LECTURE: Dr. Lynn Orr, Ph.D. – September 28, 2019


Hi, everyone, welcome. I just wanted to make a quick announcement
about live captioning. It’s a fairly recent accessibility device
that we’ve started offering, or it’s not a device, it’s a resource. So if you have a phone or personal device,
you can access it by going to pam.to/captions. So that’s pam.to/captions. And you can follow along with live captioning
to our speaker’s lecture. And additionally, if you would like any assistive
listening devices, we do have them in the back. So that’s also a resource that’s available. Thank you. Good afternoon. I’m Dawson Carr, the Janet and Richard Geary
Curator of European Art. And it’s my pleasure to welcome you to this
afternoon’s lecture on Georges de La Tour’s “Magdalene with the smoking flame” and extraordinary
loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for our Masterworks Portland series. As most of you know, this series of exhibitions
concentrates on a single outstanding work of art. And part of… it is to allow you to spend
time with one work of art in the galleries. And another part is our lecture this afternoon. That will take an in-depth look at the painting. Before we begin, I’d like to thank the people
whose generosity made the exhibition possible, most especially the European and American
art Council of the Portland Art Museum, Bill and Helen Jo Whitsell, and flowery Marilyn
and Max Podemski and memory of Evelyn Ross, and Dee Poth, as well as the exhibition series
sponsors. Our speaker this afternoon is Dr. Lynn or
who is the director of the History Museum of Hood River County. Lynn has been there for four years now and
she has greatly enlivened the program of the museum. At the moment, their exhibition is “Water
Sports in the Gorge” that highlights the sports enthusiasts who use the winds and the strong
currents of the Columbia for windsurfing, kite surfing, kite boarding, sup, stand up,
paddleboarding that is, and now Hydra foiling. It’s on through the end of the year. Before Lynn moved to Hood River four years
ago for love. She was for 30 years, the curator of European
Art for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She is a specialist in the art of Caravaggio
and his followers. Her dissertation at the University of California,
Riverside, a real powerhouse department, was on Caravaggio and the antique. Naturally, we all don’t… just to get to
work in our area of specialization in art museums, and she’s done a number of really
wonderful things over the years, some of which I know you will remember from traveling down
to San Francisco to see them. “The cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde,
1860-1900”, in 2012, “Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power”, 2011. And, most episodely, for our lecture this
afternoon “Masters of Light: Dutch Painters in Utrecht” during the course Golden Age back
in 1997. I also want to mention her most recent publication,
a really beautiful book, “Art Deco: 50 Works of Art”, you should know it was published
by Presto in 2015. Lynn and I have known each other for more
years than we would care to numerate. She’s been a marvelous colleague and friend
for a very long time. And it gives me particular pleasure to introduce
her to you this afternoon. Will you please join me in welcoming her to
the podium. Well, it’s such a pleasure to be here. Thank you, Dawson for that introduction. We met in 1990. So we’ve been colleagues and friends for a
long time. And how exciting to be here to delve into
a subject that I love tremendously, and that I feel passionately about. And first of all, I just want to tell you
how marvelous it is to be a curator to actually work with works of art, and to be able to
share what gives us joy, this passion for the real thing, not what you see on your phone
or your computer. But standing up really close as close as the
guards will let you to the pictures themselves because they have a physical quality to them
that they can share with you. And that is never been more apparent than
in this work by Georges de La Tour. Can we have the light on me down just a little
bit because it is washing up a screen? Is that possible, Josh? Yeah, that’s… how is that? Is that better for you guys. So Dawson has lectured eloquently about this
painting by Georges de La Tour of “The Magdalen with the smoking flame”, and put the painting
in context of the artists working at his time. And what Dawson asked me to do is range a
little farther. So I’m going to talk about the iconography
of Mary Magdalene, how she came to be perceived as the sinner, the repentant tour. And how Georges de La Tour really imagines
her and conveys through his style, his marvelous technique of handling paint and glazes to
create an image that speaks to us across the ages and across cultures. So here we have this painting, and we’ll go
on immediately and get rid of the text. So you’re just looking at the picture itself,
and Georges de La Tour lived in a really tumultuous time. It was a time of the 30 Years War between
France and the Habsburgs in Germany, the pinchment and cringement of Spanish Habsburgs as well. And it was also a time of the discovery of
