Catholic Art Blog

June 12, 2013

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Obscure Children Staring at you in 10 Carl Bloch Paintings

While we enhance and restore religious images all day, we zoom in on an unprecedented amount of art. We stare at every pixel, fix every color and remove every blemish. One of the neatest things about our work, though, is picking up on trends that different artists employ.

We can't help but cracking up a bit by noticing Carl Bloch's sense of humor and simplicity. It's fun to get to know the personality of the artist through the greatest legacy he left behind. No, Bloch didn't write a nifty blog—he spoke through his paintings. It's fascinating to get to know a person solely through their art!

So what have we learned about our new friend Carl? He loved sneaking random children into his paintings that express some of the greatest stories of Catholicism. It's not something you notice right away, and it's not something he did in every painting, but there are certainly enough of his artworks where children show up (usually appearing around 10-years-old) and, what's even more cool is that they're usually the only ones looking right at the viewer's eyes, shoes or shoulders. Subliminal messaging you say? ha!

Carl Bloch had eight children whom he dearly loved. His friend, Hans Christian Andersen (famous children's author), also saw the simplicity of a child in Bloch's very personality. To commemorate one of his books, Andersen wrote the following verse about Carl Bloch:

"When we then met, you were just as I thought
A child in soul and yet so manly wise.
Modest, doubting of thy own strength
Yet very sure of what Our Lord had bade thee
For otherwise such work could never be done."


In one of Bloch's letters to Andersen, Carl expressed his desire to create art that inspires simple people.

"Should I have a desire here on the earth that I dare hope would be fulfilled, it would be that I might do things that the simple man (he who has been there all along) would esteem well."

So let's do a survey of some of these children that show up in his paintings. Perhaps the children were even modeled off his own children.


In Christ the Consolator, Christ outsretches his arms to embrace mankind. Jesus is surrounded by suffering souls who are looking all over the place, and we see the only person looking at the camera (ahem, viewer) is a child with a doubtful look on his face. It almost looks like a hand-caught-in-the-cookie jar look. But that's just our take. 



The painting of Christ Cleansing the Temple shows a crop of terrified merchants running for their lives as Jesus gives them the boot from the temple. The frightened looking child is lost in the chaos of the moment while all are fleeing. He appears to have a rag over his arm, so maybe he's the sandal shiner boy, or perhaps a child of one of the merchants. 



In Come Unto Me, it appears to be a little girl looking at the viewer this time around. So far, it appears to be a boy in all the other images. Once again, as in the case of Christ the Consolator, everyone is looking in different places and worrying about their troubles. Only the child stares at you with a slightly somber look as if to say: "it's ok, be simple like me and you'll get to heaven." 



While Christ Heals the Blind Man on the road to Jericho, we get to see a variety of characters; once again with all different expressions and moods (read our blog post about these personalities). Though it's easy to infer a lot of different moods in this painting, one of the most obscure characters is the grinning child we see being held back by his dad. He's probably giggling, because it looks like his distracted brother is playing with his hair (parents, you know the drill). One can imagine the father whispering to his child: "Sshhh, son. Our Lord is tied up doing a miracle right now. We probably won't get a chance to see this again; you know how the people always crowd Him, and it's hard to get a good spot." 



Once again, while Christ Heals the Paralytic at the Bethesda Pool, a sole and obscure child is one of two looking at the viewer. This time, the child is with his mother (lady holding the water pot) and possibly his grandma (directly above child) who, interestingly enough, is also staring at the viewer as well. The old woman behind the child is smiling this time, while the child has a dazed look on his face that's either oblivious to the miracle going on or still trying to figure out what's happening on their daily water run.



This time around, it's a little more difficult to spot our staring child in the painting Christ and the Children. The most obvious child in the detail above is intently looking at Jesus, while a tiny half face and eye (rest hidden in a shadow) appears to be looking at your shoes. Perhaps, in this case, he's simply waiting his turn to receive a blessing from Christ. Isn't that life? We spend half of it waiting in lines.



It's pretty hard to miss the child in Christ and the Small Child. Our Lord embraces and emphasizes the olive-branch holding boy who appears to be looking at your right shoulder this time around (coffee stain on your shirt maybe?). Certainly the emphasis on the child is that you need to be simple like him to gain the kingdom of heaven. The olive branch, on the other hand, traditionally symbolizes Christ's victory over death.



We almost missed this child while wading through Carl Bloch's art, but there the hidden boy is (almost as hidden as the one in Christ and the Children). While Jesus Christ is Raising Lazarus from the Dead (see a shadowed Lazarus ambulating out of the tomb?),  we catch a glimpse once again of a shadowy face and single eye staring at your eye. It's hard to tell, but the boy looks a little frightened this time. It's not that surprising, considering the crowd has gathered at the local graveyard, which is probably not the place the boy usually goes to play. However, what's possibly more terrifying (and incredible) is to hear and see Lazarus walking out of the tomb after you probably saw him cold and dead at the wake a few days previous.  



