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The four big-sized (3×2) canvases depicting the Evangelists are not due to some artist’s inner urgency but to an ecclesiastical commissioning.
An insertion of a rainbow as a symbol of the Covenant between God and Man had been ordered.
Instead, Marco Chiuchiarelli wanted, here as in the ‘Via Crucis’, to give voice, after a long research, to his personal interpretation having as assumption the truthfulness of the Gospels. The traditional division of texts was followed, the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) and, separately, the Gospel of John.
A necessary premise to understanding the pictorial cycle is to know that the Gospel reading is based on thelectio divina, a system of reading suggested by the Church and divided into four moments: Reading (Mark), Meditation (Matthew), Prayer (Luke), Contemplation (John)
The first moment, i.e. Reading, is linked to Evangelist Mark. The Gospel of Mark is the first one and is linked to the so called Q source.
Instead, the moment of Meditation is associated with Matthew. Indeed, his is considered as a meditative Gospel.
Prayer is linked to Luke and is called the Gospel of the Virgin Mary. Luke is supposed to have been the first portraitist of the Virgin. The blue in the background recalls Mary’s mantle.
Finally, the moment of Contemplation. The Gospel of John, because this is the spiritual Gospel.
The framework of this work follows the canonical division: the three Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel. The first three Evangelists are showed while sitting on a rock, an element that is essential to understanding these paintings, because it suggests that we are still in a ‘material’ phase of the reading of the Sacred Texts.
Mark is wearing a hood, his head is half-covered because this is the moment of Reading, the moment of highest concentration, assigned to the first contact with God’s word. The hood acts as an insulating wall which prevents the Evangelist from being disturbed by the shouting external world. The book is open.
In the second canvas, the phase of Meditation, the book is closed. This is the moment of reflection following the reading of the Sacred Texts.
The third phase introduces to the Prayer: the Evangelist’s face expresses a state of abandon, the book is brought to the chest and the blue background has, this time, a circular shade which visually conveys the heart’s waves spreading to the Divine.
The last canvas is the phase of Contemplation. The man gets up from the rock, this being the moment of elevating, he must look upward, his eyes are open, while the other Evangelists’ eyes are closed. In this moment only, the spirit of the Evangelist is ready to penetrate God’s light.
Reading the four paintings as a unique corpus makes realize the conceptual design of Marco Chiuchiarelli’s work: the four Evangelists are no longer four single entities, but represent a unitary path divided into four ‘times’, four necessary stages so that the Man, beginning with the intellectual understanding of the Gospels, and accomplishing their interiorization with prayer and meditation (unavoidable steps for a real appropriation of Christ’s word), may come to visually enjoy the subject of his research.
Golden leaves. The Gospel is God’s Word
All four canvases are made more precious with golden leaves. These are not a mere decorative motif aiming to an aesthetic enjoyment of the work. They have a specific purpose.
In the first canvas the leaves symbolize God’s Word falling on Man. Their meeting is geometrically depicted by the tops of the leaves’ cone and the man’s cone touching each other.
In the second canvas both backgrounds are horizontal: meditation needs the calm.
In the third canvas the cut of the leaves goes upward following the prayer’s elevation.
Finally, in the fourth canvas a total revolution can be seen. If in the three Synoptics God’s Word hangs on Man, in the Gospel of John it is the man who, once lifted, penetrates into the golden leaves, that is into the Word and turns himself into Word. So, the purpose of reading the Gospels is realized: the man must become, in his turn, Word of Love.