Wednesday, August 9, 2006

New Portrait

Many, many thanks to Matthew Alderman of Shrine of the Holy Whapping, a recent graduate of Notre Dame's architectural program, who has given me the stunning portrait at left for The Dawn Patrol. Click on the image for a larger version.

I'm holding Hans Memling's "Allegory of Chastity." The "V+v=S" is Saint Maximilian Kolbe's formula for sainthood: Voluntas (God's will) plus voluntas (my will) equals Sanctitas (sanctity).

Matthew wrote me an e-mail shedding light on other symbolism in the portrait:

The device of the Shin added to the Tetragrammaton, which works out roughly to the same sound as "Yehoshua" if perhaps the spelling is different, appears in a digression in Oedipus Aegypticus, an Egyptological work published between 1652-1654 by the polymath scholar Fr. Athanasius Kircher, SJ, where he discusses the Hebrew language and its relation to Egyptian history.

Kircher is a bit of a hero of mine (I have recently christened my apartment the "Kircherianum" after his museum in Rome), even if he was horrible at translating hieroglyphics. Most of his conclusions are wholly fanciful, but he does include an astonishing symbolic insignia which contains a Christianization of the concept of the 72 names of God, which I think originates within certain Jewish mystical schools of thought. Kircher universalizes them by changing them to the name of God in 72 different languages spread across the world. These names radiate like rays from a central disk in which is written IHS (the Greek initials of Our Lord's name) with the Y-H-S-V-H written across the crossbar of the H. He is in this instance attempting to formulate an orthodox Christian response to the cabalistic beliefs of certain esoteric groups within Judaism if not within its mainstream. I think he also may have got the inscription from somewhere else, but I forget.

He was also a very devout man for whom science revealed God's wonders, and who spent the end of his life building a private shrine to the Mother of God, an inveterate prankster who flew dragon-shaped kites inscribed "FEAR THE WRATH OF GOD" over the Jesuit college to frighten the Dominicans next door, the inventor of megaphones, water-organs and other gadgets, not to mention being the author of speculations about space flight and life on other planets, books on geology, magnetism, China, Etruscan archaeology, universal languages, and just about everything else. He also got a lot of things wrong, but even his errors are fascinating.

The word at the bottom of the Memling is "chastity" in Greek, but written in a typeface inspired by Gothic lettering.
Matthew is just brilliant. Visit Shrine of the Holy Whapping for more of his artistry and observations.