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Mary in Western Art by Timothy Verdon (Hudson Hills Press) No one can doubt Mary's importance in the spiritual history of Europe: every European city has at least one grand church dedicated to her, and, from the fifth century to the present, Christian thinkers have devoted considerable space to her in their reflections.

In the visual arts, perhaps not even Christ has had so eminent a role as she. In certain periods images of the Mother indeed outstrip those of her Son both in quantity and in creative originality. The historical identity of Europe's peoples — their self-image across time — in fact seems linked to the ways in which they have venerated, imagined, and depicted Mary.

Prepared with an eye to the cultural evolution now in course in Europe, Mary in Western Art ponders the presence of Mary in art, suggesting the theological, devotional, and social background and seeks to evoke the affective rationale underlying Mary's centuriesmold cultus. Timothy Verdon organizes the rich, visual material according to several methodological principles, using a thematic approach in the first chapter, a biographical one in the second, and in the third offering a concrete historical`example: Mary as a subject in Florentine art. Written from the viewpoint of religious faith, Verdon makes allowance for the fact that many readers may lack direct experience of that individual relationship with Mary which determined how she was represented in art. Verdon's text seeks to clarify the logical and emotional framework within which that relationship made sense without presuming to "explain" individual paintings or sculptures. True works of art, after all, are never mere textual illustrations.

Timothy Verdon, a Yale-trained art historian, has lived in Italy since the 1960s. He became a priest of the Archdiocese of Florence in 1995 and currently directs the diocesan office for catechesis through art. Monsignor Verdon, who is a canon of the Florence Cathedral and member of the board of directors of the Cathedral Museum, has served as Consultant to the Vatican Commission for the Artistic Heritage of the Church and teaches for Stanford University's study program in Florence. A former fellow of the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti, Florence, he is the author of numerous articles and books, in Italian and English, on religious art.

Excerpt: For two thousand years, Christian civilization has been fascinat­ed by the young woman who, to an angel inviting her to become God's mother, said: "Lice ancilla Domini": fquot;Behold the handmaid of the Lord." In poetry and song, in theological reflection as in devotional practice, the faith-community has not only thought about this girl, identifying with her answer, but has made Mary's words its own in order to insistently call attention to her. Espe­cially in the visual arts — in splendid churches, in countless paint­ings, in mosaics, sculptures and stained glass, in works of the goldsmith's craft and in textiles — the Christian West has never ceased to set Mary before believers, as if in its turn saying: "Be-hold the handmaid of the Lord": behold a woman who was free, capable of self-gift, full of joy and open to life.

A work chosen virtually at random can suggest the fecundity of Mary as an iconographical theme: the fresco attributed to Lip­po Memmi in a small monastic church a few kilometers from Siena. The event shown, the Annunciation, entirely fills the chancel wall behind the altar, dominating the building's in­terior, which consists in a single hall without side aisles. The ac-tors in the scene — the Archangel Gabriel and Mary herself — are placed in trompe-l'oeil pavilions "open" each to the other thanks to arches giving on an intermediate space that corresponds to the embrasure of a window in the middle of the wall. The artist, that is, was able to organize the scene around this central architectur­al element, incorporating the window m his composition and above all — in the sense of the event represented, obliging us to see the Angel and the Virgin in the context of light that, from out-side, flows into the chapel above the altar where Mass is said.

It is not hard to grasp the symbolic message herein. At Mary's word of assent — the phrase "Ecce ancilla Domini" which the artist has painted beside her mouth — the Word of God entered the world as light: in the circular frame above the window we in fact see God the Father shedding rays of light on Mary. Lippo Vanni's symbolic vocabulary derives from the New Testament, and specifically from the Gospel of Saint John where Christ is presented as the true light that enlightens every man," made vis­ible when God's "Word became flesh and came to live among us" (John 1:1 — 14). In the fresco, the text borne by the Angel and a book on the lectern beneath Mary's left hand allude to this "Word" of God; the altar below the image, where bread becomes the body of Christ, alludes to the Incarnation; and the window above the altar conveys the fact that the incar­nate Word truly present in the Eucharist is himself illumination: "in Him was life, and that life was the light of men," as the fourth Gospel says (John 1:4).

