Leonardo Da Vinci
A Life in Drawing
The Queen’s Gallery until 13th October
The last big Leonardo exhibition in London was back in 2011/12. It showed seven paintings by Leonardo. Or possibly eight if you include the ‘Salvator Mundi’ which later, on the back of its identification in the show, became the most expensive painting ever at auction. The paintings at that exhibition were supported by examples of Leonardo’s contemporaries plus numerous drawings. It was an exciting show, but this one is better. The 2011 show was narrowly focussed on paintings and covered only part of Leonardo’s life. The exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery covers his whole life. And because Leonardo used drawing to understand all the many things he was interested in and the different, and usually lost, projects on which he embarked, his corpus of drawing is the best way to appreciate him. Of the 2,100 or so drawings which Leonardo and his followers carefully preserved, 550 (probably) came into the Royal Collection in the time of that underrated voluptuary, Charles II, as a magnificent gift from Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. In this excellently curated show these drawings provide a compelling argument for Leonardo’s greatness.
We begin with a tease. A magnificent drawing shows the head of Leonardo, sideways on with the flowing, carefully cared-for hair for which he was famous, the whole suggestive of the grace and charm of the man. The drawing is not by Leonardo but is attributed to Francesco Melzi, one of Leonardo’s followers who was involved in the preservation of the master’s drawings. We cannot know if the picture is life-like, but it is the work of a considerable artist.
We then see a number of drawings by masters who influenced or taught the young Leonardo but most of the works in the show, 200 in all, are by the artist himself. Many of the drawings are compared with large-scale reproductions of the works they prepared for such as ‘The Last Supper’ and that Holy Grail of restorers, ‘The Battle of Anghiari.’
The range of pictures is huge. There’s dissections of human beings and animals, caricatures of old people, plans for siege works, maps of the towns and rivers of Northern Italy, studies for equestrian statues (three in all, none made), waves and maelstroms and apocalyptic floods, plants, rocks and people.
Leonardo’s anatomical studies were famously far ahead of their time, but unseen for four centuries. They are wonderfully precise and observant. But much more fun is a brilliantly frivolous Neptune and seahorses, a preparatory sketch for a now lost fully worked-up drawing. It’s included in the show partly because the swirling horses and the figure of Neptune anticipate the Battle of Anghiari. But the drawing’s draughtsmanship and design and sheer bravura make it enjoyable on its own merits.
Something similar goes for the drawings of plants. They were made as studies for such paintings as the now lost ‘Leda and the Swan’ and the two versions of ‘Madonna of the Rocks.’ Leonardo became fascinated by plants and the observation with which he studied them was as ever far in advance of his time. But these are not merely technical diagrams or even botanical studies. There is a depth of reality with these bulrushes and bur reeds which make the drawings stand out. As a whole they represent the pinnacle of Leonardo’s graphic art simply by being so true.
Three other broad categories are especially enjoyable. The studies for paintings, notably the Last Supper, show a developing technique which creates a sense of the weight and fold of draperies and a bravura variety of facial expressions. There are also some splendidly chubby babies, and surprisingly unconvincing cats.
A second category is the designs for the court entertainments of Francis I, made towards the end of Leonardo’s life. The costumes are layered and, to a contemporary eye, suggestive. Again, as with the Neptune, there is no great ‘depth’ of feeling but a wonderful sense of design.
Finally there is water in many different forms, usually flowing freely, the moment captured with assurance and precision. The observance of something so rapidly changing is fine in itself, but flowing water seems to spill over Leonardo’s imagination into rippling locks of hair and graceful gestures and wave-like rock formations. For once the title of the show is not a cliché.
Pilgrims and Pilgrimage
This volume is a must-read for all who love Walsingham, a new and revised edition of Fr Rear’s definitive book, originally published in 2011 to mark the 950th anniversary of the foundation of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. As a former Vicar of Walsingham and now the Roman Catholic chaplain to the University of Suffolk, Fr Rear certainly knows and loves his subject from both an Anglican and RC perspective. He shows meticulous research and has a fluent style of writing. This book should certainly become the standard work on pilgrims and pilgrimage to England’s Nazareth.
