jean auguste dominique ingres, Grand Odalisque, 1814, Musee du Louvre, Paris 1814
The star pupil of David was the French painter, Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres (pronounced ANN-gruh). Like his master, Ingres had a complete devotion to the ancients and is characterized as a Neoclassicist. He never let his brushstrokes show, said that paint should be as smooth " as the skin of an onion." Ingres advocated a return to draftsmanship and technical skill, and said that warm, soft colors were to be avoided because they were "anti-historical." Ingres' paintings will be very influential on Picasso, Matisse and Degas.
His La Grande Odalisque, commissioned by Caroline Murat (Napoleon's sister) and displayed at the 1819 Salon in Paris, represents a harem woman reclining on a bed. "Odalisque" is the Turkish word for harem girl. Ingres emphasizes "the other" in the details of her appearance and the material trappings that surround her (i.e. she is represented as a Turkish harem woman, not a European woman). This is one of the earliest examples of "Orientalism," a Western fascination with the culture of the Muslim world in North Africa and the Near East. This fascination may be connected to Napoleon's military advances into Egypt (North Africa) and subsequent literature about the region that was circulated in France.
The painting was criticized for the "nakedness" of the body of the woman; since she is presented not as a mythical goddess but as a real woman. Ingres' was also criticized for his artistic choices, including his emphasis on contour, the unnatural elongation of spine (i.e. which seems more Mannerist than Classical), the smoothness of the woman's skin and his exactitude in descriptive details. In fact, Ingres blends Neoclassical style with Romantic subject. The next lecture will be on the Romantic movement.
jean antoine houdon "George Washington" 1788-1792, marble, Collection of the Commonwealth of Virginia, State Capitol, Richmond
Likewise, Neoclassical principles dominate the monument erected to the first president of the United States, George Washington. Made by the French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon between 1788-1792, the sculpture presents Washington standing in a contrapposto stance.
Rococco lesson 21
This is a movement in art that is associated with the political reign of King Louis XV of France. In many ways, the Rococo style is considered frivolous because instead of the focus on history, or the Bible or social concerns, the subjects are often contemporaries exploring leisure activities available to the aristocratic class.
was accepted into the Royal Academy of Painters in France in 1717. Unlike other artists accepted into the Academy, Watteau was not a classicist. In fact, his entrance painting for the Academy (above), Pilgrimage to Cythera, was almost antithetical to the classical tradition!
"elegant parties" or outdoor entertainment,based on no established subject matter (it is not based on a historical narrative or textual source). Rather, the subject was often about themes of love and a range of human emotions
Pilgrimage to Cythera
lovers traveling to the island of Cythera—the island of love—to pay homage to Venus. Watteau follows the subject innovation of Giorgione (Venice, turn of 16th century), and the color tradition of Rubens, as well as his stylistic approach to form—the brushstrokes are loose and descriptive as opposed to prescriptive. Watteau evokes a sensuality in the reading of the subject.
by Watteau, 1.85 meters high and 1.5 meters wide, the subject is a harlequin actor who plays a comic lover. Pierrot is depicted in costume, but he does not perform. The pose is frontal, with both arms at his sides. His melancholy expression suggests the actor's alienation from his aristocratic audience.
The painting was notable for its brushwork and bright colors, as well as its enigmatic subject matter. Many believe that the standing figure is actually a self-portrait ofthe artist; others believe that it depicts an actor friend of Watteau.
Francois Boucher, The Bath of Venus, 1751, DC
uses the same diffused light as Watteau Boucher's palette is dominated by the soft pinks used to describe the flesh of the goddess and her surrounding putti, and his brushstrokes evoke the material richness ofthe silky and feathery textures. The painting was made for Madame de Pompadour, the mistress ofKing Louis XV, and was most likely hung in her residence at Versailles or Bellevue. The painting engages with the literal theme of love, embodied in the figure of Venus. No textual source describes the scene depicted, but rather Boucher created a painting of ideal love, who disarms Cupid of his arrows (used to inflict passions on others). Madame de Pompadour was a highly sought patron of the arts; her connections with the King and his court were a professional stepping stone, although she was an avid patroness of the arts herself.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1766, oil on canvas, London
Boucher's pupil, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, became the key figure of Rococo art in France. His work is defined by its sensual treatment of form and subject, and is notable for a lack of emotional or psychological depth (unlike, for example, Watteau's Pierrot). Fragonard continues to follow the Rubenesque treatment ofform and color, and one finds a certain spontaneity in his painting that is reminiscent of Rubens' oil sketches.
In his most famous painting, The Swing, Fragonard fills his entire canvas with frilly textures. From the ruffles of dress to the feathery leaves of the trees and the cottony edges of the clouds, the emphasis is on soft excess. In the far right corner, an elderly cleric pulls the strings ofa swing on which a woman is perched. In the far left corner, a young man hides in the bushes and is positioned to look up the skirt of the woman; she kicks her foot out to open her skirts and smiles down at her suitor. The light eroticism of the scene is augmented by the subtle sexual references embedded in the pose of the man: his arm and hat acts as a phallus that waits for the arrival of the woman. Again, this painting's classification as Rococo comes both from its date and place of creation (in France during the era of Louis XV), its emphasis on eroticism and themes of love, its excessive style and texture, and its pastel coloring.
William Hogarth, The Orgy, c.1734, oil on canvas, Sir John Soane's Museum, London LESSON 21
The new style of the French Rococo spread across Europe and into England, where it was picked up by the English artist, William Hogarth. The scene above, entitled The Orgy, is part of a larger series of eight works, called The Rake's Progress. This painting is set within a brothel— Rose Tavern in Covent Garden. Hogarth uses the loose brushwork familiar to Rococo artists and visualizes the theme of lust and its consequences. A woman in the left foreground is in the process of adjusting her shoes in preparation for a sexualized dance (in which she will hold the silver plate and the candle held by figures in the left background. On the right, two women work together to take advantage of the man between them: one seduces him with her exposed cleavage and wandering hands, while the other woman comes from behind to lift his personal goods! The man is depicted as drunk, half-undressed, and clearly out of bounds in terms of proper British etiquette. Hogarth called his paintings "modern moral subjects...similar to representations on stage." He used satire to convey a message: through watching representations of bad behavior, viewers learned what NOT to do! This genre of painting became enormously popular in England. Viewers could enjoy the scene and learn the message, without being preached to.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse, 1784, oil on canvas, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California
Portraiture in England still remained in fashion throughout the Rococo period. Sarah Siddons, who we see in this portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was a famous English actress. She made her fame by taking on tragic roles on the stage. In fact, she was considered "tragedy personified." Reynolds portrays her in theatrical form, posed with allegories ofPity and Terror. She artfully drapes her right hand over the armrest of her throne and twists her head to the side. Reminiscent of Michelangelo's prophets on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, her pose places her within the profession for which she is known.
Thomas Gainborough, Portrait of Mrs. Siddons, 1785, oil on canvas, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California, LESSON 21
In response to Reynolds' portrait, the English artist, Thomas Gainsborough, made a second portrait of Mrs. Siddons the next year. Gainsborough was considered to be one of the leading portraitists in England (although we can see that he has a different approach). He concentrates on the actress' glamour, emphasizing her material splendor—through the blue and yellow silks and luxurious fur. She, too, looks offto the left, yet she is portrayed as herself, not a character in a theatrical drama. The painting was described by a later critic of art as, "the portrait is so
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 21
original, so individual, as a poetic expression of character, as a deliberate selection of pose, as bold color and free handling..." (the full quote is found in your textbook, on page 772).
Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, initially built 1770-1782; later additions 1796-1809, Charlottesville, Virginia
Neoclassical art also began to emerge in the United States as a metaphor for American democracy. Thomas Jefferson, for example, designed his Virginia home on the Classical architectural principles revived by the architect Palladio. The ordered, regular façade with monumental columns and domed roof stand in for the organization and harmony of the principles of the new republic of the United States (see the link for Monticello under the Course Documents for Week 5).
David, The Death of Marat, 1793, oil on canvas, Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels
Another painting that documents contemporary events and does so in homage to older themes in paintings is The Death ofMarat from 1793. David took an active part in the French Revolution and he voted to guillotine King Louis XVI. His art was propaganda for the Republic. In his words, his paintings were intended to "electrify and plant the seeds of glory and devotion to the fatherland." Marat was one of the political leaders of the Revolution, and was a friend of David. Marat was murdered in his bathtub; he had a painful skin condition, so he would often immerse himself in the tub and work there using a wooden board placed across the sides of the tub. One day, a woman named Charlotte Corday came into the room, claiming that she had a personal petition, and instead plunged a knife into his chest. David rushed to the murder scene and recorded it in sketches. The painting was planned as a public memorial to the martyred hero of the French Revolution.
In this painting, Classical art coincides with devotional image and historical account. David has drawn on Caravaggio's example for the presentation of the scene, which has a stark directness through the close-up point of view and the dramatic use of light and dark. The box, the bloodstained towel and the knife are emphasized in the painting: they actually came to be worshipped by the French public as holy relics. David has portrayed Marat like a saint (notice how the pose is similar to Michelangelo's Christ in his Pieta in the Vatican). Again, David represents the martyr for the greater cause of the emerging nation.
