Tuesday, September 15, 2015


ENGUERRAND QUARTON  (French, c. 1410 – c. 1466)
Tempera on panel
183 x 222 cm
Val de Bénediction Charterhouse, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon
Have you ever done a Rorschach test?  Dribble ink in the center of a piece of paper and fold it in half.  You will get two identical sides.  You will then be asked what you see in the image!

Now, let’s look at the painting. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you look at this painting?
Can you guess how many people are in the picture?
Why are the large figures hovering above the small crucifixion? 
The colors?

If you were to fold the photo of the picture down the middle, would both sides seem almost identical? This is called symmetry!
Spot the differences!
Psychologists say that when we look at a picture or house, the first thing we look for is symmetry.
Where else can you find symmetry?
Hint: look in the mirror!

The two male figures on either side of the Virgin represent God the Father and God the Son.  The dove, which is nestled in the crown, is the symbol of the Holy Spirit.   These three represent the Trinity in the Catholic faith. People visiting the church in Villeneuve in 1454 knew exactly who was who in the picture. 
Is the Virgin being crowned on earth or in heaven? 
The wings of the dove are touching the lips of the Father and the Son.  Is this a secret code or a message to be quiet?
Why is the Virgin so much larger than her crucified Son below? 
Is she sitting on a throne or hovering above earth on some puffy clouds?
Can you see the cream-colored silk lining of the Virgin’s cloak in some areas?
Are there any shadows?

If you were an angel would you be an elegant red Seraphim or a chubby-cheeked blue Cherub? You can choose to be a large angel with blue wings.  You could also be the pink angel who is helping people into heaven on the lower left.  Or would you want to be throwing people into hell on the lower right? Can you think of a bully in your school that should spend some time down there?

Find a monk wearing a white habit.  He is kneeling by the crucifix.  This monk asked Quarton to paint this picture for his monastery in the south of France.  He had previously traveled to Rome (shown here on the left) and to Jerusalem (shown on the right). 
What favorite places would be in your painting?

The motto of the monk’s religious order is:  “The Cross is steady while the world is turning”.  Does Quarton convey the spirit of this motto in this painting?  The Carthusian monks live like hermits, in silence, within their monasteries called charterhouses.
Like Fouquet, “The Queen of Heaven”, Quarton was a 15th century French painter and illustrator of books.  Only a handful of paintings survive today.
Fun Fact:  The painting is still hanging in the same Charterhouse for which Quarton painted it in 1453-4.