This branch of the Austrian Hesch family is descended from Johann Hesch and his wife Marya (Schlinz) Hesch, who came to America from Oberschlagles, Bohemia with three sons: Paul, Mathias, and Anton. +++Johann & Marya settled in Buffalo County, Wisconsin but moved to Pierz, Mn in about 1885. .+++Mathias settled in Waumandee, Wisconsin and moved to Pierz in 1911. +++Anton never married but farmed with his dad in Agram Township, where he died in 1911.+++And Paul, my great grandfather, settled five miles away, in Buckman, Minnesota. He died there in 1900.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Online Iconography

I'll probably always be stunned by what's available online in the way of tools (and toys).  Photoshop, for one.  Sure, everyone knows you can fade wrinkles or replace a whole body with PS, but there are other WAY more useful things it can do.  Larry took the side view of the painting from the church in Buckman and made it a full-view, AND lightened it alot (so we could see it better).  In fact, it's  probably never been cleaned.  We expect it was lighter and brighter 100 years ago (tho certainly not as bright as the image at the bottom of this post ☺).

Another amazing tool here is the plethora of images available online...but why would we need other pictures?  Well, Larry and I were both brought up Catholic.  We've all seen St Michael the Archangel a gazillion times, right?....but looking at the painting, we realized something was wrong.  The classic St Michael image holds a sword in his right hand (to conquer Satan), and a scale in his left (justice).  In earlier images, he might have held a shield instead of the scale, but the sword was a given, as was the dragon/devil/lizard under his feet...the flames not so much.
In the Buckman painting, those iconic elements are missing or..odd, somehow.  
The Buckman painting shows something in the clouds above the angel, who's holding a chain in his left hand, and something we can't figure out aloft, in his right.  In fact, Larry wondered if the figure was more like Archangel Gabriel iconography.  
So, last night, Larry started looking for more info on Bernard Richter and St Annasberg in Silesia, while I started looking for classic pics of Mike and Gabe, to check iconic differences between them.

(BTW, 'iconic' means the elements in an image that stand for this particular saint, like a tonsure, lily and book always means St Dominic, even if you can't read the inscription).

We both scored.  Larry found a book called 
The St. Anne Church  in Annabergby Ernst Oswald Schmidt,
 published in 1908.  It's written in Old German, but it's been machine 
translated...which helps, but not much ☺.  We definitely found the name 
Richter there, as well as a stained glass window depicting Archangel Michael. 
However, that image is completely different from the painting in Buckman, and 
the German word "richter" means "judge".
My search results were interesting.  I used Google images as well as TinEye reverse image search and found that Gabriel was most connected with the Annunciation, and he almost always had figures in the clouds around him. I was looking for some connection between the high altar statue in St Michaels in Buckman and the Bernard Richter painting, both of which have the odd element of a chain rather than a scale on the left.  Michael's symbolism changed again, maybe?  Or did a chained dragon appeal more to Polish people?  So, where was Buckman's main statue of St Michael made?

Here's the adjusted painting, as well as the lighter version.  On the right is a holy card that must have been in most Catholic prayerbooks back then, because that pose is used over and over for St Michael. Maybe it was part of the 1800s Gettyimages ☺?
Larry figured that the two figures in the clouds above Michael identify the painting as coming from Annaberg.  He figures they are St Anna and her daughter, Mary, but they also look like God the Father and his son...
But what is that in Mike's right (dominant) hand?  In icon-language, the right hand was like the summation of a story, so what it holds is important.  Is it the severed head of the dragon? Or...mundanely, is it Michael's hat?  Hey, it matches his clothes.  This artist wasn't Michaelangelo, after all, but he painted something more personal for his patrons in Minnesota, more in the Polish German spirit, meant to remind them of their roots in the old country. Das war gut genug.

If you're reading this and you find yourself in St Michaels in Buckman, would you check the painting and see what you think he's holding?  Blogs can be changed...let me know, ok?


  1. Well, I must comment that the right hand of Michael is clearly a fish, a symbol of Christ. He is an old testament figure, but apparently he updated and is saying that he fights in Chist's name. That is my commentary on the picture, which I actually remember. Love, Pfoofer

  2. This is the second comment that agrees Michael is holding a fish. Phish?