Work of Art Wednesday: Images for Hope and Reflection

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 12:00pm

Listen to music inspired by this imagery selected by the Office of Mission and Ministry at Rockhurst University as you read more about the artist and imagery in the painting.

Francesco Trevisani (born in 1656) was taught to draw by his architect father during childhood in Capo d’Istria (a town near Trieste that is now part of present-day Slovenia). At age 12, he was sent to Venice, Italy, to begin an artist’s apprenticeship where he studied under two different painters — each with distinct style and talent. At the age of 22, he left for Rome, married and set up his studio. One of the artist’s early patrons was Cardinal Flavio Chigi, the nephew of Pope Alexander VII (1631-93) for whom he completed altarpieces in Rome and outside the city. He later became the official “painter-in-residence” of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740) who featured the artist’s work in public exhibitions and encouraged him to take commissions from other patrons which included King Philip V of Spain, King James II of England and other prominent clergymen and noblemen of Europe. Trevisani died at the age of 91 in Rome.

This small painting was executed on a sheet of copper — artists used metal sheets as substrates for paintings for varied reasons. A copper plate not only improves the durability of a painting, by providing a more sturdy surface than canvas and one that won’t crack or tear. It allows an artist to use less paint, and requires less preparation than painting on canvas (as canvas required layers of gesso and glue sizing). Artists used copper plates to better incorporate miniscule detail as the smooth metal surface allows for delicate addition of tiny brushwork lines and microscopic dots of paint.

Trevisani incorporated pastel colors in this work (which relates to the 18th century Rococo style) to enhance the figures depicted. Here, St. Liborius, interfaces with the Virgin Mary and Christ Child. Liborius is identified by several symbolic objects that the three chubby cherubs (putti) display. One of the objects held by the putti on the left is a staff or crosier (bachus pastoralis) that is bestowed to a bishop at the time of his consecration and symbolizes the role of bishop as a ‘shepherd’ of his flock. The seated putti holds a miter or traditional bishop’s hat. A book upon which several small stones (which are human gallstones!) is held by the putti next to Liborius.

Liborius was the second Bishop of Le Mans and lived in the 4th century in the Gaul region. He is said to have died in the arms of his good friend, Martin of Tours (a fellow Bishop) and is therefore looked to as the patron of a good death. He was buried in the Basilica in Le Mans, but later his relics were transferred to Paderborn Germany in the 9th century. His popularity as a saint rose in the 17th century in Europe in areas where drinking water contained a high limestone or mineral deposit. The ingestion of calcium and magnesium causes gallstones. The first miraculous cure from gallstones occurred in 1267 when Archbishop Werner von Eppstein visited the saint’s shrine in Germany. People have since prayed to St. Liborius for relief from this ailment. He is venerated today as the patron of peace and understanding among people as well as those seeking relief from gallstones, fever or colic. The feast day for St. Liborius is July 23.

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