When the French radical Robespierre was guillotined, David was sent to jail. But instead of being executed, Napoleon used David as his own painter for his art program. So David the revolutionary artist was forced to paint grandiose canvases depicting Napoleon and Josephine at their coronation.
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Socrates, 1787, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Likewise, in a subject taken from Greek history (Death of Socrates, above), David emphasizes individual heroism and self-sacrifice in service ofintellectual freedom. Socrates was a teacher, a philosopher, but the Athenians rejected his ideas and methods. He was offered a choice: lifetime exile from Athens or death. He chose death over the oppression of his beliefs and his right to teach. Socrates continued to teach his students to the very end of his life. David represents Socrates in the moment right before he takes the poison cup an example of Ancient Virtue. He points upward (just as in Raphael's Plato in the School ofAthens) to illustrate his ideals. Socrates is depicted as a Christ-like figure who is sacrificed for the good of others (note that there are twelve disciples in the scene). This reference also alludes to Socrates' role as the founder of the "religion of Reason," a key concept in Enlightenment thought. Furthermore, the moral tone of the painting connects the Classical past with the contemporary French political situation.
The composition unfolds like a relief, parallel to the picture plane. The figures are solid like statues, yet he combines this with lighting that is sharply focused and that casts precise shadows, just like we saw with Carravaggio. David includes realistic details to bring the historical event into vivid reality for the viewer (note the hands and feet, furniture, the texture of the stone surfaces). The picture has a quality of life.
Jacques-Louis David, The Oath of the Horatii, 1784-5, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris
The trendsetter for the Neoclassical art movement was the French painter, Jacques-Louis David, a democrat who imitated Greek and Roman art in order to inspire the new French Republic. David's paintings underscored the value of patriotism and the contemporary demand for heroism and civic virtues. Between 1775-1781, David had the opportunity to live in Italy at the French Academy in Rome, which was founded with the intention of disseminating knowledge of the classical world. When David arrived in Rome, he explored his interest in Renaissance and Baroque masters, but then got interested in classicism; he especially tried to emulate the line of the classical antique. David is also often considered to be a "Neo-Poussinist," since he derives direct formal inspiration from Poussin (we can see the similarities in their compositions, use of color and division of gender to reflect different values). We can also see similarities in the ways these two artists draw upon classical narratives and classical visual vocabulary to comment on their present-day political and social situations. In The Oath of Horatii (above), three brothers swear to defeat their enemies or die for Rome. The subject illustrates the new mood of self-sacrifice, instead of self-indulgence, after the overthrow of the monarchy. Just as the French Revolution overthrew decadent royals, this painting overthrew Rococo frivolity in favor of stoicism.
David stressed drawing with lines, not color. The men are depicted straight and rigid; their physical appearance and stance reflect their inner strength and courage. The women, on the other hand, are depicted with curved and soft lines, also referencing their interiors (i.e. irrational and emotional—obviously, not my opinion but rather an accepted trope). Each figure is arranged like a statue. Light acts to highlight each figure against black background (like Caravaggio). David actually dressed upon mannequins in Roman costumes and made Roman helmets for them so as to accurately observe all details from life. The naturalism of his figures, coupled with the painting's large size, brought the event into vivid reality for its viewers.
Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe, 1771, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Benjamin West is considered the artist who popularized the art ofhistory painting. He was born in Philadelphia, studied in Rome, and moved to London to paint. He, too, was accepted into the Royal Academy, and even served as its president. The painting ofThe Death ofGeneral Wolfe is not a scene from the distant historical past, like Kauffman's, but rather a painting of contemporary history. West depicted an event that happened just a decade before he painted, the death ofthe British general, James Wolfe, during the French and Indian War. The scene is set within the Battle ofQuebec in 1759: the soldiers are wearing contemporary uniforms. West's decision to represent the present as itself, as opposed to using a historical subject as an allegory of the present, was radical; painting no longer functioned as an allegory but as a document of history happening around the artist. This was something very new! Viewers believed that West's painting was a document ofthe event and it engaged them as witnesses ofhistory in the making. The painting, however, is not a spontaneous record of the scene; West has organized his figures into a modern-day Lamentation scene. Soldiers gather around the fallen general just as the Apostles gathered around Christ. In drawing on the Christian iconography, West was able to communicate a message about the General: he sacrificed himself for the good of his country. Often, Neoclassical paintings contained such nationalistic messages.
Angelica Kauffman, Cornelia Presenting Her Children as Treasures (Mother of the G r a c c h i ) , c. 1785, oil on canvas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond LESSON 21
The female artist Angelica Kauffman brought the Neoclassical style in the arts back to England after studying in Rome in the 1860s. She was exceptional for her day— she was only one of two womenacceptedintotheRoyalAcademyofArtbeforethe20th century!Sheisconsideredtobe a "history painter"—that is, taking subjects of history as the focus for grand scale paintings. In this painting, Kauffman portrays a scene from the 2nd century BCE in Rome in which a woman visits Cornelia Gracchus, the mother of two future Roman statesmen named Tiberius and Gaius. The woman has brought her jewelry to show off to Cornelia. In return, Cornelia displays her
children, not jewels, as her treasures. The message of the painting is moralistic: family is more important than material goods.
Kauffman's painting is austere, and pared down to only the essential elements to visualize the narrative. The classical dress and architecture establish the period, and the figures enact the scene. Cornelia, the mother, stands as the focus of the piece. Dressed in white, she gestures to the two boys with her right hand and holds the youngest child with her left. Cornelia's central position, her white garments and her gesture characterize her as a strong and noble mother. The emphasis of the painting is on maternal duty, and, above all, virtue. The theme of the family grew in importance in the Enlightenment, as it was argued that it was more natural for children to be educated and nurtured at home as opposed to the former custom of sending children to the countryside with wet nurses and nannies until adolescence. Kauffman's Cornelia provides a Classical model for eighteenth-century mothers to follow. The large size of the painting—over three feet by four feet—was appropriate for history paintings, and Kauffman elevates the position of women to a subject worthy of representation.
Pompeo Batoni, Thomas, First Lord Dundas, 1764, oil on canvas, The Marquess of Zetland, Aske Hall, Yorkshire LESSON 21
Portraiture was in vogue throughout the eighteenth century, as many foreigners living in or traveling to Rome wished to portray their connections to the Classical past. Gentleman travelers on The Grand Tour recorded their time spent in Rome with a portrait. Pompeo Batoni's portrait of Lord Dundas (above) depicts the gentleman traveler in the midst of plaster casts of ancient sculptures; he points to a sculpture of Venus as though educating the viewer. A dog is shown drinking water beneath his feet; this could be an allusion to Lord Dundas' drinking of culture in Rome on his Grand Tour (see the reproduction of the image on p. 792 of your textbook).
Anton Raphael Mengs, Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, c. 1755, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York LESSON 21
Mengs was a close acquaintance of the antiquarian scholar, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who wrote several books on Classical art and style. His History ofGreek Art was one ofthe most widely read art historical texts of the eighteenth century and was extremely influential in the promotion of Classical art—particularly Greek—as the ideal model for contemporary artists to
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 21
imitate. In Meng's portrait (above), the scholar holds an edition of Homer's Iliad to firmly connect him to Classical Greek culture (the title is in Greek).
Neoclassicism lesson 21
which was a new revival of classical antiquity, one that was linked to Enlightenment thought. Although Neoclassicism was based on the visual arts of Classical antiquity , it was different than the revival of antiquity in the Renaissance. Beyond merely style, Neoclassical artists drew upon certain subjects, including events and figures from the idealized polities of Athens and Rome, to point to the new political situation found in the United States and France after the revolutions of 1776 and 1779. Themes of personal liberty, patriotism and heroism were particularly favored, thus Neoclassicists often illustrated the virtuous deeds and actions of ancient Greeks and Romans as analogies of contemporary concerns.
The American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789 were preceded by a revolution of the mind that had begun half a century earlier— "The Enlightenment." The Enlightenment is connected geographically to England, France, Germany and the United States in the eighteenth century. Enlightenment thinkers, including Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau and other philosophers, claimed that all human affairs ought to be ruled by reason and the common good. In the arts, just as in economics, politics, and religion, this rationalist movement turned against the prevailing practice of the time, the Rococo. The Rococo was considered to be classist (i.e. it privileged the aristocratic class), overly ostentatious, frivolous and not relevant to the contemporary concerns of modern citizens.
Neoclassicism and Romanticism
he two movements overlapped, and at times shared certain interests. Some major events defined the Neoclassical/Romantic artistic movements and essentially mark the onset of the modern era: the Industrial Revolution and the political revolutions in the United States and in France. The "modern" period is defined by democracy, personal liberty, capitalism, socialism, industrialization, technological innovation, urbanization, and an overall emphasis on "progress" or the improvement of life through science and knowledge.
Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas (Maids of Honor), 1656, oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Velazquez's most famous painting is called Las Meninas (Maids of Honor), a blend of group portraiture and genre painting. It also could be called a self-portrait! The scene takes place in a room of the royal palace in Madrid. In the center, princess Margarita (daughter of King Philip) looks out to the viewer in her blond hair and white dress. She is surrounded by her attendants and her guardians. In the mirror on the back wall, we see the reflection of her parents: King Philip IV and Queen Maria Anna. We also see the artist in the act of painting; his easel looms large (just as in Rembrandt's early self portrait in his studio). And the artist is surrounded by paintings in the king's collection. What is this painting all about? It is considered to be one of the most famous paintings in the world because it challenges our assumptions about what is real and what is an illusion. Go to the link for "Velasquez and Las Meninas" under Course Documents for Week 4 to more fully explore.
