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Divine Presence in Spain and Western Europe 1500-1960

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William A. Christian

Visions Depicted

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1Photography brought an immediacy to the depiction of visions, but at the same time presented a basic problem, one that has always been present for people seeing others have visions: by definition one cannot see what only seers see (Fig. 47).

  • 1 Christian, “L’Oeil de l’esprit.”

2For documentary photos of visionaries, the proof and the attraction of the photos, like that of many mystical paintings and sculptures of the baroque period, was the transformation of the seer’s faces and their bodies by what they saw looking upwards (Fig. 48). The artistic conventions involved in pose and gesture were absorbed by both seer and photographer. We saw how Francisco Martinez described his imagined pilgrim angel with upturned eyes and Jean Salvadé learned to turn his eyes upwards and cross his hands on his chest when faced with awkward questions (such as the one put by an Irish reporter: “Have you had your first communion?”). Seers at the apparition site of Ezquioga, in the Spanish Basque country (1931-1934), were told that rolled-back eyes were a sign of a true vision, and the pious photographers who depicted them waited to click, cropped to isolate and selected to print poses like those of visionaries in baroque art. (Figs. 49-50.) At Ezquioga and elsewhere, seers whose poses were awkward or unartistic were not photographed at all, or only by skeptical photo–journalists.1 In any case, the visionaries themselves were the spectacle people came to see, not what the visionaries were seeing, and in photos the faces in vision tend to be pointed up by the intent gaze of onlookers.

  • 2 Duchenne, Mécanisme, 137–40.
  • 3 Laurentin, Vrai visage, 1: 8. Also Vircondelet, Bernadette.

3But however selective the photographers, the transformation of seers during visions was not terribly different from experimental subjects in vision pose, as in photos by Duchenne de Boulogne in 1862,2 seers when they were not having visions, as in 1864 studio portraits of Bernadette,3 studio models in prayer for the postcard trade (Fig. 51), ordinary people posing in prayer like this Spanish family by a household altar (Fig 52), or any well-lit faces looking intently upward like this Belgian magazine cover from 1933 (Fig 53).

4And in any case, people had become accustomed to photographs as the measure of reality, but, as in real life, the invisibles were not in the picture.

  • 4 Alberti, On Painting, 60.
  • 5 Stoichita, Visionary Experience. See also Petersson, Art of Ecstasy.

5Artists, of course, could depict the seer and the seen. Painting, observed Alberti in the fifteenth century, “contributed considerably to the piety that binds us to the gods.”4 In late medieval and early modern painting, as the Romanian art historian Victor Stoichita has shown, the “vision” was often separated from the real by height, by angle of displacement, and mandorlas or clouds.5 (Figs. 54-55.)

6But this option, while it continued with the old schema in drawing, painting, exvotos, prints and post– cards into the age of photography, had diminished authority compared to the scientific power of the photograph (Figs. 56-63). So other solutions were sought that could capture the story of apparitions succinctly and convincingly.

7At La Salette postcards were sold combining photographs and art that depicted the visions and mapped their location. Photo postcards also showed the regular retelling of the vision events at the different locations. You see the pilgrims at the vision place hearing the apparition story, but you are looking at them as they look at the priests telling the story or the statues depicting it, and neither you nor they are seeing the Virgin Mary herself.

8One way to make the art cards more dramatic, in keeping with the older technique of translucent painting and the effect of lantern slides, was translucent postcards that when held up to light could show the invisible. Developed first as souvenirs of World Expositions to depict day and night scenes, Spanish card publishers refined this technique to depict apparitions of the Virgin at Montserrat and Ezquioga (Figs. 64-61).

9A more common solution was to use actors representing the seers and the seen, posed in positions already recognizable from conventional representations by artists (Fig. 68). We see these scenes as well on post– cards from theatrical representations, especially from outdoor summer stages. And very early, film, shown as a regular option of the pilgrimage experience at Lourdes, became the most dramatic way to witness the vision experience. The reproduction of vision grottos with images placed in seen positions meant that in some way, almost everywhere in the Catholic world, people could physically place themselves in the position of Bernadette and could become part of the picture figuratively (at times literally) (Fig. 69).

  • 6 For the symbolic role of Jeanne d’Arc in this period and during the war, Warner, Joan of Arc, 249- (...)

10For France the height of the postcard craze coincided not only with the popularity of Lourdes, but also with the national cult of Jeanne d’Arc and an enthusiastic campaign that culminated in her beatification in 1909 and her canonization in 1920 hard on the heels of the victory in World War I. The scene in Domrémy in which Jeanne heard the voices of saints and angels giving her her mission to reconquer France from the English (one that deeply resonated with the occupation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany since the war of 1870) is a paradigm of the photographic representation of visions (or in this case, auditions). One way that the scene was represented in art and by actors was simply with a listening figure. But more commonly the supernaturals, as in paintings, were drawn in or acted out, whether in the studio, in tableaux onstage or in outdoor pageants.6 (Figs. 10-14.)

