In the painting, “Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata,” by artist Jan Van Eyck, we see a scene which takes place on a rocky hillside overlooking a village. The scene shows Saint Francis receiving his stigmata, which are actual wounds appearing on the hands and feet of the individual receiving the anomaly. These wounds are apparently reflective of those which Christ endured throughout the crucifixion process.
In the painting, standing next to Saint Francis is a man whom many believe to be Brother Leo; known to be with Saint Francis when he had a vision of the angel nailed to a cross, followed by the appearing of the mysterious stigmata. The painting is much smaller than I expected. I knew that it was small, from class discussions, but seeing just how tiny it is, and how incredible the detail is, is breathtaking. Saint Francis is kneeling, draped in a brown cloak that covers all of his body except for his head, hands and feet.Order now
Looking closer at the anatomy, his body looks as though it’s contorted, but I’m assuming that’s purposeful so that the bottoms of his feet are visible. The angel is just to the right of Saint Francis’ head. He has six wings that are vibrant blues, creams and reds. Two of them are held above his head, two are extended outwards at his sides, and two are covering the bottom half of his body. The angel is nailed to a cross. The angel’s head is hung, but his eyes are directly lined up with the stigmata on Saint Francis’ hands. The three men are on a grassy hillside, with many plants and rocks surrounding them.
The scene is painted in great detail, right down to the small boat full of people and the view of the town in the distance. Even the ferns on the surrounding foliage are almost obsessively realistic. Although the anatomy of the figures is slightly off, to show off the bottoms of Saint Francis’ feet, the painting is very detailed and looks, at first glance, incredibly real. Saint Francis of Assisi and a Devotee, is an older painting. It was created in 1285, rather than 1430 like the first. It is also slightly larger. It isn’t much taller, but looks like about double in width.
The painting is very Gothic, a great contrast to the hyper-realism Renaissance painting by Jan Van Eyck. This scene depicts Saint Francis and a devotee, or someone who is devoted to him. Saint Francis is showing his stigmata on his left hand and has a red book in his right. On his head he has a halo. There is no sense of space in this piece. There’s no scene that they’re in, no horizon line or perspective. The background is simply a mixture of dark blue and black. And the figures, although recognizable as figures, are not anatomically correct.
For once, Saint Francis is proportionally larger than the devotee. While the devotee is kneeling, which also makes him shorter, his head and body are smaller than Saint Francis. This subtle size difference creates an obvious hierarchy. The devotee is, as stated before, kneeling in front of Saint Francis. His hands are open, palms facing up, and he is looking up at Saint Francis. The figures in Jan Van Eyck’s, although slightly distorted, still have faces that are incredibly realistic. The faces of the figures in this painting look as though they could be the same.
The only sense of form and dimension are the small amounts of shadows and highlights on the fabric the figures wear. Both paintings depict a similar subject. They both show Saint Francis with his stigmata facing the viewer. However, they were both done during different movements and styles. Saint Francis of Assisi and a Devotee is very Gothic. Its figures are stylized, especially those of religious importance. Religious was supposed to be something mysterious, something that was unfathomably awesome to the common man. Artists depicted the spiritual side to things, rather than the literal.
The Renaissance was the exact opposite. Many of the artists were hyper-realists. They studied perspective, anatomy, and learned how to almost perfectly illustrate the things they saw. Yes, Jan Van Eyck’s painting is a religious scene, but all of the figures look like normal men. Even the angel, save for the six wings, looks like a normal person. And the setting, which is beautifully painted, is most likely somewhere you can actually go. Both of these paintings have a similar subject, but they show them in two incredibly different ways.
Eyck, Jan Van. Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata. 1430-32. Oil on vellum on panel. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gallery 219.
Saint Francis of Assisi and a Devotee. 1285. Tempera and silver on panel with horizontal grain. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gallery 210.
“St. Francis of Assisi.” – Saints & Angels. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.
The Rev. Ignatius Charles Brady, O.F.M. “Saint Francis of Assisi (Italian Saint).”
Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.