Diego Velazquez, Portrait of Juan de Pareja, 1650, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
In the same year, Velasquez painted a portrait of his servant, Juan de Pareja. The painting has been said to have been Velasquez's "warm up" for the portrait of Pope Innocent X, since it was completed while he was waiting for his papal audience. The portrait is notable due to the perceived honesty with which Velasquez has captured the features of Juan de Pareja. Pareja looks directly at the viewer and is presented in a dignified pose; yet a hole in his sleeve is a clear reminder of his social class. Velasquez exhibited the portrait in an exhibition at the Pantheon in 1650, and it met with immediate praise.
Diego Velazquez, Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650, oil on canvas, Galleria Doria Pamphili, Rome
Velasquez also painted the king's allies, including a portrait of Pope Innocent X, made on one of his trips to Italy in 1649. While in Rome, Velazquez went on a buying spree for Italian paintings, mainly works by Titian, whom he admired. You can see the sharp, bold brushstrokes that Velasquez borrowed from Titian's later style, particularly in the highlights on the Pope's satin vestments and cap. Velasquez was well received in the papal court, and was honored with presents. This portrait was hung in the official waiting room for visitors at the palace, and copies were made to spread throughout Spanish territories as a sign of Spain's alliance with the Catholic Church.
Diego Velazquez, Portrait of Philip IV in brown and silver, c.1632, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London LESSON 20
Velazquez is best known for his work produced at the court ofPhillip IV, King ofSpain (who reigned 1621-1665). This period in Spanish history is considered to be the Golden Age of Spain (i.e. Spain was at its height of power and influence, which was reflecting in a flourishing of culture and the arts). The court was set up in Madrid. Since Velasquez was the court painter, he was responsible for all of the portraits of the royal family and members of the court. This Portrait of Philip IV in brown and silver of 1632 was just one of 40 portraits that he made of the king. Velazquez was the exclusive portrait painter of the king!
Diego Velasquez, The Water Carrier of Seville, c. 1619, oil on canvas, Wellington Museum, London LESSON 20
Ribera's influence on Spanish art may be seen in the early works of Diego Velasquez, one of the most famous painters in the history of Spanish art. His painting of The Water Carrier of Seville (above), made when he was 20, incorporates Caravaggio's lighting, color, and brushstrokes into a scene of everyday life in Seville, his hometown. The painting depicts a water seller, who offers a drink to a young client. Velasquez uses the humble scene to allude to the Christian doctrine of giving water to the thirsty (one of the seven acts of mercy). He uses peasant forms, just like we saw in Ribera (and in Caravaggio), to connect the Catholic message to the immediate world around him. Velasquez gave the painting to a royal chaplain of Seville, who would have appreciated the Catholic undertone of the subject.
Jusepe de Ribera, The Club-Footed Boy, 1642, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris
Ribera left Rome after a few years and returned to Naples, where he continued to paint in his direct, naturalistic style. The above painting was made for the Viceroy of Naples, the highest- ranking Spanish position in the territory (the Viceroy was the position directly under the Roy or King). Ribera shows a peasant boy with a club foot, who smiles toward the viewer. He holds a lettered sheet in his hand that proclaims: "Give me alms for the love of God." This establishes the boy as a beggar.
Why would the Viceroy want a painting of a maimed beggar in his house? Think about Catholic motives here (remember Spain and its territories were extremely loyal to the Church). The painting functions as a reminder to be charitable and to perform good deeds. It is a moralizing painting—even though the boy is disabled, he is happy. The Viceroy may have commissioned such a work to encourage the upper class to participate in charitable works.
Jusepe de Ribera, The Sense of Touch, 1613-16, oil on canvas, Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena lESSON 20
Ribera's The Sense ofTouch also requires the viewer's sense ofsight to complete the image. The main protagonist of the scene is a blind man, who must touch the features of a portrait bust in order to make out its features. The viewer sees a painting lying on the ledge before the man, but the blind man cannot see it, so does not reach out to it. The viewer cannot feel what the blind man may feel, and the blind man cannot see what the viewer sees. Ribera cleverly plays with the limitations of the senses in particular moments, both for the person represented within his painting, and for the audience of his artwork.￼
Juan Sanchez Cotán, Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, c. 1602, oil on canvas, San Diego Museum of Art
Such a direct approach to the representation of the natural world may be seen in other Spanish paintings from the early seventeenth century, such as Juan Sanchez Cotán's still life shown above. Cotán was a Carthusian monk who worked in the city of Toledo (Spain). His still life is defined by its bare essentials. Cotán represents fruits and vegetables within a window-box frame. Like Caravaggio and his followers, Cotán has juxtaposed the extremely dark background with brightly lit "subjects." The highlighting of the vegetables and fruit, along with the artist's detailed observation from nature, makes the painting visually interesting despite its simplicity. The painting is a meditative picture; the viewer is supposed to consider the naturalistic details of the subject slowly and carefully.
Jusepe de Ribera, The Sense of Smell, 1613-16, oil on canvas, Juan Abello Collection, Madrid LESSON 20
In The Sense of Smell, Ribera uses another peasant model as the main protagonist of the scene. The man, dressed in rags and a battered hat, holds a freshly cut onion in his hands. Ribera plays off of the viewer's own sense of sight to complete his paintings, since the viewer sees the onion and imagines the teary reaction of the man to its close proximity. Again, Ribera's approach is direct and describes the natural world around him in precise detail.
Annibale Carracci, The Bean Eater, 1584-85, oil on canvas, Galleria Colonna, Rome
Ribera participated in a new genre of art that focused on "humble" life, or scenes of everyday life. The Northern European artists are known for such genre scenes; already by 1415, the Limbourg brothers were recording secular scenes of labor and pleasure in France in their Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Annibale Carracci, too, made similar paintings, including the painting known as The Bean Eater (above). The elevation of simple subjects to the central focus of painting was a process of recording the natural world. Artists argued that all aspects of life should be documented
Jusepe de Ribera, Sense of Taste, 1613-16, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Caravaggio influenced many artists in Spain, and even inspired a following. These artists are called the "tenebrosi" or shadow painters. One of his followers was the Spanish artist, Jusepe de Ribera, who was born near Valencia, Spain, but lived and worked in Naples (it was a Spanish territory in Italy). In his early career, Ribera traveled to Rome, where he faithfully studied Caravaggio's work. While in Rome, Ribera painted a series called The Five Senses (Taste, Touch, Smell, Sound and Sight) for a Spanish patron. In each painting, Ribera represents a figure in the act ofactivating the appropriate sense. In the above painting, The Sense ofTaste, Ribera paints a peasant man in front of a full plate of food and with a glass of wine in hand. The peasant is not idealized; the man's beard is growing in and his broad chest and belly push against the seams of
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 20
his shirt. The dark background contrasts to the light focused on the man's face, and anchors him asthefocusofthepainting. ThedirectnessofRibera'srecordoftheman'sfeaturesandhismeal set it apart from allegorical works; instead of standing in for something else, the man is himself, represented in the act of eating.
This lecture focuses on seventeenth-century painting in Spain, a highly Catholic country led by a King with a dedicated loyalty to the Church in Rome. In fact, Spain and its Spanish territories practiced a form of extreme Catholicism that required one to profess complete loyalty to the church. Those who tried to subvert the rules of the Church, or spoke out against it, faced the threat of the Inquisition! (The Inquisition was an institution that enforced religious orthodoxy through radical methods, including torture, heresy trials and execution). This was really extreme! In placing Spanish painting within the larger trends of the Baroque period, one must think about how the Baroque style must be situated within religious politics of the day, including the struggles between the Catholic Church and Protestant reformers. The Kingdom of Spain extended much further than simply the country we call Spain today. It owned the territory of Naples, so Spanish artists had immediate contact with the artistic trends in the region, including the work of Caravaggio, who lived in Naples after he fled Rome. Spain also owned territories in the Netherlands, so the tradition of painting inspired by Jan van Eyck's naturalism was also absorbed by Spanish painters. Furthermore, it was very much in vogue to hire foreign artists at the court in Spain. For example, in the sixteenth century, the artist Titian was called to Spain to work for King Charles V. In the seventeenth century, Rubens was twice a visitor. Because of all of these international influences, similar genres and styles of painting developed in the Kingdom of Spain.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait with brushes, c.1663, oil on canvas, Kenwood House, London lesson 19
The many self-portraits portraits by Rembrandt may also be seen as a way of advertising himself to his patrons. It is said that he gave his self-portraits to his patrons or that they began to collect them. What is especially interesting about Rembrandt's self-portraits is that he never portrayed himself as most of his fellow artists did; that is, as a respectable member of the upper class (through clothing: the black jacket and white collar). Instead, he presented himself in the clothing and posture of his craft. By about 1630, the self-portrait had a well-established role in promoting or sustaining an artist's reputation in Europe, but most artists would not represent themselves at work with the tools of their trade (for example, see Rubens' portrait with his wife). To do so would be to emphasize the artist's role as a craftsman. Rembrandt did it anyway.
