St. Ann Shrine New Painting Proposal
This is a model of a proposed replacement for the original painting of St. Ann and Mary in the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. The current painting is a copy of a work by Karl Muller. The new painting would be done by Michael Prettyman. The magnificent work proposed by Michael Prettyman would bring an inclusive perspective while respecting the traditional forms of the shrine.
Note that the faces of St. Ann and Mary in the color model do not represent the finished faces of either. The model is a small scale (20" height) rendering intended to show the composition of the work. The faces of Ann and Mary are reflected in the drawings below. Ann's face will reflect her wisdom, strength and faith. Mary's face in the final work will be inquisitive and trusting.
The project is being funded independently by the artist. There will be no expenses to the church or the Paulist Fathers. The current painting will be placed in storage elsewhere.
If you have any comments please email SaintAnnShrine@gmail.com no later than April 28.
The artist's statement is below.
The proposed painting depicts St. Anne and her daughter Mary. It is a celebration of the relationship between a mother and her daughter taking place at a specific moment in time. This is a slice of life based on traditional iconography from the story of St. Anne. Every mother passes wisdom to her children, so in this painting the traditional use of the book is used to show Anne guiding Mary, using the wisdom passed down to her in the form of a book. It is a kind of “passing of the torch.” The difference in the halos is a subtle way of showing this- Anne’s halo is shown as being organized and firm, the way the mind of an adult would be, whereas her child’s is still being formed. But the moment of teaching is interrupted, as these moments often are. In this case it is a pair of birds that fly overhead. Anne is often shown alongside a pair of nesting birds. In this painting, the birds are goldfinches, which are associated with Anne’s daughter, Mary. The goldfinch builds its nest and raises its young in thornbushes, so it is thought that the theme of new life coming out of a thornbush both prefigures the passion of Christ and echoes the theme of Anne’s miraculous birth of Mary. In a like manner, the tree to the side of Anne is an old tree that is nevertheless bearing a bounty of fruit, in this case apples. Apples were chosen because they grow in New York! These apples are Anna apples, which are green and red colored. St. Anne’s colors have traditionally been red and green, which you can see in her robes and in her halo. Mary is almost always shown in blue, and often with a crown of 12 stars. You can see the 12 stars beginning to form in Mary’s halo. The moment in time is important. This story is taking place in the early morning, as the sky lightens and the mists recede- this is meant to invoke what it feels like to absorb a new idea, or to grow spiritually. In the foreground is a pool of clear deep water. Water is often used to invoke the movement of spirit, and the life-giving depths available to anyone interested in spiritual pursuits.
Michael Prettyman is an artist and scholar of sacred art. He has a master’s degree in Theology from the Harvard Divinity School, teaches Religion and the Arts at Hunter college, and lectures widely on the subject of the visual arts, creativity and the sacred. In 2021 Michael completed a 2000 square foot mural at St. John’s church in Park Slope, with 12 separate vignettes from the old and new testaments. He has exhibited paintings and drawings in New York, Barcelona, and Hong Kong; and has painted murals at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, The Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Gardens. He is currently exhibiting with the Saatchi gallery and has paintings in two group exhibits for Earth Day 2022.