ANDRÉ DURAND Twenty-First Century Paintings
Oil on linen
“Then our Blessed Lord took up, his mother and said: Mother, that which pleaseth you, pleaseth me, and your desire is mine, for I desire that she be knit to me by marriage among all the virgins of the earth. And said to her Katherine, come hither to me. And as soon as she heard him name her name, so great a sweetnes Mother, that which pleaseth you, pleaseth me, and your And said to her Katherine, come hither to me. And as soon as she heard him name her name, so great a sweetness entered into her soul that she was all ravished, and therewith our Lord gave to her a new strength which passed nature, and said to her: Come my spouse, and give to me your hand. And there our Lord espoused her in joining himself to her by spiritual marriage, promising ever to keep her in all her life in this world, and after this life to reign perpetually in his bliss, and in token of this set a ring on her finger, which he commanded her to keep in remembrance of this, and said: Dread ye not, my dear spouse, I shall not depart from you, but always comfort and strengthen you.”
The Life of Saint Katherine from The Golden Legend
Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275. Translation by William Caxton, 1483.
The Mystic Marriage Theme in Religion and Art
From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century painting is filled with allusions to ‘the mystic marriage,’ and some of the most beautiful and compelling images from Barna da Siena, Boston Museum of Fine Art, http://www.mfa.org/ to Veronese http://www.wga.hu/index1.html depict the conjunction of Saint Catherine and the Son of God as a royal marriage. These images occur with sufficient frequency-Durand has painted the subject twice) http://www.durand-gallery.com/pages/level_2/early_work/mystic_marriage.html to warrant comparison with the Mystic Marriage or sacred marriage, as understood in the discipline of history of religions.
In Christian art the term Mystic Marriage is used generally to refer to an image of this union with Christ; more particularly, it is used to refer to the ritualised, public sexual union having nothing to do with the body, between the Son of God and a human partner. This union was accompanied by the belief that the human partners became divine by virtue of their participation in it in the same way as ordinary bread and wine are thought to become the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Roman Catholic celebration of the Eucharist. Both ritual forms entail regeneration and transformation.
The belief that human beings could participate in the ontological condition of divinity through a union having nothing to do with the body is exceedingly persistent and comes to us in Durand’s picture with a spectrum of symbolic meanings so rich and compelling that they will continue to reassert themselves over and over again. Although the Mystic Marriage did not find its way into the official teachings of Christianity, it is implied nonetheless in the symbolism of Mary as the Bride of Christ, as a spiritualised ideal that harkens back to, and carries forward, the imprint of a religious tradition that combined physical and spiritual levels of transformation. The symbolism became enriched by the addition of Christian doctrines, especially that of the Incarnation, which signified the union of human and divine insisting as it does on the interrelatedness of body and spirit. It would appear therefore that in seeking the ‘conjunction of opposites’ Christian doctrine was attempting to overturn the conventional conceptual dichotomization between spirit and body, and to offer in its place models that reflected their intuitions of ontological wholeness. Therefore, when interpreting the Mystic Marriage theme in art we should keep in mind the fact that it is generally meant to include the body; it signifies not only Saint but also the Absolute.