Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.






Friday, March 16, 2012

The Beffi Triptych and other Altarpieces

The Madonna and Child with Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Virgin (The Beffi Triptych), Master of the Beffi Triptych, about 1420–40, Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo

The Beffi Triptych is an altarpiece that was once in the Church of Santa Maria del Ponte and is named for the village of Beffi in Abruzzo, Italy.  It is attributed to an early 15th century painter who was possibly a follower of Siennese artist Taddeo de Bartolo (1362-1422). I saw this particular triptych on temporary display at the National Gallery of Art  in Washington DC. At the time, it was on loan to the United States in gratitude for being the first to lend support in the aftermath of a violent  earthquake that ravaged Abruzzo in April of 2009. Luckily, this triptych unlike many other works of art in the region suffered only minor damage.

Here is a  description of the panels from the exhibit brochure:

The wings of the triptych depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, who appears in the central panel, enthroned with the Christ child beneath an elegantly brocaded canopy. The left wing features Christ's Nativity, which takes place in a cave under the watchful gaze of an ox and an ass, following Byzantine tradition. Mary holds the swaddled infant while Joseph, at right, ponders the miraculous event. At the top, angels announce the birth to shepherds tending their flocks; below them, two shepherds adore the newborn child, and at the lower left, maidservants prepare his first bath. Represented at a smaller scale, the kneeling figure to the right wearing red and black stockings is the unidentified donor of the altarpiece.

The right panel portrays the Dormition, or Death of the Virgin, who lies on her funeral bier, surrounded by the 12 apostles. Angels scent the air with incense from censers incised in the gold ground, giving the scene a heavenly aura. The figure in the foreground represents the disbelieving priest who, according to legend, attempted to overturn Mary's bier, but whose hands were frozen when he tried to commit that sacrilege. Above the Virgin and apostles, the Assumption of the Virgin is depicted with Christ holding Mary's soul, which traditionally takes the form of an innocent, swaddled infant. At the top, Christ crowns Mary as Queen of Heaven. 


I so admired the Beffi altarpiece that I decided to paint one for my husband in honor of our wedding anniversary. As I was working on it, I imagined all the hours of work the Master of the Beffi put into this work. You really come to appreciate the dedication and talent they had. Here is how my version turned out. We had it framed professionally. I'm sorry that I am unable to capture a good photo due to the glass.  We did have museum quality non-glare glass used with the framing but it does not seem to help when taking a photo.
Jojo's Beffi Triptych inspired Altarpiece
by jojo sabalvaro tan,2009
Watercolor on watercolor board
The Triptych altarpiece before it was framed.

I also painted this other altarpiece. In the pictures below, I show some of the steps in painting the piece. This one is larger than the Beffi-inspired one. It was originally commissioned by the proprietor of the shop which framed my Beffi-inspired altarpiece but I decided to keep it. This one depicts the Coronation of the Virgin Mary in the center panel, the Nativity on the left panel and the Crucifixion on the right panel. It is still seating on my easel waiting for my husband to find inspiration to mat it.
Cartoon Sketch
Middle Panel - Coronation


Left Panel -Nativity Detail

Right Panel - Crucifixion Detail

Virgin Mary Enthroned Triptych Altarpiece, 2010
by jojo sabalvaro tan
watercolor on watercolor board
I love painting these altarpieces. I am sure that I will try and paint more. I always dreamed of  having a small chapel in my home ever since I saw one in the house of one of my relatives when I was younger.   I also saw some in homes in Italy and Spain and really love the idea. I feel painting these altarpieces brings me steps closer to my dream chapel.
A private chapel we saw at a villa in Italy during a tour with my high school classmates. This is similar to what I would like as a chapel, small, simple intimate and very conducive to quiet reflection and prayer.

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