Veritatis Praeco’s First Issue Cover.
I was delighted this morning to find an email in my inbox from Fr. Joseph Gross of the Trinitarian Order, elucidating upon the cover of our first print issue (available on the right, second one down). From Fr. Joseph:
How delighted I was to see that you chose the 17th century painting of our founder – St. John de Matha (+ 1213) – as the cover for the first issue (February 2009) of Veritatis Praeco!
In 1664 the Trinitarian Order in Pamplona completed a new “monastic” complex and turned to Juan Carreño de Miranda and Francisco Rizi to paint the altarpiece for the church. The Trinitarian Order was founded in the late twelfth century by St. John de Matha at Cerfroid (France), and the altarpiece illustrates a key moment in his career. According to tradition, as John raised the host during his First Mass, he saw a vision of Christ, holding by the hand two captives, one a Christian, one a Saracen. In this 17th century painting, Christ has been converted into an angel dressed in white, with arms crossed and hands resting on the heads of two captives, one a Christian, one a Moor. From this vision, John was shown his earthly mission, to establish a religious order devoted to the ransom of Christian captives.
The composition was designed by Rizi but it is signed and dated only by Carreño. The composition is set within a monumental space, opening at the right on a serene, luminous landscape. St John de Matha is flanked by clergy wearing rich, sparkling vestments woven with gold and silver threads. The onlookers focus their eyes on the priest, who lifts the Host, and they lean forward, drawn inexorably by the power of the miraculous vision. Above the throng, in the airy upper reaches of the space, the artist demonstrates his command of movement and foreshortening.
This painting represents the culmination of the two artists’ partnership soon to dissolve; neither artist working alone would again be able to create picture of this quality and complexity. It was done in 1666, is oil on canvas and measures 500 x 315 cm. It is conserved in the Musée de Louvre in Paris.
Juan Carreño de Miranda was born in Avilés in 1614 and died in Madrid in 1685. He was a member of a Spanish noble family, whose studies in the royal collection in Madrid caused him to be influenced by Rubens and Titian. In 1669 he was made a Painter to the King and in 1671 Court Painter. He produced several religious works, but was chiefly a portrait painter, adapting the styles of Veláquez and Van Dyck. His works are in Barnard Castle (Bowes Museum), Madrid (Prado and Galdino Museum), Paris (Louvre) and elsewhere.
And here I thought it was merely a beautiful work! The history of the image, and the vision that inspired it (and the order), ought to reinforce man’s awe at the ineffable power of the Most Holy Sacrifice. Here is a full-size image of Juan Carreño’s painting, and click here to visit the Trinitarian Order’s history page.