Artibus et Historiae no. 4 (II)

1981, ISSN 0391-9064

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MARCO LATTANZII - The Altar Painting of San Giovanni Crisostomo by Giovanni Bellini; the Subject, Sponsoring and Meaning

On the basis of archival sources, the author manages to weigh the evidence as to the intention of the sponsor of the painting and in this way to identify more precisely the saints represented. This enables us to get at the scheme of ideas behind the painting i.e. the contrast between active and contemplative life. In fact the figure of S. Jerome stands for the priority given to the mystical encounter with the divine occurring in ascetic dimensions. That is why the saint is elevated and clearly detached from the area with S. Christopher and St. Louis, saints who symbolize two complementary ways of searching for the divine through the active life. At the same time the overall harmonizing, unified pyramid structure show how these forms of spirituality are brought together, albeit in a precise hierarchy in the Mystical Body of the Church. The question posed by the verse from a psalm, running along the inner side of the arch represented in the picture, is given a reassuring answer, bringing together both terms of the dichotomy.

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