May God continue to Bless and Watch out for you, and may you continue to Seek His Face for there will you find everything else you are in need of. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.
Below is the original post from 12, 2008
The times that I look through the information provided by statcounter and the rss feedburner, I notice that many people search for information and or pictures of the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary among other pictures of Biblical stories.
So I am inspired to put together a small amount of information and pictures of these subjects and themes to help those that search. He said, “Knock and the door will open, seek and you shall find.” Amen.
Being an Art teacher and an artist, this is a reminder of some of my class work from college and from putting together lesson plans for my classes that I taught for 18 years. I hope to make this plain and simple and not further complicate those that want to know but do not have an extensive background in Biblical Art or much training of the details of the Bible stories.
I will try to keep this to the key points to clear up any confusion some may have. I also have provided a few of the hundreds of paintings that fall into the theme
"The Annunciation" (of Mary and some of the shepherds) Also known as
I also have supplied the artists names and years when known.
My Hope is that this will be a blessing to those that read it.
“Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room!” Amen!
Most of the paintings dealing with Biblical themes in the art books that I would use to teach with, were strongly represented from the European point of view concerning art and religion. And the the rest of us just seemed to be thrown in the book somewhere. The choices of books that were available at times to order where pretty much all on the same level. So I would chose the best of the bunch that the state had approved of.
Well, that was alright with me! I have a small collection of art books and history books that include all the people that the books made for school use don't have. And I took them to school with me everyday every year.
I learned from my years as a teacher that many people do not know the details behind such artworks that depict Jesus, Mary, and the Archangel Gabriel to name a few of the characters from the Bible. I also realized that many people do not know 'how' to view such paintings either. Through the years many people just take for granted that artists rendered these images and these must be what the people actually looked like. This is far from the truth concerning Biblical images. What is wrong about these paintings is the actual “look of the people” and the clothing worn by them.
As you would need to do background work to have a deeper understanding of the Hebrew culture and the culture of each and every artist that has produced art work with these themes. The Bible stories do give us some insight by offering narrow physical descriptions of certain people. For example, in Isaiah 53:2 which describes Jesus’ appearance it states; “He had not beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”
This lets us know that Jesus was not a particularly handsome man as He is depicted in hundreds of paintings and drawings that have been created of Him. This also gives us insight into the vanity of the human heart when it comes to what society has deemed to be beautiful to the natural eye and thus acceptable as good. From this description we see that His Beauty comes from within and is outwardly shown through His goodness, compassion and intellect. His Beauty comes From the condition of His heart and that He would maybe be someone that blended in with the crowds if alone. An average looking person with a supernatural heart!
There are images that are used to symbolize certain thoughts and beliefs of certain times and cultures, that many artists used such as; the clothing, the environmental settings, the actual ‘look’ of the people in these themed paintings are based more so on the life and experiences of the artists and on the will of the wealthy patrons that would commission some of these paintings.
The main point here is that you have to know what the 'style' of art was at the time the painting was done. Was it the Italian Renaissance, Baroque, or the Modern art movement. All of this plays into why the depiction looks as it does. Many Old Master artists also stroked the patron’s ego along with their own by idealizing the images in their paintings. To make everything ‘appear’ to be perfect-when it actually cannot be. Art styles and techniques have gone through many changes and belief foundations.
That is why I love the painting by Tanner. It is simple and quiet. Mary’s innocence is very apparent and humbled. Being that Tanner used his wife for the model, it’s no wonder where the warmth and care comes from that the painting gives off.
There are even some wealthy patrons that paid the artists to use their images-their likenesses-their heads on the bodies of certain characters of their favorite Scriptures in these paintings. So to believe that certain people looked just like they are depicted in some of these paintings is to allow yourself to be fooled and accepting of an un-intended falsehood. To raise themselves up to the standard of these characters is full of vanity and pride on the parts of these patrons.
Unless you do background work on the artist, the time period and who paid the artist to do the painting, you would not know these pieces of informational truth.
Many artists were believers in Jesus Christ and poured over the Scriptures inspired to depict them as honor and glory to God. Many just did them to get paid in order to eat and pay bills and supply for their families. To know why each artist created the Biblically based paintings that they did you would have to read their bios and any writings they may have left behind.
First, let me tell you that there are very few paintings/drawings exist that actually show Jesus, Mary or any other biblical person in their true form. This means that there were no artists walking around drawing these people at the time they lived and walked this earth. If any were made, they are long since destroyed or in pieces by now.
To know the bone structure, body type, hair varieties that existed then is to know what most of the people from the times of the Bible may have looked liked.
So when you view Biblical based art work such as paintings, you are viewing what the artists felt, saw, wanted to convey through their limited and or vast knowledge of the stories and the people they put in the paintings to represent each Biblical figure, these depictions will ALWAYS resemble the people that lived at the time the artists lived.
For example, if the artist was Flemish, German or Italian, then the people in the painting will look Flemish, German or Italian, and so on. Not Hebrew as Mary and Jesus actually were.
We know there were Assyrians, Persians, Phoenicians, Philistines, Egyptians, Romans and Africans, to name a few of the varied cultures that dominate the Bible stories. Also, many cultures mixed together to produce a variety of people as far as body types, hair textures and facial features are concerned.
Many of these artists probably never saw a Hebrew person before to know them to be so. Many of them also may have had limited knowledge of the scriptures, though I know most all of them were educated, well read and skilled in their art form enough to receive payment. Bibles in that time were limited in production and limited to who could get and have one.
Mary was not rich; she was a peasant, a villager. Because of her place in their society, she was probably not widely educated- by their laws women were not generally taught how to read and write so any skills in this area that she possessed were taught to her by other women most likely in secret.
She would have never been dressed in such fine garments of supreme colors as she is depicted wearing in most all of the paintings that are displayed. If she actually had such clothing the people of her day would have assumed that she stole them and would have questioned her about them.
Certain colors and textures of material were only for the well off of the land. As colored garments were hand-dyed from the inks of shellfish, fruits, vegetables, and the bark of trees, flowers and an assortment of other natural colors.
Getting the colors out of these natural plants and from the ground was not an easy job—it is a process that only the rich could afford. Certain villages and towns were known for providing specific goods to sell and trade with.
The color purple came from a particular shellfish that lived in the waters where The Phoenicians dwelled and it was very expensive to own anything that had been dyed purple. Therefore the people of that time gave certain colors power and designated them to only be worn by royalty.
In other words the colors and textures of your clothing revealed your place in society then. Mary and her people probably wore colors that were a bit more drab-grays, red-browns, dark blue-greens, shades of tans, and maybe they owned a few white pieces.
Also, Mary was not in her twenties or thirties as her face appears to be in many paintings of her—she was about 13, 14 or 15 when Gabriel was sent to her by God.
That is the way they lived then and even now it is still a part of their culture-how they view and value the women in their society. It is not based on Western thoughts and ideas, But from the Jewish culture and laws of their way.
The environments that many artists placed Mary and Gabriel in were not true to form either. Any stone i.e. marble, granite, or fine brick structures are solely from the artists view on the story based on their knowledge from the time they lived. The people of Mary’s time on her level of society lived in thatched roofs and mud brick dwellings. They also lived in dwellings that were hewn from the rocky mountains and hillsides.
Please keep in mind also, that these artists lived many hundreds of years AFTER the Annunciation, the Birth and the life of Jesus, His death, resurrection and ascension to Heaven.
When artists paint her or any other character from Scripture—using these expensive, wonderfully made colored clothing and place her sitting in these massive marble, with the finest of wood furniture, these elegant environments holding a bible appearing to be a woman of means; it is not done to ridicule her but to honor her and to give her the status that she deserves as she is the one young woman that God chose to bless by carrying and birthing the Messiah. Also, these artists may have had a limited understanding and knowledge of actual Jewish/Hebrew laws and life structure.
Hers was a very simple, hands on - hard life to survive day by day.
Next, Let us look at Gabriel.
Gabriel the Archangel
"Fortitudo Dei", one of the three archangels mentioned in the Bible.
There are only four appearances of Gabriel recorded: In Daniel 8, where he explains the vision of the horned ram as portending the destruction of the Persian Empire by the Macedonian Alexander the Great, after whose death the kingdom will be divided up among his generals, from one of whom will spring Antiochus Epiphanes.
