Lot 29
Tony Fomison
The Veil of Saint Veronica - After an Old Engraving of a Relic at the Vatican
oil on cotton stretched over card in found frame
signed Tony Fomison, dated 7. 4. 73 - Good Friday 1973 and coloured in on 16. 5. 73, and inscribed The Veil of Saint Veronica , after an old engraving of a relic at the Vatican in brushpoint on frame. Inscribed This frame is old fashioned telephone wall bracket / from the dining from of 10 Papanui Road (forgotten who) of / Papanui Rd, (pulled down last year). / Cloth stretched on photographer’s cards & / prepared…one heavy saturation coat Harns / gelatine (at 2 way between size) glue proportions, one / coat off white undercoat finally 2 coats of main / separation ( separg) … white. The black lamp (black) started 7.4.7… / Sepia finished on Easter Eve 20-21.4.73, Good Friday. / Glazed in on 16.5.73. Rose Madder in a little… / bit Mars brown mixed with a little Rose Madder.in ink on artist's label affixed verso.
190mm x 140mm
$18000 - $25000

(Click image to see full size)


There is no biblical reference either to Saint Veronica or, conversely, to the Veil of Saint Veronica; however, the legend surrounding the inception and existence of the Veil is inextricably linked to the biblical retelling of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is said that, while Jesus was making his way along the Via Dolorosa (translated: ‘way of suffering’) to Calvary where he was crucified, he encountered Saint Veronica who reached forward and wiped the sweat from his face. Miraculously, after making contact with Jesus’ face, the cloth she used was found to bear his image. Unlike the Shroud of Turin, which was discovered much later, the Veil of Saint Veronica did not picture a negative imprint of his face but, rather, a fully resolved image and thus could be the result only of divine intervention.
As it is based on an artist’s impression of the Veil, Fomison’s The Veil of Saint Veronica – after an engraving of a relic at the Vatican, is focused less on the extraordinary nature of the event itself and more on the myth and conjecture surrounding the artefact’s continued existence. It is said that, until 1527, upon the Sack of Rome where mutinous troops bombarded the city, the Veil was held in the Old St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. After this time, there is no common consensus on where the Veil has been held or whether or not it is still in existence. Nonetheless, even though Pope Urban VIII banned the act of depicting the Veil in 1629 and supposedly destroyed all existing copies, there are now six copies in existence that are claimed to be either the original or direct copies of the original. These are all from varying origins and all bear the distinctive, three-pronged silhouette (outlining a beard and long, hanging hair either side of the face) that is seen in Fomison’s rendering.
Fomison’s painting, The Veil of Saint Veronica – after an engraving of a relic at the Vatican, is itself based on an image stated to be a reproduction and it embodies a deliberate act to perpetuate a long tradition of replicating an image purported to be of divine provenance: a tradition that has seen refined conventions emerge from different geographic regions (while based on an engraving from the Vatican, Fomsion’s image conforms to the Spanish convention which excludes the crown of thorns and depicts Christ without facial injuries). Rather than demonstrate that Fomison held personal Christian beliefs, The Veil of Saint Veronica – after an engraving of a relic at the Vatican sees the artist reflect on the social function of religion, finding his footing in the Marxist adage that religion is the ‘opium of the People’.¹ While Marx’s theory relating to religion was fundamentally tied to a critique of the capitalist economic system, at its heart was the observation that religion was a human construct that provided society with a means of escapism.
Outside of the images of the Veil that claim to have some degree of authenticity, the image of the Veil has appeared throughout Western art production of the last six centuries, including in the practice of Fomison’s contemporary
Colin McCahon, as a signifier for divine abilities of a higher power. To Fomison, the pervasive presence of the image in Western cultural production, in spite of the fact that it has no basis in written history, was palpable evidence of the human belief that the challenges associated with survival on earth had some greater purpose.
Charles Ninow
¹ Marx, Karl (February 1844), “Introduction”. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Unpublished during the writer’s lifetime.

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