The Franklin Institute has been hosting the Vatican Splendors exhibit for the last few months and I was finally able to check it out this weekend! Included throughout 11 galleries are more than 200 pieces of Church history.
I will be honest that I wasn't super psyched by the majority of what I saw, but I did enjoy a few gems that they thought to include.
First up on the docket is this replica of a tomb decoration. Wanna take a guess as to what it's depicting?
If you said the Magi, you get a cookie! Indeed, this is an image depicting the 3 Kings delivering their gifts to the Child Jesus who sits on His Mother's Lap, offering what appears to be a wreath. Given the fact that this was used in tomb decoration (and a wreath, even back then, symbolized eternal life and glorification), it's not surprising that the Child Jesus would offer this Gift to His servants.
Anyway, the fact that this artifact exists dispels the notion that the tradition of the Magi is a modern invention.
The next piece is depicting St. Peter's crucifixion. The detail is pretty stunning:
Those are two small children (and a collared dog) watching the crucifixion unfold! Granted, that would have certainly happened given the public spectacle of it all, but it made me so sad to think of the violence we still subject our children to (even though it seems more sanitized these days).
After making my way through the early tomb art, I found myself surrounded by reliquaries. This part was pretty epic because I got to one of the most intricate reliquaries I'd ever seen before, and it belongs to St. Teresa of Avila:
Wow, right? And my stupid iPhone does it very little justice. I believe it is made of bronze, gold, and enamel. It's just magnificent, is it not? The one for St. Hildegard wasn't nearly as pretty, but it was definitely just as ornate and certainly made with more gold than St. Teresa's:
There was also a cope that belonged to St. Charles Borromeo:
There was a large portion of the exhibit dedicated to explaining the architectural changes St. Peter's Basilica went through under various popes (which was interesting). I didn't take too many photos of that stuff because for as interesting as the tug-of-war was between the brilliant minds of Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini, I didn't find the actual trinkets of building materials / tools to be much to look at.
That being said, I did find some gorgeous paintings to share with you!
I was excited to find this one because I had just done some research into another similarly dressed painting by a Flemish painter by the name of Jan the Elder (hat tip to Dymphna for sharing the original!).
What's interesting about these paintings is that they were many times collaborations between artists. One who specialized in nature would paint the garland while one who specialized in figures would paint the interior scene (or vice versa). I thought that was a pretty cool concept given that most painters prefer to have their work solely their own.
Anyhow, this one was painted by Daniel Seghers and it depicts the vision of St. Philip Neri.
This next one is just too magnificent for words. It's my 2nd favorite painting in the entire exhibit and I'm still left a bit heady from it!
It's a Resurrection piece, but instead of depicting Christ as the confident victor over death, it portrays God the Father coming down to His Son and helping Him up. If you notice, Christ's Body is pallid and still encumbered by death. His eyes are still closed and He leans against His Father, having no power to move on His own.
But in truth, there is a very deep theological truth here. Jesus certainly has His own power over death, but His power lies in His complete and total trust in the Power and Plan of His Father. God, in turn, repays that trust with His Divine Strength.
And the way this artist chose to paint the Father... almost as a mountain! His cloak billows behind Him, making Him appear twice as large and the alb is brown like the land. It's all just so incredible. It's such a tender, loving moment between Father and Son that even the Holy Spirit (always present) takes a backseat.
Anyhow, I'll leave you with that for now. I took well over 200 pictures, though, so expect one or two more of these before I'm through!
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