Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Environmental Values in Christian Art

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Environmental Values in Christian Art

Article excerpt

Review: Environmental Values in Christian Art By Susan Power Bratton Reviewed by Byron Anderson Northern Illinois University, USA Bratton, Susan Power. Environmental Values in Christian Art. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008. ix, 282 pp. ISBN 9780791472651. US$30, cloth.

Environmental Art in Christian Values claims that Christian art is an underutilized primary source for research and sets out to "correct this deficiency and to explore the evolution of environmental values through Christian history by investigating trends in religious material culture" (p. 2). The book examines many examples of Christian art and architecture from the late 2nd century in Rome to the 17th century in the Netherlands. Bratton, Professor of Environmental Studies at Baylor University, provides descriptions of art found in catacombs, on sarcophagi, stained glass, bas-reliefs, mosaics, and other works of art. Of the many pieces of art described, fifteen are accompanied by a black-and-white photo.

Christian art is best understood "as an evolving dialog among Christians and between Christianity and the greater culture" (p. 229). Early Christian art was environmentally peaceful and generous toward nature, and did encourage a more respectful attitude toward animals, which were generally portrayed as humble servants. Jesus is strongly associated with nature and animals, and in early paintings, takes on the personae of the Good Shepard. Medieval Christian art reflected the belief that beauty in nature reflected the beauty, perfection and regeneration power of Christ. During this time, "...the Franciscans became the first 'environmental movement" (p. 157). Paintings of St. Francis reflect nature as a co-participant in the sacred story. Renaissance painters, such as Giovanni Bellini, Pierodella Francesca, and Leonardo da Vinci, used nature as a metaphor of Christ's life and God's intentions. …

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