A Thousand Words

Portrait of St. Luke in the Gospel Book of Otto III

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

This Luke is not a conventional seated scholar, placidly penning his Gospel. This Luke is a mystic, a visionary in a state of exaltation, lifted up to heaven by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and set among visionaries. The frame around him seems to be made of living trees, bursting into leaf and then into a fantastic archway made of ribbons, garlands, birds, lambs, and even the winds, all in warm reds and browns. Within the archway, the Evangelist sits in a mandorla, an almond-shaped aureole usually reserved for Christ or Mary in glorified state. Luke, like Christ on the Judgment Seat, is . . .

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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