The Indianapolis Museum of Art is hosting a one-of-a-kind exhibition of Spanish art from the European Renaissance era titled "Sacred Spain" and it is so awesome, we have been twice.
This art is only being exhibited at the IMA, the brainchild of the head curator, who canvassed (ha ha, canvassed) other museums, personal friends, churches and private collections to put this exposition together and it is a wonderful success. The museum's director of educational programs, Wendy Wilkerson, told me that people have been flying in from all corners of the globe to see this art, so it is definitely a feather in the cap of our beloved IMA.
One of the pieces displayed is this moving painting titled "Agnus Dei" ("Lamb of God") by Francisco de Zurbarán, a contemporary of William Shakespeare's. When we saw this piece, the docent pointed out that the Lamb is not struggling, as one would expect a bound lamb to do. It is accepting its eventual fate with grace and resignation. There is also a very faint halo surrounding its head, and the brush work on its wool is so detailed, it is almost photographic.
The only problem with this show is that the docents have not really been educated on Christian symbolism and meaning. Anyone can recognize a halo, and the meaning of a crucifix is fairly evident, right? But the symbol of the triangle - representing the Holy Trinity -- was one that was lost on both of the guides who took our school group and our family group around. The moon is featured in many paintings of the Blessed Virgin, and the docent for our school group didn't know that one until some of the kids told her: Mary is associated with the moon because she only reflects the light of Christ, just as our planetary equivalent only reflects the light of the sun, having no light of its own.
There were also some points of Catholic dogma and doctrine that had to be cleared up, such as the fact that religious art has never, ever, ever been meant for purposes of worship and has always been intended to draw people's interest by its beauty and inspire them to devotion.
So, once again: Catholics do not worship statues, paintings or any other sort of image. Someday I feel confident we'll be able to convince people of this truth.
Even if they weren't the best informed on the religious meanings, the IMA docents were, as always, extremely nice and very knowledgeable about the art. It is really a lovely exhibit, but the best thing about it is that it is free. It ends in early January 2010, so if you live in the Indianapolis area, make plans to get there before it closes.
Click here for a virtual tour.
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