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without says thatly what descripting thisio, p. 384 the Blecata
Dr. Northcote's interpretation could hardly be the true one. But Dr. Northcote has neither doubt nor hesitation in the matter. Having removed these significant marks, he catalogues his picture as “The Good Shepherd and the Blessed Virgin," and makes a reference to Bosio, p. 387. We our. selves felt pretty certain, on seeing this reference, that Bosio would not bear out this description. We turned to his pages and found exactly what we had anticipated. “Una Donna orante,” says that writer, “a woman in the act of prayer," without one word as to any even possible reference to the Virgin Mary.
Dr. Northcote's excuse will doubtless be that he did not think this peculiar attribute could be of any importance. We know of no other excuse which can be made ; and it is one in pleading which he must needs proclaim himself utterly unfitted for the task of interpreting ancient monuments which he has undertaken.
What is one to say of a writer who volunteers to instruct the English public on the subject of the Catacombs, and then shows himself thus utterly destitute of every quality most required in an archæologist ? He is not, of course, consciously and intentionally deceiving his readers. If it were so, there are few, we hope, whether Romanists or English churchmen, who would not at once ostracize him from the republic of letters. But more mischief is done to the cause of truth by wellmeaning, but ignorant, zeal, which is common, than by intentional dishonesty, which is happily rare. And with the glaring examples of the mischief thence resulting, which have been before us again and again in the course of the last few years, we think it is time, nay more than time, that justice were done upon offenders, and that some of our contemporaries were reminded, even sharply, if need be, that while they are perfectly at liberty to express their own opinions (which their readers may appraise according to their worth), they may not, without gravely sinning against the cause of truth, garble & the language of ancient authors, misrepresent their true meaning, or falsify ancient monuments.
We are glad to turn aside from this unwelcome topic, and to resume our investigation of the subject upon which we are engaged. Quitting the subject of these Oranti, Dr. Northcote proceeds to say, that whatever may be thought of the cogency of his arguments on this first head, “the question of Our
8 To name one instance out of many. Nothing can be more disgraceful, as specimens of modern English theology, than the Catenæ of Fathers, or of the older English theological writers, which have been published of late years. “ Splendide mendax" would be a
fitting motto for most of them. Even Dr. Pusey's, which is less open to reproach than others, is, in many cases, utterly untrustworthy as representing the real mind of the authors whom he quotes, and has glaring faults both of omission and of commission.
arrere questi again the right score
Lady's position in the most ancient field of Christian art by no means depends upon them. If these paintings do not represent her, yet she certainly appears in more than a score of other scenes, where her identity cannot be questioned.” We are really weary of continually finding fault, but again we are obliged to say, that Dr. Northcote evidently forgets the right meaning of words. This imposing phrase of " more than a score of other scenes," means only that the purely Scriptural subject of the adoration of our blessed Lord by the Magi is represented more than twenty times (as he states shortly afterwards) in various parts of the Catacombs. One scene it is, and not twenty, though that one again and again represented with slight variations of treatment. One of them may be seen below.
And what is the scene thus repeatedly dwelt on by the Church of Rome as once she was? Is it one which, like those shortly to be set before our readers, exhibits the mother of our Lord as herself an object of worship to the faithful? The very contrary. Among the various Scriptural subjects on which these early Christians loved to dwell, this of the adoration of the Magi was prominent, as an emphatic testimony to the Divinity of our blessed Lord, and as the earnest of the coming in of the Gentiles into the one fold of Christ. In this picture they were reminded, how these Magi, the first-fruits of the Gentile Church, when they saw the young child and His mother, fell down and worshipped Him. A later monument will show us what Roman monuments taught in the twelfth century. Our readers will there see two Popes, who, like those Magi of old, are represented as in the presence of that young Child and His Mother, and they, as will be seen, fall down and worship her.
9 We do not say this without direct evidence of what really was the feeling of early Christendom in this matter. Our readers may refer to any or all of the following passages, and they will Bee (what but for Dr. Northcote's mode of arguing might well be deemed scarcely to need proof) that the teach
ers of early days dwelt with one voice upon this subject of the adoration of the Magi, as a proof of the Divinity of our Lord, without any the slightest reference to any worship or adoration due to the blessed Virgin herself. See Justin Martyr. Dial. cum Tryph. Migne P.C.C. tom. vi. p. 654, al. 174. ;
Such are the facts in regard of the “ more than a score of scenes ” referred to by Dr. Northcote. But, besides this one scene thus marvellously multiplied by our author, there are really two or three other “scenes,” represented in the Catacombs, in which the blessed Virgin is depicted.
In one of these! (not described by Dr. Northcote) is probably represented the Annuntiation, in which the angel Gabriel (a human figure, without wings or other attributes, such as were assigned at a later period to the angels,) is seen standing before a seated female figure, and, with extended hand, addressing her. Perhaps the oldest of all these representations, (De Rossi believes it to be almost of the Apostolic age) is that which is represented below. The natural, and, as we believe,
S. Irenæi contr. Hær. lib. i. cap. 2; St. Jerome in Esaiam, lib. vii. cap. xix. ; St. Ambrose in Evang. Luc. lib. i.; St. Augustine (his Epiphany Sermons, passim). Weneed not refer to writers in the West, extending beyond the fourth century, such as Leo the Great, Petrus Chrysologus, and Fulgentius, though they too all hold similar language. Among Eastern writers, it is sufficient to name Clement Alex. (Pæd. ii. 8); Origen (lib. i. c. Celsum, p. 46); Chrysostom in
his Homilies on St. Matthew (Migne, vol. i. p. 609 899.), and St. Basil the Great, Homil. in Sanctam Christi Generationem, pp. 600, 601, Ed. Bened. vol. ü. [This Homily, however, is probably not St. Basil's, though of early date.]
