Aix-en-Provence is a town in France that is host to the Church of the Madeline. It is a beautiful church, which still has several priceless works of art on display within its holy walls. There is one painting, however, that is not on public display there any longer. If the local populace are to be believed, the painting is one of the most blasphemous pieces of ‘art’ ever created, How this mysterious painting’s sinister symbolism has gone unnoticed, by the general public, for centuries is a mystery in itself.
This is where our strange tale begins….
London hosted an art exhibition in the month of January of 1932, which was common then as it is today. What piqued an anonymous writer’s interest in this particular exhibit was a painting that had a rather notorious reputation. ‘Anonymous’ was quite incensed that the odd history about this painting hadn’t been given consideration before being put on display. An article, printed in the ‘Times’ issue on January 21, 1932, was not only quite blatant as to the true history of the dubious piece of ‘art’, but was of the opinion that it should not see the light of day ever again. Here, for your perusal and further education on the matter, is the article, verbatim–
“None of the notices of the French Art Exhibition at Burlington House has mentioned the peculiar and sinister fame of the ‘Annunciation’ from Aix-en-Provence. Locally it is acknowledged to be the work of a Satanist painter, probably an ecclesiastic, and has so been a subject of a study by French archaeologists.
Aix, which has so many other tricks up its sleeve, has placed side by side at the corner of the Square the Lycee de Jeunes Filles and the Church of the Madeleine. The Magdalen, as every one from Marseilles to Avignon knows, acquired her rights of Provencal nationality by landing in Camarque with St. Lazare and St. Maximin, the other two Maries and Sarah of Syria, their servant, patroness of fairies, witches, and gypsies. The church has only one beauty, its color, fair as the hair of Mary Magdalen, in the sunshine. For the rest, its lines and ornaments, in very ordinary baroque style, do not in any way presage an interior mystery. Here, however, in a dark chapel, usually hangs the ‘Annunciation’ which, if firmly rooted tradition may be credited, dedicates the Church of the Madeleine to the flight of bad angels and works of the devil. Whence comes the picture? Nobody knows; experts no more than old women. It has always been there. Who painted it? A Satanist who, fearful of the Inquisition and torture, preferred to hide his name. Did the picture enter the church under the auspices of that Robert Mauvoisin, Archbishop of Aix who, accused of sorcery and convicted of celebrating Black Masses with the blood of little children, was condemned at Avignon by Pope John XXII? Or was it offered to the parish by Rodrigue de Lune, nephew of the Antipope Benedict XIII, who vowed himself to the devil in order to win Nerto, the most unfortunate of Mistral’s heroines?
This is quite conceivable, for the ‘slender vaulting in trefoil festoonery, the wealth of fantastic arabesques, the twisted pillars writhing and rearing like serpents and the little devils peeping from the whirling capitals’, as Mistral writes, are indeed of the style of a demoniacal painter living at the Papal Court at the time of the Great Schism. But the dress of the Virgin and Angel are much more recent than the architecture and fix this mysterious piece of devilry in the Fifteenth Century. Then is it not possible that it was surreptitiously hung in its niche by Abbe Gaufridi who, during the minority of Louis XIII, was burnt alive in the Palace de Precheures for having convoked a whole Convent of Ursulines to Witches’ Sabbaths?
A few years ago no one except the inhabitants of Aux even knew the picture. ‘The devil lived quietly in his holy water stoup’, as they say in French, satisfied with local escapades and minute enterprises. But lately he has grown ambitious and has put upon the track of the beautiful Provencal witch in Madonna’s clothing the fancy of archaeologists and of critics. Originally shown as a single panel, the ‘Annunciation’ is today a triptych to which the Galleries of Amsterdam and Brussels and the collection of Sir Herbert Cook have contributed the missing parts; and from her provincial chapel the enchantress, who went to cast a few spells in Paris, has crossed the Channel and arrived in London. So visitors to Burlington House will be able, among other themes, to get acquainted with the devil, who, after all, is not the least of them. They will see the sly minutiae with which the artist, in malefic endeavor, has inverted the object’s Christian symbolism reserved for attributes of the divine, and his skill in insinuating hell into every detail while preserving the pious appearance of the picture, as much for his own perverse pleasure as from an instinct of self-preservation.
This ‘Annunciation’, had he known it, would have captivated Huysmans, for it is a perfect example of one of those ‘A Rebours’ which, if one may believe the great demonologist writer, give to the initiated the ne plus ultra of forbidden pleasures, by mingling the beastial and the spiritual and marrying the infernal and divine. Here the announcing angel has owl’s wings; the ray of light emanating from God the Father, before reaching Mary, falls on a monkey crouching on the edge of a lecturn. In the groining, instead of doves and larks, flutter bats and vampires. From the trefoils of the arches horned devils peep. In the vase beside the lily stand three evil herbs, basil, foxglove, and belladonna, and, indubitable sign of Satanic consecration, both God the Father and the angel, instead of raising fingers in the orthodox attitude of benediction, advance the thumb between the third and middle fingers according to the obscene and malefic gesture which Spanish wizards termed hace figa, and with which, according to Medieval demonologists, the devil often opened Sabbaths.
In the shutters of the triptych two pious figures are standing beneath shelves laden with books. These will keep their secret, and we shall never know their titles. Let us wager, however, that they spell Cabal and that the priest and deacon keeping vigil in this singular sanctuary were reading, not the Breviary but the Malleus Maleficarum, the Daemonomania, or the Livre des Charmes, sorcelages et enchantements. “
So, there is an intriguing description of what that is hidden in plain sight. Luciferian/Satan worshipers are good at this game. With further research, I’ve discovered the painter of this demonic ‘masterpiece’. It is attributed to a Bartholemy d’Eyck. His other works can be found on the internet. Below is posted the infamous painting, along with the side panels. (Click to enlarge)
The church at Aix-en-Provence…