many scientific facts. And people were beginning to look at the world
not just as a reflection of what the Bible said of what the church said, what the other
religions said about the physical world, but really beginning to investigate the physical
world for its own sake. And that is really an important quality and
movement within the context of 17th century art. Georges de La Tour also lived at a time when
artists were beginning to break out of the idea that they were simply craftsmen. They were artists and controlled by the guilds
like the Saddlers’ Guild, the Goldsmiths’ Guild, but that were really creative forces
in their own right and worthy of having for instance, in France in 1648, the French Academy,
the Academy of Art of painting and sculpture was formed. So this is a really interesting time of changes. The counter reformation Catholic Church also
is desperately trying to reestablish its control over the European culture and citizens. So many things are going on at this time. And Mary Magdalen is a topic of great interest
and fascination, both for people who were preaching, but also for artists. And when you look at this painting called
“The Magdalen with the smoking flame”, and of course, these names are names that we have
put on them, in the 20th century, 19th century to differentiate this Mary Magdalene from
other versions. In the time they were done, they would have
just been called Mary Magdalene, pure and simple. But as you look at this image, it is so powerful. And we’re going to talk I’m going to talk
today about the choices, the stylistic, the composition of choices, the color choices
that Georges de La Tour made, as he created his impression, his interpretation of what
Mary Magdalene sing… signified to him. And as you look at it, you can see that the
figure takes up literally half of the composition. And if you’ve been upstairs to see the picture
already, you’ll realize this is a relatively large painting, it’s about four feet by three
feet, she takes up almost half of the composition herself. And then about half of the composition is
relatively dark and in shadow. And we are mesmerized by the center of light
and luminosity and color intensity by this oil lamp with its flame. Also notice how quiet it is. And that isn’t just by chance. And we’ll talk a little bit later about the
sense of geometry and calm. And all of the parallel lines that are emphasized
in this picture. She is mesmerizing by the unshielded flame,
and so are we. And it’s only through the most amazing control
of composition and color that the artist is really able to draw you into his space, as
opposed to coming out into our space, that was typical of many Baroque artists of the
time. Georges de La Tour must have been captivated
by the topic. And or he found numerous collectors who were
interested in purchasing variations of the topic. There are five autographed versions that are
known. These are just a selection, three variations
known from contemporary copies such as the one here and then one engraving. So this was a topic that had resonance with
his collectors with the time and with the artist himself. So who was Mary Magdalene? This is a really interesting story. And I’m going to go through centuries of scripture,
embroideries, changes, conglomerations to create a composite figure that was recognized
as being Mary Magdalene in the 17th century. So the first mention in the Bible of Mary
Magdalene was in Matthew 27 chapter two, I’m sorry, chapter 27, verse 56. And the narrator is commenting about women
gathered at the foot of the cross. And I’m just gonna read to you a couple sentences
from this verse of Matthew. “There were also many women there who had
followed Jesus from Galilee ministering to him. Among them, there were Mary Magdalene, and
Mary, the Mother of James and Joseph, and the Mother of the Sons of Zebedee.” Goes on a little bit farther in chapter 28,
Mary Magdalene, and the other Marys went to see the sepulcher. So this is the beginning of the story of Mary
Magdalene. Then one of the next mentions of Mary Magdalene
is at the dinner at the house of one the Pharisees. And so here I show you a painting by Moretto
da Brescia. And chapter seven, in Luke says, a woman of
the city who was a sinner, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him
at his feet, weeping. She wept, she wept on his feet, she dampened
them with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet, and
anointed them with ointment. And the Pharisee said to someone sitting close
to him: “If this man was a Prophet, he would have known what sort of woman this is who
is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And then Jesus talks about the repayment and
forgive forgiveness of debts. And he likens the forgiveness of a big monetary
debt to the forgiveness of a large or significant sin. And Jesus is quoted as saying: “Her sins which
are many are forgiven, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” So this is really interesting, because nowhere
