Tag Archives: Sacred Heart

My heart in my hands

Il Sacro Cuore, Church of the Gesù, Rome by Pompeo Batoni

I love art. I love kitsch. I love independent body parts.

Unite these three and you get Pompeo Batoni‘s uncanny painting Il Sacro Cuore (above), a depiction of Jesus who is holding his Sacred Heart in one hand and pointing to it with another. The work has become a staple of Christian art and the flaming and bleeding heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, surrounded by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, is familiar not to Christians alone.

In all honesty, when I say kitsch, I’m not being fair to Batoni, since his original work[1] (an oval portrait) is far less kitschy than the campy paintings that are derived from the original.

The visual trope of the sacred heart (with flames and blood) originates in a mystical vision by the French nun Margaret Mary Alacoque, who in 1674, described one of her visions:

“The Divine Heart was presented to me in a throne of flames, more brilliant than a sun, transparent as crystal, with this adorable wound. And it was surrounded with a crown of thorns, signifying the punctures made in it by our sins, and a cross above signifying that from the first instant of His Incarnation, […] the cross was implanted into it […].”

Jesus holding out his own heart reminds me of Denis, the patron Saint of Paris, holding his own head in his hands after he was decapitated.

One of the finest versions of the Sacred Heart is the frontispiece to De Culto Sacro Sancti Cordis Dei (above), 1726 by Charles-Joseph Natoire.

it unites art and anatomy and reminds me of  Goats & Heart (Ventriculi quatuor Caprilli) [image], a highlight from my days at Tumblr.