November 2017 Print

St. Andrew In Art

by Dr. Marie-France Hilgar

St. Andrew, son of John or Jonah, was born in Bethsaida, Galilee, three years B. C. He was at first a follower of St. John the Baptist, who told him to follow Christ, and was the brother of Peter. It is said that he is the one who introduced Peter to Our Lord. Both brothers were fishermen. Jesus told them they were going to become fishers of men. According to the Gospel of John, it was Andrew who told Christ about the boy with the fishes and loaves. Andrew was one of the four disciples who was on the Mount of Olives. After the Ascension, he preached in Scythia, went as far as Kiev and Novgorod, is said to have founded the See of Byzantium. He is usually shown carrying a cross X shaped, on which he was crucified in Patras, not nailed but tied to the cross, agonizing for two days. Until his death, on November 30, 60 A D, he continued to preach. He is the patron Saint of several counties and cities. Some of his relics were sent to the town of St. Andrews in Scotland whose flag represents his cross which is also found on the Coat of Arms of the King of Spain, as well as on the flags of Alabama and Florida!

Historic Representations in Art

The oldest representations of Saint Andrew are found in 6th Century mosaics in a basilica in Croatia and in Ravenna, Italy. It is one of the earliest images of Saint Andrew with the wild hair that became a frequent characteristic of his portraits. A 12th Century representation is found in the Palatine Chapel in Palermo, the royal chapel of the Norman kings in Sicily. The artist has tamed most of the saint’s typical wild hair but left a few errant tufts to identify him. A mosaic dating from 1220 is found in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls in Rome. Simone Martini, an Italian artist, also represented St. Andrew.

Back to Sicily and the 12-13th centuries, St. Andrew is present in the Cathedral of the Assumption. A stone relief dated 1329 shows the saint in the church of St. Andrea della Zirada. Jesus is shown taking the two apostles out of their boat. In 1420-1430 a beautiful altarpiece was created with Saint Andrew at its center. It was first in Catalunya and is now in the Cloisters in New York. Dating from 1426 and now in the Getty Museum is the painting done by the artist of the Renaissance, the Italian Masaccio. It is worth taking some time describing it. It is tempera and gold leaf on a panel. St. Andrew is depicted from the waist up and he is portrayed holding a traditional cross and a book; he is wrapped in a large green mantle modeled by large fields of color lighted up wisely. The face is bearded, the gaze is steady and looking in the distance. Some details, like the perspective of the cross and the saint’s solid posture suggest the artist’s intention to optimize these shapes for a view from below. Masaccio’s treatment of flesh and drapes has a vigorous and sculptured approach with varying colors, thick and sharp folds making the robe vaporous and heavy. Andrew’s fingers are solid and square. One form of art which was very much appreciated during the Middle Ages and before the printing press was that of enluminures. Jean Fouquet is well known for his “heures.” In those of Etienne Chevalier is found a representation of St. Andrew.

Isenbrant is a Flemish artist from Bruges, Belgium, ca. 1500-1551, who, on his canvas, represents in the forefront, St. Michael, St. Andrew and St. Francis of Assisi while the crucifixion with two women is in the background. Around 1519-1521, Holbein the Younger designed a stained-glass window of St. Andrew with all four of the saint’s attributes: wild hair, long beard, the cross saltire and the book. 1514, the saint is found in Venice, in the church of Saint Stephano. Also in Venice, but in the church of St. John, we find our saint in the nave and again in Venice we find him in the Morosini Chapel of the church of Saint George the Major. That painting is by Tintoretto. 14-foot marble statues of the twelve apostles were made for the church of Saint John Lateran in Rome in 1708-1709.

Of course, St. Andrew is represented in many other churches, would it be only in Paris, in the 8th arrondissement. They are not included in the “artistic” renderings of the saint, as he depictions have been judged as too young and not “artistic” enough.