is Mary Magdalene mentioned, but this is one of the images and personalities of Mary Magdalene
that become embroidered onto what is actually said about Mary Magdalene in the Bible. And as you can tell from this painting that
belongs to the Portland Art Museum, the ongoing jar, the ointment jar of the sinner who anointed
Jesus’s feet, at the dinner at the house of the Pharisee, became an emblem for Mary Magdalene
herself. And other seeing that becomes part of the
composite personality of Mary Magdalene is Mary and Martha. Sorry. And this is Vermeer’s “Christ in the house
of Mary and Martha”. And in Luke it says: “Mary sat at the Lord’s
feet and listened to his teaching. Martha distracted with much serving said in
quotations: “Lord, do you not care that my sister left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!” And Jesus says to Martha: “Martha, Martha,
you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall
not be taken away from her.”” And so in this story of Mary and Martha, who
are the Sisters of Lazarus, you get the idea of Mary and Martha as being the contemplative
and the active minds. Both are significant and worthy, but Mary
becomes the iconic, contemplative person. And this is another time that this story unrelated
to the Magdalene herself, becomes embroidered, added on to the personality of Mary Magdalene. There’s also a long descriptions of Mary Magdalene
as being at the foot of the Cross, at the time of Jesus’s Crucifixion. And in the Bible, it mentions that the women
stayed with Jesus where many of his male followers fled, obviously in fear of persecution. But Mary is, Mary Magdalene then, is another
character of her personality is that she’s steadfast in the face of great danger. And here, these two words are both upstairs
in the gallery. And you can see how vivid vividly colored
Mary Magdalene’s costume is that striking green and red that beautifully contrasts John’s
costume in the lower left hand corner. Now, the personality of Mary Magdalen becomes
further enlarged and described. In around 1260, Jacobus de Voragine publishes
“The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints”. And so what we see here is Mary, the three
Marys going to the tomb of Jesus and I’ve selected works from a variety of time periods,
so that you can see that this is a much loved and recurring subject. And I show you this work by Pellegrino de
Mariani from the early 1400s. Another topic that is part of the narrative
of Mary Magdalene is the “Noli me tangere”, the “Do not touch me” or “Touch me not”, which
is that moment after the resurrection, after Mary goes to the tomb, and it’s not in every
gospel, that Mary is described as going to the tomb first, but in several she is, but
is is is in John, chapter 20, where she is described as being bereft that Jesus is not
in the tomb. And she cries out and Angel answers her. And as she Mary walks away from the tomb,
she sees someone who she thinks is a gardener. And he says: “What is the matter? Why are you troubled?” And she said: “They’ve taken his body away.” And he says: “Mary.” And she recognizes his voice in her name,
and goes to touch him and he says: “Touch me not.” One of the great personalities of Mary Magdalene
is the fact that she became a pennant and, and a recluse. And there’s a wonderful story, again, in “The
Golden Legend”, which are “Readings on the Saints”, where it’s told that Mary, and Martha,
and their brother Lazarus, and several other featured people are persecuted and put in
a boat on the Mediterranean and set adrift in a boat that was unseaworthy by the opponents
and persecutors of the Christians. And miraculously, the boat makes it to the
coast of France, near to Marcee. And there, they disembark and eventually,
Mary goes into solitude, and takes up residence in a cave. And she is desirous of contemplation, and
retirement from the world. And she spent 30 years there. And it’s celebrated to this day, in the Saint
Boom, this beautiful cave that she is believed to have taken refuge in. Now, it’s interesting, and many of the depictions
of Magdalen, she is almost nude, or completely nude covered with hair. And that’s one of the characteristics of her
stay in this cave. And during this time, supposedly, the angels
came and lifted her up into heaven, where she could be fed and nurtured. And I want to show you too early. They’re wonderful, aren’t they? So the one on the left is from the Nuremberg
Chronicles, and you see what it says Mary Magdalene, this illuminated manuscript, illustration
represents not Mary Magdalene, but Mary of Egypt. And again, this is another conflation of these
different Marys from the original gospels of the New Testament, and also from Saints
who come after the time of Christ. And so I show you this same type of iconography. And Mary of Egypt was a young woman who sold
her body for money, she did a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to a kind of an anti pilgrimage
to confront the Christians there. And she was redeemed by John the aptist, and
blessed. And then she took refuge in a cave for numerous
years, and was fed by angels. And so here you can see, the iconography of