In the Cemetery of S. Priscilla. The interpretation above given is that commonly received by antiquaries, and is probably, though not with absolute certainty, the true one. See Bottari, Sculture e Pitture sagre, etc. Tav. clxxvi.
the true, interpretation of this picture recognises in it the Holy Family, Joseph on the left hand (spectator's left), the Holy Child, and His Mother; while the Star that is seen above (to which Joseph, if such he be, is pointing) serves to determine the general subject of the picture beyond all possibility of mistake. Roman Catholic writers, however, (for reasons on which we need not here dwell,) generaly modify this explanation in one particular. De Rossi suggests that the figure, of which we now speak, may be the impersonation of one of the Prophets of the old Covenant (probably of Isaiah), pointing onward to the Star of Bethlehem, and the Virgin Mother with her Holy Child, as the great subject of prophetic witness. [“ The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.”] For ourselves, we see no necessity for this explanation. But if any prefer it to the other and simpler interpretation, we are in no way concerned, for any controversial reasons, to quarrel with his judgment. Here, however, as in other cases, Dr. Northcote contrives to put himself in the wrong, simply because he is bent upon improving the occasion for his own special purposes. He calls special attention to the fact that the Blessed Virgin does not enter here into the composition of an historical or allegorical scene as a secondary personage, but herself supplies the motive, so to speak, of the whole painting. This criticism will probably appear to our readers to be true in a certain sense, or at any rate intelligible, when they view the picture as given by Dr. Northcote, or as it is here sketched in our own woodcut. One who only knew the picture from such representations, might naturally imagine it to be complete in itself; a picture, probably, of considerable size, and occupying the most conspicuous place upon the wall of some sepulchral chamber in the Catacombs. But in all these expectations he would be wholly mistaken. These figures, in their original position, form a very small portion of a piece of decorative work, which, with the single exception of this group, might have been found in the tomb of the Nasos, or any other purely Pagan bailding. [The figure of the Good Shepherd there traced was classical before it became Christian]. But the criticism in question appears simply ludicrous to one who views the picture with its actual surroundings, as it is given? by De Rossi. For the three figures which, as here given, at once arrest attention, as might a large picture of the same subject by Raphael, in any modern collection, are, in the original, obscurely placed, so as not even to face the spectator; as we look at them, their position is horizontal, not perpendicular. And these circumstances, combined with that of the small scale on which they are drawn, give
? Imagines Selectæ Deiparæ Virginis, Pl. iv. (in which the context is given) compared with Pl. i. [Mr. J. H. Parker, a careful observer, and experienced antiquary, assigns this picture to the year 523 A.D.]
an ornamental design; and that to such a degree, that none but an accurate observer would be likely to notice their real character. And these particulars, to one who has studied the subject with any accuracy, will constitute a strong argument for the extreme antiquity of the work in question. For it is notable, that in the very earliest period of Christian art in the Catacombs, the older pagan forms of decoration are adhered to; sometimes, as the subjects indicate, by way of decoration, and nothing more ; while in other cases, as in figures of a Shepherd, or of Orpheus charming wild beasts by the sweet tones of his lyre, a symbolical reference was conveyed.
We should naturally conclude that all the particulars here specified as to the surroundings of this picture must have been wholly unknown to Dr. Northcote. Were it otherwise, we can hardly conceive his writing concerning it as he does. And yet it seems all but certain that Dr. Northcote must have had this very drawing (if not the original itself) before him when he wrote. For he goes on to say, that, as far as he can make out from the imperfect remains of the puinting, both the Virgin by herself, and with her Holy Spouse and Child, have been repeatedly represented in other parts of this loculus. [We, with De Rossi's drawing before us, interpret the figures referred to very differently. And De Rossi, in his description, suggests nothing such.]
Let the reader, turn from this criticism of Dr. Northcote's, to the actual drawings, as they are reproduced, with the greatest care, by De Rossi* himself, and he will see for himself by what tours de force of imagination modern Romanism is discovered, by such as are determined to find it, among the records of primitive antiquity.
To sum up briefly this portion of our subject, the facts, as even Dr. Northcote himself would have to admit, are these. In those earliest decorations of the Catacombs, which De Rossi and other Roman Antiquaries believe (and probably with good reason) to be before the age of Constantine, representations of the Virgin Mary occur only in such connection as is directly suggested by Holy Scripture. One picture there is of the Holy Family at Bethlehem (that above represented); one (probably) of the Annuntiation; and there are upwards of twenty (we here follow De Possi) of the Adoration of our blessed Lord by the Magi, in all of which, of course, the blessed Mother of our Lord is one of the persons represented. If, in deference to Dr. Northcote's opinion, or upon any other grounds, any should be inclined to think that some of the Oranti figures may have reference to her, even then the statement that follows will be in no way invalidated. With that statement we sum up ou
See above, note 2, p. 832. Vol. 69.-- No. 383.