Colonel L. Holihan (born November 15, 1918, died December 23, 2004) and his wife, Justyne were ardent and sagacious collectors of good art all through their married life, in particular during the family's stay in Madrid, Spain, where Leonard occupied important military functions.  One of the couple's hobbies was to visit the Rastro, Madrid's popular market.  It is at this market that they discovered, bargained for and purchased several of the paintings here presented. Both devout Catholics, it may not come as a surprise that many of the paintings  acquired were of religious themes. For many years these artworks were proudly and reverently displayed in Justyne's and Leonard's house as a sure treat for those esthically-inclined and religiously-interested visitors.  After Justyne's death, Colonel Holihan decided to donate the paintings with primarily Marian character to our library.  It is our joy to cherish and display them. Following Colonel Holihan's wishes, the paintings are dedicated to the memory of Leonard's beloved brother, the late Monsignor Edgar Maroney Holihan, of the Archdiocese of Syracuse, and Justyne W. Holihan, "my wife, who helped me purchase and enjoy this collection." 

 

The texts accompanying the artworks were composed by Claudia G. Miller, art appraiser whom Colonel Holihan had commissioned to evaluate his collection.

Sacra Conversazione

Oil on canvas painting depicting the Sacra Conversazione (holy conversation) which refers to a combination of saints from different historical periods shown in a unified spatial setting as they converse or join in silent communion with one another around Madonna and Child. The subjects of the painting are positioned from a central viewpoint and symmetrically balanced on all sides. The Christ child is touched by the large hand of Mary translating the frequently used "Hand" or "Arm of the Lord" used in the Bible as a metaphor of the power and will of God. This standing position of The Virgin is common in the fourteenth century symbolizing her rank as Queen and the draping cloth over her head emphasizes her humility, mercy and motherhood. When Mary is joined by family members, it is commonly called "Holy Family" and we assume she is talking with her cousin St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist, because light flows above them as an imagery of goodness, wisdom, divinity and holiness. This source of normal illumination was used after the sixteenth century in Baroque sculpture and architecture, concealed sources of natural light were sometimes used in rather dark interiors to flood the holy figures while darkness fills most of the canvas as a sign of ignorance and evil. The identification of the male saints in this picture is somewhat problematic: the left-hand saint has always been identified as Michael but is unclear here, whilst the bearded saint on the right has been variously identified as Mark, Jerome and Joseph. The unknown artist has painted from a typical painting of the seventeenth century by Paolo Veroneses, titled Sacra Conversazione, and it hangs in the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Madonna Lactans

Oil on canvas painting depicting Madonna nursing the Christ child.  This is an expansion of the Madonna Enthroned which included attendant angels and saints as well.  During the fourteenth century the coronation of the Virgin, by Christ, in Heaven, after her death and Assumption (rising to Heaven borne by angels) began to be treated as a separate subject.  St. Anne is central to the painting and is seated giving her importance and in contrast emphasizes the humility, mercy and motherhood of Mary.  The winged putto lend an air of levity to the classical and Renaissance paintings of its time.  The subjects of the painting are positioned from a central viewpoint and constructed according to the principles of linear perspective with an equal vanishing point.  The imagery of light as goodness and wisdom illuminates on the putto, in the faces of Mary and St. Anne and on the body of the Christ Child and is one of the most ancient signs of divinity and holiness.  Darkness all around them symbolizes the ignorance and evil used throughout both the Old and the New Testaments and occurs frequently in church decoration.

The Holy Family

Oil painting on canvas depicting the young Christ child, seated in a chair which symbolizes his importance, a glowing halo around his head indicating holiness through radiant light, a book to associate teaching and a pointing hand translating the power and will of God.  Mary is seated at equal perspective to the child holding a shaft of wool symbolizing the lamb an instrument of the passion used in the Crucifixion of Christ or associated with his suffering during the Passion.  Joseph stands in equal perspective behind Mary and Jesus holding a single column intended as an allusion to the column to which Christ was bound during his Flagellation. Thus, by foreshadowing the Passion of Christ through which mankind was saved, the column indicated the reason for the Incarnation.  Each of the three creates a single central vanishing point created by their outstretched arms and hands as a metaphor of the power and will of God in visual terms. Finally, the light is one of the most ancient signs of divinity and holiness and each of the subjects is illuminated and the darkness frequently occurs in church decoration as ignorance and evil.  They appear without any indication of supernatural illumination as represented by the sixteenth-century artists.

Madonna of the Rosary

Oil painting on canvas depiction of the painting by Barolome Esteban Murillo hanging in the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, also known as Our Lady of the Rosary.  The Virgin Mary with the  Christ  Child is one of the most common subjects of  Christian art and, since many variants of the theme have been developed over the centuries, a number of special designations are regularly used to differentiate the types.  In these various images, the Virgin Mary is often called the Madonna (It., my lady) even though the work may have been created outside the immediate sphere of Italian art.  In this depiction she is seated and positioned as if in a throne that establishes her rank as Queen yet she has no halo which is representative of her humility, mercy and motherhood. 

The subjects of the painting are positioned from a central viewpoint and constructed according to the principles of linear perspective with an equal vanishing point.  The imagery of light as goodness and wisdom illuminates on the faces of Mary and the body of the Christ Child, and is one of the most ancient signs of divinity and holiness.  Darkness all around them symbolizes the ignorance and evil used throughout both the Old and the New Testaments and occurs frequently in church decoration. An indication of the date of the painting comes from the rosary draped around the body of Christ.  The Apostles Creed added to the rosary prayer during the 1600s and the prayer sequence of the rosary is becoming more and more popular.  The beads appear to be crystal and therefore representative of overall configuration of rosary during this period.  In France in 1627, Louis XIII orders the public recitation of the rosary against the rebellious Hugenots.  Fifteen Thousand Rosaries are distributed to the troops with set hours for prayer.  The battle is won and France is saved.  The Rosary continues to grow in popularity.  Finally in 1673, the Secret of the Rosary is written by St. Louis De Montfort, founder of two religious orders.  The sermons in this book became popular as guides to those who choose to Consecrate their lives to Jesus through Mary, so by the end of the seventeenth century the Rosary has continued to grow in popularity and this painting is representative of that dedication.

The Continence of Scipio

Oil on canvas painting on a cradled panel depicting the story of Scipio, the Roman general whose campaigns against the Carthaginians in North Africa brought the Second Punic War to a close.  (It was signed with initials by the artist A. Narenus (Dutch) on the front, lower center section and dated 1643).  This scene was made popular during the Renaissance era due to the epic poem/sonnet titled Africa by Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) usually referred to as Petrach.  It is a two-point perspective painting with convergence beginning on the right and vanishing off to the left side of the piece which is typical of the artist.

Madonna of the Lemons

A hand-woven Italian Barabino tapestry depicting the seated Virgin holding the Christ child draped in robes with lemon tree branches and lemons beneath her feet and at her side.  Circular halos are placed around the heads of Madonna and Jesus as a conventional symbol of radiant light as an indication of their holiness.

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