Mary of Egypt becomes adhered to the personality of Mary Magdalene. I’ll just show you one more gorgeous example
this by Philippe de Champaigne, very close in date to the works by Georges de La Tour. Gregory the Great was Pope as you can see
from 590-604, and he wrote extensively on Mary Magdalene. And we can thank Gregory for cementing this
conflation of personalities in the figure of the biblical Mary. He relates her sins to the fact she’s a woman,
her sexuality, tempting man, tempting members of the clergy. And he writes a homily in 591 AD, talking
about Mary. And he says the seven sins that were cast
out of her were the seven deadly sins. And he goes on at length, talking very sensually
about the fact she kissed his feet, she rubbed oil, oil that she had used on her own body. And so it’s a very curious description of
this person. And subsequent authors have written that this
was a celibates’ view written for a celibate clergy. And we have to realize that there was this
was a moment in the church where the church was really working hard to semantics hierarchy,
to cement its position in the world of religions, to adopt something of the patriarchal structure
of Judaism. And so there were many reasons that it was
thought proper necessary for the survival of the administration of the church, to keep
women in subservient roles, you to prosper, and to grow, it was thought that all male
church hierarchy was required to administrate the growing organization itself, to administer
the sacraments, and to preach amongst the people and the believers. So this lower status for women is something
that we read in much of the literature of the time, but it wasn’t not surprisingly,
and embraced by everyone. And I want to just bring in Christine de Pizan,
she was an Italian woman who was moved by her family to Paris when she was just a child. And she became one of the first humanist feminists. And she was one of the first women that we
know of, who made a living on her writing skills. And she wrote a number of books and texts,
and one of them is the book of the city of the ladies. And you can see here, it’s very beautifully
illustrated. So she had illuminaters and painters and scribes
work with her. 30 copies of this text are known today. And I’ll show you illustrations from a copy
that belonged to Jean du Berry, the Duke of Burgundy. And this book was published in 1405. And what it is, it’s a conversation between
Christine and reason, and justice, and rectitude. And these three spirits, say to her, build
a city for famous women, for virtuous women. And that is what this book is about. And here you can see them building the town. And here you can see it says: “This book belongs
to the Duke du Berry”, and look at one of the other illustrations who’s being welcomed
into this human made town, but the Virgin Mary herself and who is accompanying her with
her jar of ointment, but the Mary Magdalene. So these stories were a rich source of creativity
in literature and art as well. And oh, here’s a better detail and here is
the Magdalen. Closer to Georges de La Tour’s time, there
was another great discussion about who Mary Magdalen actually was. And Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples was a cleric,
a writer, and an important philosopher. And he got drawn into a conversation and controversy
about the identity of Mary Magdalen, around 1510 to 1518. And he had taught at the University of Padua,
he had traveled widely, he was a correspondent of Marcio, Piccino, Giovanni, Piccolo, da
Mirandela, these are great names in humanist learning. And as I said, as part of the debate was,
who was Mary Magdalen, actually, and in this project Lefevre have was going to go back
and look at the actual texts of the Bible itself. And again, in the spirit of scientific investigation,
humanness learning, and not accepting everything that you have been taught, but going back
and studying it, he becomes embroiled in my discussion of who Mary Magdalene was. And what did the Bible actually say, and this
was, this whole conversation was prompted by the visit of the French Queen Mother, Louise
the Savoy to Saint Boob you know, the Holy Cave where Mary Magdalene supposedly spent
30 years close to Marcee. And that was in 1516. And she asked her advisor, please, you know,
write, write, write something on the life of Mary Magdalene. And her advisor was Francois Demoulins, who
actually had been one of Lefevre students. And what they set out to do was examine critically
the gospel narratives and any spurious traditions. And Francois Demoulins realized: “Oh, this
doesn’t look very good for the true identity of Mary Magdalene.” So he called Lefevre or he sent correspondence
to Lefevre and said: “Please, help.” And so Lefevre took it on. And he disassembled Mary Magdalene, down to
the original citations in the gospels, and not surprisingly, he was censored for that. And he was told by the Papacy in 1519, you
must not discuss this any further. But there were people across Europe that got
involved in this conversation, from myths from John Fisher even the chancellor of Cambridge. And so these people began to realize there’s
