Saint Dominic in Penitence,
Painting by Filippo Tarchiani (1576–1645),
Painted in 1607,
Oil on canvas
© Metropolitan Museum, New York

Saint Dominic in Penitence,
Painting by Filippo Tarchiani (1576–1645),
Painted in 1607,
Oil on canvas
© Metropolitan Museum, New York

Gospel of 8 August 2023

Feast of Saint Dominic

Matthew 14:22-36

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the local people recognised him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were completely cured.

Reflection on the painting

Our painting by Filippo Tarchiani, from 1607, depicts Saint Dominic in penitence. Tarchiani transforms a troubling subject—the thirteenth-century founder of the Dominican order flagellating himself—into a serene, meditative composition. Whilst this is a portrait, it almost feels more like a still life painting. With the attention typical of a still-life painter, he isolates a series of captivating elects such as the bouquet of Thorne roses at the foot of the cross or the hour glass behind Saint Dominic.

Everything is very linear, including the altarpiece and table. This is in stark contrast to the soft folds of Dominic’s robes, which have been partially discarded. Although trained in the academic tradition of late-sixteenth-century Florentine art, Tarchiani made two prolonged visits to Rome, where he studied the work of Caravaggio and Orazio Gentileschi. In fact, between 1615 and 1616 he was employed on the same project as Orazio’s famous daughter, Artemisia Gentileschi. We can feel in this painting the Roman, Caravagesque dramatic use of light.

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Dominic. Born in 1170 to a family of Spanish nobility, he was well educated and studied for 10 years at the University of Palencia. Already during that period it was reported how concerned he was with the well-being of others, especially the poor, rather than his own needs. He once sold his books (which were considered to be items of luxury, before the printing press), to generate money for the poor. But God had even bigger plans for Dominic:  founding a new religious order with the mission to combat the many heresies that were around at the time and to help spread the true doctrine of the Church. Saint Dominic's cheerfulness and joyousness are characteristics remarked upon by a number of people who knew him.The vivacity of his spirit in founding a new order must have drawn the early friars to the congregation.

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Liliana Lazzaro
Member
Liliana Lazzaro(@11169)
6 months ago

Dios los bendiga a todos por tan bellos deseos y comentarios!!!

Liliana Lazzaro
Member
Liliana Lazzaro(@11169)
6 months ago

Me encanta cada dia disfrutar de este espacio bello de arte y personas bellas ,gracias P Patrick

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas(@katteliekemeissie)
6 months ago

It is 17.00 h. Dutch time. There is always a candle burning at the statue of the Holy Mary. Just now I put a new little candle and told Mary: “This little light is for all members of the CA-family… for their griefs, their problems, their sufferings, but also for their happiness, their gladness, their joyful feelings. Be with them, help them, pray for them, ask your Holy Son to bless them… they are so dear to me!”
All day long I am busy reading your comments, reading in English, translating into Dutch, the comments of Ana translating from Spanish to Dutch, and switch to English again. When I want to write a comment it is not clever to do that in Dutch, ’cause none of you could read that, I am busy with dictionaries, always looking and most of the time founding the right words. Sometimes I don’t know what I am doing or where I am.
The only thing I want to tell you is that I love you all, I read your comments and I keep them all in my heart. Thank you, I am grateful to be a member of the CA-family.
My dear Patrick, thank you, I am so grateful that I found your ChristianArt. I love to read the everyday-gospel and it brought me so much joy and faith. During the Covid-years it worked against my feelings of fear, of loneliness and emptiness.
I wish everyone good health, love and happiness. I love you!

Polly French
Member
Polly French(@pauline)
6 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Rya, that is beautiful. Thank you so much for your generosity. Isn’t it wonderful to think of people from different cultures, languages, countries etc uniting in prayer and faith.

Bashia Ferrando
Bashia Ferrando
6 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Oh Rya that is so beautiful, you touched me deeply, you are so kind, thank you for your prayers. You are such a treasure. I would like to copy that prayer of yours to Our Blessed Lady, it is beautiful. God bless you abundantly. 🙏🌻

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Yes – wonderful Rya. This Christian Art is becoming a phenomenon. But it’s becoming quite a big job keeping up with all the comments!!

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens(@jeanne)
6 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

A lovely message, Rya. I join you in thanks for the CA family, and in sending love and prayers to all.

Liliana Lazzaro
Member
Liliana Lazzaro(@11169)
6 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Gracias a ti ,igualmente mis mejores deseos,.

