Page images

see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt" (Exod. iii. 2, 3). It is clear from these words that Moses saw no angel, nothing but the flame and the bush; and the voice came from the midst of the bush. Why, then, does the Virgin appear here at all, so many hundred years before her birth 1 The explanation of this difficulty is suggested by the inscription under the picture attributed to King Rene: "Rubrum quern viderat Moyses incombustum, conservatam agnovinms tuam laudabilem Virginitatem, Sancta Dei Genetrix." There are verses to the same effect on the tapestry of Kheims. The bush which was in flames without being consumed was in the Greek Church held to be a type, and even a proof, of the dogma that the mother of our Lord was a virgin mother. Aaron's rod and Gideon's fleece were regarded as having a similar significance.

If the intention had been to delineate the historical scene, and the Virgin had been put in the place of the Deity, she would in all probability have held a scroll containing the words which Moses heard from the bush. But there is no scroll proceeding either from the flame or from the hand of the Angel. The historical bearings of the scene are to the eye of the Greek Church so completely lost in its typical import, that everything is sacrificed to make that prominent. There is a legend attached to the Church of Notre Dame de 1'Epine at Chalons, which is curiously illustrative of this. On the Eve of the Annuciation, in one of the years of the fourteenth century, some shepherds, tending their flocks near Chfilons, just before nightfall, saw a white thorn bush shining with a strange light •, the shepherds, and it seems their flocks too, ran towards it, and there arose from the midst of the bush, which seemed to be in flames, a small statne of j Mary holding Jesus in her arms. The church was built on the spot where 'the bush grew, to commemorate the event. It is said that the identical statue is there still; and at the end of the apse there is a painted window, representing • the bush in flames and Mary in the' midst The townspeople of Chalons, the peasants, the shepherds, and even the sheep, are on their knees before the bush.

In the porch of the great church at the Monastery of Chilindari, on Mount Athos, there is a fresco representing Gideon squeezing his fleece; and in the fleece, just as in the miraculous thorn of Chalons, there appears a small image of the Virgin, white as the fleece itself. It can not be urged that the Virgin is here substituted for the Divine Being.

It may be thought strange that in the picture of the type, the thing typified should be painted. We might have expected that familiarity with the intention of these typical forms would have made any explanation of them unnecessary; just as by the sign of the lamb, the fish, or the cross, Christ was understood, God the Father by the hand, or the Holy Spirit by the dove; so we might have thought tffat this doctrine would have been more appropriately taught by representations of the burning bush, of Aaron's rod, or of Gideon's fleece, alone, than by the pictorial presence of the Virgin herself. But with the Greeks it was not so. They are ever reaching forward, even in art, from the sign to the thing signified. And this tendency of theirs is aided by their habit of personification of abstract ideas. A Greek Ms. of the ninth century, in the Imperial Library at Paris, furnishes some curious instances of this. There is a picture of Nathan before David; but the historical fact yields in importance to the ideal significance of the scene, and instead of leaving the beholder to draw his own lesson, an allegorical figure, recognized by her name, Metanoia, written above, teaches the lesson of penitence by her bowed head and tearful eye, and the sobs rising in her throat. So while he tends his flocks on the slopes around Bethlehem, we are not allowed to forget the heavenly presence that is with him; as he sings his divine songs, a figure of the melody which Heaven had put in his heart sits by his side; as he smites the lion and the bear, the might with which Heaven nerves his arm stands with encouraging gesture behind. So it is in the Greek representations of the parables; »nd here the principle is often stretched even further; for not only is the interpretation of the parable brought prominently into the picture, but the parable itself (as that of the tares, referred to above), so far as it j appeals to the imagination, is often •wholly excluded.

We are compelled, then, to dissent j from Mr. Didron's conclusion that art displays anything like hostility towards } the First Person of the Trinity. There I is abundant reason to explain the rarity of these representations without resorting! to any such painful supposition. Indeed the testimony of art seems to lead to the opposite conclusion. It shows that the name of the Father has been hallowed. I! has been named with fear certainly, but with no unloving fear. The faultwhich we have to find is rather that of over familiarity in dealing with so awful a subject.