something wrong here. But in the wake, and the tumbled of the reformation,
sorry, the counter reformation, the Protestant Reformation, these ideas were put aside as
being dangerous to the faith of the people in the Catholic in the Christian church. So it was really not until or in 1627, another
treatise on Mary Magdalene was published, and that was by Cardinal Pierre de Berulee. Bebrulee, sorry. And he talks more about Mary Magdalene, as
being the great symbol of penance, contemplation, and this resonated with the counter reformation
of the Catholic Church. Because you may remember, in opposition to
the reformation, the Catholic Church really bore down on the ideas of the sacraments of
the cult of the saints, and Mary Magdalene being a symbol of penance. One of the great sacraments was really seem
to be an important element in this counter reformation doctrine. I just want to show you here though the frontes
piece of Berulee’s treatise on Mary Magdalene shows her as the penitent with the underwent
jar, the skull, the cross. So these are symbols that we have begun to
recognize. So Mary Magdalene’s composite personality
really main remains intact for the wider Catholic Church and for the parishioners. However, sorry, an unusual series of modern
events have really made Mary Magdalene the subject of extensive discussion and erudition. In 1896 a book, an apocryphal book, on papyrus
was purchased in Cairo, given the name the gospel of Mary. And this is a gospel, not one of this codified
sanction gospels in the New Testament of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but gospel in the sense
that it’s an ancient texts that talks about the life and teachings of Jesus, and it was
written in a Coptic dialect. And in 1938, it was published in a modern
edition and I just show you one of the pages from this, and then a modern book that recreates
and republishes the entire surviving gospel. But then, in 1949, a cache of papyrus codices
was discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Can I show you a map there of where it was,
there were 52 different treatises in 13 leather bound papyrus codices, they had been sealed
in a jar, and discovered then, in 1945, and bit by bit, they reached out into the world
of book collectors and museums. One of the treatises published in it was Plato’s
“Republic”. So this was a compendium of different types
of information and early treatises on the world. And one of them was another imperfect partial
copy of the gospel of Mary. And so what that did is it validated the authenticity
of the first fragments that had been found, and come to market in 1896. And these are thought to be gnostic texts
that GNOSTIC agnosticism was the great variety of beliefs that were held by the various communities
across the ancient world systems of different different interpretations of Jewish, Christian,
and other teachings of the first and second centuries. Scholars in general disagree which Mary that
the gospel of Mary was talking about, but because it mentions the fact that she was
the, the Mary was the first witness of the risen Jesus, many people believe it is the
gospel of Mary Magdalene. And so this is further emphasis on the importance
of Mary, in the followers of Jesus. And she was given the title of the Apostle
to the Apostles, because in the garden, Jesus said, said: “Go and tell the others that I
have risen.” And so that gives Mary a very high ranking
amongst the, the closest intimates of Christ. When we all also have to realize that in the
early years of the Christian faith, there were not printed books, there were few manuscripts
where the texts were written down, they were very expensive, very arduous to make. Most people did not read or even have access
to these few texts. So the teachings were different, slightly
different variations in different communities, because different people were speaking these
traditions. And as you know, from the theme of the phone
conversation, ideas change suddenly. Or, importantly, as ideas are exchanged from
one person to the next. Another interesting thing is that in 1969,
the Papacy submitted to the Catholic Church, a document that said, we have gone back and
examined the Bible. And we have cleared up some misconceptions. And one of the misconceptions was about the
identity of Mary Magdalene. And so quietly, she was redefined. And her feast day, was demoted from a duplex,
which is like the most elaborate celebration within the Catholic ceremonies. And she would just became a personality. But I should tell you in 2016, Pope Francis
reestablished her ceremony as a duplex as one of the most favored and premier Saints
among the Christian, the Christian Catholic Church. In the late 20th century, in the beginning
of the 21st century, there’s been huge amount of conversation and writings about Mary Magdalene
and her role in the church. And she became a symbol of women’s status. And I don’t mean and don’t want here to refight,
litigate or settle the issue of the universal tension between women and men, between the
male and female experience. But I think we can all agree and acknowledge
