Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Morning Madonna

Catherine de'Vigri (Italian artist, 1413-1463) also known as Saint Catherine of Bologna. Mary and Jesus with Fruit

Catherine de'Vigri (1413-1463) was an Italian cloistered nun, & artist. Catherine was born in Bologna, the eldest child of Benvenuta Mammolini and John de’ Vigri, a rich & cultured patrician of Ferrara, a doctor in law & a public lector in Padua, where he carried out diplomatic missions for Nicholas III d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara. With her mother, Catherine moved to Ferrara, when she was about 10 to enter the court of Nicholas III d’Este as lady-in-waiting to Margaret, Nicholas’ illegitimate daughter. Her move coincided with the time that the Marquis was transforming Ferrara into a fine city, summoning artists & scholars from various countries. Because of this emphasis on culture, Catherine was able study music & dancing; she learned to write poetry & literary compositions & to play the viola; she became expert in the arts of miniature-painting & copying; she perfected her knowledge of Latin.

In 1427, when she was 14 years old & after the marriage of Princess Margarita, Catherine decided to leave the court to join a group of young noble women who lived a religious community life. In the convent Catherine served as laundress, dressmaker, breadmaker, & even looked after the animals. Speaking in the third person in her autobiography, she writes that she entered God’s service, “illumined by divine grace... with an upright conscience and great fervour,” attentive to holy prayer by night and by day, striving to acquire all the virtues she saw in others, “not out of envy but the better to please God in whom she had placed all her love.”

She returned to Bologna in 1456, when her superiors & the governors of Bologna requested that she establish & become abbess of a monastery at the Church of Corpus Domini. She went to Bologna with 18 sisters. Catherine served as abbess in Bologna, a position she held until her death at age 49. During her time as abbotess, she was a prolific illustrator of religious scenes, many of which were illuminated. She also devoted time to larger paintings of Jesus, Mary & the saints, & wrote several devotional works as well.

Catherine de'Vigri (Italian artist, 1413-1463) also known as Saint Catherine of Bologna. Fresco painting

In her autobiographical and didactic treatise, The Seven Spiritual Weapons, Catherine offers 7 weapons in the fight against evil: 1. to be careful and diligently strive to do good; 2. to believe that alone we will never be able to do something truly good; 3. to trust in God and, for love of him, never to fear in the battle against evil, either in the world or within ourselves; 4. to meditate often on the events and words of the life of Jesus, and especially on his Passion and his death; 5. to remember that we must die; 6. to focus our minds firmly on memory of the goods of Heaven; 7. to be familiar with Sacred Scripture, always cherishing it in our hearts so that it may give direction to all our thoughts and all our actions.

When she died at the age of 49, Catherine was buried without a coffin. After 18 days of alleged graveside miracles, her incorrupt body was exhumed & relocated to the chapel of the Poor Clares in Bologna, where it remains on display, dressed in her religious habit & seated upright behind glass. Pope Benedict XIII canonized her in 1712. Catherine de Vigri (1413-1463) is now more commonly known as St. Catherine of Bologna, the patron saint of painters. Some of her art & manuscripts survive, including a depiction of St. Ursula from 1456, now in the Galleria Academica in Venice.

Catherine de'Vigri (Italian artist, 1413-1463) also known as Saint Catherine of Bologna. The Incorrupt Body Of Saint Catherine behind glass at The Corpus Domini Church Of Bologna, Italy.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.