The color of spirituality - James R. Johnson

This gallery highlights some of the best the world has to offer in Christian art.  What makes this collection unique is the focus on color in Christian art.  Color acts as another voice in the work to compliment the image content.  From the culturally accepted meanings behind color to the indications of status and affluence, the color of a piece speaks to the deep truths the artist wants to communicate.

Rafael’s The Sistine Madonna is a painting focusing on the Madonna holding the Christ child on a cloud. The scene is filled with vibrant color reflecting the vibrancy of the religion. The bright blue of the Madonna reflects the life-giving hope from God. This in combination of the setting in the sky enhances the blue, life-giving theme. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder is a scene of the biblical tower in its glory reaching into the sky. Surrounding the tower in miniature, to demonstrate the scale of the tower, are boats and people. The vastness of the tower, consuming so much space in the work speaks to the gargantuan nature of the undertaking; building a tower to the heavens. The repetition of patterns denotes the order and structure of the project. The red cap of the tower illustrates the spiritual awakening at the advent of the towers work. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
St. Francis in the Desert by Giovanni Bellini is a piece that shows the awe-struck St. Francis taking in the desert landscape. The realistic use of yellows and greens in the Christian piece highlights the nature of both God and the saint. The yellows indicate light and purity, the goal and hope of the saint. It is noteworthy that he is dressed in shades of yellow. The greens represent the freedom from bondage and growth. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
The Adoration of the Magi created by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi shows the throngs arriving to pay homage to the Christ child. The kneeling Magi in purple represents faith and majesty. Here the focus of the image is the kings of men bowing before the Son of God. The people becoming smaller toward the horizon create the illusion of depth in the Bethlehem scene. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son depicts the wayward son returned home and being embraced by his father. The red worn by his father and other patriarchs in the scene continue the theme of being spiritually awakened. But the real story here is the tones of brown in the son and the room. Brown here represents the humility of the son and the connection God has to him and his surroundings. The contrasting use of light and shadow accentuates the stark mood of the returning son. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
In The Benavente Chapel at Medina de Rioseco, Genaro Perez Villaamil tried to capture the grandeur of the past with vivd color and grandness of scale. The focal wall of the painting is covered in gold, a color that denotes love and benevolence. The bourgeois clientele of Villaamil’s time helped to influence this piece in its opulence. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
The painting Christ as the Suffering Redeemer by Andrea Mantegna shows the image of Christ flanked by two kneeling angels ministering to him. They all rest upon a marble table or stand. Christ is seen in a realistic portrayal showing his wounds from the crucifixion. The white drape around his body represents innocence and purity. The metallic radiance of the white drape was an element of the richness of the wearer. The use of white lead in the paints gave the color this metallic sheen. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm Meier, A. (2013) The Colorful Stories of 5 Obsolete Pigments. Retrieved from http://hyperallergic.com/74661/the-colorful-stories-of-5-obsolete-art-pigments/
The Resurrection of Christ with SS. Leonard of Noblac and Lucia by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio and Marco d’Oggiono is focused on these three figures in a triangular shape in composition. The two humans on the ground symmetrically centering the Christ figure in the sky create that triangle configuration. The image also contains a great deal of straight lines creating order and structure. The orange steps on which Christ stands represent strength and endurance. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
Christ in Glory with Saints Celsus, Julian, Marcionilla and Basilissa by Pompeo Batoni shows Christ, floating above the saints, being ministered to by angels. The realism in the painting offsets the religious content with a sense of reality and tangibility. The yellows surrounding Christ illustrate the wisdom of the Godhead and its connection to men. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
In Eugene Delacroix’s Christ on the Sea of Galilee, Delacroix captures a chaotic, violent moment with passion and movement. The swirling of the colors on the canvas adds to the emotion of the piece, almost culminating in a frenzy of panic. The focus of the image is Christ in the boat with his disciples while a storm rages. The blue-green of the sea here represents victory over death. The majority of the painting being taken with this color stands in interesting contrast to the chaos throughout. The Significance of Color in Christian Symbolism. Retrieved from http://www.godweb.org/color.htm
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