Fig. 47. Josefa Menéndez, c. 1930. Photographic holy card, Montpellier, Maison du Sacré-Cœur.

Fig. 48. Jose de Ribera, St. Mary the Egyptian, 1651. Museo Civico Gaeano Filangeri, Naples.

Fig. 49. José Garmendia, Ezquioga, 1932-1933. Photo: Raymond de Rigné, from VU. (Paris), Aug. 30, 1933. All rights reserved.

Fig. 50. Marcelina Mendivil “in vision,” Ezquioga, May, 1933. Photo: Raymond de Rigné, in Une Nouvelle Affaire Jeanne d’Arc (Orléans: La Librairie Centrale, 1933), Fig. 21. All rights reserved.

Fig. 51. Girl in prayer. Postcard from woman in Kazubazua (Que.) to woman in Buckingham (Que.), Nov. 17, 1909, with thanks for postcard. Publisher unknown.

Fig. 52. Family in prayer, c. 1920, Spain.

Fig. 53. Cover, Soireés, Brussels, Oct. 3, 1933.

Fig. 54. Raphael, Transfiguration, Vatican Museum. Color postcard, before 1905. Rome, Ernesto Richter 57.

Fig. 55. Murillo, San Bernardo, Museo del Prado 978.
Sepia Phototype Postcard, after 1905. Madrid, Fototipia Hauser y Menet.

Fig. 56. Exvoto, shrine of Na. Sra. del Milacre, Riner (Lleida). Photo: the author.

Fig. 57. Exvoto, Nra. Sra. del Remei, Alcanar (Tar). Photo: the author.

Fig. 58. Apparition, Na. Sra. de Agres (Alicante).
Lithograph holy card. Valencia, Lit. S. Durá.

Fig. 59. Apparition of Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial. Sent within Paris, March 26, 1915. “My dear Emilie. At the Sacred Heart we thought about and prayed for you—your cousin and cousine.” France, J. H.

Fig. 60. Apparition. Lourdes. Postcard, 1950s. Paris, Cie des Arts Photomécaniques.

Fig. 61. Apparition. Beauraing, c. 1933. Vendu au profit des Missions /Verkocht ten voordeele der Missiën (Sold for the benefit of Missions).

Fig. 62. Apparition, Beauraing. Sent to Mlles in Louvain, Oct. 7, 1933. Liège, J. Mat, Phototypie Liègoise.

Fig. 63. “Pius XII contemplates the miracle of the sun of Fatima.”
Calendar illustration, 1960.
[“visions in Vatican gardens Oct. 30 and 31 and Nov. 1 and 8, 1950”].
Pamplona, Almanaque Apostolado de Fatima.

Fig. 64. Montserrat, the apparition cave [c. 1929].
Barcelona, Imp. M. Tasis.

Fig. 65. Montserrat, the apparition cave (backlit).
Barcelona, Imp. M. Tasis.

Fig. 66. Apparition of the Virgin at Ezquioga.
San Sebastián, Imp. Martin y Mena [1931].

Fig. 67. Apparition of the Virgin at Ezquioga (backlit).
San Sebastian, Imp. Martin y Mena [1931].

Fig. 68. Lourdes studio card, sent from son in Barcelona to father working in Lleida, March 2, 1907. France, D.T. Edit.

Fig. 69. Children pray at the Lourdes grotto of Kumbakorum, India.
Postcard from Montjoy to Paris, Aug. 15, 1937. Orleans, Regnault Photo.

Fig. 70. “Jeanne d'Arc hearing her voices.”
Postcard, sent to Mlle in Montluçon, June 21, 1903. Nancy, Bergeret.

Fig. 71. Jeanne d’Arc with sheep hearing her voices. Postcard sent within St.
Méard de Gurçon (Dordogne) to Mile., Sept. 17, 1909. France, BF [pansy] 474.

Fig. 72. “Jeanne hears the divine voices.”
Postcard mailed from Paris, June 21, 1910. France, AF.

Fig. 73. Jeanne d’Arc outdoor pageant. Postcard, Bellême (Orne), Edition Bourgneuf-Fouquet.

Fig. 74. Jeanne d’Arc pageant, Compiègne, June 8 and 15, 1913. Postcard, France, E. D.