This second edition brings the story of Walsingham up to date, for as the author makes clear, Walsingham’s Shrine is not just a site of historical interest but a living vibrant ‘thin’ place where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and visitors make their way each year just as our forbears did in times past. As the hymn puts it: ‘These stones that have echoed their praises are holy and dear is the ground where their feet have once trod; yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims, and still they were seeking the city of God.’
In Walsingham, we glimpse most fully a foretaste of that heavenly city – every visit is a meeting and reunion of friends old and new – just as it will be at journey’s end. No wonder we can’t keep away from this place. Pilgrimage here can be a significant moment in people’s lives – an occasion for renewal of faith, an opportunity for repentance, an encounter with Jesus, son of Mary and son of God; a turning point on life’s journey. Perhaps this is why in these days of deep spiritual hunger and yearning, people flock to Walsingham.
As Cardinal Vincent Nichols says, ‘The Shrine of Walsingham is part of the rich tapestry of this island. It is a powerful part of the landscape of faith’ Again, in an exciting new development the book chronicles the recent possible re-discovery of the medieval image of Our Lady crowned by King Henry III and dating to 1220-30. Could this ‘Langham Madonna’ now in the Victoria and Albert Museum really be the original image enshrined in the ancient Holy House? Have a good read of this article, examine the photograph carefully and decide for yourself. How exciting all this is!
The present venerated image of Our Lady of Walsingham copied by Fr Hope Patten from the medieval seal of the Priory has in recent years been taken to Cathedrals around the country. The enormous eager and excited crowds who gather to welcome the image in each place show the close connection of Walsingham to our nation highlighted so powerfully in the recent visit to Westminster Abbey. Our land is truly the Dowry of Mary – a title being renewed in 2020 when England will once again be placed under the protection of Mary and her prayers. ‘Pray O holy Mother of God for the conversion of England’ is our fervent prayer too.
We rejoice with Fr Rear that Walsingham is an important part and sign of the journey Christians are making to deepen the unity desired by Mary’s Son for his Church so we can witness more fully to the truth of the Gospel. The two shrines work and witness together – strengthened by the Ecumenical Covenant they made in 2018. What better way to prepare prayerfully for the 2020 rededication of our land than a careful reading of Fr Rear’s excellent book by all who love and revere this holy place Our Lady has chosen for her home?
This review was originally published in the Walsingham Review and is reproduced here by kind permission of the author and the Priest Administrator.
LOOK TO THE ROCK
The Anglican Papalist Quest and the Catholic League
Canterbury Press, £16.99
Anglo-Papalism, that exotic bloom in the walled garden of Anglo-Catholicism, is the subject of Michael Walsh’s history of the Catholic League. The League’s ecumenical perspective was to look beyond the curvaceous slopes of Lambeth, beyond the mountains to Rome. In London, at St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge, Fr Henry Fynes-Clinton and at Walsingham Fr Alfred Hope Patten, were twin pillars and exemplars of its fullest expression.
Reunification with Rome and the Holy See, the rock from which the Church of England had been hewn at the Reformation, was the laudable aim of the League. What form that reunification would take was never satisfactorily resolved. Was it submission to Rome? Was it unity by absorption? Was it Uniate status? Was it re-integration? Was it a Personal Prelature? Was it the tripartite reconciliation of the three branches of Catholic Christendom, Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox? Each had its day in the sun. Anglicanorum Coetibus resulted in the formation of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham by Pope Benedict XVI as an ecclesial community in full communion with the Roman Pontiff, with a liturgical apparatus that included a large measure of what was described as Anglican Patrimony.
Invited to write the book at what sounds like a convivial dinner, Michal Walsh writes that the subject was “somewhat outside my comfort zone.” It does not show. He is a distinguished and reliable historian and writes with admirable clarity, guiding us through the thickets of ecumenical prose. He shows a thorough command of the League’s papers. He was fortunate that “The Messenger,” the League’s principal publication, had a series of fine editors (not least Fr Brooke Lunn) and contributors which resulted in a large number of excellent erudite and well-argued articles. This rich resource has been supplemented by conversations with current officers, past officers and members of the League.
