Saturday, March 04, 2017

Saturday Detention: Erotic Art in the Cathedral.

Fresco in Cathedral church of the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia
depicts Jesus lifting nets full of prostitutes, 
homosexuals, and other lascivious characters, into heaven.

Theology of the Body Studies.

The work is incredible - I like it very much - but of course, I paint, and I'm a bit more open to such things.  That said, it's pretty gay, and I expect many will be disturbed by the content.  "Erotic" content, as the artist pointed out: “In this case, there was not – in this sense – a sexual intention, but erotic, yes,” said Cinalli. “I think that the erotic aspect is the most notable among the people inside the nets.”

The Lifesite article pretty much emphasizes the homosexuality of the Argentine artist Ricardo Cinalli commissioned by Bishop Paglia and Fr. Fabio Leonardis to do the mural.  Cinalli explains that he was guided at every step by the two priests, saying: “There was no detail that was done freely, at random. Everything was analyzed. Everything was discussed. They never allowed me to work on my own.”

That would drive me nuts.  The artist deserves time off purgatory for having endured that.

The angels are kind of skinhead looking.

Lifesite also seems to suggest something queer about Paglia and Leonardis.  I can see why, yet the composition is nonetheless very compelling - Christ rescuing sinners - as Today's Gospel of the call of Matthew reminds us, "I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners."  The fresco is on the inner wall of the Cathedral's facade, so in some sense, one is leaving that sinful life behind as one approaches the sacraments.  Christ, the fisher of men, pulls in the nets of salvation - filled with sinners, including the bishop and the priest.  It's a stunning allegory, very much in accord with the concept of mercy, going out to the peripheries, as proclaimed by the Franciscan papacy.

I don't see it as something scandalous, though I can understand while some who believe the Church is being undermined by homosexuals, modernists, and liberals would be.  I think of the scandal the Sistine Chapel caused when it was first completed, because of the nudity and the churchmen depicted in hell, and so on.  I'm not sure that there is anything ideologically subversive in the Terni fresco, albeit disturbing for the 'erotic' content - not explicit of course - more at intent.  In Italian art there is a great deal of nudity, much of it in churches.  It too can be considered erotic.

Knowing a bit about art history might quell the fears of some who appear to be scandalized by the work.  The nudity in the work of Luca Signorelli's Orvieto frescoes comes to mind.  Critics point out that the model for Christ in the Terni fresco was a gay hairdresser.  So what?  Throughout history artists have used models of 'ill repute', therefore I don't understand the problem.  And who knows, maybe the gay hairdresser is a former homo - living a chaste and celibate life now?  The critics are also scandalized that 'Christ's private parts' can be seen through his clothing.  It's not as if we've never seen it before.  Fra Angelico did that too, along with many other painters throughout history.  In art, on one level at least, it demonstrates that Christ was truly man and truly God.

So anyway - I like the work - but it is a bit queer... not that there is anything wrong with that.

The only Catholic thing lacking is any reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

That's Fr. Fabio with the heart on.

H/T Dad29


  1. Bishop Robert Barron:
    "Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy that he wants all people to be saved. Even those of us who feel a million miles from him, perhaps sunk in a lifestyle that has alienated us from God"

    There is hope for me yet as I too hope to be pulled up into the saving net of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    You mercy is my hope oh Lord!

    1. The reminder that we are all in need of salvation - all of us sinners - caught in our sins - we need the mercy of God.

    2. Amen!

      I have always believed that without the gift of our Lord's mercy, we would long be dead ... I know I would be.

  2. I would have no problem with this painting as long as it is clear that those in the net going to heaven have abandoned and rejected their sins. From what I can tell, that is not the case. Even while they are being taken into heaven they are engaged in their sin. In one article, the artist said he even wanted to show two homosexuals copulating in the painting, but that was thought to be too much, so it got axed. Clearly, the message intended by the artist and the Cardinal who commissioned it, is that you can still live in sin - not repent - and still go to heaven. That, my friends, is heresy in paint.

    1. I still find it intriguing and have no problem with it - believing those in the net have abandoned their sins - they are not all homosexuals of course. The erotic explanations may have had a higher intent, if you will, regarding 'eros' as it is discussed in our post-Theology of the Body discussions and even by Pope Benedict in Deus caritas. I'm not saying that's it, but it helps me in seeing this as something theologically profound and good. I don't think the message is approval of sin but may be more akin to the 'harvest' of souls. The nets being full, they will be sorted at the final judgement. Like the miraculous catch of fish, and the nets were sorted. Does that make sense?

      I wonder if the artist misinterpreted the priests directing him? Interpreting eros in homoerotic terms, and so on? Whatever the case, the inclusion of the bishop and priest in the nets, with the rest of the adulterous is quite an admission that we are all sinners and prone to sin - and desperately in need of salvation.

      The absence of the Blessed Virgin bothers me, since God explicitly chose to associate her in the work of salvation. Her absence in a scene so eschatological is disturbing. Although I find it interesting, the angels seem a bit odd - the skinhead look I usually associate with deviant behavior.

      All of that said - there is a resurgence of nudity in sacred art - and often TOB is cited to support that. I've no problem with nudity in art, but if people fear loose interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, they should reconsider the loose interpretations - even misinterpretations of Theology of the Body.

      Anyway - here's Benedict on eros:

      Eros was (thus) celebrated as divine power, as fellowship with the Divine.

      The Old Testament firmly opposed this form of religion, which represents a powerful temptation against monotheistic faith, combating it as a perversion of religiosity. But it in no way rejected eros as such; rather, it declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, because this counterfeit divinization of eros actually strips it of its dignity and dehumanizes it. Indeed, the prostitutes in the temple, who had to bestow this divine intoxication, were not treated as human beings and persons, but simply used as a means of arousing “divine madness”: far from being goddesses, they were human persons being exploited. An intoxicated and undisciplined eros, then, is not an ascent in “ecstasy” towards the Divine, but a fall, a degradation of man. Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns. - Deus Caritas Est

    2. I'm not at all opposed to eros being used in Catholic art. In fact, I like the idea. I think it can be used as a tool to educate and inspire regarding the true meaning of eros. I also like your interpretation about the "harvest of souls." I guess I saw it differently. I saw the souls in the nets as "going to heaven" and not "on their way to be judged." It's an interesting interpretation. I wonder how the Cardinal and the artist see it?

    3. I would love to know how Paglia sees it.


  4. I saw that - in fact I get comments because it is on disqus. One artist commented, evidently Michelangelo was his only point of reference for precedent of male nudity in art, forgetting Raphael, Signarelli, even William Blake. I think people hear 'homo' and react.

  5. As an artist you are more aware then most that eroticism is present in many of our great art. This was one reason the Protestant Reformation cleaned house. The Quakers still fron on art in church. Our Puritian forefathers influence remains with us to some degree. To tell you the truth I am more conflicted about reports of a gay kiss and character development of Beauty and the Beast. Disney now politically correct? Do children really need that. Am I wrong to accept it in one venue but reject in another?

    1. It also accounts for Orthodox canons regulating iconography.

  6. After more research there does appear to be theological, moral problems with the mural. That makes me sad.

  7. It works for me. Comment on top: " long as it is clear that those in the net going to heaven have abandoned and rejected their sins." What if they're addicted and cannot fully reject it? What then?


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