that these tensions do exist, and are a universal, recurring, omnipresent issue of human society. I personally believe in the concept of Yin
and Yang with mutually complimentary reliance. So how does all this relate to Georges de
La Tour? Now we get down to it. So here’s our painting again. Marvelous, draws you in. Its magnetic. It’s quiet. It’s forceful. And it is so much a unique piece of art. Here I show you a map of France. And so it shows here’s Lorraine. And you can see it has all of these different
countries peoples around it. And here is nasi. And there’s Metz. And here is a close up from about 16, 1600. And here is Vic-sur-Seille where Georges de
La Tour was born. Here’s Luneville where his wife’s family was
from where he moved. And then Nancey is here. So you have this triangle. And then Metz, Verdun. And Toul, where the Archbishop Rick’s of the,
of the area. And so this was a very complicated center
politically, and religiously. Here is a drawing very beautiful by Israel,
so vast of the town of Vic and Vic-sur-Seille. And you can see it’s a very beautiful town,
many church spires, not surprisingly. And so this is where Georges de La Tour was
born. He worked in Vic, he established his studio
in 1620. And then, just prior to that, in 1617, he
had married Diane Le Nerf, who was a member of a wealthy family in Luneville. And everything is complicated and interesting,
because there were many artists of this time from Vic from Luneville from Nancy and Georges
de La Tour was surely apprentice to one of them. One of the great questions about Georges de
La Tour his career is whether or not he went to Italy, which so many artists from this
region wind, and scholars have spent a lot of time supporting it or rejecting this idea. There’s no documentation of Georges de La
Tour in Italy, but his art really reflects the art of Caravaggio, and other artists who
had been to Rome to see the art of Caravaggio, and then had filtered back to their homes
in Northern Europe. But there were so many examples of the Carver
just saw style, that it’s not necessary that Georges de La Tour himself went to, to Italy
to see the innovations, which by 1630, we’re beginning to become old fashioned themselves
because Caravaggio was active in Rome, around 1600 to about 1605. Georges de La Tour established a number of
important wealthy patrons and connections. Surely significant was the fact that in 1632,
the French King Louie the 13th stayed in Vic with another painter who Georges de La Tour
surely new for several weeks, and surely, Georges de La Tour would have met him there,
or later, when George de La Tour traveled to Paris, and became a painter, supplying
painters to Cardinal Richelieu. By 1639, Georges de La Tour was using the
titled painter in ordinary to the King, meaning that he had the support and patronage of Louie
13th. In 1639, oh, let me just he also worked in
Nancy and here is a wonderful print of the Dukal Palace in Nancy. And I also want to show you a let me go to
this one first. This is another sylvest work this is, as you
can see a large engraving of the city of Nancy and I’m going to go back to this detail even
though it’s a little fuzzy, and hard to read, because the spires are all numbered in this
print. And in this list, I hope you can make out
the name of countless religious institutions. There were many groups religious groups throughout
Nancy, Luneville, throughout the reign and France that supported women. There were many different orders of pendant
and men penitent women, groups that supported fallen women, prostitutes, and not surprisingly,
they might adopt the name and protection of Mary Magdalene. And so as I have said, Lorraine was in between
these much larger powers. And the king of France wanted to control Lorraine,
in order to keep the troops coming from what we now call Germany, out of French territory. And so there were a series of years, when
there were tremendous battles and destruction and pillage throughout Lorraine, and one of
the greatest artists of the area. Jacques Callot, who lived in Nancy who had
been to Italy and established his profession, and honed his artistry was asked to do paintings
and prints he was primarily a printmakers, of what was happening in Lorraine, and he
created a series called “The miseries and misfortunes of war”. And I show you just one of the details. Now Jacques Callot is an interesting character
in our story. As I mentioned, he was from this region, went
to Italy and then returned, and he was a printmaker, and editor, and I show you this because it
shows the sale of prints small, diminutive prints that he was famous for, in addition
to his more historical looks at contemporary society. And here are two small prints that represent
the Magdalen. He also did prints that represent beggars
and poor people. And I show you this pair from 1622, because
I couldn’t help but throw in the two paintings from the Fine Arts museums of San Francisco,
of an old man and an old woman. And they are really believed to be personifications
of characters from the French comedic stage, and you can just see the old man kind of as
