St. James Intercedes for Caltagirone

Mid-19th century (?)
Church of San Giuliano di Le Mans di Francia
Caltagirone, Sicily

According to the church's sacristan the figures on their knees are the Vasaro brothers, who rebuilt the church after the earthquake of 1693. One brother was an architect, one a sculptor, two painters.

The St. James of the title would be James the Greater, because of the pilgrim's staff in his left arm. The keys in his left hand do not usually figure in his portraits; they probably have to do with the events memorialized by the painting. The city in the background is Caltagirone, either as it was before the earthquake or as it was after the reconstructions.

The design of the painting reflects two Catholic emphases regarding prayer: first, that it is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls "a reciprocal call" between God and mankind (¶2567); second, that intercessory prayer, prayer on behalf of others on the part of Christians and the saints above, is a participation in Christ's prayer for his people and "an expression of the communion of saints" (¶2635). The painting emphasizes intercessory prayer by having the shirtsleeved brother on the right raise his arms to St. James, who in turn raises his right hand to Christ. Then the reciprocal nature of prayer is seen in Christ's outstretched arms, a complementary reversal of the gesture of the shirtsleeved man. In a similar reversal of the intercessions of the brothers and the saint, God's favor is mediated to the people by the putti with their symbols of peace, and from them to the mother on the left, and thence to her child, who completes the circle by reversing the mood and gestures of the crying child in the lower center.

The silk hat in the lower foreground is of the type worn in the second half of the 19th century, slightly flared and shorter than those worn previously. The brothers' jackets are also shorter than in the early 1800s, so I am surmising that the painting was of the same period, mid- to late-19th century, or possibly even a bit later.

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Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.