Art Guide - January 2019

Columban - Catholic Calendar Art Guide - January 2019  

St Agnes (chromolitho), Sarto, Andrea del (1486-1530)(after)

The Florentine artist Andrea del Sarto achieved considerable renown in his native city and throughout Tuscany. A contemporary of Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo his work reveals the influence of these great masters. However, Andrea’s works express a sensitivity to the expressive power of colour which distinguishes his art at this time. The reproduction of St Agnes is based on a painting by Andrea. This reproductive technique known as chromolithography became popular in the nineteenth century. Prints after famous paintings could be mass-produced to allow art-lovers to collect hand-coloured copies of favourites paintings. The half-length image of St. Agnes comes from a multi-panelled altarpiece in the Duomo of Pisa. Agnes was believed to have been martyred in the fourth century. Her legend recalls how Agnes refusing to make sacrifices to the pagan goddess Vesta was arrested. Despite attempts to drag her nude to a brothel she was miraculously protected from these and other torments. Eventually, she died after a dagger was plunged into her throat. She appears here with her attributes: the palm branch symbol of her martyrdom and the lamb a charming word-play on her name in Latin and Greek. Agnè in Greek means pure or chaste, while in Latin agnus is the word for lamb. Both symbols attest to Agnes’s resolute commitment to the Christian faith. Agnes was said to have appeared to her parents after her death flanked by a lamb.

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