Read in these terms, the Annunciation at San Leonardo al Lago allows us to make some initial observations that, while perhaps obvious, are so basic to the aims of this hook as to require em­phasis. The first regards the Christological (frame of reference within which images of Mary normally function: at the heart of Marian iconography we always find her Son, even when — as in Lippo Vanni's fresco He is not actually represented. In the same way, every representation of Christ presupposes his mother, since the visibility of the Son derives from the body He took from her.

A second observation regards the function of Marian images in the liturgical settings that generated the greatest part of them, and thus regards churches as places and the church as institution, or — rather as mystery. The eucharistic celebration that pro­duces the Body of Christ, the building in which the celebration takes place and the mysterious communion among believers which it creates, strengthens and renders evident are all realities intimately connected to the woman from whom Christ took his human body: Mary, in whom the faith-community has tradi­tionally contemplated its own life as in a mirror. Images of Mary that, like Lippo Vanni's Annunciation, are associated with a par­ticular place of worship, and specifically with its liturgical space, have something autobiographical about them, communicating in figurative terms the understanding of their own life that Chris­tians have developed in the course of history.

A third observation regards the "language" in which Marian images are often couched, deriving from Scripture but also from poetic topoi of biblical or literary origin developed in the liturgy, in popular devotion and in theological writing. In Vanni's fresco, for example, the Augustinian friars for whom the work was painted would have recognized, in addition to the Gospel termi­nology, references to Christ as "morning star" and "sun of justice" drawn from an antiphon used from the Middle Ages to the pres­ent at Vespers on one of the days leading to Christmas to intro-duce the Song of Mary or Matinificat. And the more learned fri­ars might have grasped, in Mary's placement next to the window, a reference to the medieval theological topos explaining her virginal conception of Christ with the metaphor of glass, which remains intact even when penetrated by light.

Buddhist Art And Architecture Of China by Yuheng Bao, Qing Tian, Letitia Lane (Edwin Mellen Press) A tale has been told that the Chinese sage, Hui Shi, was about to begin a sermon to an assembled congregation when a bird close by began to sing. Master Hui paused until the sweet songster had finished its melody. Then he descended from the pulpit, declaring that the sermon had just been preached. What did he mean? Hopefully, by the time the reader has finished this volume, he will know the answer to that, plus a great deal more about Chinese Buddhism and the marvelous works of art that it has inspired throughout the centuries.

This book has been organized so that a brief biography of Prince Gautama (later the Buddha), is first presented, followed by an explanation of the Four Noble Beliefs, and the Eightfold Path which a Buddhist must follow to reach the Enlightenment, and finally the Nirvana. Then, using an historical chronology that ties philosophic and aesthetic ideas to the development of artistic styles and iconographic symbolism, the gradual change is traced from Indian Buddhism to the less severe form of Chinese Buddhism that is an amalgamation with traditional Daoism.

A large number of examples of Buddhist painting, sculpture and architecture are provided and discussed in detail. There are also a number of colored plates that are used as illustrations as,`for instance, the group of large, painted clay statues in the round, combined with huge painted murals on the walls of a cave temple that create a breath-taking, theater-like reality of Buddha and some of his followers. Or another example might be the images in sculpture and painting of Avalokitesvara or (Guan Yin in Chinese), the Goddess of Mercy, who was gradually feminized in China from the original Indian male God. In the development of Chinese symbolism, the Goddess of Mercy changes from a very realistic, beautiful young woman, whose portrayal is startlingly similar to Murillo's Madonnas, to a "thousand-armed" Goddess that borrows from Indian iconography in expressing her many attributes and areas of concern.

