arts, books, other reviews

MASTERPIECES FROM THE LOUVRE

The Collection of Louis La Caze

At the Wallace Collection

14 February-18 May Admission free

The re-hang at the Wallace Collection is now complete. Parts of the Gallery are very splendid and, for those so inclined, it is even possible to dress up in replicas of the Collections armour. Unfortunately that part of the Collection has elbowed its way into the small room which hangs the Bonnington landscapes and seascapes - visitors shouldn't have to look round cases of Ottoman armour to see those very special works.

If there is an overall drawback to the re-hang, it is that with so many pictures now on display, some of the galleries now look almost as overcrowded as they did in their nineteenth-century heyday. Louis La Caze (1798-1869) would probably have approved. A genuine philanthropist, he opened up his extensive collection to the public, only for the Goncourt brothers to condemn the 'deplorable' eclecticism of his congested display. But with artists such as Manet and Degas amongst his visitors, La Caze could ignore the critics.

This exhibition at the Wallace shows a small fraction of the 275 works that La Caze gave to the Louvre. They have been chosen to complement similar works in the Wallace and reflect the different tastes and buying power of two of the most important collectors of eighteenth-century French art, La Caze and the Fourth Marquess of Hertford whose collections form the backbone of the Wallace.

A man of limited means compared to the super-rich Hertford, La Caze was not able to buy as widely as his contemporary, though the Rembrandt 'Bathsheba Bathing' would grace any collection - which is maybe why it stayed behind in the Louvre. However, he began his collection at a time when eighteenth-century French art was grossly undervalued -his first Chardin cost fifteen francs - and it was in that field that he made some of his finest purchases. Though there are two good Spanish works in the exhibition, the focus of attention is quite properly French.

On entering the exhibition, it is striking that the Louvre's paintings are less scrubbed compared with the Wallace's. This makes them subtler or dingier according to your point of view. Also, they are often freer in execution, especially Fragonard's two figures de fantaisie as compared to his 'The Swing' upstairs.

Admirers of Watteau are well served by his 'Nymph and Satyr', a rare example of a mythological work by the artist and worth comparing to the pneumatic delights of Boucher's 'Venus in Vulcan's Workshop' nearby.

The stars of the show, though, are three Chardins. La Caze bought a large number of these domestic, bourgeois scenes. Unfortunately they did not interest the Fourth Marquess and sadly there are very few of these quiet, penetrating works in British collections. The most compelling here is 'Le Benedicite' ('Grace') which shows a mother giving a meal to her two children. It is a celebration of middle-class virtue, much admired, if not much copied, by the aristocracy of the Ancien Regime. Chardin made three versions of this picture. The first he gave to Louis XV, and

the second, the one on show, he kept in his studio until his death. The balance and blend of colour, the natural stance of the figures, the depth of feeling and joy make this a picture to take time over. If Chardin had been a preacher, this would be his domestic Church.

Owen Higgs

 

books

A CHALLENGING REFORM

Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal Archbishop Piero Marini Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 212pp, pbk 978 0 8146 3035 8, $15.95

This was not the book I was expecting to read: I imagined that one who had been the former personal secretary of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini and, for the last twenty years, the head of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff would have written an incisive defence of liturgical renewal, its content and its celebration. Instead, the book is best summed up by Timothy Radcliffe's commendation: 'A penetrating analysis of the tensions which surrounded the liturgical renewal in the Catholic Church during the Vatican Council and afterwards.' We have the good guys - the Consilium and progressive liturgists - and the bad guys - the Congregation for Rites and conservative curial cardinals. On the sidelines is the sheriff, Pope Paul VI, apparently in a position of neutrality but discreetly supporting the good guys.

The battle seemed to be won once the Congregation for Divine Worship had been established (1969), but in 1975 the decision was taken to demote Bugnini, who had been identified as a dangerous liberal as early as 1962, from secretary to peritus. The Congregation for Divine Worship became a department of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 'one of the first signs of a tendency to return to a pre-conciliar mindset that has for years now characterized the Curias approach'. One is left feeling that the good guys seemed to have won - the new liturgical books written, the drums and guitars of inculturation banged and strummed - but that the conservatives have been creeping up, regaining lost ground.

