Prior to the Enlightenment, the Church was the single most important patron of the arts in Europe. As a result, most of the art produced was religious in nature, celebrating the sacred figures of the Christian faith. This exhibition started with the question: when it comes to those not included in the books of the Bible, where did the stories come from? Specifically, where did Christians - including Christian artists - get their information about the lives of the saints?
The short answer is, from The Golden Legend, a 13th century compilation that swiftly became a medieval bestseller, second only to the Bible in manuscript copies, printed editions and translations. The paintings in this installation, all from our museum’s collection and dating from the late 15th through the 18th centuries, illustrate the continued prevalence of such representations right up to the end of the early modern era, and unpack some of the stories that continue to fascinate.
Image: Follower of Peter Paul Rubens, (Flemish, 1577-1640), The Virgin and Child Adored by Saints, ca. 1630, Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 25 in., Gift of Marjorie Myers Ginn, Francis B. Myers II, John C. Myers, Jr., and Everett M. Myers in memory of John C. Myers, Sr., 1957.11