The fine arts, but above all sacred art, “of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands…” (CCC 2513).
Virgin of the Rosary
Murillo’s Virgin of the Rosary is an excellent example of the artist’s late style, when he was painting in his so-called estilo vaporoso (‘vaporous style’). The contours of the figures of the Virgin and the Christ Child have been softened and light suffuses the composition, enveloping them in a gentle glow. Although both figures have been idealized to a great extent, they retain a familiar humanity, particularly in the carefully combed hair of the child and the engaging way he toys with the beads of the rosary in a characteristic Murillesque touch.
We do not know for whom this picture was painted, but from 1644 until his death Murillo was an active member of the Confraternity of the Rosary at his local parish church, and it is likely that a painting such as this would have been made for a Dominican church or a monastic chapel in Seville or Cádiz. The commission must have been an important and valuable one because the materials used by Murillo are of the highest order. Unlike such works as the paintings of the two Dulwich beggar boys which were painted on a plain woven canvas, Murillo used a fine linen canvas into which was woven a distinctive damask pattern of crosses and squares. For the intense blue glazes of the Virgin’s drapery, he used ultramarine, a pigment so expensive that it was rarely used in Spain, demonstrating the wealth of the church or confraternity that commissioned this altarpiece. (Credit: As first published at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London)
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Truth Beauty, and Sacred Art (2501)
Created “in the image of God,” man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man (CCC 2501).
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
– St. Paul, Letter to the Philippians (4:8)
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.