A Pieta by Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs

I have been following the work of Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs since LAJ first started up a couple of years back and today I am pleased to be able to share a new commission recently completed by her. (In fact, it is so recently completed that the varnish is literally drying as I write). The painting in question is a pieta, showing the Virgin Mary mourning the death of her Son, surrounded by St. John and St. Mary Magdalen.

From the artist's website:
When sacred artist Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs was commissioned to paint a pietà with Saints John and Mary Magdalen this Lent, she began, as she usually does, by turning to Scripture and the Old Masters. One of the first details to strike her as she read re-read the Passion narratives was the darkness that covered the earth while Christ hung from the Cross. “I kept imagining that darkness in relation to the Midwestern thunder storms we were having, and in relation to the solar eclipse I witnessed a couple of years ago,” Gwyneth recalls... The two works that most influenced Gwyneth’s conception were the 1633 Pietà by Giuseppe Ribera (1591-1652) that now hangs in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid and the Avignon Pietà by Enguerrand Quarton (c.1410-c.1466) that hangs in the Louvre.


Following the Baroque tradition, Gwyneth is convinced that depicting individual living persons as figures from sacred history is a mistake... Yet as a Western painter, and also to convey the reality of the Incarnation, Gwyneth is committed to painting from life, not purely from imagination. One solution is to reference multiple models for the same figure. For her Pietà, she began working with five primary models, one for each figure, plus an additional model for the head of Christ. She then used secondary models in the later stages, and some models sat for multiple figures. In total Gwyneth referenced ten models.
This latter point about living models and the limits (if not to say problems) they present for sacred art is an important one and it is something that I have commented on in the past as well. (See my article from 2010, Contemporary Representational Sacred Art: Some Proposed Issues and Solutions, for more on this.)

Here are a few details from the completed work:

For more information on this piece or the work of Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs, please visit her website.

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