domingo, 12 de marzo de 2017

Art & Spirituality: The Votive Crown of Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba (Táchira State – Venezuela)

Written by Samir A. Sánchez (2017)
Photographs by Samuel Trevisi (2017)

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)

The origin and development of the word 'crown' and its present-day meaning date as far back perhaps as the 12th-century, in the Old French 'corone' from Latin 'corona', wreath, garland and the Greek 'kornē' (κορώνη'), something curved or 'koronis', which means curved. The Essential English Dictionary (Chambers English 1995) defines the term 'crown' as “A king's or queen's crown is the circular ornament they wear on their head on formal occasions, as a symbol of monarchy.” A crown is, then, a way to cover the head, and its user thus communicates a dignity, sovereignty or other high rank to his/her own.
In this language and symbols, and because the early church believed in the continuity of history and of divine activity written and recorded in the old covenant with God or Scriptures (Exodus 20:1-2; 25 1-9; 35: 4-10, and 1 Kings 1:39), the Roman Catholic faith has traditionally placed golden and silver elaborate crowns over the Blessed Virgin Mary's painting or sculptures, as symbols of her co-sovereignty over the orb and the Church, from an exegetical study and careful examination of St. Matthew’s Gospel, ‘When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.’ (2:10-11)

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)

Thus, Mary was venerated by Christians since apostolic times (1st-century) and Apostolic Fathers with Saint Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-107) -the first Christian writer to stress the virgin birth and to use the term catholic church as a collective term for the believers-; they venerated Mary by calling her ‘Mother of God’ (the Greek title 'Theotokos', God-bearer), a title that primarily stresses the divinity of Jesus Christ -considered true God and true man, that he has two natures (divine and human) joined in one person- in devotional and theological writing (the ‘Mother of God’ title, as a logical extension of that scrutiny, had been arrived –like doctrinal statement and dogma of faith- at by the Council of Ephesus, AD 431). 

In this sense, Mary emerges as mediatrix and intercessor and by veneration of hyperdulia (Greek 'huperdouleia', 'beyond' 'service' or 'work done'the Christian art beginning to reflect the devotion to Mary with the splendor, dignity and mystery of faith and otherworldly beauty.

For example, in the 16th-century, the same Henry VIII remodelled the crown of England during his reign to reinforce his new role as head of the Church (Reformed), substituting three miniature plaques decorated in relief (gold and enamel in minute detail), representing the three kings or wise men, for three British figures, St. George, St. Edmund and St. Edward the Confessor, but in the last plaque of the new crown -designed in the Tudor style-, he kept the former and tiny image of the Mother of God, the Virgin and infant ChristThis crown was broken up and its valuable antique components sold in 1649. [The Henry’s crown is shown in the Daniel Mytens painting (1631, oil on canvas, 85 in x 53 in/2159 mm x 1346 mm): 'Portrait of Charles I', National Portrait Gallery, London UK]

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)
Honouring Our Lady
Evenly spread this faith in the Spanish America, our ancestors has left us many and various artistic masterpieces of devotions. So, seven centuries of faith are shorted form around the most venerated representation of Mary with the title of Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba (Táriba City – Táchira State – Venezuela). It is a tempera painting on panel (12.40 in x 8.26 in/315 mm x 210 mm) in a Romanesque version of the Theotokos Bizantine icon known as 'Panaia Portaitissa' (Keeper of the Portal) or 'Hodegetria' (She who shows the way), Orthodox Marian advocators dated to the 4th or 5th-century. Yet at the same time, this delicate and subtle work of art express the history of the legendary Táchira land.

In fact, as Romanesque religious and devotional painting, dated in about late 13th or 14th-century and whose iconography most closely parallel is in the Notre-Dame du Puy-en-Velay's sculpture from 11th-century (Haute-Loire, France), Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba comes from medieval Europe, Spain or France, through the 'Camino de Santiago' or Way of St. James and attributed to Cistercians or White Monks, because its distinctive and identifiable form or style resembles the austere artists and models of that monastic order, and its strict interpretation of the monastic rules set forth by St. Benedict of Nursia about AD 540cf, Samir A. Sánchez, Nuestra Señora de la Consolación de Táriba, un retablo del Románico en América/Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba, An older Romanesque wood panel painting in the Americas, Experience-Art Project, 2012.