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Artist in His Studio, 1627-8, oil on canvas, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston LESSON 19
Rembrandt painted his own portrait at least seventy-five times during his career. He was rather obsessed with recording his own image over time. Many have said that we can look at his portraits at given moments in his career as a reflection of the inner workings of his mind. Here in this early painting of 1627, he has represented himself in his art studio. He is standing back to take a look at his own work. The canvas looms large. His body is small in relation to his work. You can think about the painting as an expression ofhis potential artistic self-worth. The canvas defines him, since the work will last to carry on the artist's name well after his death. We, the viewers, cannot see what the work is, however. Think about the fact that Rembrandt is about to emerge on the artistic scene in Amsterdam. The painting stands in for his aspirations as an artist.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, oil on canvas, Mauritshuis, The Hague
In Rembrandt's first paintings in Amsterdam, he quickly established his reputation as a portraitist. In this painting, The Anatomy Lesson ofDr. Nicolaes Tulp, painted in 1632, Rembrandt records a public dissection performed by the head ofthe anatomy guild, Dr. Tulp, at the University of Amsterdam. The painting was commissioned to record the dissection and be used to publicize the doctors of Amsterdam.
The portrait departs, however, from convention. The compositional organization ofthe figures is a bit different than in other group portraits (see, for example, Frans Hals, Banquet ofthe Officers ofthe St. George Civic Guard, 1616). The main protagonist ofthe scene, Dr. Tulp, is represented in action surrounded by his colleagues (Tulp wears the black hat). The figures are for the most part concentrating on the dissection as opposed to looking out at the viewer (which was the traditional way of group portraiture, so that the viewer could interact with each individual through a direct gaze). Rembrandt's painting places the doctors in a convincing narrative context of their profession rather than merely as sitters as in other Dutch group portraits.
The way in which the dissection is represented is also revealing. The dead man on the table was Aris Kint, who had been executed the day before for stealing an ox. His body fills the foreground, while his feet are in shadow. In the lower left corner, there is a large anatomy book (which reveals that this is, in fact, an anatomy lesson). Dissections always began by the opening of the stomach of the cadaver and the removal of the organs (since they decay more rapidly than the rest ofthe body). Yet, as we can see in Rembrandt's painting, the abdominal ofthe corpse is still intact. Rather, the flesh ofthe arm has been peeled back first and Dr. Tulp holds up the tendons that move the fingers of the dead corpse. Of course, this is not a true record of the event (since it does not illustrate the proper method of dissection) but rather a presentation of a dissection featuring the hand. The prominent emphasis on the hand of the corpse may be read as a subtle reference to both the skill of the doctor and the skill of the artist. Rembrandt signed the painting on the wall behind the doctors—he both witnesses the dissection, but also makes it happen, through the art of his brush.
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Blinding of Samson, 1636, Städelsches Kunstinstitut mit Städtischer Galeria, Frankfurt
Caravaggio and Rubens' influence on Rembrandt is illustrated clearly in The Blinding ofSamson a dramatic depiction ofthe Old Testament episode. Traditionally, artists chose the narrative moment after Delilah's seduction in which Samson is about to be shorn ofhis hair, the source of his phenomenal strength. But Rembrandt has instead focused on the moment after the cutting of his hair and the consequential loss of his power. Delilah stands at the exit of the tent. She holds a pair of scissors in her right hand and Samson's hair in her left. Delilah looks back as Samson is pinned to the ground by Philistine soldiers; one soldier holds out the knife that will blind him.
Note Rembrandt's use of dramatic juxtapositions of light and dark (chiaroscuro) in order to move the narrative forward. For example, the blade against Samson's chest is silhouetted so as to draw the viewer's attention to the impending violence (and note the phallic nature of its
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placement). Samson's pain is illustrated by highlighting his clenched toes against Delilah's white sleeve. Rembrandt had Caravaggio's provocative naturalism in mind, as well as Rubens' heroics.
Peter Paul Rubens, Marie de'Medici, Queen of France, Landing in Marseilles (3 November 1600), 1622-1625, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris LESSON 19
Rubens was called to paint the Queen of France's portrait in a series of heroic paintings for the royal Luxembourg Palace in Paris. Queen Marie was the widow of King Henry IV and mother of King Louis XIII. The series featured 21 paintings, each of monumental height and width (each painting was over 13 feet high!). In the top image above, you can see the Presentation ofthe Portrait ofMarie de'Medici to King Henry IV, one ofthe early images in the series, in its current position in the Louvre. Often, marriages that were arranged as strategic alliances—such as the uniting of the Medici family with the French monarchy—were done so via a proxy image (a portrait of the future bride). Ruben's painting suggests that the marriage alliance was ordained by God, since Marie's portrait was accompanied by angels. Rubens incorporates a Baroque
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theatricality in the work, as draperies flutter and a spiritual light issues forth from the distant background. The message was that the power of the royal couple's union was divinely inspired.
The painting scene ofMarie de'Medici, Queen ofFrance, Landing in Marseilles (3 November 1600) is presented as a culminating moment in the history of France: Marie's first steps on French soil. Represented in a shimmering white satin gown—symbolic of her purity—Marie enters France with the accompaniment of an allegorical figure of Fame's trumpet. Rubens includes excessive details to amplify the dynamism of the scene. The nude fleshy women frolicking in the sea beneath the boat are members of the sea god Neptune's entourage, who rejoice at the safe arrival of the new French Queen.
If Rubens was the most famous painter of the seventeenth century in the southern Netherlands, then the most famous seventeenth-century artist in the northern Dutch Republic was Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). Rembrandt was in Leiden, where he grew up and studied at the university (which was the oldest Protestant university in Europe). His career was centered on the thriving city of Amsterdam, where he was sought after by patrons for paintings, prints, portraits and group portraits.
Rembrandt's paintings reflect the international Baroque trends. Like Caravaggio, Rembrandt used chiaroscuro as a principal means of pictorial expression. Like Rubens, Rembrandt derived inspiration to treat dramatic themes on a large scale, full of movement. Like Poussin and the classicists, Rembrandt introduced greater simplicity, breadth, and solemnity in his painting. He blended each of these aspects into his work, thus making it a synthesis of the Baroque style. Y et, Rembrandt was highly individualistic in his selection of subject matter and in his interpretation and treatment of it. Rembrandt has been called "truly modern" in this respect.
Peter Paul Rubens, Presentation of the Portrait of Marie de'Medici to King Henry IV, 1622-1625, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris
Netherlands, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt LESSON 19
By the sixteenth century, the Netherlands was the most densely populated territory ofEurope; there were at least 200 walled cities and 12,000 villages within the region. However, political and religious conflict, begun in the sixteenth century, led to the separation ofthe territory into independent northern and southern territories: Belgium (southern Netherlands) and Holland (northern Netherlands). In 1554, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ceded control of the Netherlands to his son, Philip II, who was the King of Spain. Philip II implemented a program to reassert the power of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and to challenge the Protestant movement. However, the northern regions of the Netherlands fought against his repressive regime, and by 1581, the north declared independence from Philip II, Spain and the southern territory of the Netherlands; by 1609, the north was recognized as an autonomous state. Thus the north—a Protestant territory—became known as the Dutch Republic, and the south—a Catholic territory—was under the control of the King of Spain, as a Spanish territory. Such territorial and ideological divisions of the Netherlands had profound consequences on the production of art. This lecture will look at a few key examples of northern and southern art production in the Netherlands during the Baroque period, primarily, the work of Peter Paul Rubens (Antwerp in southern Netherlands) and Rembrandt van Rijn (Amsterdam in northern Netherlands).
The administrative part of the Spanish court in the southern territory of Belgium was set up in Brussels. But the most dynamic city of southern Netherlands was Antwerp. Antwerp dominated Europe's financial market and its ports were the busiest. A center for international trade, the city was populated by a well-educated elite that patronized the arts and cultivated a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Before King Phillip II's takeover of the region, Antwerp was a Calvinist (Protestant) city. However, after 1554, Philip II banned all forms of religious worship apart from Roman Catholicism. This set off a period of disintegration. The merchant classes were opposed to the suppression of Calvinism; they said that it was bad for business. This period was filled with a series of riots and antagonism. Over 12,000 people were arrested for heresy against the Roman Catholic Church and hundreds were executed for their beliefs. The population of Antwerp was reduced by over half between 1568-1589: the population of the city plummeted from 100,000 people in 1568 to 42,000 in 1580. Many of the people who fled the city during this period were artists.
Hyacinthe Rigaud, Portrait of Louis XIV, 1701, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris
The King also drew upon established painting genres, such as the official portrait, to convey his authority. In this example by Hyacinthe Rigaud, the King is represented in sumptuous furs and silks; these are his coronation robes, which stand in for his position as the leader of France. The fleur-de-lis patterning on the blue silk exterior of the robes is also a royal symbol. He stands at a
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three-quarter view to his audience, and shows off his legs and high heels (the King was actually a short man—only 5' 4"— so he designed a pair of shoes to increase his height!). The portraitist Rigaud composed the King within his composition so as to give the illusion that his physical presence was significant. The massive column in the background anchors the scene and alludes to the solid foundations of the monarchy.