Although his focus is on the serious issues that animated the League, the meandering path of reconciliation with its many byways not the broad and straight highway to reunion that many would have wished, he has an ear for the telling comment and is not unaware of unrealistic hopes and a degree of wishful thinking. One of the sharpest comments that he records, and the most sobering, is from a Catholic priest (once an Anglican) involved in conversations with League members some thirty years ago and brutally concluded, “They were looking for ways to stay where they were.” In his excellent Foreword Bishop John Hind hints at something similar when he writes, “It is a story of hope and disappointment, of unreal expectations and at times some unedifying battles – with not a little of the spice of naughtiness on the part of those of its leaders who clearly enjoyed their struggles with the authorities.”
As Rome undermined Anglican claims, not least in the condemnation of Anglican orders in the Bull Apostolicae Curae, Anglo-Papalists, almost counter-intuitively, became a more distinct influence within the economy of the Catholic Revival. By adopting and not adapting Roman doctrine, devotion, rites and ceremonies, vesture and ethos Anglo-Papalists maintained that theirs was a tangible contribution to eventual corporate reunion.
The League was an early supporter of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and especially of the ARCIC discussions but was not alone in being dismayed by the unenthusiastic response of the CDF to the Final Report. Following the establishment of the Ordinariate, in some measure a vindication of its history, and the ordination of women as bishops the League entered a rickety period of policy and personnel but continues to support wide ecumenical dialogue.
Rarely Ordinary Time
Rother Print 2019 £10
ISBN 978-1-5272-4282-1 276pp
Unsurprisingly people ask more and more ‘what is a priest and what do they do?’. Former Bishop of Blackburn Nicholas Reade makes good answers to such questions through a well written, illustrated and matter of fact autobiography which gently points through him to God. It’s a hearteningly confident statement for an Anglo-Catholic writing now from the margins of the Church of England. Fr Nicholas looks back at the main ambition of his life being fulfilled in his twenties, that of bearing Christ’s priesthood. What follows his ordination, including his episcopate, is seen as a working out of that in the communities he has served in Sussex, West Midlands and Lancashire with Christine his wife to whom the book is dedicated.
I found ‘Rarely Ordinary Time’ highly readable with the memoirs telling the story of the author diverting to fill out the main characters as well as to explain doctrine. We get good pictures of Bishop Eric Kemp whose service as a church historian is underestimated and Canon Derek Allen who fostered and moulded many vocations. Those trained at Mirfield will read eagerly of his Hostel and College days that helped secure a down to earth yet disciplined priestly life. Nicholas’s evident heart for bringing people, churches and denominations together wins the reader’s sympathy with a gracious treatment of church-dividing issues. He writes of friendships with Evangelicals like Bishop Wallace Benn which undoubtedly help him rise above the partisan tendency within Anglo-Catholicism and made him effective as Bishop of Blackburn where among other ventures he introduced Mission Action Plans to help counter church decline.
The book’s title is suited to one who celebrates or attends the eucharist almost daily through the seasons and sees this action as being at the heart of church renewal. Reflecting on other factors that work for church growth he notes the need for Christians to identify with their local culture and not be aloof, alongside the need to work for better ownership of baptism within congregations to encourage the commitment it implies. His involvement at a national level in promoting the church’s ministry of healing and sympathy towards the charismatic movement evidence a reliance upon the Holy Spirit and openness to God’s surprises. On prayer he writes with humility: ‘I frequently feel my prayer time has been dry and my mind all over the place. Should that happen to you, do not worry, because the Holy Spirit, who prays in us, is always successful. St Theresa of Avila said of those wandering thoughts, ‘Let the mill clack on while we grind our wheat’ – making the point that prayer does not happen in the head, but in the heart. For many years I pinned a card up in my study which summarises what prayer is: ‘God wants us to let Him love us’.’
