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Three Apostles: St. John the Evangelist, St. Thomas, and St. James the Less with the Apostles' Creed

Accession Number
1973/2.77

Title
Three Apostles: St. John the Evangelist, St. Thomas, and St. James the Less with the Apostles' Creed

Artist(s)
Jan Joest

Object Creation Date
1500-1519

Medium & Support
oil on panel, mounted on panel

Dimensions
32 in x 23 ¼ in x 2 in (81.28 cm x 59.06 cm x 5.08 cm);32 in x 23 ¼ in x 2 in (81.28 cm x 59.06 cm x 5.08 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28, 2009
The apostles on this panel are characterized by their facial features, the objects they hold, and the words they speak, which are written in Latin on the scrolls above their heads. On the left, Saint John the Evangelist grasps a chalice with a snake coiled in the cup, a reference to the apocryphal story in which he willingly drank poison but miraculously remained unharmed. Saint Thomas appears with an architect’s square, which alludes to his proselytizing activities as a church builder in India. Saint James the Less stands on the right holding a book and a large club, with which he was beaten to death. This panel, along with three others (two of which are now in Cologne), once formed the outer face of the doors of an altarpiece. When the doors were closed, an imposing row of apostles would be seen. With each apostle speaking a verse, they together recite the entire Apostle’s Creed, a Catholic profession of faith that was made by every worshipper during the mass.

Subject matter
This panel, formerly part of an altarpiece, depicts three apostles, each holding an object linked to a significant event in their life that also serves to identify them. On the left St. John the Evangelist holds a chalice with a snake coiled in the cup, a reference to the apocryphal story in which John drank a cup of poison to prove the power of God. Next appears St. Thomas holding an architect's square as he was reputed to have been a church-builder in distant India. On the right stands St. James the Less holding a book and a large fuller's club with which he was beaten to death. Above the head of each apostle floats a scroll bearing a phrase from the Apostles' Creed in Latin.

Physical Description
Three apostles, each holding an identifying attribute, stand in a row as full-length figures on this painted panel. On the left stands the youthful beardless St. John holding a chalice with a snake coiled in the cup. Next to him appears the bald and bearded St. Thomas, holding an architect's square. The bearded figure of St. James the Less appears on the left with an open book in his left hand and a long fuller's club in his right. Scrolls above each apostle's head contain a line from the Apostles' Creed in Latin.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Primary Object Type
altarpiece

Additional Object Classification(s)
Painting

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
altarpieces
apostles
clubs (weapons)
squares (tools)

7 Related Resources

Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Lives of Christian Saints
(Part of 6 Learning Collections)
Northern Renaissance and Reformation-Era Art
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Religious Life in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
The Divine Comedy
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Development of Realistic Painting
(Part of: <b>PSYCH 114 Honors Intro to Psychology</b><b></b>)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display