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Light and Saint Luke

The painting St. Luke by Master Theodoric was painted 1360-1364 and is paint and gold on panel. The size of the piece is 115 x 94 cm.

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St. Luke is located in the Holy Cross Chapel, Karlstejn Castle, near Prague. One of the most intriguing parts of this painting is above Saint Luke’s right shoulder is a tan colored miniature ox. Although the ox is a symbol of Saint Luke, when I see this piece the miniature ox gives the impression to be an ominous figure in the painting. This may not be the focal point of this artwork however; this small part is the first object that I noticed.

What makes this painting unique and is two parts of the painting spill over onto the golden frame. Perhaps the most noticeable part of this painting is Saint Luke’s piercing gaze. I believe this to be the focal point of the painting. His large gray eyes seem to looking to the right, not right at the viewer, his stare is slightly eerie. He is an older man; the signs of age can be seen on his forehead and the graying in his facial hair. Saint Luke’s beard is long, like you would expect of the time.

It is very wavy and seems to curl in places. His head seems to be large which during the time this piece was painted was a common style toward the end of that century was. Saint Luke is wearing a vibrant blue robe like the types you would see in religious artworks. The detail in the color of his robe stands out. For instance, darker shades were used in parts of the folds of the material. The lighter parts are the outside, it gives the illusion that there may be a light facing the painting and the light is reflecting off his robe.

Another important detail is in front of his heart is a cross painted in the lighter shade of blue of the robe. The placement of the cross is situated over his heart. Under the cross his hand is extend out of the robe. His hand has long boney fingers with blue veins on the top of his hand. It doesn’t give the impression of someone that is elderly because it lacks wrinkles, mostly appears as it is someone who is frail. In his left hand is a thick book that has a red cover and white sheets of paper.

The book looks as though it may be a bible. The book is open to the middle of the book facing out; the pages of the book are blank. In the upper left corner of the painting is the miniature ox which is a symbol of Saint Luke. The ox seems to be breaking through the wall behind Saint Luke and resting on his right shoulder. Behind the ox is a brilliant blue sky with white clouds. The ox is a dark beige color, a very earthy tone. His right profile is the only part of his face that you can see; his eye is a deep red color.

On top of his head are his horns which are a light brown at the base and gradually take a darker shade, they are black at the tips of his horns. At the base his hair is curly and the same shade as his body. On his back are odd shape wings that are multiple shades of light and dark pinks. The shape is wavy with the small feathers. They are not the normal shape of wings that you are customary of seeing. The background looks to be a wall that is painted gold in a geometric pattern. The pattern is very detailed, there appears to be flowers in the shapes.

Behind Saint Luke’s head there appears to be a halo painted in the same bold gold color. The designs behind Saint Luke are the same design carried over to the frame giving the appearance of the painting being three dimensional. On the frame at the top where the miniature ox is coming through the wall behind Saint Luke, the blue sky is paint is overlapping on the frame. This also occurs on the right side of the frame, the top right corner of the open book is painted onto the frame also. At the bottom of the frame there is an oval cut out.

Within the cut out there is another cutout possibly meant to hold some sort of object, it looks to be empty. The style in which this artwork was painted to me says good and evil. The miniature ox to me looks like a goat due to the size and I have never heard of a miniature ox. The red eye and the horns give the impression that he represents the devil. Saint Luke to me symbolizes holy and spiritual. I am uncertain the meaning and purpose of the open book with the blank pages. Religious works of art such as paintings, sculptures, and architectures can be interpreted many ways by many different people.