The King likewise used architecture to convey his authority. He renovated the Louvre in the Classical style, and then built the sumptuous palace of Versaille, located outside of Paris. Be sure to visit the link to the Chateau de Versailles in the Course Documents under Week 4.
Artistic pupils were trained in the "proper" style, that is, classicism (art based on Classical principles of design and execution)...his revived style is called classicism, as in the strain of Baroque painting initiated by Annibale Carracci and the Academy of Art in Bologna. This style was characterized by clarity ofcomposition, balance and restraint (as opposed to the flashier, more theatrical style of the Baroque)....Poussin was influential.
Claude Lorrain, A Pastoral Landscape, c. 1648, oil on copper, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven LESSON 18
ust a few years later, the French artist Claude Lorrain painted another imaginary landscape: that of the idyllic countryside. Lorrain, like Poussin, lived and worked in Rome and studied the Classical artifacts of the city and its countryside. Lorrain often painted scenes to visualize descriptions in ancient texts, from poetic authors such as Virgil. This painting, made on copper, shows a non-descript landscape that is filled with references to the ancient world through architectural remains. The two small figures gestures from the lower right corner and guide the viewer's eyes to the subject: the landscape itself. His brushwork style is loose and contributes to a hazy atmosphere. Lorrain often went out to the countryside beyond the city of Rome and
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sketched and painted outdoors, or "en plein air." He would take these sketches and paintings and use them as the basis for his landscapes. In the nineteenth century, en plein air painting would define the Impressionist movement—the Impressionists, however, used their outdoor paintings as their final versions.
Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with St. Matthew, 1640, oil on canvas, Gemaldegallerie, Berlin LESSON 18
Another painting in the series, Landscape with St. Matthew (above), loosely records the landscape along the Tiber River outside Rome. The features of the ruins and rocks are not precisely recorded, but are generalized to geometric simplicity. The figure of St. Matthew (with his accompanying attribute, the angel) is small in relation to the curving river and towering sky. The diminished size of the human figure within the overall composition represents a key shift from the anthropocentric painting of the Death of Germanicus. The rise of landscape as an independent genre was soon to arrive.
Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with St. John on Patmos, 1640, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago
Poussin introduced a new subject into painting when he created a series ofideal landscapes for the secretary to the Barberini. One of the paintings, Landscape with St. John on Patmos (seen above), shows St. John the Evangelist recording his visions of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. (You can see the Evangelist's attribute, the eagle, behind him). This representation of the Greek island of Patmos is actually an imaginary landscape made of a conglomerate of lands and ruins; it is an ideal world, represented in its systematic rhythm and geometry.
Nicolas Poussin, Death of Germanicus, 1627-8, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis LESSON 18
Poussin's ability to speak to highly educated viewers through his paintings was due to his intellectual approach to painting. Less interested in provoking emotional responses than intellectual ones, he used composition and form to organize his tightly structured narratives. Poussin painted many works with the same compositional format that we see here: a rectangular pictorial field features a group of figures arranged in a loosely spaced frieze across the width of the canvas. He has represented the general in his bed. The white pillow and sheets draw our eye to him first. Poussin has left the space before him open so that we have a clear view of him. The scene is accentuated by the royal blue cloth that hangs behind the bed, and which provides a focus to the scene. Note how Poussin has composed the scene so as to emphasize the intimacy of the bed in the spacious stone hall. Germanicus' soldiers stand around him and promise to
avenge his death. To the far right is his wife, Agrippina, who covers her eyes. It is an appropriate setting for the narrative moment, and provides a convincing depiction of a range of emotional states. The use of the three primary colors in this work is also characteristic of Poussin The blue is used for the drapery behind the hero, the red is on the cloak of the soldier beneath the archway, and yellow is used for the armor on the officer who raises his arm and swears to avenge the crime. These primary colors provide balance to the overall scene.
For a work of art that was not on public display but rather was hung in the private residence of the Barberini family, Poussin's painting had a great impact on later generations ofartists. The theme of the hero on his deathbed gathered momentum during the next two centuries. It was a theme that was often chosen by artists for the qualifying "masterpiece" required for their entry into the official Royal Academy ofPainting and Sculpture (see below). For example, we will later discuss Jacques Louis David's Death ofSocrates (1787, Metropolitan Museum ofArt) in the context of Poussin's precedent.
Georges de la Tour, Joseph the Carpenter, c.1642, oil on canvas, Musee du Louvre, Paris LESSON 18
In one of his most arresting images of Christ, shown above, Georges de la Tour illuminates the difference between earthly light and divine light. He depicts Joseph bending over his awl as he drills a hole in a plank of wood. Jesus is represented as a young boy, who holds a candle out for his father. (The use ofa candle to light his scene was a favorite device ofthe artist). As with the light emitted from the candle in the Repentant Magdalene painting, the candle illuminates the scene in a naturalistic manner, but at the same time the light seems intensely spiritual. Notice how the young Christ's face is entirely illuminated by the light. The hand that he uses to shield the light is glowing. There is a spirituality of the light.
By 1650, many painters had adopted the new interpretation of Mary's husband as a saintly man happy to live in perpetual chastity in order to protect the Virgin Mary and her son. The Joseph in Georges de la Tour's painting is a relic of the medieval tradition of representing him as a man too old to have fathered children (remember Robert Campin's Merode Altarpiece) though he is portrayed here in a dignified pose. Georges de la Tour reduced his forms to a geometric simplicity. Everything extraneous is left out. Only the elements essential to the spiritual message are included for the viewer. The painting was intended to inspire the faithful.
Georges de la Tour, Repentant Magdalene, c.1635/1640, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Georges de la Tour painted the Magdalene in a scene of introspective reflection at least five times. Three of his paintings, like this one, represent the Magdalene dressed in a loose white shirt and red skirt, seated in a dark interior illuminated by a candle or an oil lamp. The version shown here is painted in a somber monochrome palette of dark browns, beige and cream.
Georges de la Tour uses the Caravaggiesque technique of dramatically lighting his figures, who thus appear revealed to the viewer from the darkness. In this case, a candle placed beyond the skull illuminates the Magdalene's face from the darkened room. While naturally rendered, there is such an intensity to the light emitted from the candle that it appears supernatural, as though aided by the divine. The viewer is forced to focus on the figure of Magdalene and to enter her psychological state. The theme of the painting is penitence, represented bodily in the figure of the Magdalene and symbolically in the iconographic objects included within the scene. The Magdalene's role in seventeenth-century Catholic art is precisely in her role as a reformed sinner; she provided a model to everyone that salvation could be had by even the worst of sinners. In fact, she was the patron saint of criminals and thus many chapels were erected to her in prisons.
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Georges de la Tour has represented the Magdalene in the moment of her penitence. We see the mirror—generally used as a symbol of vanity—that is also connected to Magdalene since she was formerly a prostitute. We can also make out an ointment jar next to the mirror; the ointment jar was a common iconographic feature of Magdalene paintings and serve as her attribute since she anointed Christ's feet at the feast in the House of Simon. In the reflection of the mirror, Georges de la Tour has painted the skull, which rests on a thick book. The skull and the prayer book are the usual attributes of penitent saints. The skull serves as a reminder of mortality, while the prayer book is a means of salvation. Magdalene touches the skull. She is depicted in a posture indicating deep meditation. Her chin rests on her hand in a classic gesture of melancholy. It seems she has just let out a sigh because the flame is shifting to our left. The flame of the candle, the only source of light in this dark painting, may be interpreted as a symbol of the light of God.
Northern Baroque (lesson 18)
This lecture will look at several artworks from the Baroque that were produced north of the Alps, in France. As was the case in Italy, several different strands ofthe Baroque style coexisted in the period.
The strand of Baroque painting begun by Caravaggio in Italy influenced many early seventeenth-century French painters. Like Caravaggio, these artists used dramatic close-up scenes to represent religious experience and light to convey a sense of the supernatural.
Among them is the artist Georges de la Tour (1593-1652), whose Repentant Magdalene is shown above. He spent his career in the northeast of France, in the Duchy of Lorraine. The Duke Of Lorraine, Henry II, was among his patrons, as was the King Louis XIII. The region was known for its Catholicism, and Georges de la Tour's paintings may be understood as extensions ofthe Counter-Reformation.
Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait (detail ofmirror), 1434, oil on panel, The National Gallery, London
The inclusion of two men in the reflection of the mirror seems to indicate that Jan van Eyck not only wrote that he was there in his signature, but actually includes himself in the reflection as being physically in the room! Notice the red turban on one of the men: this will be Jan van Eyck's signature in several other paintings!
The scene represents the documentation of a vow, either the engagement vows which were legally binding contracts that had to be witnessed or actual wedding vows between the man and woman. Unlike the assumed tradition for may today, Renaissance individuals did not marry inside a church. This is obviously a bedroom; you can see the bed behind the woman. Art historians have tried to identify the two individuals as Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami in order to investigate how the painting was used as a kind of notary document that would serve a contractual function. But it is still unclear.
