My Favourite Painting: Courtney Love

‘I went to Dublin in 1981, under the impression that I might attend Trinity College, perhaps to study theology, which I did not. Instead, I studied Rock and Roll.'

Courtney Love chooses the Chi Rho page from The Book of Kells:

‘I went to Dublin in 1981, under the impression that I might attend Trinity College, perhaps to study theology, which I did not. Instead, I studied Rock and Roll. In any event, I was exposed to the Long Room [the library] and to this illuminated, mystic, sublime testimony to humanity early in life, a work that I return to again and again. For its unending inspiration, its details that can’t be overstated, the gears and codes and mechanisms like a great human engine, somehow it speaks to love, to the universal ‘

Courtney Love is a musician, songwriter, actress and activist

John McEwen comments on the Chi Rho page from The Book of Kells:

Sir Kenneth Clark, in his 1969 TV series Civilisation, warned that civilisations come and go, destroyed by ‘cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs’.

It is notable that, of all the places he visited, it was on the little Scottish island of Iona that he found ‘more than anywhere else I know a sense of peace and inner freedom… It is hard to believe that for quite a long time – almost a hundred years – western Christianity survived by clinging on to places like… Iona’.

The Book of Kells, the four Gospels in Latin, plus some readings, was written and illuminated on calf-skin vellum, probably by the monks of Iona before they fled from plundering Vikings to Kells in Ireland.

Clark marvelled at the elaborate decoration of these sacred gospel books in the Irish style, of which The Book of Kells was the richest and probably the last – in his view ‘more sophisticated and refined than anything in Islamic art’. The chief cultural threat to the early Christian Church was Islam. The book’s richest illumination is the Chi Rho page, showing the first three letters of the Greek word for Christ – chi (X), rho (P) and iota (I). The chi nearly fills the page; the smaller rho and iota are combined beneath it.

The prominent word generatio is in the opening line of St Matthew’s account of the Nativity, Christi generatio sic erat. Christ had to be born a man to die on the Cross to redeem mankind. Hence the symbolic power of the inclusive Cross (X). The creatures shown represent the three parts of creation: earth (cats, mice), sea (otter) and sky (moths).


My favourite painting: Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel, the world's top-selling fiction writer, admits that 'Klimt stole my heart' with this wonderful work.