Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




How a Poor Little Man Put the World Right

St Francis of Assisi and poverty



Praise to you, O Lord, and all your creatures,
who, with our sister the Sun, give us the day
and light. Lovely she is - and she shines
with great glory. She reflects Your impress,
Most High.

St Francis of Assisi, "The Hymn of the Sun", autumn 1225



San Francesco in Assisi. The tomb of St Francis is a place of pilgrimage for millions


He was certainly not a handsome man, the way his ears stuck out from his head, nor, with his thin, small figure and modest education, did he cut an impressive figure — at least this is what his contemporaries said about him. Yet no other name from the thirteenth century is so well-known and loved. In January 1206 Francis heard a mysterious voice commanding him to "go and repair my house, for it is falling down". He obeyed, and, not only did he repair the physical structure of a church, he also found himself leading a powerful movement of religious renewal in the Church. At a time when lust for money and power had corrupted temporal and religious life, he set the example of an evangelical who cared nothing for possessions.

Born into a wealthy family, Francis had grown up living the life of a pleasure-seeker and enjoyed surrounding himself in luxury. He gave it all up so suddenly, so cheerfully and willingly, that he drew thousands along with him, even some of the most distinguished scholars. The "poor little man," who had experienced the Impression of the Stigmata, the wounds of Christ, on 14 September 1224 on Mount Le Vema, lived only forty-four years. Yet after his death, 20,000 men from all over Europe were seeking to emulate his life, as well as thousands of women. Caring for the urban destitute, his mendicant Order, the Franciscans, grew by leaps and bounds. The advocate of the poor, St Francis of Assist was the first to state publicly that work dignifies man, that its value is intrinsic and cannot be measured by the money it earns. He also loved animals and birds, seeing them as man's friends and his lovely "The Hymn of the Sun" was the first great poem in the Italian language. Dante remembered him with a ref-erence to Assisi in the XI Canto (Il Paradiso), of The Divine Comedy: "There at the edge of the cliff a Sun was born to the world."

Another monument to St Francis is a fresco, The Dream of Pope Innocent III from the cycle depicting the life of St Francis in the Upper Church of San Francesco in Assisi. It is frequently attributed to GIOTTO. Tradition has it that Pope Innocent III was dubious of Francis and his followers, and so had not given his approval to St Francis's Regula Prima, his Rule. The Pope's doubts vanished when he had a dream in which Francis of Assisi appeared to him as a pillar of the Church.

(Italian, c. 1267-1337)
Francis as a Pillar of the Church (The Dream of Pope Innocent III)
c. 1296-98
Upper Church of San Francesco, Assisi


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