Regardless, what we have here is a scene filled with symbols regarding marriage. Notice the shoes are off—this indicates that they are standing on sacred ground (the bedroom has transformed into a space of official function). The man holds his hand up in the act of taking a vow. Their hands are joined. Between them a dog ties them together in a symbol of fidelity. Notice how the woman lifts her dress—she is not pregnant, but the gesture could refer to her hopes for children (which the dutiful role of a wife at this time). Details in the decoration of the room also point to hidden meanings. For example, scenes of Christ's Passion are placed around the mirror, thus framing the entire ceremony with a religious connotation. The fruit on the bench by the window is perhaps a reference to Eden.
We have only scratched the surface of the many ways to interpret the painting. The point is that Jan van Eyck combined his artistic style— his microscopic-telescopic approach—with the recording of an event as a document. By including himself as a witness to this event, he elevates his authority and provides proof that he truly was there.
Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, oil on panel, The National Gallery, London
Jan van Eyck often included self-conscious references to his art and his abilities as an artist. This painting is one of the most famous paintings within the entire history of art. It is the representation of a man and woman standing in a room filled with objects and furniture. Jan signed the work, but, this time, he didn't sign it on the frame. He signs it on the wall of the
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room above the mirror: "Jan van Eyck was here, 1434." What does that mean? He was here? Is this a real room? Why does he need to write down that he was there in that room?
Jan van Eyck, Man in a Red Turban (Self-portrait), 1433, oil on panel, The National Gallery, London
Jan van Eyck's painterly style— the precise and detailed manner of Flemish artists—used the medium of oil to achieve great effects of luminosity, and to render subjects in microscopic- telescopic precision. This painting of a middle-aged man in a red turban is a self-portrait of the artist. You will note that the painting is dated on the frame to the year 1433—significantly earlier than Leonardo's Mona Lisa—here we have the sitter turning to face the viewer in a three-quarter pose. We see his "warts and all" realism approach to the description ofthe physical features ofthe sitter. He sets his sitter against a very dark background, which helps to focus the viewer's attention on the flesh of the face. The turban is described in rich detail—you get a sense of the texture of the cloth and the three-dimensionality of it as an object in space.
The painting is arguably a self-portrait. Imagine that you were the artist. How would you begin to paint yourself (remember there are no technologies to take a picture of yourself)? You would need to look in a mirror in order to complete the painting. How can you tell that the artist was
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doing this? There is something about the eyes that indicates that this is the point of view, a particular strain. Other clues come from the signature and inscription on the frame. The signature at the bottom reads in translation: "Jan van Eyck made me 1433 October." What might that mean, "made me"? Made what? He made the portrait.
The inscription on the top reads: "Als ich kan" ("As best I can"). The letters are in Greek, but the phrase is in Flemish. Ifwe read the inscription as a reflection ofthe character ofthe sitter, what is this referring to? Jan van Eyck used his art to create a commentary about himself as an artist. He is pointing to his ability to simulate nature, but includes a modest disclaimer pointing out that he is only human, so painted the best he could... but really, he is pointing to his skill.
Jan was selected to be the court artist ofthe Duke ofBurgundy, Phillip the Good from 1425- 1441 (the artist's death). He was free to paint for people outside the court, but also painted for the Duke when he wished. Through his position at court, he was given economic stability and an elevated status, so already you should note how different the artistic structures were for artists in the north of Europe and those in Italy. All depends on the art market—was it tied to a court structure (like in Bruges, where van Eyck painted) or was it a more open commission-by- commission structure (like in Florence)?
Hubert and Jan van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece (open position), completed 1432, oil on panel, Church of St. Bavo, Ghent, Belgium LESSON 12
The eminent art historian, Erwin Panofsky, described Jan van Eyck's style as "microscopic- telescopic vision. Think about the way that a microscope works—it amplifies small things so that you can see it in great detail. Think about the way that a telescope works—it amplifies distant objects so that you can see them in great detail. The van Eyck brothers were concerned with external exactness of things. Every object, down to a blade of grass or a reflection off of a pearl, is shown in the greatest of detail—a reference to the all-seeing eye of God, who sees all things at once in perfect clarity.
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In the center of the complex decoration of the interior of the altarpiece, we can see God the Father with Mary and John the Baptist. On either side, choirs of angels sing and play heavenly music. On the outer flank of the altarpiece, we see Adam and Eve. They are portrayed very differently than we have seen before! Think about the difference between Masaccio's Adam and Eve in the Brancacci Chapel and this rendition of Adam and Eve!
The expansive scene in the lower register of the altarpiece is centered on the altar, where a lamb is offered in sacrifice. The lamb is a symbol of Christ (i.e. the lamb of God), who was sacrificed in order to cleanse the sins of humanity. Crowds of theologians, religious groups, saints, and townspeople of Ghent gather around the altar in celebration of the sacrament. Notice the extreme detail in every aspect of the decoration—again, go to ArtStor to explore!!!
Hubert and Jan van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece (closed position), completed 1432, oil on panel, Church of St. Bavo, Ghent, Belgium LESSON 12
The above altarpiece, shown in its closed position (the wings are shut, so we are looking at the outside of the shutters), was created by Jan and Hubert van Eyck, brother-artists working in the Netherlands in the region of Bruges and Ghent. The altarpiece was originally called the St. John Altarpiece because of the two patron saints on the outside wings: St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist. However, today it is now generally known as the Ghent Altarpiece. An inscription on the frame tells us that Hubert supposedly began the work (he died in 1426) and that Jan finished it in 1432. The altarpiece is still in its original location of the church of St. Bavo in Ghent (this is extremely rare!). The dimensions of the altarpiece are enormous: it spans over 11 feet high x 7 feet wide as we see it here in its closed position. The altarpiece is even more massive when the wings are open... it is over 11 feet high and 15 feet wide! This is HUGE!
The light source in the painting conforms to the real light source of the chapel in which it was placed. The light is represented as coming in from right side of the panel so that the reflections from the church would be incorporated. Notice that the van Eyck brothers have arranged the exterior decoration in three registers. The lowest register includes portraits of the patrons, Jodocus Vijd and his wife, Isabelle Borluut, placed within niches to incorporate them within the architecture of the painting. The van Eyck brothers faithfully describe the physical appearances of the patrons without idealization. This exactitude in the portrayal of the physiognomic traits of sitters is a key feature of Northern Renaissance art: it is called a "warts and all realism."
The saints to which this altarpiece is dedicated, St. John the Baptist (identifiable by the lamb that he holds in his hands) and St. John the Evangelist (identifiable by the cup and snake held in
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his hands), are represented in grisaille. Grisaille is the term that refers to a mode of painting in monochromatic colors so as to simulate a sculpture. Jan van Eyck would often engage in the paragone (the competition between painters and sculptors) and attempt to show offhis skill as a painter by emulating sculpture in paint! You should explore this altarpiece in great detail on ArtStor.
Above the register of patrons and saints is the scene of the Annunciation. The Virgin Mary is on the far right, shown in white robes with the dove of the Holy Spirit above her head. The angel Gabriel is opposite her on the left. We can see a view ofthe city ofGhent through the open window and a selection of detailed objects within the room (each of these objects has symbolic meaning—explore them on ArtStor!). Most importantly, note the words coming out of the mouth of the Virgin Mary—they are written backwards and upside down, in the direction of God who is the recipient of her message. At the top of the exterior decoration, prophets and sibyls look down on the scene of the Annunciation and display their prophetic Old Testament writings that predicted the coming of Christ.
warts and all realism
This exactitude in the portrayal of the physiognomic traits of sitters is a key feature of Northern Renaissance art
Robert Campin, Merode Triptych, ca. 1425-1430, oil on panel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York LESSON 12
Think about when this is being painted in 1425-1430. Can you remember what artistic commissions were underway at this time in Italy? This would be right around the time of Masaccio's Trinity and the Brancacci Chapel. What do you notice what is different already about Northern Renaissance art? What do you notice what is similar? Campin uses one-point perspective like Masaccio, but it is "oblique." The exaggerated sloping of the room creates a new sense of depth. The upturned aspect of the room—as if on display for the viewer—is purposeful: Campin uses the oblique slant to situate many symbolic objects throughout the room that enhance the meaning of the subject.
Throughout the entire triptych, Robert Campin employs a discrete symbolism: everyday objects assume a meaning beyond their material quality. The Virgin Mary is dress in red; the color red has symbolic color implications, one of which is a reference to the Passion of Christ (we have seen other symbolic references in Venetian bridal clothing, a different kind of passion!). No haloes have been incorporated to identify the Virgin Mary and Gabriel; this would be too obvious for the clever Northern tradition of incorporating symbolism into everyday objects. Look at the clothing of the angel Gabriel: he is dressed in liturgical garments. His clothing ties the entire scene to the religious function of the image: his clothing is a reference to the liturgical
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mass that occurs on the altar in front of the painting. Other symbols may be found in the details of the decoration throughout the room of the Annunciation. The sculpted lions on the bench against which the Virgin rests may be a reference to the Throne of Solomon. The candle on the table has just blown out, perhaps indicating the presence of God. The mousetrap on the ledge of Joseph's shop window provides a connection to St. Augustine, who wrote that you must fool the devil as mice are fooled by bait. Northern Renaissance art is an endless game of interpretation! One very influential piece of writing that was being circulated at this time was the Apocryphal Gospel of the writer known as Pseudo-Matthew: he said that the Annunciation occurred while the Virgin was sitting in her room and reading a book. This legend grew out of the cult of reading in Northern Europe, for it placed the Virgin Mary in an activity that was familiar to 15th century individuals, male and female. We can see this immediately in this painting ofthe Annunciation by Robert Campin (formerly known as the "Master of Flemalle"). He is considered to be the first great panel painter of the north because he introduces a new style of painting that
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gradually moves away from the International style (a style of art that grew out of the Gothic tradition and that was familiar to the courts of Europe). Campin also uses new technique: he moves away from tempera to oil paint. In Italy, artists didn't adopt the oil technique until much later, toward the end of the fifteenth century. But in Northern Europe, artists were already using it by the early fifteenth century. This has several implications for the aesthetic of Northern Renaissance art, including the improved capacity to render finer and finer gradations of light and to distribute color intensity
Pol, Herman and Jean de Limbourg, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, Open view, 1413-16, illumination, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France LESSON 12
The Book of Hours played an important role for the development of art in the Netherlands. The images painted inside are called miniatures. This is because the text was written in red, which looked like rust, or MINIUM (oxated iron). The name "miniatures" derives from this. (Actually, there was little text in these books. The writers were not the same people who illuminated). The manuscript illuminations had a purpose: even if you were illiterate, you could follow the stories through the pictures. In fact, the images helped to educate and instruct. They also helped to keep their readers involved in the liturgy or services of the Church. Sometimes people would attend church several times a day!
