Saturday, July 05, 2008

Issenheim Altartpiece

The Issenheim altartpeice has been part of the cannon of art history that Martha has both learned and taught over the years. It is a hinged piece of work painted by Matthias Grunwold (sp?) for the residents of a facility treating people with advanced skin diseases, called then St. Anthony's fire (the commentary called it "ergot" a parasitic disease from grains). What is powerful about this altarpiece is that when closed (with Christ on the cross) his skin is afflicted with the poc-marks of the disease, taking on our illnesses and weaknesses. Even as he is laid in the tomb, his skin is grey and diseased. But wen the panels open, his skin is clear and restored, as are we.
The work is site appropriate and large. It really takes up the space in the sanctuary. I thought of the work Martha and Jeanne do with the altar-pieces at MCC and how they are always working "big" to keep the altar-pieces in perspective to the sanctuary. Now I know that they have a good precedent.


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