Star light, star bright – the Celestial Fire Pendant
We are pleased to present the newest piece of Gallery Byzantium’s collection: the Celestial Fire Pendant.
Inspired by Italy’s Scrovegni Chapel’s ceiling (also known as “The Vault”), this pendant features a saturated blue enamel and is set with diamond stars.
The Chapel is renowned for its frescos which narrate key moments in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ and are considered to be among the pinnacle of 14th century Western European and Italian art.
A sight to behold
Despite being one of the most beloved and important masterpieces of Western art, the Scrovegni Chapel had a comparably humble origin. Dedicated to the St. Mary of Charity, the Chapel was originally the built as a last-minute finishing touch of wealthy banker Enrico Scrovegni’s new home.
The building, erected in 1300, was intended to serve as a family plot – a tomb for Scrovegni and his descendants. A rich and decadent man, Scrovegni hired two of the period’s greatest artists to decorate his tomb: sculptor Giovanni Pisano and painter Giotto. Pisano was tasked with sculpting statues of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child between two angels while Giotto was to fresco the ceiling and walls of Scrovegni’s future tomb.
“For the Scrovegni Chapel, Giotto was asked to depict a series of stories from the Old and New Testaments, culminating in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and the Last Judgement. The aim was to encourage visitors to the Chapel to meditate more deeply on Christ’s sacrifice and the salvation of mankind.”
What makes the Scrovegni Chapel unique is that, unlike other churches and chapels of its time, it lacks baroque embellishments like moldings or cornices. The flat, uninterrupted surfaces of the Chapel and lack of distracting details let the beautiful artwork within speak for itself.
In an impressive turn, the entire project – from the laying of the foundation to the last dab of paint – was completed in just over five years. The Chapel was consecrated twice (once for the completion of the building around 1302-1303 and once after the decorative work had been finished in 1305).
However, between 1305 and the 19th century, little is known about the Scrovegni Chapel. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, despite its beauty, the Chapel held little value to anyone outside of the Scrovegni family. After all, it was built as a family tomb.
Due to this apparent lack of interest and care, the Chapel fell into disrepair. It was almost destroyed in the 1800s but was luckily rescued by Padua’s city council in 1881. The original home built by Scrovegni had long-since been demolished and the portico on the chapel had collapsed, but the council was determined to rescue the interior.
“Major restoration work was undertaken in the late 19th century and again in the 1960’s.” More recently, in the early 2000’s the chapel underwent another restoration after pollution had reacted with the painted surfaces, making them crumble and disintegrate.
Today, the Scrovegni Chapel stands as not just a beautiful landmark, but as a testament to Scrovegni’s faith and the fine craftsmanship of Giotto and Pisano.
The Frescoes of Scrovegni Chapel
Once taking in the beautiful frescoes at Scrovegni Chapel, you cannot help but wonder how long it took to complete them. Years? Decades?
In a stunning feat, Giotto, assisted by 40 collaborators, took a mere 855 days between 1302 and 1305 to complete the frescoes adorning the chapel. Added to this impressive achievement, Giotto was only 36 when he began this monumental project.
No inch of the Scrovegni Chapel was left bare. The masterful frescoes on the walls are sheltered by the beautiful ceiling, also known as “the Vault” (which serves as inspiration for our Celestial Fire Pendant). The navy blue Vault features numerous eight-pointed stars which shine like diamonds in the night sky. To the ancients, the stars of the celestial firmament were the Heavenly fire.
The dark blue hue of the ceiling is the beautiful color attributed to the Mother of God who unites in her self, both the terrestrial and celestial. The eight points of each star represent the Eighth, and everlasting Day which stands outside and beyond the temporal world and belongs to the eternal kingdom of God.