As a political analysis, this seems fairly accurate. As an analysis of how Western culture has worked over the last forty years, of how cultural change has impacted on Western liturgy, and how the competing visions of continuity and reform have and should have interacted, the book is decidedly superficial. To be fair to Marini - and his successor as Papal MC is also called Marini, which could be confusing - the President of the Pontifical Commission for International Eucharistic Congresses (as he now is) and architect of two of the most compelling papal liturgies ever seen (the funeral of Pope Paul VI and the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI) must tread carefully. A broadside against the present Pope and other advocates of 'the Reform of the Reform' would be churlish, inadvisable and unfruitful. It is useful, moreover, to have this complementary account of the process of liturgical reform - complementary, that is, to Annibale Bugnini's classic textbook, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975.

Nevertheless, the book I was expecting to read would have been a vigorous defence of the Novus Ordo and the new liturgical rites against the twin charges of discontinuity and superficial modernism. The advocates of'the hermeneutic of continuity' are not merely curial conservatives or those who want to play with birettas and maniples in their own enchanted garden. They are more importantly those who see a radical discontinuity between the evolving Roman Rite of 1962, complete with Pope Pius XII's reforms, especially of the breviary and of Holy Week, and the liturgy which emerged after Vatican II. Many of the innovations are profoundly welcome - the proclamation of Scripture in the vernacular and the new Prefaces, for example.

Other features of the Reform - Missa 'Kumbaya instead of Gregorian Chant, and the slavish adopting of versus populum in unsuitable architectural settings, spring to mind - have been less well thought through. What we need to seek to understand, as integral to the hermeneutic of continuity, is that, just as in the 1960s everything had to be new - glass and concrete - so, in this new century, we are more than a little concerned with heritage and tradition, facing as we do, amidst the chaos of secularism, the real prospect of the loss of cultural, historical - and liturgical -" memory.

Bishop Andrew Burnham

 

ROOTED IN DETACHMENT

Living the Transfiguration

Kenneth Stevenson

DLT, 175pp, pbk 0 232 52692 3, 10.95

When reading the Bishop of Portsmouth's new book, it is essential to keep the subtitle in mind, for it is a rich combination of many different strands of approaches - patristic, iconographical, liturgical - which might, on the surface, seem somewhat incoherent. It sets out a personal reflection on the meaning of the Transfiguration, seen from the triple perspective of the Gospel accounts, the later tradition of writing and art on the subject, and the Bishops own reading of the two, and is thus both telescopic and kaleidoscopic.

He takes the stages of movement through the story - in chapters entitled 'promise', 'ascent', 'change', 'visitors', 'enthusiasm', 'cloud', 'voice', 'descent' - and adds to that the narrative of his own life and difficult confrontation with leukaemia. In so doing, he reminds us of the true nature of Theology: the Queen of Sciences, the summit of thought, and the godly answer to Satan's showing of the world to Christ from the pinnacle of the mountain. It is only through a truly theological working-out of life's experience that we can see the kingdoms of the world spread out before us, and it is only with and in Christ that we can even attempt to reach out for the glory of them.

Each of the central chapters is prefaced by a meditation on the concept with which it is to deal. There is a curious combination of the personal and the populist here, as memories of youthful mountaineering and meteorology are mixed in with some remarks on the well-known Australian portraitist, musician and Renaissance Man Harris's depiction of Her Majesty the Queen: I can think of few writers who would include Rolf, Ramsey and Raphael within a few dozen pages of one another. Nevertheless, for all its oddities, this book works. It works on the level of introduction to scholarship and tradition on the sub-

26 ■ newdirections ■ April 2008

ject of the Transfiguration; it works as an episcopal memoir; it works as an account of a theological engagement with both of the above. It was also, for this reviewer at least, a fine primer on the works of Nikolai Grundtvig, Denmark's answer to John Mason Neale.