this woman, shouts invectives his direction, but this, this detail also gives you a good
sense of the surface of the paintings and and not wanting to leave out another Georges
de La Tory candidate on the West Coast I show you in the Seattle Art Museum, is a painting
attributed to Georges de La Tour of St. Sebastian tended by Saint Irene, Irene, and here is
a detail of it. And it is thought to be by a close follower,
but not actually by the artist himself. But it’s marvelous to go from a painting like
the LA County Museum, and then go to Seattle and see the other picture so you can compare
in your mind the strengths and weaknesses of each one. So Georges de La Tour’s marvelous painting
of Magdalen is this powerful picture, its composition is controlled, and geometric almost. And this gives it a solidity and a grander,
a classical gravity, that is really important for his subject matter. I just wanted to show it in Paris. And with another closely dated work, I could
have chosen any of dozens, if not hundreds of examples. But I chose this one by Guido Rainey of about
1628 to show you, I think this really underscores the difference between the the two interpretations
of the Magdalen and how the use of color and the line and the lighting can really determine
how you the viewer, appreciate an experienced the work. This is a beautiful picture. But when you look at her almost quizzical
look, the flowing hair, the kind of rhythmic undulations of drapery, and hair has a totally
different mood from the Georges de La Tour. Here, everything is quiet, everything is controlled,
and that is part of its strength. And then the color itself is sonorous and
rich but quiet. It isn’t bold in any way. Here’s a picture, again thought to be a copy,
but this time of Caravaggio of Mary Magdalene in ecstasy, and I wanted to compare, again,
the two interpretations. And I think you can see, without me belaboring
the fact how all of these stylistic choices made very consciously by the artists affect
the way you experience the work. And this, Caravaggio seems so much more dramatic
and emotional, even though the woman isn’t engaged in any movement or voicing any expression
at all. Another work by Georges de La Tour is the
pennant Magdalen of about 1640. And it has a very beautiful mirror in it. But the beauty of the mirror and the reflections,
to my mind detracts from the Magdalen herself. And when you look again, closely at Georges
de La Tour’s, how restrained it is, and notice how our head is turned a little bit inward
away from you, the viewer. And then that very gorgeous single strand
of hair on the bare shoulder suggests only barely the sensuality of the classic interpretation,
the classic personification of Mary Magdalene, as a prostitute. And I just want to spend a couple more minutes
on the picture itself. And I want you to just delve into this marvelous
detail. And I think candle versus oil light allows
the artists to do something much more interesting, much more complex, and much more difficult. And then you have this still life of books
and remember, printing had come along. And so books now we’re much more available. And also to have the Magdalen in conjunction
with the books, it’s suggested a depth of understanding and an end intellect, and how,
almost surreptitiously the crucifix, the Cross is there on the table, and the whip to flagellate
herself, but very understated. This is a moment when books become the subject
of still life paintings, and are the symbol obviously, of learning and the dissemination,
not only of contemporary learning, but of the classics as well. I think that this picture in its realism really
reflects a lot that’s going on at the time. And I’m not suggesting that Georges de La
Tour knew about everything that was going around, going on in the Arts, Letters and
Science of his time. But he did have contacts with an important
collector named Alphonse de Rambervilliers. And Robbie, sorry, Rambervilliers had actually
been a witness at Georges de La Tour’s wedding. So we know there was contact. And this was a person who lived in Vic, who
was an accomplished amateur writer, he was a great collector of books of manuscripts,
and he had a cabinet of curiosities. And that would have contain any number of
things, rocks, telescopes, all kinds of wonderful exotic and scientific things. This is the moment across Europe when the
telescope is turned on the stars. And then this is Galileo great phases of the
moon of 1609 painting, and then also the telescope is flipped around and used as a microscope. And you have this marvelous publication by
hook and have just one of the most wonderful images in the natural philosophy of the time
of this flee. And in Dawson’s lecture, he did this detail
showing a fly sitting on the hurdy gurdy his book next to him. And then also this depiction of a dog. So again, artists, as well as natural philosophers
are looking into the world very closely for its own sake, not for its religious symbolism,
or associations, but for the beauty, the intensity, the intricacy of nature. And one of the theses that came out about
