Sunday, December 11, 2005

Wallpaper -- with rosaries

'Tis the season, and if you have a computer whose screen you stare at a lot, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to decorate all that blank expanse of screen with something seasonal and worth looking at.

So herewith, a brief guide to some nice "wallpaper" images that just happen to show medieval rosaries and paternosters in them.

Both my home and work computers have BIG screens, so I look for images that are around 900 to 1500 pixels wide. Some smaller images can be enlarged and still look good, but most will start to look blurry and odd if you enlarge them too much.

This is the one I currently have on my desktop at work:

It's a Southern German panel painting by Herlin Friedrich from 1488, originally part of an altarpiece. This image from REALonline is only 624 pixels wide, so enlarged on my 21-inch screen it doesn't exactly look stellar, but for a smaller screen it can look okay. And it's cheerful, it's red and green, and it shows a whole family of kneeling people (parents, five daughters and four sons) all of whom are carrying rosaries. Most of the rosaries seem to be coral, except perhaps the father's. Mom seems to be nudging her oldest daughter to please take hers off her belt and use it!

This one is rather dark. It was painted by the "Master of the Saint Lucy Legend" around 1488 and is now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. (When you see a painting by the "Master of.." something or other, it means we know the artist from other works but don't know his name.)

This image is over 1000 pixels wide, so it's nice and sharp. I run pictures like this through Photoshop to adjust brightness and color balance. This and the next two pictures all come from the Web Gallery of Art, a splendid picture source.

If you like "saint spotting," this picture has the "mystical marriage" of Saint Catherine -- the Infant Jesus is giving her a ring, and you can tell it's Catherine he's giving it to because she is wearing velvet patterned with wheels, her badge of identity. Saint Agnes in the right foreground is holding a lamb on her lap, and she has a nice long coral rosary hanging from her belt. There are two saints with tongs, and both of them are holding rosaries too -- the one on the left has a straight rosary with two tassels, only the second time I've seen this type on a woman. One of these two is probably Saint Apollonia, who was martyred by having all her teeth pulled out (hence the tongs) but I can't tell which one.

This one has the Infant Jesus entertaining himself with his devotee's rosary:

It's another panel painting, this time by an unknown artist, probably Flemish. It dates to about 1475 and is in the Musée d'Art Religieux et d'Art Mosan, Liège.

And lastly, can you spot the rosary in this one?

This is the central panel of the St. Columba Altarpiece, painted around 1455 by Rogier van der Weyden. (Alte Pinakothek, Munich)

Yes, that's right -- it's being held by the kneeling spectator at the very left edge of the picture with his hands resting on top of the stone wall.

As in these panels, the commonest place to find rosaries in Nativity scenes and other religious paintings is in the hands of the donors included in the painting. But whenever saints are pictured as ordinary people in contemporary dress, they too may be carrying rosaries, however anachronistic.