
15. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69): “The Adoration of the Shepherds”
16. Francisco José de Goya (1746-1828): “Christ on the Mount of Olives”
17. William Blake (1757-1827): “The Trinity” [sketch]
18. Paul Gauguin (1848-1903): “The Yellow Christ”
19. Stanley Spencer (1891-1959): “The Resurrection, Cookham”
20. Salvador Dali (1904-1989): “Christ of St. John of the Cross”

Update: See now the supplement list, More Essential Paintings for Theologians.

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