Saturday, 7 December 2013

On the Feast of Saint Ambrose

To commemorate the Feast of Saint Ambrose, bishop of Milan and a Doctor of the Church, we are pleased to present these works of art depicting the great saint.

The painting included below, by the Italian artist Camillo Procaccini, was painted in Milan towards the end of the sixteenth century, or early in the seventeenth, and depicts Saint Ambrose staying the Emperor Theodosius. In this painting we the see the saint vested in pontificals of this period. Fittingly, Saint Ambrose is shewn vested in a chasuble of the Borromeon proportions (fitting since Saint Charles Borromeo was also Bishop of Milan).  Note that the chasuble is wide, being slightly turned back at the elbows. It is ornamented with a prominent TAU of gold damask. Saint Ambrose is also shewn wearing the tunicle and dalmatic over his albe. By this time, the pallium had more or less reached the form that we are now familiar with.

Saint Ambrose by Procaccini.
Further below is included a painting of Saint Ambrose from a later period by the Italian artist Carlo Ceresa who lived and died in the seventeenth century. Ceresa's painting of the saint shews certain changes to the form of the chasuble which occurred during the seventeenth century. In this painting, the saint is depicted wearing a less ample chasuble, sometimes referred to as the style of Saint Philip Neri. The chasuble is not as long or as wide as the first painting shewn, and it is also less flowing. Note the close-fitting sleeves of the albe shewn in Ceresa's painting.

A curiosity of this painting is that in its upper left background, Saint Ambrose is shewn wearing the same Pontificals (including the mitre!) in full gallop on a horse.  The chasuble flares at the back.

Saint Ambrose by Ceresa.

A friend of the Studio and reader of this Blog, offered the following comments on Saint Ambrose astride the horse:

Saint Ambrose has traditionally been pictured with a scourge because of his routing of heretics, particularly of the Arian persuasion - and the cherub in the righthand bottom corner of Ceresa's painting is holding such a scourge. But on looking closer at Saint Ambrose on horseback in the background this also shows him with a much longer scourge in his right hand, while all around the horse's feet lie broken bodies etc - again, I assume a reference to him being a scourge of heretics. He was known to be both a gentle Bishop, but also a vigorous denouncer of heretics, and I imagine the picture within the picture picks up on this. 

Click on the images for an enlarged view.