Women with a book and a cross

#1
The main attributes of the Visconti-Sforza Popess are a triple-crown tiara, a book and cross. While the tiara has been widely discussed and is an obvious symbol of papacy and the Catholic church, the couple book-and-cross has been less explored.

I want to collect here a few examples, in order to understand what were the most common subjects featuring these two attributes.

Giotto's Allegory of Faith in the Scrovegni Chapel [1300 ca]
This fresco has been widely discussed. Andrea Vitali provides some information I was not aware of:  in her right hand, she grasps a rod with a cross, in her left hand a cartouche where the first affirmations of the Nicene and Constantinople Creed can be read. So the scroll reads something like: “I beleeve in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” (“Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, Factorem cæli et terræ”). Vitali also presents and translates the latin inscription below Giotto's fresco: “Figurata et ierata / presentatur homini, indiscussa manet fides… cuius autem valet tactus / aprobando loyter. Congregavit subiugavit / ydola viriliter, coronatur et fundatur / supra petra firmiter, angelorum et virorum / confortatur numine, mire recta et perfecta…” (Figured - i.e. represented with her canonical symbols - and hieratic, she appears to man, faith stays beyond discussion… and her value lies in the influence coming from evidence provided by logic. She gathered and subdued the idols with much force, is crowned and firmly based on stone, is comforted by the consensus of angels and men, wonderfully just and perfect).


God's Wisdom – Sapientia Domini [12th century]
On the same page, Andrea Vitali mentions another ancient image: The iconographic predecessors of this card [the Popess] are to be found among the personifications of the highest moral and religious virtues, as we can see in the 12th century illuminated initial known as “Sapientia Domini” (Biblia Sacra, Florence, Laurenziana Library, Ms. Mugell, 2 f, 58) which shows the same attributes. The relevance of this image has been first pointed out by Daniela Pagliai. Ross Caldwell and Michael Hurst discuss this important and early image in the postscript and comments to this pre-gebelin post.

Truth – Lyon 1641
s_thomas2.jpg
s_thomas2.jpg (241.77 KiB) Viewed 8697 times
I found this allegory in a frontispiece published by the Victoria University Library, British Columbia, Canada. The description says that the allegory on the right (the one with the globe) represents Erudition and the one on the left (with the book and the cross) represents Truth. It is interesting that the book has something written on it: “Nisi Jesum Chritum et hunc crucifixum”. A quote from 1 Corinthians 2,2 : “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." The frontispiece belongs to a commentary to the works of Saint Thomas.

Theological Virtues, Tuscany XVI Century
fiorentino_XVI.jpg
fiorentino_XVI.jpg (49.36 KiB) Viewed 8698 times
I find this anonymous painting interesting mainly because the virtues present the polygonal halo that we see on ancient Florentine decks (e.g. Charles VI and the Rosenwald sheet). The one on the left with the book and the cross is Faith.

Vermeer - Faith [1670 ca]
vermeer_faith.jpg
vermeer_faith.jpg (125.01 KiB) Viewed 8698 times
A painting by Vermeer which shows how the same attributes could still be used in a composition much more modern in style. The whole painting is here.

Re: Women with a book and a cross

#2
Clares are depicted often enough with a book (again, the PMB "papess" just seems to be a lay Clare with 3-knotted cord - sans the black over-veil - conflated with the theological virtue of Faith by adding the papal crown and ferula: "...during the High Middle Ages, the popes once again began using a staff known as a ferula as insignia to signify temporal power and governance, which included "the power to mete out punishment and impose penances".The actual form of the staffs from this period is not well known, but were likely staffs topped with a knob with single-barred cross on top. The staff was not a liturgical item, and its use was limited to a few extraordinary ceremonial occasions, such as the opening of the Holy Door and the consecration of churches, during which the pope "took hold of the staff to knock on the door three times and to trace the Greek and Latin letters on the floor of the church". Sometimes, the staff also took the form of a triple-barred cross (or papal cross, a symbol of the papacy), but this was rare in contrast to the single-barred cross. Use of the staff was soon again phased out." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_ferula ):
Image
Image

Image

1. Clare by Lippo Memmi, 1325–30 for the church of San Francesco in San Gimignano; 2. From the bascilica in Assisi (couldn't find the artist); 3) Beata Umiltà, Lorenzetti, Florence c.1330.

Comparables from slightly later times:

(early 16th C?) - a Dominican nun-cum-beata in Narni (was an abbess in Ferrara, but from Narni) conflated with the attribute of Faith:
Image

Diego Velázquez. Mother Jerónima de la Fuente. 1620, with both the book and the cross:
Image

Re: Women with a book and a cross

#3
Very thought-provoking topic, Marco. Thanks.