Once again, it's very difficult to miss the child in the painting where Jesus is Found in the Temple. This time, though, he's not looking at your shoes or eyes but at the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. In this painting, Bloch wants us to focus and imagine the expressions of the two as they see their twelve-year-old son Jesus after searching Jerusalem for three days. Judging by the look on the boy's face, he appears to be sad, surprised and empathetic after seeing their joy and tears—something we can use for our meditations on this mystery of the life of Christ.



And, finally, one of our very favorites at Restored Traditions: The Sermon on the Mount. Christ preaches the summation of christian doctrine in this painting, while we also get a handful of characters to look at. Each person in the painting has different emotions and dispositions for how they are receiving the word of God (probably would make another interesting blog post by itself). However, once again focusing on the child, we see him as the only young person in a world of adults. While not looking at the coffee stain on your right shoulder this time, our little guy is in the middle of a daunting task: trying to catch a butterfly! The boy is obviously missing the point of the sermon, but his dad (above) is devoutly soaking it all in with a gesture of fidelity (folded hands). This, in turn, teaches us the awesome responsibility father's have to learn the word of God and transmit it to their children.



May 28, 2013


The Liturgical Year in Religious Art

A beautiful piece of classic art reflecting the liturgy for every Sunday & Holy Day in the Latin-Extraordinary Form; Now for sale as a winzip image bundle. View the Artwork Here

This was one of our most favorite projects EVER at Restored Traditions: find a piece of classic art that drives home the message for every single Sunday and Holy Day of obligation in the liturgical year. We used the 1962 Missal for this, also called the Extraordinary Form.

Instead of staying with one artist or style, we gave a variety of genres from the old-school religious art world. We think that there's really something for everyone in here. Special thanks go out to guys like Michelangelo, Murillo, Tissot, Bloch, iconographers and many more wonderful artists from days gone by that made this Catholic art happen.

Primarily, we drew from the Gospel (Latin Rite) of the day to choose the art image. In some cases, we simply went with the theme of the Sunday (e.g. Palm Sunday); whereas in other cases we drew from the Epistle. The only non-biblical reference was taken from the autobiography of Saint Patrick for his feastday (Holy Day in Ireland). We included art for the Holy Days of obligation as they are observed in more than 10 countries, which should cover almost everything. We also threw in the Feast of Christ the King!

We posted the accompanying Scripture quote the art is derived from, followed by a brief commentary on the piece. Click on the thumbnails to view the full images on their prospective product pages.

View the Artwork of the Liturgical Year. 

May 09, 2013


The Rosary Mysteries in Fine Art

We had a request a while back for the mysteries of the Rosary. At the time, we didn't have a full set to sell of the Rosary mysteries, so we put one together.

It was certainly a daunting task to try and identify the most appropriate images to represent each mystery, while still remaining in the realm of Catholic fine artwork.

There are other sets out there that look as if they were made primarily for children, so it was our goal to represent the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries with a consistent stream of fine art.

We think that each mystery is justly represented by various great artists. It is our goal that this art will be uplifting and help people on their rosary meditations.

We've made the Rosary image bundle available in two sizes: one with smaller and one with larger images, depending on your needs.

Here's the smaller bundle of Rosary images. This set is good for web work or printing holy cards.

The larger Rosary image bundle is better suited for larger printing jobs, such as 8x10 or 11x14. In both cases, you can view all the images in the set and click on their thumbnails for larger sizes or artist information.



January 10, 2013


A Glorious & Sorrowful Queen

The Virgin Crowned presents a contemplative view into the life of Our Lady. Wearing her crown as Queen of Heaven and Earth, she pierces the eye of the viewer with a visage of thoughtful sorrow.

The two focal points of light in the art painting, the face and hands, seem to contradict the title of the image. One would think that the typical artistic rendition of the Virgin Mary crowned would be a glorious display of light showcasing the glory, peace and tranquility of the Queen; but we only see sadness and little emphasis on the beautiful crown (other than enough light to let us know that it’s there).

What can be gathered from this almost contradictory Catholic art painting but a mixture of the glory of Mary as Queen and the pathos of Mary as Mother of Sorrows? She holds her hands gently, yet firmly, to stop the sinner from violating her Son’s will further. She holds her hands compassionately, yet humbly, as if to say that glory is not right now, not immediate, but only after the full race of life has been virtuously run. She holds her hands thoughtfully, yet mournfully, as to say that it was not her will to receive a brilliant crown, but it was the will of the eternal Trinity manifest in Jesus Christ.

