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EARLY PORTRAITURE OF SAINT FRANCIS IT? ach family cherishes the representations of its progenitors whether -¦—' the likenesses be sketches, portraits done in oil, daguerreotypes, ferrotypes or photographs produced by the contemporary polaroid-land method. Hence it is but natural that the Franciscan family — First, Second or Third Order Secular and Regular — reveres the portraits of its founder, St. Francis. Thirteenth century art knew little or nothing of what today we term portraiture for at that time art was rather symbolic. When an individual was depicted, it was not for the purpose of showing his natural visage but rather the work was intended to reveal some ideal or some aspect of his character. Just as everything human is in a state of evolution, so, too, the art of representation of the human form passed through and is still undergoing various transitions and stages. As may be expected the early artistic achievements in connection with St. Francis were both austere and conventional while later ones approximated Our Holy Father Francis' appearance. Quite naturally his portrayals fall into more or less well defined stages. The initial one embraces the likenesses executed prior to the composition of the Legenda minor and the Legenda maior of St. Bonaventure . The earliest painting with which we are acquainted is a fulllength figure on the wall of the Sacro Speco at Subiaco. Examination of it has led to an opinion among critics which is almost certain that it was painted in 1228, or approximately two years after the death of St. Francis. It is a work of extreme simplicity, wherein the Poverello is shown wearing the holy habit of the Minorites and having his hood drawn over his head. The Saint bears in his left hand a scroll partially unrolled upon which appear the words Pax huic domui. It is worth noting that the picture omits both the Stigmata and the halo. In one of the upper portions of the study are to be found the abbreviated forms (palaeographic symbols) for Frater Franciscus. The use of the term 'Frater' has led to some differences of opinion in regard to the dating of this cherished piece of early Franciscana. Some hold that the use of this term indicates that the work was completed prior to the death of the Poor Man of Assisi (October 3/4, 1224) because almost immediately after 94 Early Portraiture of saint Francis95 the decease of Francis a cult in his honor arose and he was referred to as 'Saint.' Other reputable critics tenaciously advance the view that an earlier date is to be held as valid because the absence of the Stigmata shows that the work was painted prior to the bestowal of this singular favor on Francis. Also coming from the First Stage of early portraiture of St. Francis is a strange painting depicting the Poverello in profile and weeping copiously. It is a generally held opinion that this treasure was produced shortly after the one found at Subiaco which has just been discussed. Tradition informs us that this was the artistic creation of the Lady Giacomo de Settisoli, who was the Roman friend of St. Francis who supplied him with the almond cookies for which he had such a liking, and the one that Francis requested to appear at his bedside when he was dying. It is a typical work of the earliest attempts to delineate the Saint and it lacks the humaneness and amiable characteristics so much a part of him who preached to the birds as well as to the other specimens of God's creation. A further early pictorial representation of the Franciscan founder is to be seen in a manuscript kept at Cambridge University Library. This text is a part of a collection attributed to Alexander Neckham and it is believed to be of early thirteenth century origin. At least one folio of this work is spurious and it is quite evidently an insertion since it has no relation to the rest of the manuscript. In the illustration, St. Francis is shown as having the tonsure. He wears a hood and he is bearded. In his hands he holds a book and on the hands are the marks...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 94-97
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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