Looking at various Popesses, the only ones with a book and a cross are the PMB and its clone, and even in the PMB (as opposed to the clone) the cross is much less prominent than the book. In the others, the book is always present, and instead of a cross there is sometimes a key, as there will be in the Pope card, if one has survived. For the PMB, it seems to me, what is most relevant is books and crosses before about 1460, and if possible, cross-staffs with books.

In Adolph Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Medieval Art, from Early Christian times to the Thiteenth Century , the index has a category "Attributes" with everything listed from Angels to Vessels. "Cross-staff" is listed with only one entry:
Autun, Bibliotheque Municipale, MS. 19, fol. 173v. Prudentia with cross-staff and book, Fortitude armed, Temperentia with jug and torch, Justicia with balance; all are represented full length.
The text says it is from the 2nd half of the 12th century, representing the intellectual gifts which Solomon praised
"Ego sapientia habito in consilio (Prov. VIII, 8); mea est prudentia, mea est fortitudo (VIII, 14); per me principes imperant et potentes decernunt justitiam (VIII, 16)".
For these verses Douay-Rheims has
[12] I wisdom dwell in counsel...[14] Counsel and equity is mine, prudence is mine, strength is mine. [15] By me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things.
On whether it is Wisdom or Prudence, there is verse 11:
For wisdom is better than all the most precious things: and whatsoever may be desired cannot be compared to it,
(Numquid non sapientia clamitat, et prudentia dat vocem suam?)

And at the start of the chapter:
Doth not wisdom cry aloud, and prudence put forth her voice?
(Numquid non sapientia clamitat, et prudentia dat vocem suam?)
Prudence and wisdom seem to be virtually equivalent.

In Katzenellenbogen's index, the word "Book" has 15 entries, including one, 32ff, with multiple entries. Altogether there are 18, mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries. 12 are with Prudentia, 3 with Sapientia, 1 with Pietas, and 1 "book-casket" with Fides.

"Cross" has five references: Spes, a disc with a cross on it; Humilitas, Caritas, and Concordia with crosses; Fides with a cross and a chalice (at Auxere).

I looked for mentions of scrolls. One is of Prudentia with a scroll. With the rest, several virtues have scrolls, and their function is to inscribe something on them, either a quotation or its name.

Another virtue-series I know is the c. 1350 "Song of the Virtues and Liberal Arts", which would have been in Milan in the 15th century (it was done for Bruzio Visconti, lord of Bologna, who was exiled by Barnabo, lord of Milan; later it appeared in the Visconti-Sforza inventory as owned by a family in Milan one of whose members had been Archbishop). Fides is shown with a tree with various inscriptions on it; Prudentia and Justicia have books, Spes has a scroll next to her, and Caritas holds two scrolls, one in each hand (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=862&p=12631&hilit= ... meo#p12612).

In Giotto's series of virtues, the only one with a book is Prudentia (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/g ... index.html). Fides, of course, has a scroll, with a lengthy bit of writing on it.

In the Cary-Yale, Fides has a cross-staff and a chalice.

My guess would be that the combination cross and book probably emphasizes that it is Christian Prudence that is meant, not pagan or worldly prudence. It is Prudence that thinks rationally about its actions with a view to the teachings of Christ and the Church about the welfare of the soul, not just self-interest or worldly good. It is a Christian version of sense of the chapter in Proverbs quoted above, in which Wisdom says, verse 10:
Accipite disciplinam meam, et non pecuniam; doctrinam magis quam aurum eligite.
And Douay-Rheims:
Receive my instruction, and not money: choose knowledge rather than gold.
It seems to me that "doctrinam" means "teaching" or even "doctrine" (as "doctrinam" is translated elsewhere in Proverbs) rather than "knowledge"; I am not sure about "disciplina"; maybe "discipline".

Thus a book and a cross, to signify the Wisdom-figure of Proverbs 8--a very beautiful chapter, incidentally, well worth re-reading--in a Christian context. I think it is meant to be of feminine gender, judging by the traditional translation of
The chapter as a whole is a poetic speech by personified Wisdom, I think of feminine gender, judging by the traditional translation of Proverbs 1:20; I don't know if it's in the Latin, except for the gender of the noun:
Wisdom preacheth abroad, she uttereth her voice in the streets:
(Sapientia foris praedicat; in plateis dat vocem suam:)
(See also "The Old Testament Wisdom (Chokma)" Biblical World 1897, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3140110?seq=4, p. 4).

