Here is a newly completed wood polychrome and gilded processional cross made by Frenchman Philippe Lefebvre. I love the balance of naturalism and subtle abstraction that he has incorporated into this.
In Mediator Dei, Pius XII said, you may recall: ‘Modern art should be given free scope in the due and reverent service of the church and the sacred rites, provided that they preserve a correct balance between styles tending neither to extreme realism nor to excessive “symbolism,” and that the needs of the Christian community are taken into consideration rather than the particular taste or talent of the individual artist.’
He is telling us that the Christian artist must represent natural appearances and through the medium he chooses reveal also the invisible truths of the human person (‘symbolism’). There is wide scope for individual interpretation of how this might be done, even when working within the forms of an established tradition. It is incumbent upon each artist to find the balance that appeals to people of his day. This may mean working precisely in the way of the past, or adapting and building on the past in order to achieve this end and create something new. In doing so he must avoid the errors of straying too far in either direction, towards extreme naturalism (‘realism’) or abstraction.
When I see this work by Philippe it strikes a chord with me – it is almost as though it is a three-dimensional Fra Angelico.