30 June 2017

ST. PAUL

ST. PAUL

I drew St. Paul the Apostle on an approximately 4 1/2" × 6 1/4" piece of Egyptian papyrus, using black, red, blue and green calligraphers’ inks applied with metal-tipped dip penss.

My inspiration here was 15th century Italian art. The border is similar to those of manuscripts illuminated in the white-vine style. The halo, like those in paintings by Gentile da Fabriano, resembles a gold platter from Mamluk Egypt, with false Arabic calligraphy (here spelling the words Amen and Alleluia repeatedly.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.

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www.danielmitsui.com

29 June 2017

ST. PETER

ST. PETER

I drew St. Peter the Apostle on an approximately 4 1/2" × 6 1/4" piece of Egyptian papyrus, using black, red, blue and green calligraphers’ inks applied with metal-tipped dip penss.

My inspiration here was 15th century Italian art. The border is similar to those of manuscripts illuminated in the white-vine style. The halo, like those in paintings by Gentile da Fabriano, resembles a gold platter from Mamluk Egypt, with false Arabic calligraphy (here spelling the words Amen and Alleluia repeatedly.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.

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www.danielmitsui.com

28 June 2017

27 June 2017

BLUE VIRGIN & CHILD

BLUE VIRGIN & CHILD

I drew this using dark blue calligraphers’ ink applied with a metal-tipped dip pen. The Bristol board is 4 1/8" wide, cut to a pentagon that is 8 7/8" tall at its higest point.

This drawing was begun as a study for a larger work in the style of Ming art. When developing the concept for that project, I looked to one of the early missionaries to China, the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci. Some time in the very early 17th century, Ricci gifted four European prints to the Chinese publisher Cheng Dayue: one was an engraving by Anthony Wierix reproducing the painting of the Virgin of Antigua in Seville Cathedral. Master Cheng copied these images into his Ink Garden, a model book of illustrations and calligraphy. Ricci saw this as a good opportunity to disseminate lessons in Christian doctrine and morality among the Chinese population.

The Virgin and Child in my drawing are Sinicized, but have the same posture and attributes as the figures in the painting in Seville; the Virgin holds a flower, and the Christ Child a goldfinch. Next to Mary, I drew a roundel with a Chinese ideograph for goodness. This refers to another of Ricci’s efforts in his mission to China, his introduction of the classical mnemonic method expounded by Quintilian to members of the Ming bureaucracy. This is the fourth of four characters used as examples in his treatise; he divides it vertically into two separate characters, one signifying woman, and the other child, and attaches to it the mnemonic image of a young woman holding a child in her arms and playing with him. The resonance of this character with the image of the Blessed Virgin is obvious.

Tien Chu is a transliteration of the Chinese words for Lord of Heaven; this is the title of God used by the missionaries.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.

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www.danielmitsui.com

26 June 2017

JONAH

JONAH

I drew this using a black technical pen and with red and black calligraphers’ ink applied with a metal-tipped dip pen and brushes. There is a gold leaf detail in the bottom corner. The Bristol board is 5 1/2" square.

I have a long fascination with the Native American art of the Pacific Northwest, admiring its artists’ use of cleanly defined forms, horror vacui and pure, limited colors. I have been reluctant to work in this style only because it is still a surviving art form among the peoples who first developed it.

Nonetheless, its visual appeal is so strong that I have made a few experiments in it, hoping to understand its peculiar qualities better and introduce them to my other drawings. I have noticed curious affinities between this art and medieval art, most especially that of Northumbro-Irish manuscript illumination, which uses thick black lines for emphasis, a similar selection of colors, and a bulging calligraphic penstroke. These affinities I have emphasized in this drawing of the Prophet Jonah.

The calligraphed text (which resembles both Insular Majusule and Square Glagolitic scripts) is from the Gospel of St. Matthew: So shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. I consider this passage especially important, as here Jesus Christ Himself establishes the principle of interpreting the events of the Old Testament as symbolic prefigurements.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.

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www.danielmitsui.com

23 June 2017

SACRED HEART

SACRED HEART

When challenged by one of my patrons to create a new image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I determined to reconnect this devotion to its early expressions in the visions of St. Gertrude, and to create an image with the vigor and precision of late medieval art. The 1467 Sanctus Salvator engraving by the Master E.S. is the most obvious artistic influence on the figure of Christ in my drawing.

The Sacred Heart itself, in its oldest depictions, is flat, simple and symmetrical. Later artists gave it more dimension and detail, but without making it accurate anatomically. Their result, I think, is artistically disastrous: something like a dripping strawberry with a tube projecting from its top. Here, I have done the opposite: I started with the shape of a realistic heart, and reduced that to a stylized emblem.

I placed the emblem within a frame shaped as an ogee trefoil intersecting with an equilateral triangle. This is meant to suggest the triple invocations to the Holy Trinity and the triple petitions in the Kyrie Eleison that begin the Litany of the Sacred Heart. The Crown of Thorns fills the entire space beteween the edge of the heart and the frame.

The drawing’s coloration is based somewhat on Italian white vine illumination: everything is either left white, or colored with black ink or very dark shades of blue, green, red or purple ink. Although I did not reference any specific works of Chinese, Persian or Mamluk art while making this drawing, the ornament reveals my growing interest in these. For years, I have both worked in the style of late Gothic art and transposed traditional compositions into foreign styles; my ultimate desire, however, is to integrate these approaches, as I have done here.

The animals that appear in the halo include sea horses, embryonic dogfish in their tendrilous egg cases, platypodes, chameleons, lyrebirds and a pangolin. Here, I further another of my long-term artistic projects: the application of the vision of God in nature (one of the most important principles of medieval art) to contemporary knowledge of nature. As I wrote in 2013:
The temptation, for a modern man, is simply to snicker at the authors of the bestiaries for their zoological naïvety. But they were working with the best knowledge they had, and their being mistaken in the details does not prove that their method of interpretation was fallacious. If we no longer find symbols of Christ in the behavior of pelicans and lions, is it because they are not there, or is it because we have ceased to look for them? Were we to embrace again a theophanic worldview, might not our current knowledge yield even more profound symbols?
In the animals chosen here, I see symbols of universality; they represent all of creation worshipping its God. Chameleons are creatures that seem to contain within themselves all colors, and lyrebirds are creatures that seem to contain within themselves all sounds. Platypodes and pangolins are beasts so peculiar in their anatomy that they resemble animals of every class. Dogfish and sea horses (as their names suggest) are aquatic creatures that resemble terrestrial ones.

The Latin inscription that runs around the perimeter of the drawing is the versicle and response that end the Litany of the Sacred Heart: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our heart like unto Thine. The letters are based on those in 15th century tapestries, and are surrounded by vines.

See this page for more information.

I drew several versions of this image, including one in full color on Japanese washi:

SACRED HEART

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www.danielmitsui.com