A Rare Glimpse: Painting and Reality

It is very rare that we get an opportunity to see and compare items like the vestments portrayed in historical paintings to the actual historical items but this is one of those occasions. The following painting comes from 1656, painted by the Florentine artist Orazio Fidani, depicting the vision of St. Philip Neri. In the painting St. Philip wears a chasuble of the common shape of his century -- the very same shape which has come to informally bear his own name; the so-called "Neri" chasuble.  There are various versions of this mystical scene from his life, but in this particular one he wears a chasuble made up of a white and red damask fabric.

Here is the actual historical fabric which formed the basis of this particular chasuble:

It is worth noting that I am not suggesting that St. Philip Neri actually wore this particular chasuble. More likely that this was a chasuble that our seventeenth century artist had access to and used on his model in painting his subject. Still, it provides a rare glimpse into one of the actual fabrics used in vestment work coming from the 16th-17th centuries. 

Anticipating the question as to what liturgical colour this constitutes, a good general rule of thumb is to take whatever the visually dominant colour is, overall when looking at the material, and that is the colour. In this particular instance it is quite difficult to ascertain. It could be either white or red -- or it is also possible that this chasuble could have been used for both as was sometimes done in these days when textiles were far more rare and precious to come by. 

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