Tuesday, June 30
Lifestyles of the Rich and Clerical
One of our readers was curious about the painting of the laughing cardinal I posted Monday. I'm not sure who the artist was, or even where I ran across it online, but it's an example of a curious subgenre popular in the 19th century showing richly-dressed churchmen lounging about in equally opulent interiors. (The example above is by the Frenchman Georges Croegaert). In some cases, there's a touch of the absurd to them, such as one I ran across of a rather tubby cardinal in scarlet choir cassock fishing off the side of a bucolic riverbank. (Though considering cardinals often wore the sacred purple to the opera before Garibaldi put the papal court in mourning, this is, while weird, less weird than one might suppose.) There is probably a touch of anti-clericalism to such rollicking depictions of the clergy, especially given the excess of ormolu that crouds the background, though nearly all the examples I've seen tend towards a low-grade, rather sympathetic view of their subjects. I suppose such satires only maintain their bite of if one assumes that the sacred priesthood must always be ashes and frowns.
Here are a few of the more entertaining examples of the species I've found trawling the web. The following are by Bernard Louis Borione, a French academic painter who was particularly associated with the theme.
Another example of the style by a different artist, Leo Herrmann.