Art is not a new phenomenon in the modern society, as it has existed for many years. Since time immemorial, art has remained an imperative component that allows people communicate and exchange ideas. Any piece of artwork has a symbolic meaning and one need to interpret artwork based on a given context. In the article entitled, “The Symbolism of Merode Altarpiece,” Meyer states that art is a reflection of peoples’ way of life and their immediate environment. Using art, people have managed expressing their faith and connection with God and other supernatural powers. This aspect forms the main theme in this article.
In his artistic works, master of Flemalle portrays Joseph’s picture in a unique and an appealing way. In Merode altarpiece, Joseph’s figure is presented together with an annunciation; an idea that articulate that Joseph valued mousetrap. Flemalle affirms that Joseph figure can have a meaningful meaning when Flemish painters integrate Christian values in the picture. This move will portray Joseph as métier and dedicated Christian. Flemish painters provide diverge views about Joseph’s figure and the symbolic meaning attached to this figure. They imply that Flemish painters and artists view the master of Flemalle as an adversely talented artist who uses his disposition in showing how bourgeoisies live in their homes.
Meyer holds the view that the current mousetrap has more meaning than the one illustrated in Joseph profession. The mousetrap has a theological and Christian connotation attached on it; an idea that distinguishes it from the former figure. The author borrows from the work of St. Augustine in elaborating the significance of incarnation in redeeming man from the devil. St Augustine argues that Christ image on the cross illustrate that Christ has power over the devil and Christ use His mighty power in overcoming the devil. St Augustine refers Christ as Redeemer because He was crucified on the cross with the aim of saving man from the seducer (devil). Christ used His blood as bait to overcome the devil and his wrong deeds thus restoring sanctity.
For many years, theologians have used the mousetrap as a metaphor that deceives humans that Christ paid for their sins on the cross. Many authors and scholar have criticized this predisposition on the premises that it is immemorial (Schapiro 183). However, the author has supported his argument using the work of Abelard who enunciates that Christ crucifixion and sacrifice had an ethical aspect attached. Christ crucifixion symbolized God’s love and generosity to man. The author has used the work of John Gerson in expounding connection of mousetrap and redemption. Gerson articulate that artists and Flemish painters have portrayed the mousetrap in an extraordinary and awkward manner. Artists use a picture of a naked child instead of a dove to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
In his analysis, Meyer argues that interpretation of the mousetrap squarely depends on image of Joseph in the annunciation and the manner in, which the picture is portrayed. Using Givanni di Paolo work, the author points out that Joseph’s mousetrap is portrayed differently. The first picture shows Joseph warming near a fireplace while the second illustrates him as a carpenter. This implies that people from different regions understand and interpret Joseph and Mary mousetrap differently. In order to shade more light on this issue, the author uses Gerson work in elaborate the role of Joseph as saint. During the ancient time, painters and artists portrayed Joseph as an old man unable to bear a child. In the contemporary society, Joseph is presented, as a young and energetic man will ability to sear a child. The later predisposition carries more weight in divine plan because presenting Joseph as young man compel the devil to believe that man-God bait exists and that God is the Supreme Ruler.
At the end of the article, the author provides a detailed conclusion that addresses main points. Firstly, the author elaborates that physical things and mousetrap are art reflection. He clarifies that animals and other physical things depicted through artistic work symbolized different aspects in the Bible. Secondly, any form of symbolism either positive or negative shows how man interprets and understand his immediate environment. Man uses realism perspective in understanding and internalizing natural features found in the environment. Thirdly, Christian values coupled with church dogma have urge people to embrace realistic vision. Based on this fact, Christ mousetrap symbolizes Virgin Mary and existence of realism vision in the real world.
In the article, the author has managed to attract the attention of the reader by effectively framing the work of art. Using a broad perspective, the author affirms that Flemish painters and artists represent the mousetrap and figure of Joseph differently. This variance in illustration and presentation exists because artists understand and interpret artistic work using variant approaches. Change in periods and events remain the main factor that influences how artists understand and internalize artwork. For instance, using the mousetrap of Christ, the author has shown a clear association between the mousetrap and the theological metaphor embodied in this religious art. In the mousetrap, a dove; which is supposed to symbolize Holy Spirit has been replaced with a portrait of a naked child. In my opinion, I agree with author’s predisposition that this practice prevail in medieval age; an aspect influenced by widespread of church dogma and Christian values in the society.
Strengths and weakness of the article
Firstly, the author has predisposed his prowess and proficient in articulating issues effectively. The author uses simple language that enable the readers internalize and understand concepts discussed in the article. Additionally, the article shows consistency in flow of ideas, opinions and facts; an aspect that shows mastery of content by the author. Secondly, the article has numerous examples that strive to shade more light on the subject matter. This move enables readers appreciate art as a discipline and its importance in the contemporary society. Additionally, the author has ensured that examples used in the article remain relevant and in the right context thus expounding readers understanding.
Despite these strengths, the article shows inadequacy in articulating certain issues. The article portrays devil as leviathan with power to overcome Christ; an idea that oppose the Christian doctrine. Additionally, the article should use a broader perspective in discussing symbolism in merode altarpiece. This move will broaden readers understand and add value to the existing body of knowledge .In spite of these shortfalls, the article is relevant and educative in nature.
Schapiro, Meyer . ""Muscipula Diaboli," The Symbolism of the Mérode Altarpiece." The Art Bulletin, 27.3 (1945): 182-187. Print.