I should like to give vent to my inner codicologist, and add two points on the production and presentation of the book itself. I went to remove the book from my desk one evening, in order to peruse it in the comfort of what is laughingly called my 'easy-chair'. Imagine my shock, gentle reader, when I discovered that I had actually got hold of The Spiritual Letters of Francis Wagstaffe: Messrs Darton, Tong-man and Todd seem to have gone all out to make the books superficially identical: the typeface is the same, and the rather fuzzy and pixellated reproduction of Theophanes the Greek's icon 'The Transfiguration of the Tord' recalls, in its greenish tint and golden hue, the capering bishop on the front of that other classic tome. This was, I thought, ominous, and not in a good way. I hope the foregoing has shown that this initial fear was not justified.

Secondly, the array of reviewers' comments on the back cover is worthy of note. There is a gushy tribute from Maxwell E. Johnson, of the University of Notre Dame, followed by I warm words from Professors John Barton and John Anthony McGuckin, of Oxford and Columbia Universities respectively, and it is good to see the fruits of the lat-ter's engagement with a work in which he is extensively cited. These are succeeded by three magisterially, majestically bland sentences from Dr Stevenson's quondam colleague on the Bench, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. He writes that the book 'is particularly strong on the way the Transfiguration has been interpreted down the ages', which must encourage and affirm the good Prelate of Portsmouth, who states that this is his primary aim before the conclusion of the very first paragraph on the very first page.

The last words should be given to Kenneth Stevenson himself, however: T was 'chosen for the illness, I 'ascended' for the treatment, I had my appearance changed' through the treatment, I wanted to 'hold' certain moments of it all... I was aware of a voice speaking occasionally in

my confusion and lack of faith, I 'saw' Jesus away from all the distractions because of the purging nature of the whole experience.' This sums up, effectively, the purpose, nature and result of writing this valuable book, and goes a long way towards informing the purpose, nature and result of reading it.

Daniel Lloyd reads Theology at St Stephen's House

 

BLOOD AND RAGE

A Cultural History of Terrorism Michael Burleigh

Atlantic Books, 320pp, hbk 978 0 00724 127 9, 25

It is always agreeable and affirming to have your (I will not say prejudices) your carefully calibrated opinions, your sober and informed judgements about political, cultural and religious life confirmed by a writer of high repute and academic distinction in a book of significance and authority. Perhaps, in a vain moment, something of the glory rubs off. It is doubly satisfying to read a book which brilliantly and insolently refuses to conform to the flaccid, mediocre, liberal consensus that passes for scholarship and that so permeates every level of our woefully inadequate educational system.

Having always thought that the French existential philosopher and savant beloved of the left, Jean-Paul Sartre, to be a squalid and tawdry intellectual fraud, it is satisfying to see his reputation roasted on an epigrammatic spit by Michael Burleigh in this robust and immensely enjoyable book. Nor does Sartre suffer alone in what can be seen as the final volume of a trilogy in which Professor Burleigh has scrupulously and vigorously examined the culture of the violence of modern times from the French Revolution to the present day. This book brings his magisterial and masterly survey to a triumphant conclusion. He writes with a passionate engagement. This is history, and (taking the three books as a whole) this is religious history with attitude. It is sharp and polemical: sometimes he slashes with the rapier, sometimes he wields a bludgeon.

We all bring our preconceptions to the books we read and here several of mine are confirmed rather than disabused. Since my teenage years when I read The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, it has been my settled view that nihilists and violent anarchists (as terrorists were in that novel and in those days) were then and are now psychotic inadequates, feeble sociopaths who compensated for their internal failings and sense of personal worthlessness in envy and arrogance (rarely justified by any intellectual pretensions) on a prodigious and destructive scale. If they were unable to share in society or to make a success of their lives, they were determined to destroy that society or to reduce others to their own state, or to impose their own warped ideas on a society to be encased in a straitjacket of conformity and ideological purity. Theirs was, and is, a bleak view of humanity.

