Art Works as Classics

While the bloggers are worried about the recent motu proprio (a tempest in a teapot in my estimation) I have been thinking about art. Every time I get to New York I try to visit the Frick to stand before Bellini's "The Ecstasy of Saint Francis" - the greatest painting in the whole city for my money. In London, I head straight for Caravaggio's "The Supper at Emmaus" at the National Gallery. In Rome, I love to go to Trastevere to pray with the Sant Egidio Community before the stunning apsidal mosaic. Last Year I got a chance to return to Colmar where, in the museum, is the Isenheim Altarpiece. Nonetheless, the one painting that strikes me as the greatest religious painting ever done is the Rublev "Old Testament Trinity" which I have never seen since I have never been to Russia. I did once see early variations of it in a show of Russian religious art at the Royal Academy in London. For a long time I thought of some modern art as bering epiphanic but a recent long look at a Rothko made me think that my enthusiasm has waned. Perhaps I was, when younger, too impressed with the thought of Paul Tillich on art but now think not much of him. Too Protestant. That is another story.Here is a thought: anyone want to share what most moves him or her before a "classic" work of art? Inquiring minds want to know.

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.

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