Abstract, musical, religious art may just be my favorite thing ever. I recently came across a painting by Filippo Rossi that embodies all of these things and it absolutely blew me away! Join me as I geek out over this artwork for a bit.
Filippo Rossi’s Magnificat was painted in 2008 and is permanently exhibited in The Church of the Transfiguration in Cape Cod, MA. It consists of three panels that display, in acrylic paint, marble dust, and gold leaf, Mary’s thanksgiving to God. This canticle is found in the Gospel of Luke in the Christian Bible, right after Mary was told by an angel that she was to be the mother of God. A pretty crazy moment for her, and yet she rejoices almost in song. This melodic joy is displayed in this painting through musical notes and generous usage of gold!
Mary, “full of grace”, is represented in the bottom of each of these panels by the various sizes and kinds of gold. The gold is moving up towards the top of this composition, in which a large, solid semicircle of gold leaf resides. This sun-like shape is meant to represent God, who can be described as sol justitiae (the sun of justice). The colors of this piece are all shades of white and beige, which create a seamless harmony between the background and the gold leaf on top.
Mary’s song of thanksgiving is shown to reach God’s ears through the depiction of actual music in this composition! Three musical staves, one in each panel, are arranged vertically to connect Mary to God. As Mary’s prayer of thanksgiving is in a canticle structure, the incorporation of musical notes is nothing short of fitting. The very pieces of gold that make up the representation of Mary form harmonic musical notes on each staff. The staff in the middle, as if to represent musical movement in the song as well as the initial hesitation of Mary in saying yes to conceiving Jesus, does not quite reach the golden sun at the top. This interrupted panel contrasts with the other two panels in this triptych, in which the staves fully connect with the sun.
The union between God and Mary in this composition not only displays God’s fierce love for her (described as ab aeterno, from all eternity), but also God’s fierce love for all of creation. As a viewer of this art, we are drawn into this musical scene of love and thus are embraced into it. We are invited to participate in the simple “thank you” from creation to creator. A simple song from human to divine. I personally love the musical aspect of this piece. It combines multiple artforms: painting, making music, praying, and living. All of these are magnified in this piece in an absolutely stunning way. Visiting this work of art in person is now going near the top of my bucket list!