This small book provides an introduction to the rich and variegated subject of Christian currents through art and music down the ages, from Early Christian art to the present. It is personal and selective in its focus on favorite major artists and their subjects as exemplars of a wide range of sacred themes. The author’s lifelong professional focus on the Baroque giants Rubens and Bernini, along with the revolutionary Caravaggio, is evident in the central place they claim as he places them in the context of the broader tradition: medieval art, Michelangelo, Titian, Bellini, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, and other giants of the Renaissance and Baroque. Scribner’s focus is decidedly European—not global. The masters of music will be equally familiar to readers and listeners: from Palestrina and Vivaldi to Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Verdi down to the 20th century. It is intended to be protreptic, something that will encourage and spur on the reader—teacher, student, amateur alike—to pursue her or his own explorations in periods and artists that likewise hold special appeal. Includes 45 color and b&w illustrations.
Charles Scribner III received his PhD from Princeton University, where he taught Baroque Art before pursuing a publishing career at Scribner. He is the author of monographs on Rubens (1989) and Bernini (1991), a book on Rubens’s Eucharist Tapestries (1983), two spiritual journals—The Shadow of God (2006) and Home By Another Route (2016)— and numerous articles on art, music, and literature. His webpage is www.charlesscribner.com.
A Note on Notes
About the Author
A new and slim book, Sacred Muse: A Preface to Christian Art & Music, by Charles Scribner reminds us that the beauty of faith can never be an obstacle to the creation of artistic beauty, because, in a certain way, it is its lifeblood and its ultimate realm. The book (I think of it as a handbook, a field guide) offers what is intended as a brief, (richly illustrated with many color plates), essay to instruct and persuade. It is written for teacher, student, and amateur alike –anyone who wishes to explore the periods and artists, those guardians of beauty in the world, who thanks to their special aesthetic sensitivity and their intuition can grasp and understand more profoundly than others the beauty proper to the faith, and thus express it anew and communicate it in their own language. Although I found myself taking my time with it, lingering on its meditations, it is a book that could be read in one sitting. It is a book that will amply provide the reader with a generous and widely hued survey of art and music of the ages, from early Christian to the present. Perhaps what is most welcome about Sacred Muse is the way in which it is a deeply personal testament.... Take this book as you stand before great art or listen to great music. It will give you a new or renewed gift or seeing and hearing.
Rich with historical information on multiple fronts of inquiry and eye-opening personal insights into some of the most sublime works of art of the Western civilization, the elegantly and engagingly written Sacred Muse is a sheer delight to read and contemplate. Despite its diminutive size, it deserves a place of honor alongside Sir Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation.
Bringing together personal devotion and professional acumen, this slim book is unique on several levels. A true believer speaks with an objective voice on the importance of Christian visual art and music as they alternate in preeminence from the Early Renaissance to the present day. A practicing art historian, Scribner presents deep analyses of splendid works of art succinctly (with original contributions), while articulating their intensely felt sacred, often liturgical content. His analysis of sacral musical masterpieces, plus his own essential estimations, is a parallel gift. Scribner’s muse brings religious faith and aesthetic knowledge into an edifying unison.
In this beautifully faceted gem of a book, Dr. Scribner illuminates the animating questions of the Sacred that informed and shaped enduring works of Western culture by Michelangelo, Bernini, Rubens, Hadyn, and many others. Astonished by the wonder and mystery of Creation, painters, sculptors, and composers themselves created forms of the Divine. In Sacred Muse, readers share in their company through the discerning eyes and ears of Charles Scribner III, who, with his elegant and lucid writing, generously places them within our mortal grasp. This book is a joy to read.
“Charlie finds God in every corner of the world, whether it be in art, literature, or music, and this is so inspirational. . . From now on I will think of the works of great masters in a new light. A light which has been so beautifully pointed out by Charlie.”