Art can help us see the world as not opaque to God's presence but charged with it. David Taylor

Sándor A. Tóth: Saint Elizabeth

ArtWay Visual Meditation April 22, 2018

Sándor A. Tóth: Saint Elizabeth

When Heaven and Earth Meet

by Aniko Ouweneel-Tóth

How do you portray a miracle? What is it like to experience one?

Once upon a time there was, not in a fairy tale but in legendary reality, a medieval princess with unlimited resourses and a heart for the less fortunate. It was the middle of winter. The majority of the people were suffering from starvation. If the princess would hand out bread, she would have to pay for it with her life. She knew, yet continued to hand it out, as her heart could not follow another path than solidarity. Her husband was the ruler of the area. He came and saw and caught her in the act. In order to humiliate her in public the princess had to show the buns of bread in her apron. She was about to face the ultimate punishment. Slowly she opens her apron…

This is the moment of truth, the moment shown in the painting.

But instead of ending in humiliation, the story concludes in miraculous elevation. The main character is brave, she faces her fate, knowing that what she does is right. She looks fearless as well as startled, not quite realizing yet what is taking place. She opens her apron, but even before she can see it herself the buns have changed into roses.

Midwinter. Impossible. A miracle.

This is the legend of Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia, a Hungarian princess who died before turning 25 at Marburg Castle in 1231. Across the world she is revered as a saint and many convents and hospitals have been called after her. Her legend is an example of audacious servitude and in this tale, it is the Creator himself who comes to her rescue.

I keep on being amazed by this painting. It was painted by my grandfather, Sándor A. Tóth, avant-garde painter and puppet player in the 1930s in Paris. The main character looks like a wooden puppet, simplified as to form and proportions. The work is an example of late cubism with expressionistic elements, an explosion of restrained emotion. The way it has been painted suggests something mythical: we look at Elizabeth from the perspective of someone kneeling or in any case looking up at her. The colors, lines and forms have been purposefully used to convey emotion. Elizabeth wears a symbolical habit (later, after the death of her husband, she became a nun), while the red roses form the passionate center. The green lines in the innocent white winter landscape hint at the intrusion of another dimension. This is the moment when love reveals itself and heaven and earth meet. The moment of the miracle. 

A powerful image of a saint by a Protestant artist.


Sándor A. Tóth:  Árpád-házi Szent Erzsébet (Saint Elizabeth), 1937, oil on canvas, 118 x 45 cm, Museum Kiscelli Budapest.

Sándor A. Tóth (1904-1980) was a Hungarian avant-garde painter, puppet player and teacher. His website is under construction. For an impression of his oeuvre you can view this short video:

Anikó Ouweneel- Tóth is a cultural historian and art advisor living in the Netherlands. For more see   



1. ARTWAY – In the Art & Music section we posted a video of the song ‘Condition’ by Irish singer-songwriter Duke Special with drawings by British artist Peter S Smith. ‘I am perfect, I am broken, I’m adored, I’m unspoken, I am lonely, I’m contented, I am sane, I’m half demented.’ Watch here

2. ONLINE RETREAT – Way of the Monk, Path of the Artist Summer Online Retreat. Join Abbey of the Arts for a 12-week online companion retreat to Christine Valters Paintner's book The Artist's Rule (which Image described as "gracefully written and ever-consoling"). Featuring six live webinars with Christine, added audio content for extra guidance through the exercises, a vibrant and lovingly facilitated forum for conversation and sharing with kindred souls. Dates are May28 - August 18, 2018. Click here for more details and registration. 

3. CALL FOR PAPERS - Art of the Invisible. Proposals by 14 May. Conference: 19 October, 12 noon – 7pm, Courtauld Institute of Art. This interdisciplinary conference aims to investigate artistic strategies for the invisible, across disciplinary, chronological, geographical, and medial boundaries, bringing together a variety of speakers to examine the problems and strategies for visualising the invisible, providing answers across these boundaries. We welcome explorations of objects and images addressing the invisible, as well as the discourse and historiography surrounding art and the invisible, from Pseudo-Dionysius to Maurice Merleau-Ponty. With a disciplinary grounding in the History of Art, we welcome proposals from scholars working in Theology, Philosophy (Aesthetics), Comparative Literature, Musicology, and Critical Theory, as well as practicing artists.

4. SHORT FILM – The Audacity of Christian Art. How do you paint a figure who is fully human and fully divine? In this series of seven short films, Chloë Reddaway looks at paintings from the National Gallery’s Renaissance collection and explores some surprising and ingenious artistic responses to the challenge of painting Christ.

5. NEW BOOK – Jeremy Begbie, Redeeming Transcendence in the Arts: Bearing Witness to the Triune God, Eerdmans, 2018. Jeremy Begbie employs a biblical, trinitarian imagination to show how Christian involvement in the arts can (and should) be shaped by a vision of God’s transcendence revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. The book critiques some current writing on the subject and offers rich resources for engaging constructively with the contemporary cultural moment even as they bear witness to the otherness and uncontainability of the triune God of love.

6. LA SECTION FRANCAISE – (12 April) 17 May, 24 May, 31 May, 18 h. MAMAC de Nice (musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain), Place Yves Klein, Nice : Cours du soir : Représentation des rois mages dans l'histoire de l'art. L'Ecole du Louvre organise dans toute la France des cycles de cours du soir ouverts à tous, sur des thématiques variées au sein de l'histoire de l'art. A Nice, un cycle de cours est organisé avec la Direction Adjointe Culture et Patrimoine de la Ville et se déroule au musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC), intitulé : "Ils virent l'étoile et furent emplis de joie", sur le thème de l'iconographie des rois mages.
Jeudi 12 avril 2018, 18h00 - De Charlemagne aux croisades : La récupération politique des mages devenus rois - Pauline Duclos-Grenet.
Jeudi 17 mai 2018, 18h00 - Essor et diffusion du culte des rois mages (XIIe-XVe s.) - Pauline Duclos-Grenet.
Jeudi 24 mai 2018, 18h00 - « Il eut été impossible de surpasser une telle somptuosité ». Florence, les Medicis et l’apothéose des rois mages au Quattrocento - Pauline Duclos-Grenet.
Jeudi 31 mai 2018, 18h00 - Le déclin de la puissance symbolique des rois mages - Pauline Duclos-Grenet.

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc. inside and outside your country, click here

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