The obstacles which checked the pictorial representation of God the Father | for so 'many centuries, existed, though \ with a lower degree of force, in the case of the Holy Spirit. For although he' never appears in person to man in all' sacred history, nevertheless Scripture provides a symbol which art could not reject. Hence at every period of Christian art a white dove has been the recognized representative of the Divine Spirit—white to indicate the light, which is in ait a perpetual attribute of Deity. There is, however, a curious exception to this rule in the case of a manuscript of the thirteenth century. Here the Spirit of God, moving upon the face of the waters before th'e creation of light, j is painted as black as the formless earth. I A French miniature of the same period . represents the Spirit as the breath (xreuHu) of the other Divine Persons. The Father and Son sit opposite to one another. The Spirit, in the form of a dove, •hovers between with extended wings, their tips touching the lips of each figure, "proceeding from the Father and the | Son" like breath.

The Third Person of the Trinity isde- i picted as a dove, not only on all occasions in history on which he has assumed :lot form, but also in representations of the day of Pentecost. The dove likewise appears hovering over the heads of prophets, and even of saints of post-apostolic times.

Up to the tenth century, the Third Person of the Trinity was indicated by this sign only; but from that time for

ward he is also represented in human form,—at first, as a man of mature years only, but afterwards in every stage of life from infancy to old age. it should be observed, however, that in representations of the Trinity, if the Three Persons are not of the same age, the Sou or the Spirit, or both, are younger than the Father; never the reverse. In this case the idea of the filiation of the Sou and the procession of the Spirit, is suggested; if there is no difference in years, the equality uud co eternity of the 'i'hree Persons ol the Trinity.

There is frequently found a very remarkable literal rendering of a prophecy of Isaiah, in the representation of Christ surrounded by seven doves, sometimes one of them only, sometimes all of them having the iiimbus. These represent the seven spirits, which, it has been believed, were signified by the words of the prophecy, "The Spirit ot the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit ot wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and piety; and the fear of the Lord shall fill him. '*

1 l'i lu-iv has been any hesitation or coldness in the representation of the other persons ot the Trinity, this appears in the strongest light by contrast wan tiiu abundantly Irequunt, and, if we may so say, the uiiectlouate treatment of the subject of Christ the Sou. The story of his lite furnishes the most important subjects of Christian painting ana sculpture . but art has ventured to depict scenes which the human eye has never beheld: the Word creating the world, speaking to men, inspiring' prophets; the Sou taking counsel with the Father, sent on his mission to the earth, descending into Hades, rising from the tomb, returning again to the skies, welcomed at the right hand of the Father, and at length appearing as the Judge of all mankind.

*Isuiali xi. '2, 8—So iu theScptuagiut undthe Vulgate. Uur version is slightly Uitieicut. "The .S|iiui ui the Lord shall rest upou him, . . . the spirit nt' knowledge aud ot the tear ot ihu Loid; ami shull make him ot quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." Our version follows me Hebrew in repeating the expression, "The fear of ili.- Lord." This word is in the beptungint translated lirst ; rn: 1,1 in, andtheii ••,<"/••".• <jtuvtwhile jnetas aud timur JJomini represent il in the \ u) gate. Except in this point, the Scptuagint and the Vulgate are closer to the Hebrew in their rendering of the passago than our version. The varitttiou may have arisen from a detdre to make up tlie perfect number, Seven. Its adoption iu ait was probably not independent of its consistency with the text of the Apocalypse, which describes "the Lamb, having seven uorug aud seven eyes, a •/,,<•/, are tin seven spirit* of God."

In all these scenes our Lord appears in art in human form. It is, however, worthy of remark that the same ancient reverence which indicated the presence of the Father by a hand, and that of the Holy Spirit by a dove, likewise forbade any realistic representation of the Son, even when he wore human flesh. Hence during the first ten centuries he appears in ideal form, youthful and beardless. Like the ever young gods of Greece, years and sorrow make no impression on him. He appears thus, not only when seated at the Father's right hand, or when performing solne great act of Divine power, but in the scenes of his humiliation and death, and even on the cross. This notion of the ideal perfection of the youthful form is illustrated by a bas-relief of the translation of Elijah on one of the ancient sarcophagi. The venerable prophet, as he rises to heaven in the chariot, of fire, and leaves earth and all its painful weariness below, is represented young and smooth of cheek. So was our Saviour. The practice, however, bei;ati to die out in the eleventh century; and during the period of transition the works of the same artist sometimes show the different meaning attached to the two styles of representation. The two following subjects, from the carved ivory covers of a manuscript, furnish an example. On one side, our Saviour is on the cross, suffering mortal pains, and bending towards his mother, who, with the apostle John, stands below. His divinity is declared by iconographic signs, and the sun and moon are represented as bowing before him, but he is still suffering mortal sorrow, and accordingly he is represented as a man of middle age, worn and wounded. On the other side, he is already victorious over death and the grave ; he sits on a throne in the midst of an aureole, with the symbols of the four evangelists round him. His right hand is lifted in benediction ; in the left is a scroll; and a book rests on his knoes. Here, therefore, he appears youthful and beardless, and with no marks of weariness or woe.