The many detailed descriptions of architecture include the Pagoda (inspired by the Indian Stupa), the stupendous temple caves chiseled out of the cliffs (some of which have been newly discovered), and the wooden and masonry temples built within compounds, with gardens and lawn between them, their roofs resting on pillars rather than walls so that the walls of the great halls can be easily moved to expand the space.

When one contemplates the great age of Chinese civilization, its dissemination of culture and art throughout the world for several millennia, the huge land mass of uncounted archeological art sites, and the staggering population of one billion people in the People's Republic of China, one is greatly surprised to find such paucity of scholarly books on Chinese Art compared to the multitude of books on Western and Near Eastern Art. One of several reasons given for the lack of books during much of the twentieth century was that the knowledge of the regional aspects of Chinese art was not proportionate to the enormous quantity of art objects of historical and archeological interest that had spread the fame of Chinese Art around the world. The great majority of Chinese art objects preserved in private and public collections are of unknown origin, some from clandestine excavations and chance finds, and others from purposely concealed sources.

This interdisciplinary, historical-aesthetic study of Chinese Buddhist Art and Architecture has been expressly written to increase the Western World's knowledge of the Chinese people, their history, religious beliefs, and extensive archeological art sites, some of which have been declared

"Cultural Treasures of the World" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and placed under its protection. Much of the information has been based on the writers' many trips around China, where they had numerous discussions with Chinese scholars and artists who have contributed to the study of Chinese Art, and shared their research results with them. For example, since 1996, Dr. Bao has traveled to China every summer as a visiting scholar to do research on Chinese Art and Culture. During his travels Dr. Bao has visited more than 120 Buddhist temples in 21 provinces, over 100 museums and galleries, and attended over 30 national level conferences. He has collected over 1,600 photos, and enough information to fill ten notebooks. This book is also deeply indebted to Dr. Tian, an internationally known scholar of Buddhist art, for his assistance and his profound knowledge of Chinese Buddhist Fine Art. Music and Architecture, as a director of the Institute of World Religious Art. China's Research Academy of Fine Art, Beijing.

With China's open door policy and economic reforms, there is hope that more opportunities for Western scholars and artists will be offered, and more and more conferences will be organized. In a world that has become a neighborhood within the span of a single lifetime, we all need to realize that the technology that has brought us within such easy reach of one another stands waiting in the wings, urging us to become better acquainted with each other, and to trade our centuries-old policies of war, confrontation and dominance to one of understanding, accommodation, and justice. To that end we hope that this book may make some lasting contribution.

Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity by Madhu Khanna (Inner Traditions International) details all kinds of historical Yantras as revealed in various Vedas (historic Hindu scriptures). Yantras are cosmic machines which directs energies to the human body/mind to attain various psychic states. The author dwells deeply in to the philosophy behind it, which in essence is Hinduism. Understanding the Hindu concept of the world, the cosmos and the human being is the key to unlocking the power of Yantra. A reader who is not exposed to Eastern religious philosophies will find it difficult to comprehend the description of concepts behind the Yantra.

This book has many illustrations of historic Yantras and details of the significance of its geometric drawings. I liked this book for the depth of analysis and the description of underlying concepts. Please note that this is not an instruction work book on Yantras which details about how to make a Yantra, nor does it deal with the practical magic use of yantras as talismans but only a descriptive account.

  • The first comprehensive study of the Indian power symbol that allows the individual to take a journey to the primordial center of life
  • Highly illustrated exploration of every aspect of the yantra, including its related rituals, sounds, and meditation practices
  • Investigates the continued use of the yantra in modern India as a magic talisman
  • First North American Edition
  • 39 color and 134 b&w illustrations

The yantra is both a complex metaphysical symbol and a tool of ritual and meditation. In kundalini yoga, the patterns contained in this metaphysical and geometrical construct correspond to the psychic centers of the subtle body, therefore making the body itself a functioning yantra. In this book, which is the first comprehensive study of the subject, the author provides a step-by-step explanation of the dynamic process wherein the yantra aids the individual in the spiritual journey to return to original wholeness.

