The Rt Rev Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich dedicated The Harling Christ, a new painting by local artist Maz Jackson at St Peter & St Paul’s Church, East Harling, Norfolk on Sunday 14 April.
The painting, in egg tempera on a gilded oak panel (50cm x 65cm), created using the same methods as the medieval craftsmen who worked in Norfolk’s historic churches, is the first egg tempera painting at East Harling Church since the 15th century. The painting rests on a contemporary stand made by Mike Dolling.
Norfolk-born Maz Jackson is an East Harling resident with an international reputation. Her award-winning work is in permanent gallery and museum collections in UK, Beijing, Bologna and Detroit. One of her many solo shows was in Donatello’s Crypt, Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence in 2011.She has also represented the UK 3 times at the Florence Biennale and at Salon Des Independants, Grande Palais, Paris.
Rev. Nigel Kinsella initially commissioned The Harling Christ, half through the private patronage of the late Jane Bowyer, and being a local artist, Maz Jackson donated the rest towards the commission.
This painting has inspired local writers Sally and John Wallace-Jones to write an anthem with music by Tom Hilton, organist and Director of Music at East Harling Church and Head of Music at Old Buckenham High School. The church choir gave the anthem its premiere at the dedication on 14 April.
The Harling Christ depicts Jesus’ joyous resurrection. On his wide exaggerated arms he carries disciples and apostles including St Matthew, St James, St Bartholomew and St Luke. St Peter and St Paul, to whom the church is dedicated, standing at Jesus’ feet are larger than the figures on the arms, symbolising their greater importance. This device is evident in many pieces of medieval and primitive art.
Jesus stands in a frail basket; this type of basket, still in use in the Middle East, was made and used by local tradesmen in the Middle Ages, and can be seen in carvings in the church.
The basket holds a squirrel, marking the link with the Lovells and Anne of Harling (Lovell) the 15th century benefactor; the last time the church had contemporary egg tempera paintings. The woman in Hans Holbein's painting A lady with a Squirrel and Starling is thought to be Anne of Harling. The Lovell family coat of arms features three red squirrels.
A lamb is also included in the basket; East Harling was famous for its lamb market, which ended in the early 20th century, a carved lamb is included on the village sign.
Rev’d Sarah Oakland, Rector of Harling Benefice said: “Maz Jackson’s painting gives us a vibrant image of Christ, whose arms encompass the world and hold up the people of his Church. The strength of this image will encourage many in their journey of faith. It is entirely fitting that this substantial piece of art finds a home in East Harling’s medieval parish church, which has for so long been a place of Christian prayer and worship. We are delighted and honoured by this gift.”
Maz Jackson said; “It has been a great privilege to complete this commission for East Harling Church. I visited the church many times to sketch and gather inspiration. The Harling Christ symbolises Jesus and the Church reaching out to the world. I feel both honoured and humbled that my art is alongside the work of Harling’s medieval artists and craftsmen.”
“Egg tempera is an ancient method,” continued Maz Jackson, “going back as far as cave paintings and championed by early Christian icon painters as well as works by Leonardo, Michael Angelo and Botticelli. Painting can be a spiritual journey, whatever your faith. I respect the materials I use, pure pigments mined worldwide, 23 1/3 carat gold leaf, as well as seasoned oak that is the ‘canvas’ for my work”
Cennino d’Andrea Cennini (c. 1370 to c. 1440) wrote The Craftsman’s Handbook in 1437, documented the methods for egg tempera painting and gilding, and is referenced by artists today. Egg yoke is mixed with powdered pigment that has been ground in distilled water to build up paintings with small brush strokes enabling the tempera to harden and last for centuries.
“A childhood of visiting the region’s churches and cathedrals with my father introduced me to these traditions, that also influence my sense of colour and technique,” added Maz Jackson.
Professor Giampaolo Trotta described Maz Jackson’s work at the opening of her Florence exhibition in 2011 as: “A post-modern medievalism that is fragmented and mixed with modernity. The use of the past for critical reflection is clear in all the artist’s works.”
For more information about East Harling Church see www.harlingunitedbenefice.org.uk and Maz Jackson www.mazjacksonart.com.