Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Prophet Balaam

"Like a gloomy, bulky, over-sized statue the figure of the prophet in the garb of a philosopher looms before us.  Beneath the star which the Wise Men also followed, the visionary-with big dark eyes, the iris in sharp contrast to the white of the eye-sees the Virgin Mother and the Child: "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel."  Does the artist describe the Mother with the Child so strangely because of the great lapse of time lying between the prophet's vision and its realization? Or does this strangeness lie in the fact that in the catacombs the painter is using an antique heathen form-language to describe a Christian event?" - from The Year of Our Lord, Number 34 in the Herder Art Series

Prophet Balaam. Catacomb painting (c. 250).  Rome, Catacomb of St. Priscilla.

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