Art exhibitions with Catholic content are a rare treasure. There is one that just closed in the St. James’s area of London – once the site of a church-run hospital for lepers and then the city’s most aristocratic neighborhood. The world’s oldest private gallery, Colnaghi, showed Discovering Viceregal Latin American Treasures, and almost everything in the exhibition is of religious significance, some of it mysterious to modern eyes.
Amid the well-known images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Michael vanquishing Satan, and elaborate crucifixions is a painting of St. Ildephonsus having a gold and gemstone-encrusted chasuble forced onto him.
Although this 17th-century Peruvian painting on copper is small, there is a lot of detail. This Spanish saint was extremely popular in Spain and then Latin America but is largely forgotten elsewhere. His claim to fame is advocacy of the “Virgin Mary” rather than simply “Our Lady.” It was an important Counter-Reformation message in the New World. No doubt the lavishness of the vestment would have impressed the people of Latin America. The magnificently attired Mary, on a delightful cloud-borne throne, also embodies the love of God’s precious natural gifts that characterizes Hispanic sacred art. The most curious element in the painting is the drably dressed figure on the right. Could he be a Protestant reformer? The message of him dancing out of the frame might never be known.
The virtual Museum of the Cross
The Museum of the Cross, the first institution dedicated to the diversity of the most powerful and far-reaching symbol in history. After 10 years of preparation, the museum was almost ready to open; then came COVID-19. In the meantime, the virtual museum has started an Instagram account to engage with Aleteia readers and the stories of their own crucifixes: @crossXmuseum