And so she accepts the jeweled crown in all justice, humility and charity; yet the Virgin Queen reminds souls that it’s not over—we still have much work to do before earning our crown in heaven.


Title: The Virgin Crowned   |   Artist: Jean Ingres

December 14, 2011


Healing the Blind Man

With unprecedented realism and uplifting vision, Carl Bloch shows us the wonder of Christ healing the blind man.

Bloch displays many of life’s usual suspects in this painting. There's the skeptic (red hat, on the left), the carefree child wanting to see where all the action is at (lower left center), the dutiful apostle restraining the child from interrupting the miracle (right of child), the hopeful-pious servant watching Jesus with a holy joy
(right of Jesus), the fellow right behind the hopeful-pious servant observing the skepticism of the skeptic, and the two men on top of the wall who watch with expectation but got stuck in the nose-bleed section.

All the viewers watch and wait – permanently caught in the brush strokes of Carl Bloch.

One of the more popular themes for many artists, Jesus healing the blind man, has several references in the New Testament. One that appears most fitting for this painting comes from the Evangelist Saint Mark. Right before the passage on Jesus healing the blind man, He speaks to his apostles about "whosoever shall be the first among you, shall be the servant of all. For the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many." - Mark 10:44-45

To immediately practice exactly what He preaches, Jesus Christ shows an excellent example of "ministering": He heals a blind man. One of the other neat things about this passage is that it actually refers to the blind man by name: Bartimeus, which is a Syriac word literally translating as 'son of Timaeus'. People in the New Testament who are miraculously healed usually don't have recorded names. Perhaps this is another reason why Carl Bloch decided to paint such a prominent scene.

Jesus Christ performing the miracle of healing the blind is an example of healing mankind of his spiritual blindness. Often it becomes simple to forget about the spiritual aspect of reality, to become 'blind' to what really matters. Jesus Christ is the one to remove our spiritual blindness in order for us to continue on the road to perfection. Hopefully, we can be like the blind and 'leap up' to directly follow Christ forever.

For the verbatim story of healing the blind man, Saint Mark tells it quite well, so we finish with his rendition of the story:

“And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho, with his disciples, and a very great multitude, Bartimeus the blind man, the son of Timeus, sat by the way side begging. Who when he had heard, that it was Jesus of Nazareth, began to cry out, and to say: Jesus son of David, have mercy on me. And many rebuked him, that he might hold his peace; but he cried a great deal the more: Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus, standing still, commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying to him: Be of better comfort: arise, he calleth thee. Who casting off his garment leaped up, and came to him. And Jesus answering, said to him: What wilt thou that I should do to thee? And the blind man said to him: Rabboni, that I may see. And Jesus saith to him: Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he saw, and followed him in the way. – Mark 10:46-52


Title: Jesus Heals the Blind Man   |   Artist: Carl Bloch

July 21, 2011


The Moment of the Magnificat

Originally painted as a watercolor, French artist and illustrator James Tissot captures the moment the blessed Virgin Mary recites the Magnificat while visiting her relations Elizabeth and Zacharias (notice them looking on in the background).

The Virgin Mary raises her hands in a gesture of praise and prayer while reciting the Magnificat in response to Elizabeth's statement:

"And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.

And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath recieved Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever." — Luke 1:45-55

Tissot was known for spending time in the Holy Land and painting a plethora of scenes from the life of Jesus Christ. What particularly sets him aside from other artists' renditions of the life of Christ is his authenticity in displaying accurately the ethnic garb and customs that were in place while Jesus walked the earth. Though this deviates from many of the typical Western-art depictions of the life of Christ, the viewer has the opportunity for a more historically accurate glimpse into the true visual appearance of the time.

Many of Tissot's artistic renditions also reveal some never-before seen 'footage' of the life of Christ. Two paintings in particular demonstrate this concept: What Our Savior Saw from the Cross and The Virgin Mary in Old Age. The first depicts the crucifixion through the eyes of Christ, and the second shows our Blessed Mother kneeling on Mt. Calvary at the hole where the cross of her Son once rested.


Title: The Magnificat   |   Artist: James Tissot

December 10, 2010


Queen of Kings

The Madonna of Catholic kings illustrates the Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus being adored by prominent Catholic figures around the time of the composition of this painting. Mary and Jesus, prominently sitting on an ornate throne and garbed in rich vestments, watch over and protect those who pray to them.

King Ferdinand V is kneeling on the left with St. Thomas Aquinas
standing (holding the church); a young Don Juan kneels to the right of Ferdinand. Queen Isabelle is kneeling on the right with Saint Dominic above her, holding the lily and book.

A primary point to be drawn from the painting is the idea that authority comes from God first—then temporal and spiritual leaders. The King, Queen and Saints in this image all testify to the fact by showing the due respect to God and His mother.


Title: Madonna of Catholic Kings   |   Artist: Gallego