“An Ecclesiastical Solemnity”

Posted: January 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

  1. Uyen Hoang says:

    Oh, the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. I remember studying this piece in my art history class. Bernini really tried to place the viewer into a “front row seat” as he transformed a spiritual experience into a physical one. He wanted the viewer too to experience this intensely spiritual and sensual moment.
    (see the piece here: https://infinitedetox.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/teresa.jpg?w=600 )

    Crashaw wants the audience to experience the same thing. Crashaw further goes in depth to express Saint Theresa’s devotion to God, “She offers them her dearest breath,” “For Him she’ll teach them how to die.” The fidelity is to utterly no end.

    The imagery is another thing completely,
    “What joy shall seize thy soul, when she,
    Bending her blessèd eyes on thee,
    Those second smiles of heaven, shall dart
    Her mild rays through thy melting heart!”

    All in all, both pieces truly transcend the audience into a metaphysical divinity.

    • I’m glad you recognized and appreciated the image. While I understand the way you use the term ‘metaphysical’, this is not exactly the way Crashaw, and the other Metaphysical Poets, would have used the word – if they would even use the word at all. The phrase ‘metaphysical poetry’ was coined, as Eliot points out, by Samuel Johnson, as renowned critic who lived a century after Crashaw died. Nor, was the phrase necessarily meant as an sort of flattery. In class, we’ll get into the details of what exactly Johnson might have found troubling about these writers. For now, though, the kind of transcendence you ascribe to Bernini’s statue is something we will take up later in the semester when discussing Michael Fried’s landmark essay “Art and Objecthood”.

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