The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Cardinal Paintings

March 13th, 2013 · 7 Comments

As the cardinals convene in the Vatican to elect a new boss, let’s consider for a moment the once flourishing art of cardinal paintings. In the late 19th century, particularly in France, several artists specialized in painting pictures of the red-robed religious. There’s a fine article on the subject by John Fleming, in the 13th volume of The Saturday Book (1953); the illustrations, however, are in black and white, so I’ve snipped some color examples from elsewhere on the internet.  Here’s one by François Brunery, who claimed to have invented the genre.

One by his son, Marcel Brunery.
And another by Georges Croegaert.
UPDATE:  A pope has been chosen; the cardinals can go back to shaving cuts, woodwinds, and cats.  But be careful, men.  (The elder Brunery again).
ADDENDUM: No survey of Cardinal art should omit Alphonse Allais’s masterful painting from 1897, “Apoplectic Cardinals harvesting tomatoes by the Red Sea.  Effect of the Aurora Borealis.”

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Alphonse Allais · Clubs and Associations

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Win // Mar 13, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Lovely stuff, Doug!

    I wonder if there are any still lives of ruby slippers and cattail whips…

  • 2 Doug // Mar 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Not to my knowledge. The elder Brunery, however, was particularly fond of slapstick.

  • 3 Win // Mar 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I’ve long been a fan of Renaissance era paintings of divines in their studies. Carpaccio’s St. Augustine in his Study, Lorenzo Costa’s Portrait of a Cardinal in his Study and Raphael’s Portrait of Tommaso Inghirami are my favorites. I was unaware of these late 19th century examples. Great to see. They would make a great card game, no…?

  • 4 Doug // Mar 13, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Fleming said that he found only one article about them, from 1906. They were, even in their heyday, seen just as commercial kitsch. And yes, a deck would be a charming thing…

  • 5 Win // Mar 14, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Hey Doug, noodling around on the interwebs just now I came across a Scottish painter called John Pettie who also flourished in late 19th century and knocked out a few paintings of cardinals. His were mostly inspired by Walter Scott’s novels and feature cardinals burning documents or engaging in treasonous conferences.

  • 6 Doug // Mar 14, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Huh. Pettie seems more in the spirit of Scottish anti-papism. The French paintings are called anti-clerical, but remind me more of waggish cartoon clergy — the daily gag panel “Brother Juniper,” for example.

  • 7 Win // Mar 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Oh I think that’s right. Pettie’s cardinals seem to come straight out of Scott’s accounts of sinister Jacobite conspiracies. Certainly his lack the light touch and humor of the French pictures.

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