CIRCLE OF ARTUS WOLFFORT (1581–1641)
This painting proclaims the doctrine of the Trinity and the spirit of the seventeenth-century Catholic Counter-Reformation. The traditional Christian concept of the Trinity asserted that the infinite God manifests Himself in three persons. This painting elaborates on this concept by depicting three distinct beings, each revealing various roles of God in the salvation of the world. God the Father is shown as the Eternal Creator of the universe, a patriarchal figure wearing the majestic vestments of a pope with a three-tiered tiara crowning His head. He holds the transparent orb of the world surmounted by a cross, indicating His power over heaven and earth, as well as implying the spread of the Catholic Church throughout the world. As the Word made flesh, Christ the Son displays the wounds of His Crucifixion—a reminder of Christ’s victory and a pledge of His love, an invitation to receive salvation through the blood of Christ. The blood and body of Christ were also strongly associated with the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist, which the church claimed as essential to salvation and a central tenet of its claim to authority. The Holy Ghost hovers above the Father and the Son in the form of a dove, emanating the light of the Spirit and uniting all three forms into one visual unit.
During the Counter-Reformation period, art became a powerful means of conveying the doctrines of the Catholic Church and promoting religious fervor among worshippers.
Artists like Wolffort, living in the Catholic region of Flanders, relied on a studio of apprentice artists to help meet the demand for commissions of such religiously charged works. This painting may have been executed by one such follower of Wolffort who studied and worked in the artist’s studio.
The MOA has created suggested discussion prompts and assignments for BYU CIV faculty and students to use. Each assignment is based on themes that correspond with GE learning outcomes.
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Man and Divine