24 November 2018


I want all of the pictures in the Summula Pictoria to have a consistent visual language, a signature iconography that very precisely shows their theological meaning. This requires a lot of research and consideration at the start of the project. Over the past two months, I have been working on three problems.

The first is the manner in which I will depict different cultures. I intentionally set most of my religious drawings, whether of the Old Testament or the New, in the material culture of the late Middle Ages, rather than in an archaeological reconstruction or a contemporary setting. (I have explained the reasons here.) However, Biblical scenes sometimes require making distinctions between Hebrews, Canaanites, Egyptians, Sabeans, Syrians, Babylonians, Persians, Indians, Greeks and Romans.

My plan is to take the same medievalist approach to all of these, distinguishing them by their architecture and clothing and weaponry, but without making any direct reference to their actual ancient artifacts.

The second task has been planning the patterns that will appear on clothing and wall hangings in the Summula Pictoria. I certainly have no plans to draw perfunctory floral designs here; there will be a parallel narrative of symbols running through the entire series of drawings, on damask.

The third task has been figuring out how to depict aspects of sacred anthropology. I want specific devices to indicate whether I am drawing a body united to a spirit, a dead body or a disembodied spirit; whether a living body is lapsarian or glorified; whether a dead body is corrupt or incorrupt. I want the haloes to differ for saints of the Old Testament and saints of the New Testament.

In most of the pictures that I plan to draw, this is fairly straightforward. But consideration of the difficult cases has occupied my mind a lot recently. Were Dathan and Abiram still alive in their bodies when Jesus Christ descended to the dead? Were Samson and Solomon among the elect? At the Transfiguration, was Moses in the body or out of it? Researching questions like these has led me to some really surprising and rewarding conclusions.

My desks are littered with many pages of handwritten notes, like these:

I will write more about these matters soon.

23 November 2018


In 2017, I announced the Summula Pictoria, a project that I expect to be my magnum opus, and to which I will devote a large part of the next 13 years: more than 200 ink drawings on calfskin, covering major events in the Old and New Testaments, from the Creation to the deaths of the Apostles. I am ready to start drawing the first of the pictures before the end of this year, far ahead of schedule.

I have spent a lot of the past year on preliminary design work that will allow me to keep the style of the drawings consistent over 13 years. This includes letterforms for inscriptions and banderoles; damask patterns for clothing and wall hangings; tile arrangements, tracery and key patterns for floors and walls and moldings. I will use these in ways that symbolize the sacred events or establish their setting. All of this is tedious and time-consuming, and produces little that is immediately salable, but I consider it very important and am glad to have so much of it finished.

I will begin writing about this design work in greater detail soon.

The first pictures on the schedule are the Scouring of the Temple, the Repentance of Nineveh, Nathan’s Parable, the Hospitality of Abraham, Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, the Martyrdom of Thomas the Apostle, the Crossing of the Red Sea and St. Michael the Archangel. The full list of pictures included in the scope of the Summula Pictoria can be read here; I still need patrons for most of these.