|"The Torment of St. Anthony," painted by Michelangelo at age 12.|
Clarkston, Michigan, Feb. 25, 2011 – The high school students
looked at the image of the artistic masterpiece on
the screen, and then breathed a gasp of surprise as
the speaker said the next words.
“He painted this
at the age of 12,” said Dr. Eric Hansen, an
expert in the history of Christian art.
discussing the painting “The torment of St. Anthony,” one
of the earliest known works of Michelangelo. The image shows
a series of demons “attacking” St. Anthony of the
Desert, who is considered the patriarch of the monastic
life. The demons are shown trying to lift the
saint out of the desert and bring him back to
the daily temptations of the “world.”
He asked the
students to look at the serenity on the face
of the saint, as opposed to the chaos of
the demons attacking him. He then asked them, especially
the young men, to consider all the “temptations” they
themselves go through at this time in their lives, and
to reflect on how a boy of 12 could
create such a work of art.
|Di Vinci’s mysterious painting of John the Baptist pointing to the cross|
Sponsored by the Papal
Hansen, who has an MA and PhD in European
religious, cultural and intellectual history from University of California,
Santa Barbara, spoke to Everest Collegiate High School students
on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. He has taught at
several educational institutions and written several books, his latest
being a history of a group he assists with,
the Papal Foundation.
The foundation raises funds to
support the Holy See and “strengthen the Holy Father’s
ability to fulfill the mission of St. Peter.”
Foundation connects with the mission and outreach of the vicar
of Christ,” said Papal Foundation director Jim Coffey, who
introduced Hansen during his visit to Everest. The Pennsylvania-based
foundation was started under Pope John Paul II and
continued under Pope Benedict XVI. The foundation sponsors
the work of Dr. Hansen.
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Development of Art and Faith
task in semi-retirement is to tell how religious art
can change us and the artist who creates it,”
Hansen showed the Everest students a slide show
of various works of art by artists such as
Di Vinci, Raphael, El Greco, Caravaggio, Picasso, Rembrandt and
Michelangelo. He discussed how all these artists showed great
talent as young people, and how they developed their art
into masterpieces as they matured.
“The child is the
‘father’ of the man,” said Dr. Hansen, who told the
students a story about his own history to encourage
them to consider their own talents as gifts, and
how these might impact their future.
“I found a journal
from when I was a senior in high school,” he
said. “All the things I’ve become, that I like
about myself, I found in there.” He remembers reading
his own reflections on the assassination of President John F.
“This influenced the pro-life person I have become,”
he said, discussing how he now counsels at a
Catholic crisis pregnancy center.
Christian Art Can Enhance Faith
found such growth in the artists he studies.
He showed the students how artists begin early in life
using a literal interpretation of the world, and then
develop by putting much more into their work than
“meets the eye.”
Hansen said that such art can
change lives and help those who see the works with
the eyes of faith to grow spiritually. “Catholics and
Christians who are informed in their faith can glean
much from Christian art,” he said.
“When we as Catholics
look at these works we bring our Catholic identity,” he
said. “We bring the spirit of our faith to help
Hansen encouraged the Everest students to take
advantage of the great gift they have in the
Detroit Institute of Art. “You are very blessed to
have one of the top 5 art museums in the
United States,” he said.