Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Book Review: History of the Church in Art by Rosa Giorgi

Translated by Brian Phillps

Pros: lots of images, covers a range of topics

Cons: no glossary for vestments

This is part of a series of books by the J. Paul Getty Museum where works of art (mostly paintings) have aspects highlighted to give a deeper appreciation of the artworks and their meanings. After the introduction there are 5 chapters in this book: Liturgical Objects and Furnishings; Clothes, Vestments, and Status; Worship and Images; Episodes in the History of the Western Church; and Historical Figures in the Roman Church Tradition.

This book is not a linear history of the Catholic Church. It is a guide to help you identify items of Catholic worship (clothing and implements) as well as important people and events in works of art.

I enjoyed learning about the various church implements, some of which I’ve learned to recognize and some of which I was unfamiliar with. This section was great as each implement was dealt with individually with at least one or two images. 

I was hoping the section on vestments would go over each item of clothing so I could get a better understanding of what each one was. Instead the chapter dealt more with status, showing different orders (monks, priests, cardinals) and what they would wear. While there were some textual notes pointing out the various individual items of clothing (alb, cope, etc) it would have been nice to get a glossary of terms with simple images to better teach these terms.

The paintings used as examples were mostly from the later middle ages to the 1800s and covered a good mix of topics and people. I appreciated the number of explanatory notes each one received.

The chapters on historical episodes and figures covered a fair range of topics. There were a few I’d have added, but on the whole I thought they did a good job.

If you are interested in Christian art or the history of the Catholic church, this is a great book.

No comments: