October 2014

Balmoral Castle, 1874. It was a Halloween to remember. Queen Victoria planned an elaborate party, taking charge of designing every element of the night herself. Something in the incongruity of that touches me. Victoria, living with the ghost of Prince Albert, sought to stave off the monstrous with a Halloween bash. Diana Millay’s The Power of Halloween, is a witch-friendly potboiler that you need not bother reading. But even a bad book can have something worth plucking:
The Queen’s lavish preparations and attention to detail may have run a close second to her coronation.
Continue Reading

To clear the palate from all things synodal, let us go look at a painting. One in particular deserves a place of honor. Among the loveliest images of Mary that we hold as our own, none delights me more than Henry Ossawa Tanner’s The Annunciation. Tanner (1859-1937) was this country’s first major African-American artist. Within nine years of moving to Paris—a crucial destination for artists of his generation—he had become an international success. By 1900, he ranked among the leading Americans in Paris and, released there from the burdens of race, was counted the premier biblical painter of his day. Continue Reading

Just arrived in this morning’s email is this broadcast from Sandro Magister’s Chiesa: “Francis’ Patient Revolution.” Reading it, patience is the last quality that comes to mind:
There was no agreement at the synod on homosexuality and divorce, but in the end it will be the pope who decides. And he already has in mind the changes he wants to introduce, or rather is already putting them into practice.
  Paul Anthony McGavin writes:
It is not true that Francis was silent during the two weeks of the synod.
Continue Reading
John Walker at Alexandre Gallery

In Painting and Reality, Etienne Gilson argued that painting should be experienced on its own terms. That is to say, aesthetically. He insisted that audiences greet art without thinking of it as something to be understood, decoded, or interpreted. A painting is not an essay, not a set of propositions. Whatever literary, philosophical, or narrative content might be claimed for a work, the art of the thing lies elsewhere and exists to be welcomed for its own sake. To do otherwise, he wrote, is to turn a work of art into a book. Continue Reading

Throughout the first half of the seventeenth century, while the Barbary corsairs ranged freely around the Mediterranean, these pirates also sailed by the dozen up the [English] Channel and even into the Thames estuary, plundering local fishing and coastal towns. . . . The Algerians were said to have taken no fewer than 353 British ships between 1672 and 1682, which would mean that they were still picking up between 290 and 430 new British slaves every year.
—Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters  Historical truths become casualties of preferred narratives in the present. Continue Reading