Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Favorite Paintings at Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris

Old European churches are often art treasure troves and Église Saint-Sulpice in Paris is just on of such amazing institutions. 

According to Wikipedia, at 113 metres long, 58 metres in width and 34 metres tall, it is only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame and thus the second largest church in the city. It is dedicated to Sulpitius the Pious. During the 18th century, an elaborate gnomon (part of a sundial that casts the shadow), the Gnomon of Saint-Sulpice, was constructed in the church.

Many people learned of this cathedral through Dan Brown's bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, while I through a French opera, Jules Massenet's Manon. In both works, pivotal scenes took place in this cathedral, therefore it earned a few paragraphs before I narrate on my favorite paintings it housed.

Saint-Sulpice, Paris, June 2008 - IMG_8115 The gnomon, Saint-Sulpice, Paris, June 2008 - IMG_8142

The above pictures showed the interior of the church and the gnomon (in the background) and the brass line on the floor.  You can see the detail of the gnomon in the larger picture below:

Saint-Sulpice, Paris, June 2008 - IMG_8123

Constructed by the English clock-maker and astronomer Henry Sully, the gnomon was also used for various scientific measurements: This rational use may have protected Saint-Sulpice from being destroyed during the French Revolution.

The sight of this gnomon in the obelisk shape was unusual but it couldn't hold my interest long and soon I wandered away to see many magnificent stained glasses and then, in the Chapel of the Holy Angels, some unforgettable mural paintings by Eugène Delacroix, who painted scenes from The Bible, in the effort to repair the extensive damages the church suffered during the Revolution.  

My favorite mural there was the Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, dynamic in composition, romantic in scene setting and the result was both somewhat unsettling and absolutely beautiful.

Jacob Fights with the Angel, Eugène Delacroix, Saint-Sulpice, Paris, June 2008 - IMG_8145

Jacob Fights with the Angel (Detail), Eugène Delacroix, Saint-Sulpice, Paris, June 2008 - IMG_8151

My second favorite painting in Saint-Sulpice was St Michael defeats the Devil, again by Delacroix.  This painting had the similar atmosphere and dynamism as Wrestling.  The major difference was that St Michael was mounted on the ceiling therefore the St Michael's triumph was presented as a brilliant celestial vision and his victory had a cosmic feeling versus the more intimate and personal one of the Wrestling.  The colors in this painting was more brilliant and the Archangel occupied the absolute center of the painting, being the unchallenged center focus of this celebratory and lovely painting.

St Michael defeats the Devil, Saint-Sulpice, Paris, June 2008 - IMG_8148

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 67: My Favorite Sculptures in Basilique Saint-Denis (Paris)
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 65: My Favorite Sculptures in Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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- Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris - De Young Museum, San Francisco
- Birth of Impressionism at De Young Museum, San Francisco

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