this time was on the laws of refraction. However, this law had been discussed in 1610,
by a Dutch natural philosopher called smell. And so I can see all of these things coming
together in the acute realism of the picture of, of Mary Magdalene. And again, look, look at the complexity, and
the challenge of representing the light going into that glass vessel and being bounced around
very beautifully described. A one more example that I want to share with
you is, is this painting by Georges de La Tour of a newborn child, about 1640. And let me mention that in 1636, Georges de
La Tour’s 10th child was born. And her name was Marie. So Mary, but I want to show you this detail,
because this is one of the first times in the history of art where the newborn child
is created, represented, treated realistically. And if you just look at the quality of her
skin, or his skin could be the, you know, the infant Jesus, this is seems like a secular
subject that can have also a religious interpretation. But look at the machine, and the color, and
that to my eye, and I shared it with one of my friends who is a, a medical doctor, to
my eye represents the very next, caseosa, so I think you pronounce it, which is a material
that is generated on the unborn child skin, before it enters the world, of the living
of oxygen, and a new dry atmosphere. And it is specifically engineered in the body
to protect the newborn child. So in all these many ways, then we see that
Georges de La Tour uses the elements of style to heighten the believability, the message,
the persuasive quality of his paintings. And in the Mary Magdalene, this icon of penance,
you see her meditating, and really reaching for an internal experience focusing on the
flame that suggests the spirit of the human soul, and on the smoke that ascends as if
to God, to heaven and to redemption. How definitely he handles the paint, the composition,
the lighting, have the color to draw you in. And for you to experience the quietude and
the beauty of the realistic world combined with a religious experience. Thank you. So are there any questions? And if I don’t know the answer, somebody in
the audience can Google answer. We have microphones on the sides. So we’ll pass them out. We have a question over here. I beg your pardon? Oh, yes, of course, I should have mentioned
that the skull is she’s meditating on death. So the idea that human life is all in vain
that everybody dies. That idea of vanity and salvation through
penance, and gaining forgiveness through the church. Oh, the painting only came to light in the
1970s and then entered the collection of the LA County Museum. So it doesn’t have a long provenance. Yeah. Thank you. Did La Tour and other painters of the period
create this kind of work with models? Yes, quite frequently. And if you look through the body of Georges
de La Tour’s work, you can say see the same figures, the fame, same faces faces returning
again and again. So yes, very much and, and this model with
a very plane or plane or face over face. With these specific eyes and profile of the
nose, you will see again and again throughout his work. So yes, these artists had special models that
they loved. The question here. You know, looking at the painting, I can’t
help to think how much of the painting her feet and her legs are, and they look in a
really relaxed state. If I’m saying it correctly, yet, you have
the flagellation device. So I’m wondering if he was portraying the
realization, like she’s got it. Like, she’s what? She’s got it, like she’s at the end of her
contemplative life about who Christ was in her life. I mean, why, why, why do you think the legs
take up so much of the pain? Like, What’s he trying to tell us there? What is he trying to tell us there? I think he’s occupying that area of the canvas. Again, everything’s very steel, very regularized. These lines are only just suggested, and then
these block like fingers. So he’s populating his canvas, but leaving
the central part as the focus of attention, and the symbolic meaning of the picture. Thank you. I know, one thing I didn’t mention, and that,
again, is the miraculous treatment of light. And if you look at the way the light comes
through the material, it isn’t just the way the light bounces around and illuminates the
oil, but the way it falls through the different materials as well as onto the different materials. We have a question here. It’s kind of a question comment. And the earlier paintings, they always show
her with her vessel of oil. Is it possible that where the flame is is
representative of that vessel of oil, because it doesn’t seem to appear any place else in
the painting, and the flame coming from that vessel seems symbolic of something? That’s a very interesting point that I hadn’t
thought about. I was looking at it more as an actual source
of light. But wonderful observation. And that’s one of the great things about art
is we all get something from it and can add to the body of knowledge about a work of art. So… Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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