After the twelfth century, the youthful

form is very rare. The face of Christ becomes more sad ; he has now made acquaintance with grief. Happier incidents are rarely sought by the artist; and while he is represented in the scenes of his sharpest suffering on earth as the Man of Sorrows, he appears in the skies as the Judge of all mankind, the Rex tremeruke Maiestatis of the Dies Ira;.

Notwithstanding the natural attraction to the human form in representations of the Second Person of the Trinity, art has admitted other signs also into her service. According to the symbolism of the Mosaic law, by the descriptions of the Prophets, by the declaration of the Baptist, and in the imagery of the Apocalypse, Christ was the Lamb of God; and this symbol of a lamb is in very frequent use in art. It is often borne in the arms of the. Baptist, who always points to it with the finger. And whatever the surroundings may be, it is adorned with the cruciform nimbus, and it often bears the resurrection cross. The Lamb of the Apocalypse is different. Its distinguishing marks are the seven horns and seven eyes; and whatever the position of the Lamb may be, they are so placed that all of them may be visible. Thus, in a French miniature of the thirteenth century, there is an apocalyptic Lamb with its side to the spectator. The seven horns are in a row at the top of the head ; one eye is in the ordinary position, and the six others are in two rows down the same side of the neck. Below them all, at the side of the chest, is the wound of the spear, with blood streaming from it.

There were many other ways of representing Christ, but it is unnecessary to make further allusion to them, as they are fully and admirably set forth in the recent work of Mrs. Jameson and Lady Eastlake.

All these details, however, show that the productions of the Christian artist make a strong claim on our attention of a nature collateral to their purpose, and in a great measure independent of their value as examples of art. Art has done much more than please and purify the a3sthetic faculties of men. The works of the painter and the sculptor, the enamellist and the miniaturist, form a most valuable historical record. There is no careful statement of doctrine, no ill-con

cealed desire to place a cherished dogma i mellowed (I am happy to say) bv disin the most favorable light. The teach- j tance, came up ever and anon upon its ing is unconscious, unconscious as the j gentle breath: and, it must be owned, a revelation of the habits and civilization of j more delicately fragrant glass of Burremote periods, which is made to us in gundy has seldom gladdened the heart their language. Mediaeval art bears wit- of man than that which blushed beside ness to changes in the minds of men from I my elbow on the table now. gladness to gloom, from reverence to I was, let me trust, in an appreciative audacity, or from faith to scepticism, just and grateful frame of mind; but yet. as as the boulders on the lower Alps testify I sipped my Burgundy and lay back in to the enormous glaciers which once cov-j my chair watching the tender evening ered their sides. But her glory is in the,' light die away on the distant trees, I was instruction which she has given, and concious of a want; for, after all, he is

which she still gives to the devout She preaches sermons to the eye more eloquent than those which are heard with the ear. And by giving heed to these lessons, we may appropriate to our own use the united conceptions of successive ages of the Church, and thus arrive at a more complete comprehension of every incident of sacred story, and a more thorough appreciation of the moving

but a churl who can contentedly drink even the glorious vintage of Burgundy alone.

"Man never is, but always to be—" I was beginning, when the door opened.

"Mr. Mortimer, sir."

"Let us be thankful for small mercies!" I ejaculated instead; "glad to see you, Jack! Stevens, clean glasses."

"Am I the mercy?" inquired Jack,

thoughts and feelings of men, who, while j depositing himself leisurely in the most they were of like passions with ourselves, : comfortable chair at hand. "Not a paryet attained an eminence of piety and ticularly small one, then, I'm thinking, vigor of faith which seem to place them Frank."

beyond our reach. If these things be so, ' "Not small in any sense of the word," the works of the mediaeval masters, what- | answered I, pushing the Burgundy across

ever may be said of their conventionalism or their unrealism, can not be unworthy of a patient study.

London Society.





The ladies (they were comprised in my wife and our sole guest, a cousin feminine) had lett the dining-room; so I drew up my chair beside the open window, elevated my feet into a second, and prepared to extract the greatest amount of comfort, compatible with circumstances, from that half-hour of post-prandial bereavement, which is the Englishman's privilege.