The Bolshevik revolutionaries who enslaved (literally) so much of Eastern Europe for so long were less ideologues than sinister, sadistic gangsters. They pursued their destructive course, a kind of state-sponsored terrorism, while mouthing the empty and deceitful rhetoric of equality, brotherly love, proletarian solidarity, freedom and peace; slogans which were not dissimilar from the poisonous platitudes of the French Revolution oihib-erte, Egalite, Fraternite, drowned out by the crash of the guillotine in the bloodbath of the Terror. Ideology is a thin and brittle carapace to shelter criminal activity, torture and murder.

The book can be read as a series of case studies in terrorism, skilfully dissected with a surgeons scalpel. Ireland (IRA, Provos, Protestant terrorists), Algeria (FLNL Front de Liberation Rationale), Germany (Baader-Meinhof), Afghanistan, the Middle East, Italy and more are covered, and it can seem singularly depressing how devoid of sense and feeling our fellow human creatures can be. There are, however, moments of gruesome and grotesque humour, as when one terrorist attempts to shoot another terrorist of a different allegiance, only to have the assassins bullet ricochet off the head of the intended victim who had assiduously maintained his bald and shaven pate with liberal and regular applications of spray furniture polish: do you laugh or weep?

It may be argued (and some reviewers have argued) that Professor Burleigh blunts his attack by an overly sustained use of polemical language, and it is true that the epithets come thick and fast, and by his palpable anger. There is no doubt that his ire is fully engaged. However, his anger, unlike that of the terrorists whom he savagely depicts, comes from a genuine humanity and not from a blinkered, narrow abnormality and the tragic lack of basic human emotions. Perhaps more historians, and more of all of us, should exhibit such righteous wrath and indignation at the unspeakable perversions and atrocities with which we are confronted. Yet I can remember a moment when righteous anger was expressed more eloquently and powerfully in silence on the occasion when Pope Paul VI (not far from his own death) attended the Requiem Mass for his friend, the Italian politician and former Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, murdered by terrorists. His attendance and his participation was a singular and moving personal protest, even more eloquent in its silent witness, against the evil and the sinister vulgarity of the times.

Professor Burleigh can from time to time allow his stinging prose to carry him away. Nevertheless, there are many who will find his attacks on mendacious liberal intellectuals, in the universities and in the media, who offer comfort and understanding to wanton acts of human destruction and more often than not indiscriminate destruction, more than welcome and no more than they deserve. Channel 4 has become a byword for tawdry vulgarization a parody of its foundational ethos, and the BBC's news and current affairs output is little short of a national disgrace.

In his three volumes, Earthly Powers: The Conflict between Religion and Politics from the French Revolution to the Great War, Sacred Causes: Religion and Politics from the European Dictators to Al Qaeda, (both of which were well-received by others in ND) and now this one, Michael Burleigh has written a vital and vivid commentary on the worst of humankind shown in contemporary history that will be a touchstone for future historians and cultural commentators. The trilogy is not merely excellent history enthrallingly written; it is a powerful moral treatise, an indispensable tract for our dangerous and uncertain times. It is a noble achievement.

Alexander Fawdon

 

WORLDS AT WAR

The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West Anthony Pagden

Oxford University Press, 548pp, hbk 978 0 19 9237 43 2, 20

Anthony Pagden is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and History at UCLA. This book expounds his belief that 'the origins of modern secular democracy lie not... in Christianity but in what Christianity borrowed from the ancient world'. He further asks where that modern liberal secular democracy is now heading in the light of the rise of radical Islam.

To do this, he tells a series of stories to illustrate the themes of the (possibly) tectonic clash between East and West - or, more accurately, Near/Middle East and West, since for all the talk about Asia, most of Asia doesn't get a look in - and how the secular Stoic tradition of the West arose, how it was shackled by Christianity and then broke free in the period between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. This provides the great contrast with Islam, for, according to Pagden, Islam has no secular hinterland, it has no resources to break free from religion as the West has, and so, with the exception of Turkey, it has not produced any liberal democracies and cannot enjoy the freedoms of the West. In his view there is no hope for Dr Williams' affirming shariah law.