Added next day: In the above, for the idea of going to Katzenellenbogen, I am indebted to Ron Decker, The Esoteric Tarot (p. 287, note 7), and also for identifying the card as Prudentia or Wisdom via the book. I have simply given the details and extended his idea to include the cross-staff as well, by relating it to Proverbs 8 as was done in 12th century Autun and probably elsewhere.

Re: Women with a book and a cross

#4
marco wrote: God's Wisdom – Sapientia Domini [12th century]
On the same page, Andrea Vitali mentions another ancient image: The iconographic predecessors of this card [the Popess] are to be found among the personifications of the highest moral and religious virtues, as we can see in the 12th century illuminated initial known as “Sapientia Domini” (Biblia Sacra, Florence, Laurenziana Library, Ms. Mugell, 2 f, 58) which shows the same attributes. The relevance of this image has been first pointed out by Daniela Pagliai. Ross Caldwell and Michael Hurst discuss this important and early image in the postscript and comments to this pre-gebelin post.
I only now noticed that Michael Hurst has published an excellent image of this illumination.

I guess the image is a detail of a larger page containing the beginning of the Ecclesiasticus / Sirach:

"All wisdom is from the Lord God, and hath been always with him, and is before all time."

Omnis sapientia a Domino Deo est: et cum illo fuit semper, et est ante aevum.
sap3.jpg
sap3.jpg (79.49 KiB) Viewed 8612 times

Re: Women with a book and a cross

#5
Another possible influence on the iconography of the Papess is the Annunciation festa performed in the San Felice in Piazza in 1439, as described by the eye-witness, the Russian diplomat Abraham, Bishop of Suzdal, who attended the Council of Florence in 1439; he describes the Virgin Mary in a domestic space in advance of the acted scene as such:
In this grand and wonderful chair a beautiful young man sat, dressed in sumptuous and wondrous maiden’s garb, a crown on his head and a book in his hand from which he was reading quietly. From this is deduced that he represented the most pure Virgin Mary... (Kristin Phillips-Court, The Perfect Genre: Drama and Painting in Renaissance Italy, 2011: 36)
The sumptuousness is out of keeping with the PMB Papess (who takes on the modest dress of a Poor Clare) but the book and crown attributes are fitting, and the cross is of course missing as the crucifixion is a future event. But why would Mary be crowned in an Annunciation play? I can’t find a pre-1450 Florentine painting that shows her crowned in an Annunciation – that attribute is almost always for her Assumption.

And what kind of crown? As for the meaning of the three crowns on the papal tiara in the context of Papess as “Church/Faith” – I believe they stand for the three levels of heaven, hell (or rather purgatory for those to be eventually saved), and earth represented by the Church Triumphant/Suffering/Militant:
...the Church meditates on the Communion of Saints, which is the charitable link with the faithful who have already reached heaven (Church Triumphant), the faithful departed who are still expiating their sins in Purgatory (Church Suffering) [who were still considered as part of the Church] and of the pilgrim faithful here on earth (Church Militant). "In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1475).
Keep in mind the main thing Cosimo received for Florence from Pope Eugenius during the elaborate consecration rituals of the Florence Cathedral in 1436 was 10 years’ worth of indulgences (reduced time in Purgatory – a concept we hardly even fathom any more, but was central to the Council of Florence debates with the Greek Orthodox).

Phaeded

Re: Women with a book and a cross

#6
Saint Caterina da Siena. Epistole; Orazioni. Venezia, Aldo Manuzio, 1500.
She also wears a kind of triple crown, but very different from a tiara :)

The book reads: "Jesu dolce, Jesu amore", "Sweet Jesus, Beloved Jesus".
cat300.jpg
cat300.jpg (110.7 KiB) Viewed 8586 times

Re: Women with a book and a cross

#7
mikeh wrote: In Adolph Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Medieval Art, from Early Christian times to the Thiteenth Century , the index has a category "Attributes" with everything listed from Angels to Vessels. "Cross-staff" is listed with only one entry:
Autun, Bibliotheque Municipale, MS. 19, fol. 173v. Prudentia with cross-staff and book, Fortitude armed, Temperentia with jug and torch, Justicia with balance; all are represented full length.
Here is an image of this illumination (posted by Huck in another thread):

http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/savimag ... 7005-p.jpg
prudentia.jpg
prudentia.jpg (27.78 KiB) Viewed 8558 times

Re: Women with a book and a cross

#9
Thank you Ross, these new photographs are fantastic! :)
Many great images come from French manuscripts. I wonder if it is because France actually has most of the important works of that kind, or if it is because French institutions are so efficient in making them available on the internet :)
Anyway, these IX century virtues are amazing.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests

cron