Melbourne Art Journal Issue 5
This lecture considers depictions of the Virgin Mary enthroned, with the Christ Child on her lap and accompanied by angels or saints, in Byzantine and medieval Roman art. In such images both Mother and Son are shown in hieratic frontal poses. Since the icon is said to derive from early representations of the Adoration of the Magi, a few examples are first examined that are linked to that iconography. This is followed by a consideration of images of the Virgin and Child enthroned with attendant angels, which survive in Byzantine art from the sixth to the twelfth century. Although these icons are similar in composition, they often differ in important details, which enable a clearer interpretation of their meaning and historical significance. The last part of the paper discusses depictions of this theme in medieval Rome. While there are some images which are very like those in the Byzantine world, there are also some with significant variations. In particular, the Virgin Mary is often represented in the gold or purple robes of a princess or queen, with elaborate and regal jewellery. These Roman images of ‘Maria Regina’ are considered in their historical, liturgical and doctrinal contexts. They culminate in the vision of the Coronation of the Virgin in the late thirteenth-century apse mosaic of S. Maria Maggiore.
Sir Edward J. Poynter (1836–1919) considered his vast painting The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon to be ‘the masterpiece of his life’. Exhibited in London in 1890, it was subsequently purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This lecture investigates the painting’s history and the artist’s use of archaeological and orientalist sources, and argues that the work would have had ‘Imperialist’ connotations for its Victorian audience.
This article argues that the debate at the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture over the status of its engraver members, motivated by Louis XIV’s public recognition of the ownership by Gérard Edelinck, ‘graveur du Roi’, of an engraving after a painting by Charles Le Brun, inspired the triple portrait, The Artist in his Studio, by Nicolas de Largillière. This portrait, while acknowledging the artistic status of the ‘graveur du Roi’, also affirms his dependence on Le Brun as originating artist.
Benjamin Duterrau’s The Conciliation (1840), which represents the so-called ‘conciliation’ between Aborigines of the Big River and Oyster Bay tribes and the European colonists, has been called ‘the first history painting attempted in Australia’. This article argues that in composing the painting Duterrau was guided by principles of taste that were shaped by British views concerning history painting and British theories of moral sentiment. Duterrau applied to his representation of Tasmanian Aborigines expressions in keeping with principles of expression embodied in Raphael’s tapestry cartoons to sustain British nationalist and aesthetic interests in a colonial context. While the subject of the picture presents conciliation as an historic fact, Duterrau’s treatment suppresses the fact that the Tasmanian Aborigines were evicted from Van Diemen’s Land by a process of intimidation rather than conciliation.
In 1967 the Benedictine community at New Norcia, Western Australia, commissioned a large scale mural of the Stations of the Cross for the Church of the Holy Trinity from the Czech-born artist, Josef Kucík (1912–1993). This mural is unusual because it is executed in sgraffito and extends beyond the traditional fourteen scenes to include supplementary pictures, some of which are connected with the history of the Benedictine Order in New Norcia. This article begins by outlining the nature and evolution of the sgraffito technique in Kucík’s homeland, Czechoslovakia. After describing the motivation and overall structure of the Stations of the Cross, it focuses on five representative scenes from the cycle and analyses their structure, style and their place in the iconographic program.