Pol, Herman and Jean de Limbourg, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, February page, 1413-16, illumination, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France LESSON 12
February, on the other hand, is characterized by an illumination showing peasants working in the cold fields. Another scene ofeveryday life, the February illumination shows the atmospheric conditions of winter and the labor of the workers that must toil through the snow. While pigs huddle in their shelter, several workers huddle in their own shelter on the viewer's left. Look at how they are warming themselves—ifyou look closely, you will see that the Limbourg brothers have depicted the peasants in less than flattering poses: they are raising their robes and skirts and exposing their private parts! The art historian J.J. Alexander has discussed the disparaging images of peasants in this manuscript in terms of the power relations between the Duke and his subjects at court and throughout his territories. Alexander suggests that, through compromising images of his laborers, the Duke might be making fun of them, and at the same time establishing a power relationship between himself and his subjects. You must remember that this was a book that was crafted for his eyes and his enjoyment. You should go onto ArtStor and zoom in on the various pages of the manuscript. The images are intricately detailed—sometimes the Limbourg brothers would use a single horse hair to make their fine lines! But the contrast between the sumptuous depictions of the Duke and his Court and the peasants in their squalid conditions is striking.
Pol, Herman and Jean de Limbourg, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, January page, 1413-16, illumination, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France LESSON 12
In the above image, the month of January is represented the royal feast that occurred annually on Epiphany (January 6th), the date on which the Church celebrates the Adoration of the Three Magi. It was also the date for an elaborate gift-giving festival at the Court of the Duke of Berry. He is represented in profile, seated at the table on the viewer's right, in blue robes and a fur hat. He has the place of honor at the table, since he sits in front of the fireplace (the yellowish circle behind him is actually a fire screen). Members of the Duke's court surround him, and the table is sumptuously filled with different foods and decorative objects. The walls of the room are covered in elaborate tapestries—can you see the hooks by which they hang? The Duke of Berry
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 12
was a passionate art collector and owned many Italian paintings, antique gems and coins, and also many manuscripts—these objects were often gifted or received at the feast.
Pol, Herman and Jean de Limbourg, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, October page, 1413-16, illumination, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France LESSON 12
At one of the courts in France under the Duke of Berry (Jean—the brother of the King of France Charles V), an artistic team of three brothers painted one of the most intricate and well- known illuminated manuscripts in the International Style: Tres Riches Heures du Jean, Duc de Berry (The Very Rich Hours ofJohn, the Duke ofBerry). It is a type ofbook called the "Books of Hours" (private prayer manuals that kept the Offices—matins, vespers, etc—and they were organized so that the laity could read the offices ofthe liturgy throughout the year). For this reason, the book began with twelve pages, one for each month ofthe year, accompanied by a
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 12
painting representing the activities that would occur during the time of year. These manuscript paintings are called ILLUMINATIONS, because they incorporated gold leaf into their design. See the astronomical charts at the top of the page? Light would bounce off of and reflect the gold and thereby literally "illuminate" the pages.
Above you can see the illumination that was made to illustrate the month of October. The castle is a representation of the royal palace of the brother of the Duke of Berry, what was once the Louvre (now replaced with the later structure). Several field workers are shown sowing grain for the winter months to come. These figures are real individuals performing everyday activities—this is different than most of the art that we have studied thus far in this course. The Limbourg brothers who created this manuscript often included realistic detail from life, which demonstrates that they developed their ideas after directly observing nature. For example, look at the shadows cast onto the ground! While it may seem obvious to you, this was the first representation of naturally cast shadows in painting since antiquity!
LESSON 12 renaissance and antiquity northern europe
In Italy, the Renaissance, or rebirth, refers to the revival of classical antiquity. We traced how the Renaissance in art first appeared in Florence around the first half of the fifteenth century and how artists not only rediscovered classical art forms and incorporated them into their own work, but how these artists also introduced many new innovations into artistic practice. There were many "firsts" in Italian art: Leon Battista Alberti systematized one-point perspective in a treatise on painting; Donatello reintroduced for the first time since antiquity the free-standing sculpture; and Brunelleschi discovered an engineering practice that allowed him to create the largest dome in the world (over the Florentine cathedral).
This lecture considers a parallel movement in art—it occurred in the same time period as the Italian Renaissance— but with very different aims and goals: the art of Northern Europe. The territories of Northern Europe that we will examine during the Renaissance period include the Germanic territories, Netherlands and Belgium, France, Spain and England. Art historians often call the art produced during this period the "Northern Renaissance" because it happens in the same time period as the Italian Renaissance. However, there were very different aims in artistic approach and audience.
LESSON 17 BAROQUE SCULPTURE AND ARCHITECTURE
Baroque sculpture was equally as dynamic as Baroque painting in the seventeenth century. Characterized by narrative moments of action (as though the sculpted figures were frozen in a moment of action), figural sculpture pushed the limits of the marble medium and provided emotionally charged subjects for the viewer. Gianlorenzo Bernini (born 1598; died 1680), the leading sculptor in seventeenth-century Baroque Rome, revolutionized both private sculptural works—made for leading Roman families—and public monumental sculptures. Bernini enjoyed a long and productive career in Rome; he was patronized by some of the leading families and religious figures in the city, including Cardinal Scipione Borghese (nephew of Pope Paul V) and Maffeo Barberini (Pope Urban VIII). Bernini dedicated all of his artistic efforts to the Eternal City; he left the city only once, when he left Rome to go to Paris to work for Louis XIV in 1665.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25, marble, Galleria Borghese, Rome
Bernini made a second sculpture for Cardinal Scipione Borghese's home in Rome: the Apollo and Daphne, seen above in two slightly different views. Originally, the sculpture would have been approached from behind, then the viewer would have to walk around the side to the front. In the process, the narrative of Apollo and Daphne unfolded. The subject is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, a series of Classical narratives about divine transformations of the gods and their subjects. This particular tale regards the god Apollo and a wood nymph named Daphne. The tale begins with Cupid, who carried a bow and arrows at all times. He would play with the fate of the gods and mortals by striking them with certain arrows: if shot with a golden arrow, the struck person would fall in love with the first person seen; if shot with a lead arrow, the struck person would flee from the first person seen. In this case, Apollo was struck with the golden arrow and Daphne with the lead. As such, Apollo was filled with desire for the wood nymph and Daphne was filled with dread. She fled from the god, but he was stronger and was about to overtake her; thus, she called out for help from her father, a river god. He transformed her into a tree so that Apollo could not defile her. Bernini's sculpture presents the moment of Daphne's transformation into a tree. Her toes have already transformed into roots that burrow into the ground, her fingers into branches of the tree. Apollo's drapery billows behind him as he runs to the nymph, but his is too late. Frozen in the moment of metamorphosis, Daphne represents the desire that will never be fulfilled.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, David, 1623, marble, Galleria Borghese, Rome
Bernini's work extends from life-sized, free-standing sculptures to complex and monumental multi-figural group designs. His overall style is intensely naturalistic, yet he combines his observation of nature with psychological tension. In his marble sculpture of David (above), made when he was 25 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Bernini activates the narrative of David and Goliath by representing David in the moment of slinging his rock toward the giant. The twisting torso of the sculpture reveals Bernini's study of both anatomy and Classical sculpture; he may have had the opportunity to study Classical sculptures, such as the Belvedere Torso (below), which had been rediscovered and contained in the papal collection since the fifteenth century.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Bust of Pope Urban VIII, 1623-4
Before the Apollo and Daphne sculptural group was complete, Pope Gregory XV died. In 1623, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope Urban VIII. This Barberini pope became Bernini's greatest patron and his commissions transformed the visual culture of Rome (the Barberini "bees" are all over Rome; placed on each of his artistic and architectural commissions). Already before Maffeo Barberini became pope, Bernini and he were friends. Both were part of a very learned circle of intellectuals and poets that formed part of the circle around the Villa Borghese (the family palace in which Bernini's sculptures of David and Apollo and Daphne were placed). But Maffeo Barberini was Florentine, and most people in his early circle were Florentines who were living in Rome, including Galileo Galilei, who came to Rome in 1624 and was received with honor by the Pope. Barberini was quite interested in the New Science, but he also was quite irrational about astrology and horoscopes (i.e. the death penalty was imposed on anyone who tried to read his horoscope). It is known that he was "under the influence of the sun", thus one sees a great deal of sun imagery in his commissions. Maffeo Barberini would be Pope Urban VIII for a long time—from 1623 to 1644. He was Bernini's patron for the entire time. They actually were very close: Bernini would stay in his papal apartments until the Pope went to sleep.
