In 1964 during an interview with Mervyn Levy Souza states, 'For me the all pervading and crucial themes of the predicament of man are those of Religion and sex.' Man with Monstrance painted over a decade earlier, combines these two themes with his bold figurative approach.
Souza's relationship with the Church is well documented, as a child he was in awe of the pomp and splendour of the Churches in his native Goa. He states, ‘the Roman Catholic church had a tremendous influence over me, not its dogmas but its grand architecture and the splendour of its services. The priest dressed in richly embroidered vestments, each of his garments from the biretta to the chasuble symbolising the accoutrements of Christ’s passion. The wooden saints painted with gold and bright colours staring vacantly out of their niches. The smell of incense. The enormous crucifix with the impaled image of a Man supposed to be the Son of God, scourged and dripping, with matted hair tangled in plaited thorns.’ (Edwin Mullins, F.N. Souza, 1962, p. 42).
The man in the current work is interestingly not identified in the title as a priest, but in his right hand he clutches a monstrance, its vulva-like centre representing the conflicting elements of sex and religion so central to much of Souza’s work. Souza wrote, ‘as a Roman Catholic youth, born in Goa, I was familiar with the priests bellowing sermons from the pulpits against "sex" and "immodesty" particularly addressed to women, making them stricken with guilt. The Catholic men stood cocky in their suits and ties agreeing with the priests, lusting for naked women inwardly. Hypocrites!’ (Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, 2001, p. 92).
Edwin Mullins wrote, ‘Some of the most moving of Souza’s paintings are those which convey a spirit of awe in the presence of a divine power – a God, who is not a God of gentleness and love, but rather of suffering, vengeance and of terrible anger. In his religious work there is a quality of fearfulness and terrible grandeur which even Rouault and Sutherland have not equalled in this century’. (Edwin Mullins, F. N. Souza, 1962, p. 40).
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