Notes

1 Christian, “L’Oeil de l’esprit.”

2 Duchenne, Mécanisme, 137–40.

3 Laurentin, Vrai visage, 1: 8. Also Vircondelet, Bernadette.

4 Alberti, On Painting, 60.

5 Stoichita, Visionary Experience. See also Petersson, Art of Ecstasy.

6 For the symbolic role of Jeanne d’Arc in this period and during the war, Warner, Joan of Arc, 249-68, Becker, War and Faith, 79– 82. For the dramatic evolution of her figure previously, Hermann, Joan of Arc.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 47. Josefa Menéndez, c. 1930. Photographic holy card, Montpellier, Maison du Sacré-Cœur.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 102k
Légende Fig. 48. Jose de Ribera, St. Mary the Egyptian, 1651. Museo Civico Gaeano Filangeri, Naples.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 103k
Légende Fig. 49. José Garmendia, Ezquioga, 1932-1933. Photo: Raymond de Rigné, from VU. (Paris), Aug. 30, 1933. All rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 106k
Légende Fig. 50. Marcelina Mendivil “in vision,” Ezquioga, May, 1933. Photo: Raymond de Rigné, in Une Nouvelle Affaire Jeanne d’Arc (Orléans: La Librairie Centrale, 1933), Fig. 21. All rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 133k
Légende Fig. 51. Girl in prayer. Postcard from woman in Kazubazua (Que.) to woman in Buckingham (Que.), Nov. 17, 1909, with thanks for postcard. Publisher unknown.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende Fig. 52. Family in prayer, c. 1920, Spain.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 98k
Légende Fig. 53. Cover, Soireés, Brussels, Oct. 3, 1933.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 110k
Légende Fig. 54. Raphael, Transfiguration, Vatican Museum. Color postcard, before 1905. Rome, Ernesto Richter 57.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 129k
Légende Fig. 55. Murillo, San Bernardo, Museo del Prado 978.Sepia Phototype Postcard, after 1905. Madrid, Fototipia Hauser y Menet.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 143k
Légende Fig. 56. Exvoto, shrine of Na. Sra. del Milacre, Riner (Lleida). Photo: the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 77k
Légende Fig. 57. Exvoto, Nra. Sra. del Remei, Alcanar (Tar). Photo: the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 55k
Légende Fig. 58. Apparition, Na. Sra. de Agres (Alicante).Lithograph holy card. Valencia, Lit. S. Durá.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 110k
Légende Fig. 59. Apparition of Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial. Sent within Paris, March 26, 1915. “My dear Emilie. At the Sacred Heart we thought about and prayed for you—your cousin and cousine.” France, J. H.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 158k
Légende Fig. 60. Apparition. Lourdes. Postcard, 1950s. Paris, Cie des Arts Photomécaniques.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 78k
Légende Fig. 61. Apparition. Beauraing, c. 1933. Vendu au profit des Missions /Verkocht ten voordeele der Missiën (Sold for the benefit of Missions).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 135k
Légende Fig. 62. Apparition, Beauraing. Sent to Mlles in Louvain, Oct. 7, 1933. Liège, J. Mat, Phototypie Liègoise.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 138k
Légende Fig. 63. “Pius XII contemplates the miracle of the sun of Fatima.”Calendar illustration, 1960.[“visions in Vatican gardens Oct. 30 and 31 and Nov. 1 and 8, 1950”].Pamplona, Almanaque Apostolado de Fatima.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Légende Fig. 64. Montserrat, the apparition cave [c. 1929].Barcelona, Imp. M. Tasis.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Légende Fig. 65. Montserrat, the apparition cave (backlit).Barcelona, Imp. M. Tasis.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Légende Fig. 66. Apparition of the Virgin at Ezquioga.San Sebastián, Imp. Martin y Mena [1931].
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 205k
Légende Fig. 67. Apparition of the Virgin at Ezquioga (backlit).San Sebastian, Imp. Martin y Mena [1931].
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 110k
Légende Fig. 68. Lourdes studio card, sent from son in Barcelona to father working in Lleida, March 2, 1907. France, D.T. Edit.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 143k
Légende Fig. 69. Children pray at the Lourdes grotto of Kumbakorum, India.Postcard from Montjoy to Paris, Aug. 15, 1937. Orleans, Regnault Photo.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Légende Fig. 70. “Jeanne d'Arc hearing her voices.”Postcard, sent to Mlle in Montluçon, June 21, 1903. Nancy, Bergeret.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 139k
Légende Fig. 71. Jeanne d’Arc with sheep hearing her voices. Postcard sent within St.Méard de Gurçon (Dordogne) to Mile., Sept. 17, 1909. France, BF [pansy] 474.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 131k
Légende Fig. 72. “Jeanne hears the divine voices.”Postcard mailed from Paris, June 21, 1910. France, AF.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Légende Fig. 73. Jeanne d’Arc outdoor pageant. Postcard, Bellême (Orne), Edition Bourgneuf-Fouquet.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 122k
Légende Fig. 74. Jeanne d’Arc pageant, Compiègne, June 8 and 15, 1913. Postcard, France, E. D.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1930/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 102k

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