Every aspect of this important Indian symbol is explored, from its related sounds, rituals, and use in meditation to its application in traditional temple architecture and sculpture. The author also looks at its continued use in both the "black" and "white" magic traditions of the subcontinent, as well as its power as a talisman.

Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and Modern Art edited by Matthew Baigell and Milly Heyd (Rutgers University Press) The field of Jewish art history continues to expand as historians move beyond chronological, biographical, and iconographical explorations to examine the religious, cultural, political, and social dynamics of Jewish art. Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and Modern Art edited by Matthew Baigell and Milly Heyd is a joint effort by Israeli and American scholars who look to Jewish art as reflecting the different aspects of the Jewish experience. Focusing on nineteenth‑ and twentieth‑ century European, American, and Israeli artists, the contributors delve into the many ways in which Jewish artists have responded to their Jewishness and to the societies in which they lived (or live), and how these factors have influenced their art, their choice of subject matter, and presentation of their work.

The contributors reflect the broad range of contemporary art criticism, with a variety of perspectives by art, cultural, and even literary historians. Among the essays are Donald Kuspit's and Avigdor Poseq's perspectives on Chaim Soutine, Sander Gilman on R. B. Kitaj and the body, Ziva Amishai‑Maisels on the origins of the Jewish Jesus, and Gannit Ankori on the Jewish Venus. By analyzing how Jewish experiences have been depicted and shaped art, the collection begins to answer how art, in turn, depicts and shapes the Jewish experience. Together these essays present the complex identities of Jewish artists and the varieties of complementary and conflicting identities within Jewish and national cultures.

Matthew Baigell is a professor in the department of art history at Rutgers University. He is the author of many books, including Jewish American Artists and the Holocaust (Rutgers University Press). Milly Heyd teaches in the department of art history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A specialist in modem art and modem Jewish art, she is the author of Mutual Reflections: Jews and Blacks in American Art (Rutgers University Press).

PRE-COLUMBIAN ART AND THE POST-COLUMBIAN WORLD: Ancient American Sources of Modern Art by Barbara Braun (311 illustrations, 97 in full color, 340 pages) provided the most detailed account of the influence of pre-Colombian art upon modern artists reinvention of esthetic form.. Much attention had been given to the connection between modern art and indigenous African forms, while pre-Columbian sources of modern art had been largely under explored until the appearance of this book in 1993. Correcting this lapse, Barbara Braun offers an in-depth look at Paul Gauguin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Diego Rivera, Henry Moore, and Joaquin Torres Garcia and the pre-Columbian forms that provided inspiration for their art, dramatizing the often surprising comparisons in over 300 striking illustrations. Together with a survey of more recent artists who continue to be indebted to ancient American forms and ideas, this study rounds out the pre-Columbian influence on many major artists.

A Journey into Christian Art by Helen de Borchgrave (Fortress) achieves a balance between text and picture that opens possibilities for recognizing major Christian themes in European art. Searching always for the spiritual connection that inspired their work, de Borchgrave's A Journey into Christian Art shows us how Christian artists through the ages strove in mosaic, paint, and stone "to enrich the mind, touch the heart, and feed the soul." opens the doors of perception and feeds the imagination. “Life is in danger of death in our contemporary culture of facts and figures. Where time is money, speed drives us, and noise blocks out the inner voice. This book has been written in the hope that it will stir the imagination, encourage contemplation, and stimulate wonder and praise to 'ponder anew all the Almighty can do.'”

For all who want to broaden and deepen their appreciation of religious art, this superlative volume offers:
—Over 100 marvelous color reproductions of some of the world’s greatest paintings
—The story of 2000 years of Christian art—from early wall-paintings to modern works by living artists
—Explorations into the lives of more than fifty of the world's greatest artists
—intriguing insights into the piety of the artists and how it informed and shaped their work
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