Nuestra Señora de la Consolación de Táriba (Spanish for 'Our Lady of Consolation de Táriba'). Romanesque version of the Theotokos Bizantine icon known as 'Panaia Portaitissa' (Keeper of the Portal) or 'Hodegetria' (She who shows the way), and dated to the 13th or 14th-century. Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba is a tempera painting on panel (12.40 in x 8.26 in/315 mm x 210 mm) whose iconography most closely parallel is in the Notre-Dame du Puy-en-Velay's sculpture, from 11th-century, France. (Photograph by Samuel Trevisi, 2010)

Depicts a mature-looking Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, in a seat figure revealing evidence of Byzantine conventional and stylised forms on a throne, non-perceptible, with infant Christ, in the centre panel. Other objects are present at the paint: three ancient Byzantine lamps, a situla or medieval holy-water vessel (with 'aspergillum', a hyssop branch tied that is dipped in holy-water), a palm and two medieval wooden crutches. The Marian image is wearing imperial dress and headress. A close-fitting veil covers hair and lobes of ears; it is  lengthened and bound by a Byzantine imperial crown composed by a stiff hat and row of gems (horizontal diadem) and lateral and longitudinal hoops across top.   

The Child's right hand is raised in a formalized and traditional Eastern blessing or Benedictio latina [or an 'eloquent hand-gesture' in a rhethoric of the image, according to the art historical terminology of Professor Moshe Barasch (in Giotto and the Language of Gesture, 1987)] and he holds a celestial sphere (Ptolemaic system or pre-Copernican geocentric Universe) in his left hand. The artistic theme and the Blessed Mary's position in this medieval masterpiece evoke a Black Madonna or Black Virgins found in European Roman Catholic and Orthodox countries.

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)

This sacred image holds deep spiritual and cultural significance in our state’s history. Arrived to Táchira land with the Spanish Conquerors, or colonists or Austin Friars (Augustinians Hermits Missionaries) in 16th-century (AD 1561), in the time frame described by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), ‘both the East and the West Indies being met in the crown of Spain, it is come to pass, that, as one saith in a brave kind of expression, the sun never sets in the Spanish dominions, but ever shines upon one part or other of them: which, to say truly, is a beam of glory [...]’ (Bacon, Francis, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, vol II, Philadelphia, 1841, p. 438). From that moment, the painting -essentially symbolical representation expressing concepts of faith- is widely considered to be one of the principal focal religious symbols of Tachiran Roman Catholic people.
According to the Church and the old canonical tradition -and an episcopal promise of the Right Reverend Alejandro Fernández-Feo Tinoco, Bishop of San Cristóbal from 1952 to 1985-, the Coronation of Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba was officially granted and authorized by His Holiness John XXIII (pope 1958-1963), by Pontifical Bull 'Alacres Dei' in 1959 [Ecclesia B. Mariai V., vulgo Nuestra Señora de la Consolación, appellatae, in urbe Táriba, Dioecesis S. Christophori in Venetiola, privilegiis Basilicae Minoris Honestatur, Datum Roma die XX in mensis Octobris, MDCCCCLIX] and it was celebrated on 12 March 1967, by the Papal Legate and first Venezuelan Cardinal, the Lord Cardinal José Humberto Quintero (1902-1984).

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)

La bellezza è nei dettagli (The beauty is in the details)
Following a strict schedule and exploring the symbolism of the object, the first observational study –also called iconography- by specialists [Samuel Trevisi professional photographer and gemmologist, Samuel Carrillo Clavijo and Samuel Carrillo Jr., sacred art restorers and Samir A. Sánchez professor of art historian at the Catholic University of Táchira State, with support provided by Televisora Regional del Táchira/Táchira TV (Martín Useche, producer and Gabriel Duque, camera operator), 15 February 2017] had encountered that the votive crown of Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba or Consolation crown, like masterpiece of high jewellery, is a total work of art. Dates from 1966 (made in Caracas) and it was hand-crafted in gold, in an openwork with delicate ornamental tracery or filigree, glistering with one hundred sixty eight pearls and precious and semi-precious stones [not many, but enough.]
Fashioned from the St. Edward's crown and imperial state crown models (British regalia, Jewel House, London, UK), the votive crown is formed by several parts imperceptibly put together: circlet, foliage, royal hoops, openwork orb and cross, and cap [without border of ermine.]

