Thursday, June 7, 2007

St. Petronilla

Art historian Elizabeth Lev comments on a forgotten saint as shown in a magnificent painting. Via Zenit:

Francesco Barbieri, nicknamed Guercino, star pupil of the 17th-century Carracci academy of Bologna, and Baroque painter par excellence, was hired to paint the enormous oil on canvas of "The Raising of St. Petronilla."

The original is kept today in the Capitoline Museums, but the mosaic copy in St. Peter's faithfully re-creates the effect of the landmark work.
This astonishing work, standing 25 feet high, drew on the medieval legend of Petronilla and represents Peter on the lower half of the canvas lowering his daughter in the tomb while the upper half shows Petronilla, adorned in beautiful silks and velvets being welcomed into heaven by Christ.

The brilliant blues and rich reds catch the viewer's eye from afar and impart a sense of preciousness to the work, but the most surprising effect can only be seen by those attending Mass. As Peter grasps the ropes to lower his daughter's body into the grave, the corpse of Petronilla seems to hover above the altar.

From the lowest border of the work only two outstretched hands reaching upward can be seen.
One might think that the hands belong to a gravedigger ready to receive the body and lay it in the ground, but those hands also recall the supplication of Veneranda, who relied on Petronilla's intercession for her salvation.

The medieval tale blends with the ancient martyrdom.
St. Petronilla's life in both history and art recall that the examples of the saints are more than just pretty pictures to be admired in church, but also indications of how we too can be part of the great communion of the elect in heaven. Share

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