The Feeder Feed: Christological Finch Edition

The Met in New York has a new acquisition. It is a splendid painting by Perino del Vaga, a student of Raphael, who was very active in Rome and Genoa.

The painting was recently cleaned.

Here is His little Goldfinch.


From another era and place, here is a variation on a theme, but still involving the Infant clutching a bird and the motif of Blood.

This limestone polychrome statue of Mary as Queen of Heaven depicts Christ having caught a bird in flight. The bird bites His finger.

The bird is a symbol of the soul seeking salvation through Lord’s shedding of His Blood, and is also perhaps a soul already saved and taken flight, ad it were.
In another Christological Goldfinch sighting, we go to Siena, where apparently lots of finches used to hang out.


Lots of finches, once you become aware of them.

Someday I must get into why the Infant clutches His Mother’s cloak or veil in Italian paintings of this period.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Two points from studying icons in the Byzantine style and the Sienna school. [Well! I guess I don’t have to post on this in the future!] But firstly, as I think we discussed on this blog before, the finch is the symbol of the Passion of Christ for several reasons, one of which these birds eat thistles, a symbol of suffering. The maphorion,, the veil and the dark blue robe of Mary, is directly from the Byzantine tradition and represents both her humanity and her maternity. The Sienna picked up the Byzantine tradition after the Crusades and the fold of Mary’s cloak was made to look what is called in art history, “the damp fold”. That the kingly Christ-Child was depicted as more like a human baby, and less like the Child with the traditional fingers in the form of a priestly blessing, is a development. In the Vladimir Madonna of the Russian icon tradition, my favorite depiction of Mary and The Child, Jesus is frequently reaching out and touching the robe of His Mother. The same is true for other icons of the Eleusa tradition, the Virgin of Tenderness, or Gentleness, wherein Jesus is kissing His Mother’s face and holding onto to her robe. The Sienna school just made the gesture more pronounced, in my opinion, to show Jesus as more like a real baby.

  2. eulogos says:

    I don’t see the bird in the last picture.

  3. tealady24 says:

    Jesus is teaching us that we, too, need to hold onto his Mother!
    Beautiful art.

  4. wanda says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Fr. Z. Maybe one day there will be a ‘What does the art really say’ tour! Conducted by yourself as guide, of course. Now that would be cool.

  5. pm125 says:

    … and you feed ‘finches’ …

  6. Art says:

    Guess the Goldfinch Eating Team goes way, way back!

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z,

    I hope I did not offend you. I was just sharing some info, as I had to teach Introduction to Art and Art History several years ago in advanced, senior classes in a Catholic High School, and in a Catholic College, which was great fun, and did much research on this and other things. Also, because I was a Byzantine Catholic for awhile, with permission, living in an area without Latin Rite Mass, I heard various talks/sermons from priests on iconography and spirituality. I do apologize, and please keep up with the art photos, which are stunning. Sorry, sniff.

  8. Kerry says:

    “…why the Infant clutches His Mother’s cloak”… until I read Supertradmum , I was going to guess that He was looking for the finch.

  9. irishgirl says:

    Very cool, Father Z!
    You must have had a field day going through the museum–was it the Metropolitan, by any chance?
    What interesting histories behind art details! I would go nuts [a happy ‘nuts’. of course!] in a place like this!

  10. I just like the first Virgin’s slightly raised eyebrow. :)

  11. LisaP. says:

    Regarding the cloak, I think any nursing mom would recognize that gesture.
    I’ve read that artists who portrayed a naked baby Jesus did so in order to reference the belief that Jesus was fully human to combat some heresies. I would wonder if indicating that the baby Jesus was hungry was another way of expressing that.

  12. LisaP. says:

    Oh, I just noticed the child is naked in this portrait, also, so I’m thinking maybe I’m not far off?

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Lisa P,

    You are correct about Baby being hungry. I was just too timid to point that out.

  14. CurmudgeonKC says:

    Father, I was in New York on All Souls and I’m so surprised I didn’t run into you at the Met! But then again I spent an inordinate amount of time in the arms and armor galleries that afternoon, and I wasn’t looking for you. I didn’t know you were in town until you were announced as the celebrant for the 6pm Requiem that I attended. Too bad; I could have covered your cab fare from 82nd to 39th, as I went straight from the Met to Holy Innocents.

    My question is: do the rubrics not call for the subdeacon to be veiled in a Requiem? I could see why the subdeacon would be unveiled in such a Mass (either because there was no veil at hand, or the symbolize the fact that the deceased’s view of the Beatitude is no longer veiled)

    Marvelous schola; BTW. Ours is pretty good, but that was just about the best I’ve heard.

  15. LisaP. says:

    Sorry, Supertradmum, I just reread your post and saw I’d missed that you’d addressed it already. I tend to miss subtle! Glad to know I wasn’t off.

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