Apotheosis Of Saint Mark
St. Mark's English Church, Florence, Italy
This life-size marble figure was carved for the Anglican Church in Florence in 2007-2008. It sits in its niche directly above the main doors of the church, visible for hundreds of feet up and down Via Maggio, one of the main streets in Florence. This highly prestigious commission came to completion as a result of the generosity of St. Mark's church and many of its members, clergy and staff, as well as my own friends and associates in Florence. Although I was the right person at the right place at the right time, it wouldn't have been possible without their help and support.
This sculpture makes me the only American sculptor, living or dead, to have a permanent, large-scale public monument on the cityscape of Florence. Interestingly, I first noticed this conspicuously empty niche in the center of Florence soon after coming to Florence to study, and even made a study for a St. Mark statue for this niche as a student. When I discovered late in 2006 that the church was about to undergo extensive restoration, I decided to show my portfolio to Father Lawrence Maclean, chaplain of the church; one thing led to another.
The statue of St. Mark is an apotheosis; it is symbolic of the salient points of the life of the saint, rather than a depiction of the saint at a certain time or place .He is represented as a young man, bare-chested and with his cloak slipping off his shoulders. This refers to the verse in the Gospel of St. Mark which describes how a young man was present in the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ and how this lad was nearly hauled off by the Roman guards, but escaped by wriggling out of the cloak he was wearing and running off into the night. Traditionally, this verse has been interpreted as a description of Mark himself, present at the scene.
Ropes bind his ankle and wrists. This refers to the manner in which Mark was eventually martyred, dragged to death in the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, where Mark served as the first Bishop of Alexandria. The vaguely North African style of the trousers he wears also alludes to this time. Centuries after his death, his body was smuggled to Venice, where Mark has become the Patron Saint of that city.
The scroll, incised with the first verses of the Gospel of St. Mark, obviously reflects the role of evangelist. Finally, the brooch holding the cloak together across mark's chest is a simple winged lion design, the iconographic representation of St. Mark used often throughout the history of religious art.
In the years since the installation of the statue, certain sections have weathered and gathered dirt more than others. Instead of trying to fight the ravages of time, I chose to incorporate the darkening of marble I knew would occur. Accordingly, as dust has settled into the crevices of the text in the scroll,it has become plainly visible, whereas at installation it was indiscernible. Likewise, the folds of cloth in his cloak seem darker than St. Mark's skin.