Inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi

 

 

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The Holy Family with Saints Francis and Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist, oil on canvas, early or mid-1630s. 

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 – 1640, Flemish.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

This mellifluous painting is on a wall with no other paintings.  

 

The Museum says that this painting, which shows Saint Francis in ecstasy, in vision trance, was too exuberant’ to be displayed to the American public before 1900. 

 

I have seen hundreds of paintings of Jesus as a baby, with his family.  

 

This painting is the only one I know in which Jesus is not the focus.

 

The focus here is St. Francis of Assisi.

And that is despite the bright, diagonal shaft of light starting at the head of the Virgin Mary, across the center of the painting, to include St. John the Baptist; but exclude St. Francis. 

 

One third of the surface reserved for figures is his. There are three adults and two infants in the remaining two thirds.

 

 

 

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Detail as above

 

 

Jesus and his mother are looking at the infant John the Baptist to whom Jesus’s right hand extends in precocious blessing. St. Anne and St. Joseph look at St. Francis.

 

All the energy and the stillness of this image is concentrated in St. Francis. 

The energy of the composition is in his body bending forward and in his hands which seem to be half-clenched, resting on his crossed arms.

 

The stillness of the painting is in the saint’s eyes.  His eyes, on a level with that of the infant Jesus,  are the hypnotic center of this painting. 

 

And take us into the mystery of his spiritual discipline from which sprang his immense teachings and action.

 

 

 

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Detail as above

 

 

 

St. Francis is the focus of this human grouping.   Even the clouds arc over him as though in protective embrace. And the trees take on clear definition only when they branch over him.

 

Perhaps it is this inhabitual focus which the museum has, tactfully, described as ‘too exuberant’. 

 

But why not this ‘exuberance’

Is it gods who act in our world or (wo)men whose inspiration comes both  from their submission to divine principles and from their love of the world.

 

 

As with St. Francis whose teachings about the consequence of our community with and responsibilities for all sentient beings and the earth herself are more urgent now than ever.

 

 

 

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The Holy Family with Saints Francis and Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist, oil on canvas, early or mid-1630s. 

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 – 1640, Flemish.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi

    1. And the same to you, Australian!

      But no peace signs because we are Masters of War and like shooting Kids on our southern borders! We are just taking one day off.

      Sarah

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