Friday, 18 March 2011

Teilhard's picture and ‘l’art St. Sulpice’

Although the picture by Pinta is of value for our understanding of Teilhard and the Sacred Heart , it is also a useful illustration of the problem – as I see it – with the art which has dominated the representation of the Sacred Heart. At the bottom of the card is something quite revealing (I can just be make out): we find that it is ‘Art Catholique’ and gives the address of 6, Place St. Sulpice. This means that our picture is an example of what is known as ‘l’art St Sulpice’. So called, because this holy picture that sat on Teilhard’s desk was produced in the area of Paris ( around St Jacques and the Church of St. Sulpice ) which is famous or infamous for the manufacture of Catholic popular religious or devotional art: holy pictures, statues and the rest. The influence of this style of mass produced art work on Catholic culture cannot be underestimated.
‘And that’s all I have to say about that.’ – as Forrest Gump might put it. Except, that despite the passing centuries, it is a sad fact that such a powerful devotion as the Sacred Heart should still be framed in the minds of many by ‘l’art St. Sulpice’. That said, it is not so surprising that Teilhard would have used a piece of ‘l’art St. Sulpice’ as it was so utterly dominant in the market place for images of the Sacred Heart as in other devotional images. ( What else was there?) But, when we compare the Pinta image to the vast majority of the products of that part of Paris, it is apparent that it is very different. In general, however, what ‘l’art St. Sulpice’ represents is the very worst kind of industrial mass-produced ‘art’ which swamped and ( as we say in economics) ‘ crowded out’ any attempt to develop a more thoughtful and artistic devotional and liturgical art. Perhaps this is why so few artists have over the years have actually explored the subject. The holy pictures of St. Sulpice kind were to be the ‘icons’ of Catholics the world over. Sadly, they remain so today. I think this project is, in many ways, trying to help me break free of the ‘holy picture’ versions of the Sacred Heart. Perhaps it is me? Perhaps most Catholics find ‘l’art St Sulpice’ does bring them closer to the Sacred Heart? I may be entirely wrong about this. Peut-être. …..Et c'est tout ce que j'ai à dire à ce sujet!

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