Posted by: Joe of St. Thérèse | September 17, 2010

Reflections upon Art Museum

Last Saturday we got to go to the Art Museum…here are my reflections

At the Philadelphia Museum of art we encountered tons of art from mostly I’d say the time periods from 1100 AD forward with a few exceptions. The forms of art that were encountered were sacred art, non sacred art, modern art, and contemporary art. Within these styles were impressionism, realism, and contemporary. One of the things that I immediately noticed with the art is the devolution of things mysterious, transcendent and orderly to that of disorder and asymmetry. In other-words the shift from the focus on God to the focus upon man. When man loses God, it loses its ability to focus on itself.
One of the pieces that caught my attention in the realm of the sacred was the Holy Chalice that was located on the European art section. We as Catholics believe that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the representation of Calvary in an un-bloody manner. The detail on the chalice, and the pointing to the Sacrifice of Abel, Melchizedek, Abraham and Jesus is beautiful. The connection between the Old and New Testaments. The characteristics that are traditionally founded in objective beauty: order, similarity, proportion, symmetry, and clarity are present in the chalice. In addition the Catholic elements of verticality, eschatology and catechetical are present in the chalice. (cf CCC 1182-86). It pointed to the transcendent God, the mystery, it was not anthropocentric, which is exactly what made it beautiful.
Another piece that I saw was a Picasso piece that I don’t happen to remember the name of off the top of my head. The first thing that I noticed was the disorder of the piece there was absolutely nothing that made this piece beautiful in any regard. Disorder is something that truly makes me angry (in case you didn’t notice my reaction at the museum when we got there). Disorder points towards man being the center which is not beautiful. As a mathematician, order is very important if we don’t have it, the subject falls apart, likewise we see in the later Picasso piece that he’s falling apart because he lacks the order and structure that points towards God.
Art must point to the transcendent, and this is how we’re going to help Christians that are losing their faith. We must make art that reminds them of the one True Faith and what they believe. When I look at a crucifix, I see the price that was paid for my Faith, and see what I have to undergo in the world. The art should bring people back to the faith, or allow them to hold to that Faith that they do have. We can also use art to assist in paying ransom for captives if need be. That’s secular art, not Church art. Art should liberate people from their addictions and liberate them to bring them to freedom to practice their Faith. When the principles of order, symmetry, proportion, clarity, verticality, eschatology, catechetical are used in art, these things will happen.

Chalices should be used



  1. Did you happen to see Tanner’s Annunciation?

    If I ever get to Philadelphia, I’m going to see Tanner’s Annunciation and then eat a cheese-steak.

  2. BTW, if you were to design a chaliace what would you like?

    When I was a young teen our priest Fr. Joe had a ‘pottery’ chalice with hounds around the goblet it was made by a friend, a ceramicist, the hounds were for Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven”). Even with the explaintion, and as much as I love that poem, at the time I still didn’t like the crockery look of that chalice.

    BTW that chalice in the photo is beautiful. I can’t look at the color blue without thinking of Our Lady.

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