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)

The circlet is based on three regal jewelled diadems or headbands, superimpose one diadem over another, and it set with twenty four pearls finish; the foliage is made up of six large and stylised fleurs-de-lis and six small six-pointed stars [Marian symbol like Stella matutina (Morning Star) title from the Litany of Loreto, since 1587]; three depressed royal hoops or arches on top, with baroque forms. 

Surmounting the royal hoops is a jeweled orb or monde [with blue and green gemstones evoking the Scriptures, 'And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.' (Genesis 1:10)] and Latin cross, symbolic meaning of the ancient hymn from the Roman Breviary (6th or 7th-century), ‘Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!’

In the same way, this cross has the traditional or baroquian shape of the an episcopal insignia, the pectoral cross; exemplar in accordance with the 'Cæremoniale Episcoporum', which Clement VIII promulgated by the Apostolic Letter 'Cum novissime', 14 July, 1600], richly adorned with seven amethysts. These are a variation of amethysts best known as 'Rosa de Francia' (common Spanish name for Rose of France) of stunning pinkish lavender, with hue and subtle light tones. 

The votive crown of Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba is wear over a silken regal blue panne cap.
Artisan-jeweller, with hours of labour, faithfully following ancient metalworking techniques, including use of hand-twisted square gold wire, embellished the Consolation crown frame with 168 precious and semi-precious stones, including amethysts, rubies, aquamarines, topazes, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds, glittering diamonds, and pearls—all donations of Tachiran Roman Catholic people, from 1959 to 1967.
The crown is 38 cm (14.96 in) tall, and at a weight of 1.60 kg (3.52 lb of solid gold). Notable stone –completely encircled by twelve glittering diamonds- is the 'Alejandro's Amethyst', a gemstone of deep purple, on the front circlet [in central regal jewelled diadem which has forty-two golden fleurs-de-lis], taken from the ring of the Right Reverend Alejandro Fernández-Feo Tinoco, Bishop of San Cristóbal, the same as votive offering or ex-voto.

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)
Some significant tips
    In order to protect it against possible harm or trouble, the votive crown is kept in a bank vault excepting special occasions such as relevant feast-days (15 August), when it is worn by the panel-image of Our Lady of Consolation of Táriba.
    At the Coronation ceremony back in 1967, the Consolation crown fell off the reliquary and frame has split in smaller parts (one arch, and cross on the top was little light crooked). The frame weakened was newly restored and renowned for their beauty and historical significance (-in 2017- by Samuel Carrillo Clavijo and Samuel Carrillo Jr, sacred art restorers).

A controlled use of direct lighting permits to showcase the true beauty and magnificence of the Consolation crown, in all their entire marvel.
    The Our Lady of Consolation of Tariba' Spanish colonial silver and silver-gilt reliquary (designed, embossed and chased by the Spanish jeweller Alonso de Lozada y Quiroga in AD 1687) is a fine example of the high quality of decorative arts and silver jewellery in the mother country and Spanish colonies.

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)

Epilogue: Art and Spirituality
In sum, the uniqueness of this votive crown stems from the fact that it is a masterpiece of goldsmith’s art of great artistic, patrimonial and spiritual value –veritable gem of the Táchira’s historic heritage and universal value– which provide outstanding of extraordinary and extremely careful and precise Venezuelan jewellery style. The openwork handcrafted intricacy of the work reflects 'la bellezza dei dettagli' (Beauty in the details) described by Italian art historians. Despite this, it is not as well-known as it should be and well deserve. So, all knowledge and specialized studies hitherto can make a lot of difference to the protection of the historic heritage in Táchira State, expressed throughout the creation of beautiful or thought-provoking works that really deals with what it means to be Tachiran.

Photograph by Samuel Trevisi (2017)


© Proyecto Experiencia Arte | Experience Art Project 2012-2017. Some rights reserved. Copyright of texts, graphic works and photos belong to each researcher, photographer/office mentioned.