Michael Walters
Michael Walters
6 months ago

The image of the saint in the act of penitence seems foreign to us. But this was what they did and it was an act of showing committal to atoning for sin and devotion to God. Clearly this one has been shown to depict an emotionally intense moment. I think we all have these moments in prayer where we are shorn of all trappings of our daily lives, and just sharing the troubles we have with God, perhaps just like St. Dominic did.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago

Penance itself is deeply unfashionable.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens(@jeanne)
6 months ago

Much cause for rejoicing today, but for those who haven’t so much to give thanks for, there is much good and lovely advice Thank you for all your wise words.
As soon as I saw the painting I thought of Ribera, who was pretty much contemporary with Tarchiani, and did a great line in suffering saints. But as someone said, there’s quite a bit of Caravaggio there too, and Ribera would never have given us, I don’t think, that beautiful cloth beneath the vase. The drapery is masterly, the painting of the figure shows a man in the act of flagellation, but without much evidence of the suffering involved. I found El Greco’s Tears of St. Dominic, a beautiful painting of the compassionate saint, pleading with God, as we’re told he used to do, all night, more sympathetic. Agreed that flagellation should be private, if done at all. Extreme physical discomfort is mostly seen in the aisles of churches, or on pilgrim stairways, where the faithful ascend on their knees. I haven’t yet come to think of this practice as essential to a good Christian life, as there seem to be so many other ways to suffer, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone has had experience of it. Not counting being on your knees at home or statically in church. Till tomorrow, d.v. 🌻

Polly French
Member
Polly French(@pauline)
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Noelle, I’m wondering if you have ever heard of Lough Derg pilgrimage. Basically, you go for 3 days, remove your shoes the minute you arrive on the island. Have 1 ‘meal’ per day consisting of dry oatmeal biscuits and black tea. You do an all night vigil the 1st night. You walk around stony ‘beds’ on your bare feet praying, multiple times! It is not an easy pilgrimage to do but you feel the benefits of it when completed!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Polly French

My mother did that when she couldn’t conceive. I was the resuly nine and a half monthe later LOL!

Polly French
Member
Polly French(@pauline)
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

😇.. excellent news Charles, a worthwhile pilgrimage then. It is also often said that you will meet your future spouse on the island.

Last edited 6 months ago by Polly French
Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Polly French

I wish she had but she was already married to my father who was a tormented and difficult man, God rest his soul.

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas(@katteliekemeissie)
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Happy you, Chazbo. Happy us! Great that your Mother did that, otherwise you were not with us! Welcome!

Jan Cover
Member
Jan Cover(@j-a-cover)
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Coming from different confessional tradition, this painting found me recalling Rembrandt’s repeated efforts with the burin at rendering St. Jerome — always on his knees, and inevitably following the typical van Mander advice for depicting the inner affetti, but never with the accompanying external bits that distinguish repentance from penitence (or indeed penance). I take comfort in the thought that whether we reckon the external suffering a sacramental thing or the internal sorrow a central part of Christ’s own words (though the OT author Joel too [2:13] had said “rend your hearts not your garments”), Christians are united in what’s accomplished for us all on the Cross, and our confidence that He is a God of mercy. // But gosh, what a lovely painting. // Blessings, everyone. — j.a.c.

Mary Spencer
Member
Mary Spencer(@marika_56)
6 months ago

The painting can be troubling to us moderns—or we can look for a deeper meaning, one transcending time and trends. Like the garments of Dominic, our worldly concerns enshroud us, separating us from the true form of things, which remain in the abstract. The cross, like the whip, serves to remove this comfortable cloak, fold by fold, until we come to the beauty of the Rose—symbol of Jesus Christ

Judith Sergeant
Member
Judith Sergeant(@judith-s)
6 months ago

Like others I found the contrast between the serenity of the image and the depiction of flagellation unsettling. In the reading I was very encouraged to notice how Jesus responded to Peter’s doubts ‘is it you’ and fears with love and not judgement. May we each know this today

Paolo Fieni
Member
Paolo Fieni(@paolofieni-fieni41gmail-com)
6 months ago

Come di consueto il passo evangelico è splendido e il commento all’opera pittorica anche, ma non posso fare a meno di chiedermi quale collegamento ha l’episodio di Gesù che cammina sull’acqua con San Domenico: forse sono io che non lo colgo, ma se vogliamo parlare di San Domenico perché è il giorno a lui dedicato … facciamolo, ma scegliamo passi scritturali più pertinenti o, se pertinenti sono, spieghiamo chiaramente ed esplicitamente il collegamento tra le due sezioni di questa rubrica. Grazie!

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