In chapter 9 after Daniel had prayed for Israel, we read that "the man Gabriel . . . . flying swiftly touched me" and he communicated to him the mysterious prophecy of the "seventy weeks" of years which should elapse before the coming of Christ In chapter 10, it is not clear whether the angel is Gabriel or not, I tend to think Daniel saw Christ- but many may apply to Gabriel the marvelous description in verses 5 and 6. In the New Testament he foretells to Zachary the birth of the Precursor and to Mary that of the Savior.
From here out he is considered the angel of the Incarnation and of Consolation.
So in many Christian traditions Gabriel is the angel of mercy.
With different cultures and religions we find differences in how each viewed and valued each Archangel of God.
While Michael is thought to be the angel of judgment, at the same time, Gabriel is, in accordance with his name, the angel of the Power of God, and notice the frequency with which such words as "great", "might", "power", and "strength" occur in the passages referred to above.
The Jews indeed seem to have valued this feature in Gabriel's character and he is regarded by them as the angel of judgment, while Michael is called the angel of mercy. Whereby they attribute to Gabriel the destruction of Sodom and of the host of Sennacherib, though they also regard him as the angel who buried Moses and as the man deputed to mark the figure Tau on the foreheads of the elect (Ezekiel 4).
Jewish literature of later times use the names of angels and were considered to have a peculiar efficacy, and the British Museum possesses some magic bowls inscribed with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac incantations in which the names of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel occur. These bowls were found at Hillah, the site of Babylon, and constitute an interesting relic of the Jewish captivity.
In apocryphal Christian literature the same names occur, in Enoch, and the Apocalypse of the Blessed Virgin.
As noted above, I found that Gabriel is mentioned only twice in the New Testament, but it is not unreasonable for us to suppose with Christian tradition that it is he who appeared to Joseph and to the shepherds, and also I believe along with many others, that it was he who "strengthened" Our Lord during His Agony at the Garden at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
There are times where Gabriel is generally called only an archangel, but the expression used by Raphael, "I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" (Tobit 12:15) and Gabriel's own words, "I am Gabriel, who stand before God" (Luke 1:19), have led some to think that these angels must belong to the highest rank; but this is generally explained as referring to their rank as the highest of God’s messengers, and not as placing them among the Seraphim and Cherubim which are different Holy beings.
Next let us look at the meanings of some of the symbols that artists used in their paintings that depict these themes.
Throughout the course of history and because of the limits placed on who could be educated and how far to educate them, many people could not read the bible even if they possessed one-(could afford to have one made). So they were taught the Scriptures orally or through pictures-artwork.
Also keep in mind that the men seated in the Rulers chair often oppressed the people by not allowing them to be widely educated and a Class system was strengthened. They also used religion and symbols to control and guide the people the way they wanted them to believe. Not necessarily how God wants us to view Him, ourselves and each other. Jesus came to re-affirm this for us.
The most important elements of these paintings are the Archangel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, and The Dove. There are many other symbols associated with the scene, such as the Lilly—but these vary according to each artist and the year that the painting done.
The Dove represents the Spirit of God as present in the being. Often referred to as the Holy Spirit-the Holy Ghost in Christianity. In the annunciation paintings the Dove usually is shown coming down from heaven on rays of light toward Mary.
Depending on when (the year) the painting was done, she may be shown with a Bible either in her hands or nearby on a wooden prayer stand. She is reading the Book of Isaiah chapter 7 verse 14 about the Virgin birth of the Messiah prophecy.
The Archangel is sent in his office of God’s messenger to deliver to Mary the offer to be the Mother of the Messiah for God. To let Mary know that God has chosen her and this is His Will for her life. Before visiting Mary he foretold the birth of John the Baptist.
Is a symbol of Mary’s purity-virginity. In many paintings that use the Lilly, it means the event took place in the springtime. Sometimes the artist has Gabriel holding the flower, which speaks of him declaring that Mary is a virgin and is pure for God’s use.
The cross symbolizes Christianity.
**In his depiction of The Annunciation, that is part of an Altar piece (the center panel) for the Church of St. Columbia; German artist Rogier van der Weyden (1399-64), has Gabriel’s scepter wrapped in a scroll with the phrase;
“Ave Gratia Piena Dominus” which translates as
“Greetings most famous One, the LORD Is with you.”
These words were later used by Roman Catholics as a prayer to Mary known as Ave Maria or Hail Mary.
**PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO NEXT POST FOR THE PAINTINGS**
Resting In His Faithfulness,
One Day At A Time By Faith.