Seven Sacraments of the Holy Roman Church

I recently completed a very exciting project for an old client.

Ten years ago I had painted a mural depicting the power and fall of the Ancient World.My new commission, to be placed at the opposite end of their Entrance Gallery was to present the Christian World, most particularly the power of the Seven Sacraments. As I love church painting, particularly Counter Reformation painting, I was thrilled.

I was instructed by the client to keep the imagry subtle and symbolic. Allegory would have to be called into play.

As a decorative scheme I decided on a Neo- Renaissance,simple one point perspective design, rather typical backdrop, just sans the Blessed Virgin or St. Catherine.I did manage to squeeze in a few figurative touches by introducing gilded images of the Baptist and St. Therese, the clients Christian names being John and Terri. My feeling was to liberate the design from the first mural which was lush with foliage and romantic ruin and painted in low color key. I wanted this mural to be architectural, ordered, and bright with joyous color, reflecting the splendor of the Church.

As I wanted to respect my clients wish for subtlety, at least subtle for me, I chose Floral Allegory to depict the Sacraments.

The first being Baptism and Communion, depicted by St. John’s shell, and wheat and grape for Communion.

I popped in a little Goldfinch as both the wife and I are from New Jersey and that is our state bird, he also happens to have Steelers colors, a family fave.

For Confirmation I chose a jug of oil, it’s sacredness indicated by a Papal seal, a branch of olive indicates it’s contents.

Penance is symbolized by a branch of thorns to indicate the rigors of penance, the lily represents the purity after.

Marriage is simply a pair of golden rings embellished with birthstones.

Holy Orders, a rather abstract concept, was represented by a sprig of ivy, Victorians chose it’s clinging nature to represent fidelity, the sprig is tangled with the Keys of St. Peter, all at the feet of St. John.

Finally, Last Rites was simply represented by a smoking censor.

I did want to squeeze in a symbol of Christ so I chose the finch, so often seen with the Madonna and Child, I love the tale of the red spot being a drop of the Savior’s Blood, the finch’s habit of picking through thorns further adds to it’s symbolism of the Passion. Here he sits at the feet of St. Therese.

I placed decorative details of rose swags, the wife is of Anglo descent, and pretty little urns reminiscent of my beloved Victorian chromolithographs.

Swag detail.

Urn detail, one of a pair.

Overall, I am pleased with the result, so happy to have had such an unorthodox assignment.

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