Pagden writes self-consciously in the tradition of Voltaire, Gibbon and Nietzsche, especially Gibbons anti-heroic mockery of Christianity. And he joins his fellow expatriate and polemicist, Christopher Hitch-ens, in saying that monotheistic religions have caused more harm to the human race than any other form of belief.

But it is at this point that the sympathetic reader may begin to have doubts. Pagden's sweeping narrative is prefaced and punctuated by equally sweeping assertions unsupported by detailed evidence or self-reflection - for instance, if Christians are so bad, why aren't the Stoic Romans equally as bad when they commit genocide by the million?

In fact, too often this book reads like those newspaper articles written to support a particular narrative, but which are peppered with distortions if you know the matter in hand. For example, there is nothing here of the transmission of ancient Greek thought via Islam to the medieval West, which should at least have suggested the possibility of Islam can live with Pagden's scientific worldview To take a second example, Christian belief in Jesus Christ is dismissed out of hand as a recycling of the god-man and dying god myths; all very Golden Bough but based on a discredited anthropology and a poor reading of the gospels - Christ is pre-existent; he is not a god-man like Hercules. This humane, secular academic doesn't really try to understand religion.

But it is another sneer which hints at a fundamental flaw in Pagden's theory of Christianity's secular hinterland. Christianity, he says, is a Jewish heresy. Which it is, from a Jewish point of view. And it was diaspora Judaism, not Greek culture, which provided the early Church with the background for that universalism (Catholicism!) which proclaims that God became man for all mankind and which Pagden believes is at the heart of secular liberalism.

The appeal which Christianity then made to the ancient world baffles Pagden. The possibility that Christianity is true he cannot contemplate. Yet he might ponder whether the fact that the Early Church answered people's need, in a way the Stoic ancients did not, is a sign that secular liberalism is radically inadequate not just in the face of Islamic fundamentalism, but for mankind full stop.

Owen Higgs

 

'ETHOS' AND THE OXFORD MOVEMENT

At the Heart of Tractarianism

James Pereiro

OUP, 271pp, hbk 978 0 19 923029 7, 60

This beautifully produced volume is a significant and welcome addition to the literature on the Oxford Movement. It includes genuinely original research, in the form of the publication of extracts from the correspondence (held in manuscript in the Bodleian Library and the Borthwick Institute, York) between Samuel Francis Wood and Manning and Newman, together with Wood's paper, 'Revival of Primitive Doctrine', written in the summer of 1840 at the request of Pusey and Newman. Wood's career is unlikely to be familiar to most casual students of the Catholic revival, yet it is fascinating and instructive. Born in 1809, the younger brother of the first Viscount Halifax, Wood went up to Oriel College in 1827, where he fell under Newman's influence and benefited greatly from the lat-ter's ideas about the pastoral nature of the tutorial system. Having tried and failed to obtain a Fellowship in Oxford, he moved to London and was called to the Bar. Pereiro writes, 'The onset of the Oxford Movement provided Wood with new fields of action, notably the correspondence and conversations he maintained with Newman and Manning in 1835-6 on a point of great significance for the Movement: the emerging notion of the theory of the development of doctrine. Wood was ahead of Newman in seeking to explain the relationship between Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, and to articulate the role of Tradition in drawing up the rule of faith. He wrote 'with the enthusiasm of a man who has seen a vision'.

The 'Revival of Primitive Doctrine,' which came a few years later, provides a contemporary history of Tractarianism, and offers a 'snapshot' of the Movement at its high-water mark, when the troubles which the publication of Tract 90 would occasion still lay in the future, and 'the dreams and expectations' of the Oxford Movement fathers were still fresh and intact. It constitutes, as Pereiro notes, 'the earliest known historical narrative of the Oxford Movement... His paper was a mirror held before the faces of Pusey and Newman, and they recognized themselves in it.' Three years later, Wood was dead. His last years were marked by an increasing discomfiture at the liturgical innovations which were being introduced at the Margaret Street Chapel, under the incumbency of Frederick Oakley, where he had hitherto happily worshipped.

