Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Was Luke the Evangelist also an artist?

Was Luke the Evangelist also an artist?

The detail image shown above is from a stained glass window in Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral. It is in the Chapel of Laurence O'Toole and shows St Luke drawing or painting. It was created by Patrick Pollen in memory of his teacher Catherine O'Brien who died in 1963.

Some people venerate St Luke as the patron saint of artists. This is because of a Christian tradition from the 8th century onward that Luke painted the first Icons of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. There are legends supporting this idea and paintings showing Luke painting the Madonna and Child, for example this anonymous Russian icon.

Was Luke an artist? There are icons of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child whose origins are attributed to Luke. You can even find a catalogue of them here. Personally, I am highly sceptical that many or any can be traced back to Luke. The historical evidence is slim to say the least. So, I do not know if Luke created any paintings. He might have done, but I think that is conjecture.

Was St Luke an artist?

Assuming he was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament he certainly knew how to paint a picture with words. Just think of one of the best loved stories of the birth of Jesus. Luke writes how Joseph went to his family's town of Bethlehem to be registered, taking Mary,
"to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2: 5 - 7)
Was Luke an artist? If his writings help me to see who Jesus is (as they do) then he was an artist of words as well as an evangelist.

Was Luke an artist?

His written words show an eye for detail and concern for carefully gathering evidence that you would expect for someone in his probable profession, that of physician. Would he have developed some skill in drawing as part of his study of anatomy or pathology or making medical records? St Paul calls Luke 'the beloved physician', so we might conclude Luke was a skilled and compassionate doctor of medicine. Some people venerate Luke as the patron saint of physicians and surgeons.

Was Luke the Evangelist and physician also an artist? Perhaps, perhaps not.
What do you think?

It is St Luke's feast day today.
What's the best way to remember him or celebrate his day? 

Image Credit for stained glass window: Commons Wikimedia, CC License
Image Credit for Russian icon: Wikipedia, public domain

For a previous post about Luke see St Luke's Day.



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