Giotto’s frescoes are renowned for their realism and attention to detail. As mentioned earlier, each fresco depicts a scene from the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ. Giotto arranged these scenes in chronological order (in horizontal bands) beginning with the life of Mary, followed by Christ, and ending in the Passion and Crucifixion. “As a tribute to the Scrovegni family, in the Last Judgment fresco, Enrico Scrovegni himself is depicted presenting a model of the chapel to Mary.”
“I. Ceiling: The ceiling is painted in cobalt blue to give the appearance of the sky with ten medallion shaped portraits of Christ, St. John the Baptist, The Virgin and Child, Baruch, Isaiah, Daniel, Malachi and 3 unidentified prophets (Eimerl 116).
II. Top Portion of the Side Walls and the Front and Back Walls: These walls are composed of thirty-nine narrative scenes. The scenes on the sidewalls can be further divided into three tiers and the scenes appear in chronological order. The top tier is the life of Mary and her parents, Joachim and Anne. The six scenes on the right wall are events prior to Mary’s birth and include:
- The Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple,
- Joachim Retires to the Sheepfold,
- The Annunciation to Anne,
- The Sacrifice of Joachim,
- The Vision of Joachim, and
- The Meeting at the Golden Gate.
The top tier continues on the left wall from back to front with scenes from Mary’s life prior to the birth of Jesus and includes:
- The Birth of the Virgin,
- The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple,
- The Presentation of the Rods,
- The Watching of the Rods,
- The Betrothal of the Virgin, and
- The Virgin’s Return Home.
The first tier ends at the front wall with God the Father sending the Angel Gabriel to deliver his message to Mary. Beneath this scene is the Annunciation to Mary. On the left side of the round arch that leads into the sanctuary is the Angel Gabriel delivering Gods message, and on the right side of the arch is Mary receiving his message.
The middle tier continues the chronology of events beginning on the front wall beneath the scene of Mary receiving the annunciation with The Visitation. The tier continues on the right wall with the life of Jesus before his public ministry and includes:
- The Nativity,
- The Adoration of the Magi,
- The Presentation of Christ in the Temple,
- The Flight into Egypt, and
- The Massacre of the Innocents.
The middle tier continues on the left wall with scenes from his public ministry prior to his passion, and include:
- Christ Arguing with the Elders,
- The Baptism of Christ,
- The Marriage at Cana,
- The Raising of Lazarus,
- The Entry into Jerusalem, and
- The Expulsion of the Merchants from the Temple.
The middle tier’s final scene is on the front wall, under the Angel Gabriel, and depicts The Pact of Judas.
The bottom tier begins on the front right wall with:
- The Last Supper,
- The Washing of the Feet,
- The Kiss of Judas,
- Christ before Caiaphas, and
- The Mocking of Christ.
The bottom tier continues on the left wall from back to front with:
- The Road to Calvary,
- The Crucifixion,
- The Lamentation (Pieta),
- The Angel at the Tomb (Noli Me Tangere),
- The Ascension, and
The final scene, The Last Judgment, is on the back wall (Eimerl 112-129).
III. Bottom Portion of the Side Walls: The bottom portion of the sidewalls contains 14 scenes. The seven scenes on the right wall depict the seven heavenly virtues of prudence, fortitude, temperance, justice, faith, charity, and hope. The seven scenes on the left wall depict the seven vices of despair, envy, infidelity, injustice, wrath, inconstancy, and folly (Cole 70).”
6 things you must know about Scrovegni Chapel – http://www.dailyartdaily.com/things-must-know-scrovegni-chapel/
Giotto and the Arena Chapel – https://artchronicler.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/giotto-and-the-arena-chapel/
The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua – http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/culture-and-entertainment/the-scrovegni-chapel-in-padua.html
Scrovegni Chapel: Restoration – http://www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it/index.php/en/the-scrovegni-s-chapel/restoration
Scrovegni Chapel: History – http://www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it/index.php/en/the-scrovegni-s-chapel/history-of-scrovegni-s-chapel
Tags: Byzantine, christian symbols, September 2017, symbols of faith
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