Monday, March 01, 2010

On Spanish Greeks and Palamite Parishes

I am up later than I probably should be, but am taking the time now after having cranked out the entirety of one paper (due Wednesday) and the majority of another, longer one (due Thursday, but will consult with prof on Wednesday regarding content, interpretation, etc). The latter paper is for a class in iconology with Richard Schneider, a class which I am enjoying immensely, for more than one reason. Firstly, prior to taking this course, I was entirely unfamiliar both with the structure of literary rhetoric and with how such rhetoric was purposefully reflected in visual art. The class is quite rigorous; much new terminology to memorize and apply. Secondly, I am receiving a course on the conventions of visual art--focusing mainly on Christian iconography, of course--from a man who teaches concurrently at the University of Toronto and is a respected figure in his field. It is an excellent way to try to get ahead in my M.Div. program.

Living just to the north of New York City puts events within striking distance that only come to this continent once in a lifetime. One such event was the display at the Onassis Cultural Center. (NY Times review HERE). On display were several byzantine icons from Venetian Crete, as well as several icons from Andreas Pavias, Michael Damaskenos, and Giorgios Klontzas, and (the main attraction) icons and paintings from Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known to the world as El Greco. His recension of the Dormition of the Virgin is seen to the right, with the triple figura of the Theotokos as corpse, newly-borne soul, and enthroned Queen of Heaven. I remember studying El Greco in my AP Spanish Literature course, though we mostly covered his better-known works (which were reviled in his day) such as Coronation of the Virgin and the Burial of the Count of Orgaz. It is interesting how the elongated figures of his later works are a sort of superimposition of Byzantine, iconographic elongation upon manneristic, natural depiction. Also interesting to see was the way in which the starving artists of Crete and Venice catered to their patrons (the Roman Catholic ruling minority) and painted composite works with byzantine, hieratic axes flanked by extremely narrative, emotive western figurae.

Hope went with me (she was eager for some Papi time and I for some one-on-one daughter time) and, bless her heart, was great. We rode the subway in and walked about a half a mile. Hope is quite easily one of the most observant children I have ever known, with one of the best memories. She was incredibly involved in the images once we got to the display, and not just from getting a "head start" on these scenes from church. She got several comments from fellow observers who were impressed by the things she pointed out. Mimesis is definitely one of this kid's strong suits. We took a break and had lunch in the outside corridor (PB&J), then went back in for the rest of the images. I do believe the high point for me was standing in front of Giorgios Klontzas' work In Thee Rejoiceth (pictured left) and, crossing myself, singing the hymn it depicted (known to most English-speaking Orthodox as "All of Creation Rejoiceth in You").

Today we travelled to Glen Gardner, NJ for Divine Liturgy and had the pleasure of meeting the warm, faithful brethren at St. Gregory Palamas Church (mentioned in a previous post as the generous souls who "adopted" us during the Christmas season. We had sent them pictures of the girls opening their gifts and were surprised to find them up on display in their hall (they did not know we were coming, though I had left a message). Father Thomas was concelebrating with Fr. Paul Shafran, a priest of many faithful years and one of the first graduates of my current place of studies. Again Hope proved interesting. She looked at the aged priest and, turning to me with a crinkled nose, said, "But he's so old, Papi!"

"Yes, and that is why we must be so nice to him and do what he says, because he knows better." It is interesting that, somehow (Lord, help her) Hope has picked up on the notion that old people are somehow less, that they are not to be listened to or heeded. The Church has, of late, been a link to things beyond us, before us, both in pictoral witness of eternal things and living examples of steadfastness in the Vineyard. Wisdom...


Anam Cara said...

If you haven't been to the Cloisters, I highly recommend it as a place to visit.

David B said...


Where are these cloisters?

Ian Climacus said...

Wonderful to hear from you again and wonderful to read of the amazing exhibit you saw -- and how wondrous Hope could go with you. It was great to read of her responses, and yours, to the icons.

Continued prayers for study and life.

The young fogey said...

The Cloisters are a museum in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights, Manhattan. In the 1930s the Rockefellers dismantled, shipped and reassembled some stone mediæval Catholic churches, including, yes, a cloister, to display the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of Western Catholic art of the period. I've been there and second Anam Cara's recommendation.

Darlene said...

Excellent post! "A little child shall lead them." Children are free of being self-conscious, and therefore, free to be themselves as God created them to be.

Manhattan is an interesting place. I lived both in the Village on Bleeker St. and in Hell's Kitchen on West 48th St., now a fancy-schmancy place. I love all the excitement and stimuli. It was during my Evangelical Protestant days, so I got a good "feel" for the city. We went street witnessing almost everyday. Once a group of us sang a gospel song for a captive audience on the subway. Even if they didn't like it, they had no where to run! :)

God bless you in your studies and keep His remembrance ever before you, living for Him in the present moment.

Glory to our Lord Jesus Christ for all things.