Pereiro takes Wood's use of the term 'revival' in the title of his 1840 narrative as the point of departure for the thesis which forms the heart of his book. The historiography of the Oxford Movement has tended to emphasize, in more recent scholarship, points of continuity with the eighteenth-century (and older) High Church tradition. Without adopting a wholly revisionist agenda, Pereiro restores a sense of the fresh awakening of Catholic doctrine and Catholic ideals heralded by the Tractarian fathers. Here is an unashamedly robust portrait of the inauguration of the Movement which, the author writes, 'abounds in dramatic elements: high ideals, passionate characters, and youthful energy, an almost all-conquering initial force of expansion...'

The Movement is a true revival: doctrinal, liturgical and devotional, centred in the mysteries of divine Revelation. It espouses the communal dimension of the Christian faith over Enlightenment individualism: hence the literary antecedents arising from Romanticism are of such vital importance in understanding Tractarian principles and ideals. It responds to a widespread perception of crisis and decline in the life of the established Church (Pereiro is more generous to the eighteenth century than to suggest that this perception was wholly justified: the point is that it was real), and to what the author neatly calls the 'devotional deficit' which was driving middle-class Anglicans into Evangelicalism. Following Newman, Pereiro notes that 'souls were searching for what the Oxford Movement had to offer'.

The key term is ethos which, in Isaac Williams' famous phrase, Keble set above intellect, and which, for Newman, required that holiness of life and right belief should provide the only context for intellectual enquiry in matters of faith. The Church's progress would be dependent on her faithfulness to a Catholic ethos: the alternative - what Newman called an ethos of Dissent -  could be marked only by worldliness and intellectual pride. The genius loci of Oxford itself, exemplified by the University's adherence to Church and King rather than to the Puritan parliament during the civil wars, was one of Catholic ethos: little wonder that providence raised up an Oxford Movement.

Pereiro - a priest of the Opus Dei prelature - takes us, at the end of his book, to the horns of a very contemporary dilemma. Can that Catholic ethos so prized by the Tractarians still be embraced with confidence in the Church of England of today? In 1854, Manning wrote to Wilberforce to lament the fact that, among those who had not followed Newman and himself to Rome, he detected a quiet but persistent setting aside of Tractarian principles by those who had once eagerly espoused them. 'I see men, he wrote, 'who once believed with even clearer light than I did, now professing not to believe this or that particular; and what is worst of all, I believe they say so truly; for what ought to be obeyed when believed, passes away' Not comfortable reading.

But this is not a controversialist book. It is a fluent, incisive and original book, which succeeds magnificently in putting the 'heart' back into the Oxford Movement. Footnote: it is good to see the Librarians of Pusey House acknowledged generously; the production of this volume is another reminder of the significance of the House's unique archival collections. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?

Jonathan Baker

 

FIRMLY I BELIEVE

John Twistleton

Premier Christian Radio 5060118360026, 8.99

John Twistleton is mission and renewal adviser for the Chichester Diocese and a regular contributor on Premier Christian Radio. Firmly I Believe is a two-CD set and booklet and is subtitled 'Declaring the faith of the Church through the ages'. The 43 three-minute talks are divided into four sections: 'The Creed', 'The Sacraments', 'The Commandments', 'Christian Prayer'. The

talks are accompanied by reflective music, f Also, there is a website from which group ; discussion plans can be downloaded. r Here is a welcome way of engaging s people with the Christian faith. It is useful I for preparing parents and godparents for the baptism of their child, and could provide a course of instruction for confirmation candidates or enquirers who want to know more about what Christians believe. It could form the basis of a Lent course, maybe using one section or certain talks.

Individuals will benefit from buying it and listening to a talk each day, or merely to set one on the track of finding out more about the Christian faith in one aspect or another, even engaging a friend or neighbour to listen.

The material is presented in an interesting and engaging way, with illustration and 1 anecdote and recourse to the Christian tra-i dition and a willingness to deal with possible objections. This is a valuable resource t for parishes, groups and individuals, and in the fifty days of Eastertide with the celebration of our Lord's Resurrection, it will help us to clarify and probe more deeply why we believe what we believe. -                                 

Arthur Middleton

Return to Home Page of This Issue

Return to Trushare Home Page