Friday, November 28, 2008

Protestant Art

Protestantism and visual art is often an uncomfortable pairing.

In my professional life, I have often found that clients who are traditional Ulster Prods either don't value, or are highly suspicious of, visual presentation. In Reformation times, all sorts of ornament and imagery was smashed to pieces - for example it was the followers of John Knox who smashed the grand Italian grave of King Robert the Bruce in Dunfermline Abbey in 1560; the damage was so bad that it wasn't found again until 1818. The wee halls I grew up in only ever had the Word on the walls - a scripture text above the platform, and maybe a few more texts around the walls. I've even designed a few texts over the years for my uncle John who runs the People's Hall in Portavogie, to match the original hand painted one which has been there since the Hall opened in the 1930s.But art is increasingly common today in churches all across Ulster, usually as tapestries or other hand-sewn fabric art.

So here's a suggestion. The most iconic piece of graphic design from the Reformation era is (for me) the wonderful title page of the Geneva Bible. It features the emblems of the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples, the 4 gospel writers in a beautiful woodcut style. Here's the 1599 version - feel free to make use of this - pass it on to the arty sorts in your own church the next time they're wondering about what they can hang on the walls. Click on it to get the full size version.

(there also seems to be a piece of staff music along the bottom edge - if you know what tune this is please let me know)