Monday, May 18, 2009


I just got the June Magnificat, and was astonished by the painting on the cover, Jan Davidsz. de Heem's Chalice and Host surrounded by garlands of flowers, above. De Heem (c. 1606 - c. 1683) was one of the greatest Dutch still-life painters,; this was my first encounter with a still life painting whose subject was the Eucharist, with the Host apparently already changed into the Body and Blood, or perhaps in the process of changing. The fruit, vines, and sheaves of wheat surrounding the niche housing the chalice are all standard pictorial elements of the genre, but de Heem's Host, suspended above the cup and glowing with brilliant light, dominates the scene, reminding me in a strange way of Wallace Stevens's poem "Anecdote of the Jar":

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere. . .

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