Art and Prayer: The Beauty of Turning to God (Mount Tabor Books) (Paperback)
Prayer is natural for human beings, a spontaneous impulse common in all people. Yet, beyond instinct, there is a kind of prayer that’s conscious and articulate, that we have to be taught. There is an “art of prayer,” when faith and prayer become creative responses by which creatures made in the image and likeness of the Creator relate to him with help of the imagination. Timothy Verdon explores these essential interactions in this magnificent book. Richly illustrated, Monsignor Verdon explains that images work in believers as tools that teach them how to turn to God. Art and Prayer explores these interactions in detail, demonstrating that prayer can become a fruit of the sanctified imagination – a way of beauty and turning to God.
About the Author
Monsignor Timothy Verdon, one of the world’s most respected art historians, is the Academic Director of the Mount Tabor Centre in Barga, Italy. He earned his PhD at Yale University and has lived in Italy for the last half century where he also directs the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage, the Cathedral Foundation Museum (Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore), and the Centre for Ecumenism of the Archdiocese of Florence.
“In this eloquent, accessible, and gorgeously illustrated volume, Timothy Verdon unites his multiple vocations as art historian, theologian, and priest. With the ease of a master teacher who has lived with his material for years, he shows us not only how the faithful have been depicted in prayer, but how such depictions can inspire our own praying. Verdon should be required reading for anyone who wants to know how theology can animate art and in turn by animated by it. Above all, Art and Prayer is a call to worship.” —Peter S. Hawkins, Professor of Religion and Literature, Yale Divinity School
“While Timothy Verdon’s immense erudition in the European tradition of sacred art is everywhere apparent, this book is written for non-specialist readers willing to allow their practice of Christian prayer—both in liturgy and in personal devotion—to be enriched and given theological precision through art once intended for such work. My hope is surely that of Mons. Verdon himself: that this book may help to inspire both artists and their communities to create new art that is answerable to the various modes of prayer and worship, so that a book such as Verdon’s could be written a generation hence with examples drawn from artworks newly commissioned for the contemporary church.” —Dr. John Skillen, director of the Studio for Art, Faith & History in Orvieto (Italy)
“At first glance a glossy gift book of religious art, this inspired—and inspiring—title from the publisher's new imprint explores prayer. The author, who specializes in art and spirituality, skillfully leads the reader through astute analyses of paintings and other art objects, each a puzzle to be investigated and a mystery to be pondered. Verdon's key themes unfurl through chapters on liturgical prayer, lectio divina, intercession, and the like, concluding with a tender reflection on prayer in the face of death. His discussions of prayer space and the dimension of time as it is experienced in prayer are illuminating. The author's analysis of art is grounded in the words of the Bible and early Christian writers such as Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine, and others in the Catholic tradition; his style is clear and engaging, accessible to the general reader. While Verdon, a long-time resident of Florence, focuses on Italian art of the Renaissance, he also considers works from other European countries and eras. Throughout he demonstrates not only mastery of his topics but also a love of great art and deep faith. The result is a visual and verbal feast for contemplation and study.” —Publishers Weekly
“Timothy Verdon is an art historian and scholar with 50 years of experience in the field but when he talks about prayer in the lavishly illustrated Art and Prayer, he writes as one who knows his subject firsthand. It is a rich, meditative read, as satisfying as prayer, and I believe it will enhance anyone’s prayer life.” —Rick Hamlin, Guideposts
“Thought provoking, eye opening, and inspirational. This is a gem.” —Julie Davis, Happy Catholic
“In this beautifully produced and illustrated volume, Timothy Verdon applies his years of familiarity with art and faith to an exploration of the links between the two. In seven short chapters he examines many forms and contexts of prayer: how these prayers are portrayed in art, supported by art, and become an art in themselves. Verdon brings his familiarity with scripture and classical Christian literature to his task, and the dialogue between images and texts forms the major theme of his work, especially in a chapter of lectio divina. His pen is ready to dip into the patristic fountain, recalling the reflections of Gregory the Great, Augustine, and John Damascene, among dozens of others...The many beautiful illustrations in this volume, together with the elucidation Verdon provides, serve as means to that end, and it would be a valuable addition to any church library or as a text for a course on art and faith.” —American Benedictine Review
“This book should definitely be on your list for anyone who has a love for the heritage of Christian art. This volume is sumptuously illustrated with color art reproductions; for all you lovers of the printed word, the book also has a satisfying heft. In lucid, accessible prose, Verdon covers various aspects of prayer—how it relates to our daily life, the spaces in which it takes place, corporate worship, lectio divina, and beyond—rather like he was giving you a personal tour of a huge art gallery. The visual vocabulary of Christianity has been so impoverished in recent centuries that it’s both an education and a deep source of spiritual enrichment to be re-acquainted with the riches that are still ours. Get this book and allow great art to deepen your prayer life.” —Image Update
“In a digital age, Art and Prayer: The Beauty of Turning to God is a testament not only to the power of its twin subjects but also to the charm of the paper medium. As befits a book by the renowned art historian Msgr. Timothy Verdon, the paper used for this volume is smooth and substantial, the typeface pleasant and easy to read, and the page after page of art reproductions stunning in their depth of color and beauty...Since the author is deeply engaged with art, he explores how the many manifestations of Christian prayer have been expressed in visual terms. The chapters analyze paintings and sculpture that depict prayer spaces, liturgical prayer, prayerful reading (lectio divina), prayers of pleading, contemplative and prayer at the hour of death. In engaging, accessible language, Verdon takes the reader through works by Dutch, German and Italian Renaissance masters—Van Eyck, Holbein, da Vinci, Titian, Michelangelo—as well as modern artists. Art and Prayer is a journey through a world of visual and spiritual riches that rewards the reader again and again.” —Episcopal Journal