Matisse made vestments, too

As part of the Vence Chapel project, Henri Matisse also designed a set of chasubles. You’re going to love these.

The chasuble is the colorful outer garment a Catholic priest wears while celebrating the Mass.

Matisse created a full set, which includes appropriate colors for all the liturgical seasons of the year.

Without further ado, here are the vestments:



The Matisse Museum in Nice, France, has an interesting blurb about that black chasuble on page 18 here. (PDF)

Here is a picture of the rose vestments in use. The priest doesn’t look too happy to be wearing these things, huh? Note the matching chalice veil!


In this photo we can get a good look at the crucifix and credence table (also custom works by Matisse, if you couldn’t guess).

Commenters on Fr. Z’s blog have noted the contrast between the very traditional setup of the altar (called “the Benedictine arrangement”) with the radical vestments. Pope Pius XII asked for a set to display in the Vatican’s museum of modern art, and another set resides in New York’s MoMA.

As you can probably guess, I don’t care much for these. The worst part about the set, in my view, is that it is completely detached from the Church’s artistic and liturgical heritage. This, of course, was Matisse’s m.o. throughout his career: to color outside the lines, so to speak, of what was artistically acceptable.

In the Catholic world, those who are more traditionally- or conservatively-minded tend to be accused of “wanting to take the Church back to the 1950s.” This is nearly always untrue and reveals the prejudices of the accuser more than anything else. Nevertheless, in the face of these charges it is amusing to remember that this set of vestments debuted in 1952.


Header image: PD-US,