‘Genuine Sacred Art Draws Man to Adoration, to Prayer, and to the Love of God’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 2502). Essay

Sacred art has a varying definition according to many different sources. Sacred art is defined by the Catholic Church as “true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God”. Leonardo Da Vinci’s artworks are some of many pieces of art that are praised as ingenious around the world. Many of Leonardo’s works are recognized all over the world, his most famous painting being the ‘Mona Lisa’. Leonardo created several artworks which conveyed religious themes and challenged the viewers to imagine the story of Jesus’ life.

Three of Leonardo’s famous artworks include the ‘Annunciation, the ‘Last Supper’ and the ‘Adoration of the Magi’. These three art pieces all have a deep and significant connection through underlying religious themes about God’s relationship with humans, bringing viewers to deeper adoration and appreciation of his plan towards his followers. Many experts seem to debate the authenticity of the ‘Annunciation’ piece to be the work of the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci, so it has been continually added and removed from the list of artworks said to be painted by Leonardo.

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Once thought to be the work of Domenico Ghirlandaio, this painting is now generally agreed to be an early work by Leonardo. The enclosed garden is meant to symbolize her virginity. Not much is known about the painting, such as the location of where it was painted. The reason for this being the ambiguity of who actually painted this piece. This painted is located in ‘Galleria degli’, an art gallery in Uffizi, Florence. The reason the ‘Annunciation’ is considered sacred art is because it illustrates a holy moment which is written in the Bible and is glorified by many Christians over the world. The Annunciation’ depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel appears before Mary and informed her of her role in God’s plan. This painting meets the criteria of being ‘sacred art’ is because it depicts an important event in the Bible where the angel Gabriel brought important news to Mary about how God wanted to encompass Mary in his ultimate plan to send his son to earth. The way that this artwork appeals and relates to the spectator is through Mary’s humble mannerisms displayed in the art piece.

Mary’s actions remind the viewer that she was just an ordinary peasant woman, whom God chose to bring forth his one and only son. This is shown in the Bible when the angel Gabriel quotes this to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” . This supports the idea that although humans may sin and do wrong, in the eyes of the Lord, humanity is significant.

This piece brings Christians closer to God because it reminds them of Jesus’ purity as a miraculously conceived child, highlighting the reason why Jesus is considered to be the Son of God. That is how Leonardo’s artwork the ‘Annunciation’ fulfills its role as a ‘sacred art’ piece. The ‘Last supper’ is probably the most famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci excluding the Mona Lisa. The painting is currently located in Convent of Sta. Maria delle Grazie, Milan. ‘Our Lady of Grace’ or Convent of Sta. Maria delle Grazie is a famous Church and a Dominican convent. The ‘Last Supper’ depicts the final days of Jesus as told in all four of the gospels.

It illustrates when Jesus informs his disciples that one of them will betray him, the disciples’ reactions somewhat differ from each other because they seem perplexed at what Jesus is saying. The location is set in a dining hall where Jesus and his twelve disciples feasted at what would become Jesus’ last meal, hence the name the ‘Last Supper’ (refer to appendix 2). For approximately 18 years, Leonardo worked for a man named Ludovico Sforza who was the duke of Milan. Sforza employed Leonardo to paint many religious pieces, The ‘Last Supper’ being one of them.

The ‘Last Supper’ took Leonardo roughly around three years to complete. The style of this painting resembles many other works by Leonardo. The Media used for this painting are tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic . This picture fits the Catholic Church’s definition of ‘sacred art’ perfectly because it glorifies Christ. This artwork demonstrates an example of high Christology because Jesus is depicted as divine. He seems to be showing no human expression, whereas his disciples who are surrounding him seem confused and all have different expressions depending on their role in the Bible.

Other than Jesus and Judas, it is really difficult to deduce the identity of each of the other disciples. The ‘Da Vinci code’ which is a fictional novel by Dan Brown and a later film adaption about the ‘true’ story of Jesus, raises the issue of whether the disciple sitting on the left hand of Jesus truly is ‘John’ or ‘Mary Magdalene’, who in the novel is believed to have borne Jesus’ child. The reason for this speculation is because ‘John’ appears as a very young feminine figure. This artwork draws people closer to God because it displays Jesus’ divinity and reminds the viewer that Jesus knew of what was to come i. . his death. Another reason why this painting connects the viewer and brings them closer to God is shown through Jesus’ frailty, because it attaches a human quality which most spectators can relate to. The adoration of the Magi is one of Leonardo’s unfinished works of art. This sizeable painting which measures approximately nine feet in length and eight feet in width was left incomplete because he was only given a time period of thirty months to finish it. (see appendix 3). Leonardo was commissioned in 1480 to paint this work for the main altar of the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, near Florence.

This image depicts the event of the three wise men visiting the stable shortly after Jesus’ birth. In the background of this image is a wide variety of people, angels and animals surrounding the Virgin Mary and Jesus. It is not clear as to who are all the visitors present in the scene but any ordinary viewer could see that the three main men surrounding Mary and Jesus are the three wise men. The setting of this art work isn’t the usual stable which is seen in almost all other nativity scenes and pictures, but rather a different location which seems ambiguous but could be palace ruins.

This work of Da Vinci’s was praised by many because of the way he personifies the present animal’s emotions and features. Many sketches of this artwork were found, created by Leonardo, leading up to beginning to painting this piece. This picture illustrates the definition of ‘sacred art’ because it displays another important event in the Bible, the occasion immediately subsequent to Jesus’ birth, the arrival and gift-giving session of the wise men and all other visitors that particular night.

This painting, although incomplete and has not advanced beyond the stage of being a brown ink art piece on wood, has an exceptionally vivid relationship that it creates with the viewer. The grace and harmony the characters in the painting have adopted and how their facial expressions and actions present that and make it an inspiring religious piece in which Christians can find comfort and faith in. The words ‘Sacred art’ have created many different opinions regarding variation of styles and religious subject matter.

But according to the Catholic Church in particular it has stood for a long time as an object which ‘draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier’. So therefore acceptable ‘sacred art’ pieces must have a strong religious theme which not only glorifies the divinity of God but also draws the spectator to deepen their faith and in turn their relationship with God. Three art pieces that achieve all these criteria are works by Leonardo Da Vinci, as described are ‘The Annunciation’, ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘The Adoration of the Magi’.

These works of art are valued and visited by many worldwide. These images act as reminders for worshipers as to how Jesus’ life was truly lived and reflect some of his actions and realizations during his lifetime, strengthening the bond between man and God. Bibliography Online Sources: The Catechism of the Catholic Church ‘2502’, 2000, 2nd. Edn. , viewed 21st September 2009, BBC, ‘The Annunciation’, 2009, Viewed 20th September 2009. < http://www. bbc. co. uk/science/leonardo/gallery/annunciation. shtml> ABC Gallery, ‘The Annunciation’, 2008, Viewed 19th September 2009.

Lisa Shea, ‘The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci’, 2007, Viewed 19th September 2009. JayDax, ‘The Last Supper – A Study of the Painting by Leonardo Da Vinci,’ 2009, viewed 20th September 2009. Lairweb Organization, ‘Adoration of The Magi’, 2009, viewed 22th September 2009. Images: Ntworld, ‘Adoration of the Magi. jpg’, 2004, viewed 19th September 2009 The Artwolf, ‘Leonardo’s last supper. mpg’, 2006, viewed 23rd Spetember 2009. About. com, ‘Art History – The Anunciation. jpg’, 2006, viewed 22nd September 2009. < http://z. about. com/d/arthistory/1/0/p/d/ldvpg_03. jpg>


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