Nicholas Reade sees the ordination of women to the episcopate as fracturing the hope of re-uniting the Church of England with the great Churches of east and west. ‘I still cannot see where a Bishop of the Universal Church – and that is what Bishops of the Church of England are – finds his authority from to take part in the consecration of a woman. I understand the consecration of women to be inconsistent with the historic tradition of the Church, and it is clear it would be detrimental to our ecumenical relations with, in particular, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches… the reception period [of women in the priesthood] will have to come to an end… because there cannot be anything provisional about the episcopate… in the past, no theological position enjoyed the upper-hand [in the Church of England], but now it is generally more of a liberal-catholic-evangelical approach rolled into one. Most certainly, with the consecration of women bishops and other current matters under consideration, orthodox Catholics have suffered a heavy blow… [the Church is] beginning to compromise on the things you just cannot compromise on’. As Bishop of Blackburn Nicholas rode this storm with as much grace as he could towards his women clergy whose gifts he applauds in the book. His Anglo-Catholic witness on the ordination of women comes is all the more powerful in an autobiography conveying passion for justice, the need to read the signs of the times, challenge attitudes towards the poor and build mercy towards refugees.
Some Christians come across as, ‘holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.’ (2 Timothy 3:5) What is impressive about Nicholas’s story is a thoroughly supernatural approach which wins allegiance across traditions. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is real to him and he ends the book voicing hope of seeing God as he really is after death (1 John 3:2). Autobiographies are risky. Although some readers will skip through details – others like me, fellow Mirfield and Chichester man, will lap them up – the book exudes Christian confidence with a good streak of humility, as in the treatment of safeguarding failures. Above all, as purposed, it brings the ministerial priesthood to life. Pray God it will touch a new generation pondering the Lord’s invitation to serve in what many of us see as the most rewarding occupation on earth.
The Case for Liturgical Restoration
Una Voce Studies on the Traditional Latin Mass
Ed. Joseph Shaw
Angelico Press, 2019
Certainly since the second generation of the Oxford Movement, one characteristic element of the catholic movement within the Church of England has been a focus on liturgical life. This has always been founded on the fundamental realisation that form and content are not divisible. The arrangement of divine service is not something that is simply to be suited to the fashions of the age; it has an eternal element. Shaped by and shaping of culture, certainly, but forming those who play their part in it. Ultimately, forming us for the heavenly reward for which we hope, the everlasting worship in the Divine Presence.
It is then in no way surprising that Roman Catholic liturgical life has often been an important touchstone, as Anglo-Catholics have looked across the river to the rock from which they were hewn. There were two major streams of development in this respect: those who sought to re-capture the essence of English religion on the eve of the Reformation, and those who felt this pre-Trent focus was anachronistic, instead making English translations of the contemporary Roman Rite.
The promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI in 1969 and the subsequent English vernacular translation, together with the continuing liberalisation of liturgical law in Church of England, changed the landscape somewhat. And whilst the Public Worship Regulation Act was fading into a distant memory in Anglo-Catholic parishes, Rome was seeking to impose upon all her clergy and people the Novus Ordo Missae.
The response was not universally enthusiastic, as shown by a letter analysed in one of the papers in this collection: In 1971 fifty-six people, including the bishops of Exeter and Ripon signed a petition to “call to the attention of the Holy See, the appalling responsibility it would incur in the history of the human spirit were it to refuse to all the Traditional Mass to survive.” This impassioned plea resulted in the so called ‘English Indult’, which allowed Roman Catholic clergy in England to continue to celebrate the rite of 1962 with the permission of their bishop. It was the first of series of papal documents that culminated in Summorum Pontificum in 2007, fully liberalising both the 1962 and 1970 uses.
Many Anglo-Catholics will be increasingly aware of the movements within the Roman communion that dedicate themselves to the celebration of the ‘old rite’, as it is colloquially called. It is now more and more often the case that ordinary parishes offer masses in both forms, the corollary of which is that many Roman Catholic priests are re-learning, or learning for the first time, how to celebrate this form of the mass. In our Church of England too, English Missals are being brought off the shelf and dusted down and stoles crossed again. Whether this elicits confusion and anger, a welcome sigh of relief or something in between, this collection of essays will allow the reader to become acquainted with The Case for Liturgical Restoration.