And really circumstances just now , had been enjoying life in the bu^h. Not were not otherwise than conducive to en- j that in his case there had existed the joyment The soft-scented air of a sweet usual inducement for viewing life under summer evening rustled very pleasantly those delightfully primitve aspects, for through the wide-open window. The my frieud had occupied from his youth voices of the village ehildreu at play, upwards that enviable position of heir to

the table; and really, just' now, in the vague half-light, Jack Mortimer's six feet three loomed even unusually large and handsome. No, Jack was certainly not a small mercy. We had been schoolfellows at Westminster, chums at Cambridge, the best of friends always, though for the last half-dozen years or so parted by many a thousand miles of sea and land.

Even by this half-light something indescribable in the set of my old friend's ordinarily fashionable garments, a something more indescribable still in his whole bearing^—a certain large ease and freedom, as of a man accustomed to an almost unlimited amount of space to turn himself in, would have been suggestive of one fact, I think, to the most casual observer—" Home from the colonies." And home from the colonies it was.

For the last five years Jack Mortimer a wealthy maiden aunt; but merely, as | there might be some reason, of a tender it seemed, from a natural and inevitable I and romantic nature, to account for his tendency in his own nature towards that! peculiar reticence on this subject; though, simple and patriarchal state of things, indeed, Jack Mortimer, with his jolly There having been no particular necessity laugh, his genial face, and kindly words for his prospering in the line of life he and looks for all the world, was not easily

had adopted, prosper, of course, he did; but a few mouths back, in compliance with the wishes of the maiden aunt, who was getting on in years, and craved, as she said, to see her boy (which she would have called Jack if he had been sixty,

to be reconciled with the idea of " blighted hopes" "worms in the bud," and so forth.

My wife, with whom Jack was on terms of mutual amity and good-will (as, indeed, this gentleman is a favorite with

instead of well up towards thirty, as he j married ladies in general,) was firmly imwas) take up his positon in his native ' presssed with the conviction, not only land before she died, he had disposed of j that Jack had never been in love, but all his Hocks and herds, and come back to that he would never marry. Old England to settle down as a country "And why, madam, should you infer

gentleman and landed proprietor.

I had not very long previously suc

this of a man who is in every way calculated to adoni that honorable estate t" I

ceeded to my own modest patrimony of inquired, when the partner of my joys first Meadowsleigh, and flatter myself that enunciated her views upon this subject, weight in the selec

that tact had some

tion made by Jack of a residence; the same being a queer, rambling old house, with a valuable, but certainly improvable property attached, in my neighborhood, called The Wild.

Here Jack had been domiciled for some months now, the head of a curious bachelor establishment, organized, I should say, on strictly bush principles.

As near neighbors, as well as old friends, Jack and 1 were accustomed to exchange unceremonious visits at all

"Is not my old friend eminently social in his habits, brimming over with all kindly affections'! Why, then, should he be incapable of love, and cut off from the joys of matrimony'{"

"I did not say he was incapable of love, Frank;—ah, no I" answered Mrs. Marchmont, "though I think he will never marry. It will be some woman's loss too, tor men like Mr. Mortimer— men more affectionate than passionate, more constant than ardent, make model husbands. Their wives are better loved than even their—their sweethearts (yes, Frank, I like the pretty old world name

hours; so that after we had nodded to each other over our first glass, there was

scarcely any need of his accounting, in a for the old, old relation, and think no half-apologetic way, for his appearance other so simply expressive.) And hearth at this particular tune, by saying "that and home are more to such men as he,

than the rest of the world, I think."

"Upon my word, ma'am," I remarked in some surprise, for my wife's voice

The Wild was apt to feel duller than usual on these long, quiet summer eve

nmgs .

"I can imagine a vacuum there, which,

was very soft and gentle as she sopke,

being abhorred of nature* it is conse- "you seem to have brought a great deal quently unnatural of you not to fill." I! of consideration and reflection to bear on said, lazily,''Jack, why don't you many?" the subject of Mr. Mortimer!"

This suggestion my friend received in "Reflection:—not at all, dear," Mrs. the silence which I had sometimes no-; Marchmont said simply; "one feels—at ticed it was his habit to receive remarks : least I think a woman does instinctively— of a similar nature, nor was it his usual I the worth of such a man as John Morcustom to lead up to such, by any refer- j timer. And he is not of that order that ence to his bachelorhood. As he sat j is most attractive to the greatest number now, leaning back in his chair, looking of women either." very large, and brown, and handsome, "Indeed! Be good enough to exaud yet with unwonted gravity on his plain the contradiction in your words, lace too, a suspicion for the first time en- I young woman. If Jadk Mortimer is tered my head, as I glanced at him, that possessed of such unusual virtue, and

« PreviousContinue »