Michael Triegel: Annunciation
ArtWay Visual Meditation 8 March 2020
Michael Triegel: Annunciation
by Patrik Scherrer
The naked woman on the table covered with two tablecloths is disturbing. Motionless, as if laid out, she lies in a recess underneath a stone arch. Behind her a hanging cloth partly hides the black background. Above her feet an angel is suspended in the air, reminding us of the messengers in Renaissance annunciations. The angel is very small in comparison to the woman, greeting her in festive dress, while the woman lies naked and still.
Is this some kind of representation of the Annunciation? Is it not without respect to render the woman so naked? Why is she lying on this table? Why is she placed in a recess that looks like a passageway? What does the green cloth behind her signify? And why this angel? There are many more questions we could ask about this enigmatic painting. We need to start looking very carefully in order to uncover the meaning of it all.
Let’s start with the woman. Lying completely straight she divides the image in an upper and lower half. She does not move yet is not dead. Her eyes are open and she holds her arms close to her body. Her body exhibits a natural tension. Her nakedness seems deliberate and expresses willingness and surrender, yet without sexual overtones. She rather looks like a patient on an operating table or a sacrificial lamb on an altar. This woman seems prepared to give up everything for the ones she loves. The threatening black background indicates that it could involve her death.
Underneath the arch she lies in a passageway in a kind of borderline experience, between light and dark, life and death. At the boundary hangs a green cloth which also forms the central background of the lying woman. With its green colour and almost rectangular form it may be a symbol for the earth. With its flowers and fruits it may remind us of the biblical Paradise with the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge in its midst. The red seam may symbolize the cherubim who guard Paradise with flaming swords. It may only be entered from above and from its front side, there where the naked woman lies on the table. She lies exactly in the middle of the cloth, so that her womb is placed precisely in the center of this symbolical Paradise.
In front of this green fabric the woman appears as the new Eve. She is willing to undo the pride of her forefathers through her humility. While Adam and Eve were afraid and covered themselves because of their nakedness before the Holy One, here the new Eve uncovers herself without fear. In the same place where once were sin and mistrust, now salvation comes into the world through the trust and surrender of Mary. The motif of the pomegranate on the fabric alludes to life and fertility. Placed here between the angel and Mary, it refers to Jesus, the fruit of her womb.
As a messenger from another time and world the angel opens his hands in greeting, while cautiously carrying the invisible Word to Mary. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:28,31,35, 38 NRSV) The artist emphasizes the unconditional surrender of this naked woman, who lays herself bare before God to be taken by him as by a bridegroom, become pregnant and carry his child under her heart. In her flesh his Word will dwell, take on human form and follow the transitory path of all earthly life.
In the manner she lies there, Mary strongly reminds us of images of Jesus in his grave. Through her YES she is filled by the Holy Spirit with new life like a few decades later her son. With her surrender she anticipates the surrender of her son on the cross, so that he can bring about the redemption and resurrection of the whole human race.
Michael Triegel: Annunciation, 2008, mixed technique, 75 x 106 cm, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 and Galerie Schwind GmbH, Leipzig.
Michael Triegel was born in 1968 in Erfurt, Germany. He is a painter, illustrator and graphic artist based in Leipzig. He studied painting and graphic art under Arno Rink at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig from 1990 to 1995. His paintings are highly influenced by Renaissance art. He is a key representative of the “New Leipzig School.” He is best known for his portraits, including, famously, a portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2010. Born in East Germany in 1968, he came of age under a politicized system of art training that expected unconditional obedience to communist ideology and propaganda. After the end of the Cold War when he could travel and work without impediments, Triegel’s attention turned to investigating the relevance of religious iconography in the 21st century. After having done various commissions for Catholic and Lutheran churches and clergymen, Triegel was baptised in 2014. In 2015 Die Zeit called him "Germany's most famous religious artist".
Patrik Scherrer is the driving force behind the German website Bildimpuls. Every fortnight he sends out a ‘Bildimpuls’ or visual meditation, in which he focuses on contemporary Christian and religious art from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. He studied theology and works with the mentally handicapped. He wrote the book Gott in Sicht? 33 Impulse zum christlichen Glauben aus der Pinakothek der Moderne, Schnell & Steiner, 2005. On the Bildimpuls website there is also a lot of information about artists, books, museums, exhibitions and organizations, see www.bildimpuls.de.
ON THE WEBSITE NEW ON THE WEBSITE NEWS
1. CONFERENCE IN DENMARK - 4 June – 7 June, Maltfabrikken, S. A. Jensens Vej, Ebeltoft: European Conference of Cultural and Creative Spaces. What kinds of impact are cultural organisations making? How are they contributing to a more diverse, just and inclusive society? How can they co-create positive societal change? How are they monitoring their own footprint? And what are the most effective ways to communicate these impacts? This is the essence of what we will be exploring together in Ebeltoft, Denmark in June 2020. https://teh.net/event/cultural-impact-now/
2. STATIONS OF THE CROSS IN OXFORD - 28 February – 9 April, Oxford: Re-imagining the Stations of the Cross – Passion and Compassion. University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. A website and mobile app developed by the University Church in Oxford for Lent 2020 to encourage reflection on the narrative of the Passion. Weave your way around the city, from churches to museums, gardens to city rooftops, accompanied by meditations from leading academics, theologians, and artists. An exhibition introducing the project is on show in the Adam de Brome Chapel of the University Church until Easter (Mo – Sa, 9.30 – 17 h, Su, 12 – 17 h). https://www.passionandcompassion.org/ ; https://www.universitychurch.ox.ac.uk/
3. EXHIBITION LITTLE KNOWN OLD MASTER - 10 March – 7 June, Museum Helmond, Kasteelplein 1, Helmond: Lucas Gassel: Master of Landscapes. The first major retrospective of this sixteenth-century master of landscape painting. Works on loan from around the world, including Belgium, Germany, Mexico, and the USA will be brought together for the first time. We know little about the life of Lucas Gassel. His father was a painter in Helmond. It has been assumed that Lucas left for Antwerp at the turn of the sixteenth century. At that time, Antwerp was an important city for the arts in the south of the Duchy of Brabant, of which Helmond was also part. Lucas later moved to Brussels, where he remained until his death according to Van Mander. He was posthumously included in prominent art historical sources as an important painter of his time. Yet, in the sixteenth century Lucas Gassel (ca. 1488 -1568/69) was a successful painter and artist. He is one of only a handful of artists whose names we know as early practitioners of the landscape genre, together with Joachim Patinir (ca. 1480-1524) and Herri met de Bles (ca. 1510-ca-15510). Gassel’s oeuvre consists of panel paintings, drawings and prints made after his design. They show compositions in a landscape format, with sweeping mountainous landscapes in the background and in the foreground mostly biblical subjects. Tu – Fr, 10 – 17 h, Sa and Su, 12 – 17 h. https://www.museumhelmond.nl/en/exhibitions/7390/
4. DAY ABOUT SIEGER KÖDER - 5 April, 10 – 15.30 h, The Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, West Yorkshire: Seeing Salvation: The Art and Spirituality of Sieger Köder led by Gemma Simmonds CJ. Christian prayer is often framed in words, but St. Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit interceding for us when we can’t articulate what we want to express and journalists claim that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. The German priest and painter Sieger Köder used painting to preach and to help people enter into a deeper understanding of Biblical scenes and the person of Jesus. His art is shot through with a sacramental understanding of human reality and with a pastor’s empathy with human frailty. https://mirfield.org.uk/events/reflective-day-based-on-the-work-of-sieger-koder/
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