St. Peter's Basilica, façade by Carlo Maderno, 1607-1612; colonnade by Gianlorenzo Bernini, designed 1657, Vatican, Rome
For 57 years of his life, Bernini worked on various projects in St. Peter's basilica, one of the most important religious sites in Rome because it was the burial site of St. Peter. The basilica is steeped in architectural and artistic history in Rome, particularly from the High Renaissance through the Baroque period. The church was built over a very long period of time. Originally designed by Bramante under Julius II (1505), the church was modified and transformed with each successive architect that directed the construction project. For example, Michelangelo served as chief architect from 1546-64. In 1590, the architect Giacomo della Porta completed the dome. But the basilica was only completed with a nave and façade by Carlo Maderno in 1612 (Many people mistake the dome as by Michelangelo, but, in fact, Michelangelo's design was spherical in shape— not the egg-shaped dome we see today— and by the time Michelangelo died in 1564, only the base of the drum was erected).
Bernini famously designed and created the "open arms" of the Piazza of St. Peters (this is the elliptical colonnade extending from the façade of the church extending the length of the piazza). The colonnade consists of two pairs of Doric columns, each bearing Ionic entablatures. This is an excellent example of Baroque architecture, where creativity is coupled with flexible guidelines. However, it is inside the church where Bernini clearly made his impact on the entire unity of the architectural and decorative program.
St. Peter's Basilica, view of interior nave, Vatican, Rome
Once the exterior of the basilica was completed, Pope Urban VIII wanted to decorate St. Peter's interior. Since the space was so immense, he needed to commission something so as to focus the attention of pilgrims to the altar, as well as to the tomb of St. Peter (located beneath the altar). So, he sponsored an artistic contest for the best design. Bernini's design for a Baldacchino (canopy) over the high altar won the commission. You can see this down the stretch of the nave in the photograph above, as well as in the detail below. It is considered to be the first Baroque monument of world significance!
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Baldacchino, 1624-1633, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican, Rome
The Baldacchino is an architectural and sculptural composite form, made primarily of bronze. Four giant bronze versions of the early Christian twisted columns used in the "Old St. Peters"
hold up the bronze canopy (the name comes from the word "baldacco," a reference to silk cloth from Bagdad). The front view (shown above) indicates that the Baldacchino is both the marker of the site of the high altar, but also is the marker of the tomb of St. Peter below. The Baldacchino is also a statement about the authority and power of Pope Urban VIII, as suggested by the inclusion of Barberini heraldic imagery, including decoration with the Barberini bees and suns. The vine on the twisted columns refers both to the Eucharist (vines are a reference to the wine/blood of Christ) and the laurel, another Barberini emblem. Under the volutes holding the orb and cross, putti hold up the symbols of the papacy--the keys and papal tiara. Massive amounts of bronze were used, so much, in fact, that it led to a popular phrase, "Quod non fecerunt barbari/ Fecerunt Barberini" (what was not done by the barbarians, the Barberini did) because Bernini took the bronze off of the facades of ancient buildings (like the Pantheon!) to construct the massive form.
Four statues located in the four corners of the architecture supporting the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, (Bernini's sculpture of Longinus is second from left) Vatican, Rome
In the four corners surrounding the Baldacchino are 4 statues of important saints for the basilica. St. Helena, located in the northwest corner, holds a large cross in her right hand, by Andrea Bolgi. St. Longinus, located in the northeast corner, holds his spear in his right hand, by Bernini in 1639. St. Andrew, located in the southeast corner, is spread upon the cross that bears his name, by Francois Duquesnoy. St. Veronica, located in the southwest corner, holds her veil, by Francesco Mochi. Each of these statues represents a relic associated with the person, respectively, a piece of The Cross, the Spear of Destiny, The Spear of Longinus, St Andrew's head (as well as part of his cross) and Veronica's Veil. The sculptures are intended to frame the Baldacchino; they interact with the dome above and the mass that would be performed on the altar.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Cathedra Petri, 1657-66, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican, Rome
Bernini would go on to create an even more dramatic work for the interior of the church of St Peter's: the Cathedra Petri (throne of Peter). This multi-media work is located at the far apse of the basilica and is visible through the columns of the Baldacchino. It is later than the Baldacchino, but was created to function in tandem with it down the main axis of the nave. It was commissioned by a different Pope, Alexander VII Chigi (the same Pope who commissioned Bernini to create the huge piazza outside the church). He wanted Bernini to create a structure in the apse of the church that would incorporate the ancient Cathedra, believed to have been the Bishop's throne of Peter. The etymology of "Cathedral" (i.e. the place of the seat of the Bishop) comes from the word for the chair, or throne, of the Bishop, "cathedra." The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, and the actual Cathedral of Rome is in San Giovanni Laterano. But, since Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, and since he is buried here, his cathedra was traditionally kept in St. Peter's Basilica.
Bernini designed a kind of gilt bronze container, or reliquary, for this ancient wooden chair. He
erected it in the apse as the final stop of a pilgrim coming into the church of St. Peter's. The privileging of this chair is a Counter-Reformation act, affirming apostolic succession. That is, it asserts a direct descent of Christian authority from St. Peter to the current pope. The four theologians or Church Fathers at the legs of the chair hardly exert any effort to hold it up—rather, it appears to levitate as though divinely activated. Again, this work of art reminds the viewer of the long history of Christian/Catholic theology. The angels and golden rays emanating from the dove of the Holy Spirit in the lighted window above emphasize the chair's symbolic significance. The multimedia spectacle of the monument is characteristic of the "Baroque."
Gianlorenzo Bernini, St. Theresa in Ecstasy, 1645-52,
marble and mixed media installation, Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Bernini's mixed media installation of St. Theresa in Ecstasy in the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome is one of Bernini's most significant contributions to the history of art. Bernini considered it to be the most beautiful thing he ever made. Commissioned by a Venetian Cardinal, Federigo Cornaro, the chapel was intended as his funerary chapel. In reality, it forms the left transept of the church. Bernini had only a shallow space to work with here, but in the end, manages to create a work that incorporates vast amounts of real space.
The Coronaro chapel clearly presents the notion of meraviglia (a Baroque theatrical construction of the marvelous, intended to cause wonder, or amazement, in the viewer). Bernini was well trained in theatrical spectacle (he wrote plays and created stage designs that were famous thoughout Italy in the seventeenth century). He used his theatrical background in this monument to situate his viewers in a moment of religious ecstasy. The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is here presented as the ultimate religious experience. Theresa of Avila was a Spanish reformer. Like St. Ignatius of Loyola, she had a mystical experience in which her heart was pierced with Divine Love. She described her Ecstasy as:
"Beside me, on the left hand, appeared an angel in bodily form, such as I am not in the habit of seeing except very rarely. Though I often have visions of angels, I do not see them...But it was our Lord's will that I should see this angel in the following way. He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire...in his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out, I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul then content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share. So gentle is this wooing which takes place between god and the soul that if anyone thinks I am lying, I pray God in his goodness, to grant him some experience of it."
We know that Bernini was a devout Catholic. He went to church every day and took Communion twice a week! He wanted to present Theresa's experience to everyman, yet he also wanted to convey the divine nature of it at the same time.
In the center of the architectural and sculptural group, St. Theresa and the angel hover weightlessly over the altar as a sculptural altarpiece. Made of marble, their forms have been deeply cut so as to amplify the chiaroscuro effect of Teresa's billowing drapery. Her body seems almost to disappear under the drapery as she melts into her ecstatic moment. The angel smiles down upon her as he holds out his golden arrow. Teresa's face conveys that she is in the moment of her ecstasy: her lips are open in the moan that she described above. The Teresa/angel sculptural group is actually tucked within a niche that is again framed. There is a hidden light source above that uses the natural light from a window to illuminate the sculptures; the effect is that the group is divinely lit. This effect is amplified by the use of gilt wood rays placed behind Teresa and the angel. In thinking about the central part of the installation, it may be considered more like a pictorial scene framed by architecture rather than simple sculpture. The scene is not presented to the viewer, but rather revealed to the viewer.
On the left and right, Bernini has incorporated what appear to be opera boxes populated by members of the Cornaro family, including the donor Cardinal Federigo, his father, Doge Giovanni Cornaro, and six Cornaro Cardinals of the preceding century. The whole installation can be read like a stage set. The opera-box portrait groups are considered to be the first sculptural group portraits of the Baroque. Each person is shown in dramatic fashion; they activate the sculpture bust into a group discourse. But they are also focused on the Ecstasy that takes place before them, just like the viewer in the nave of the church. By directing the Cornaro portrait busts toward the Theresa, Bernini also positions the viewer.
The architectural framework of the whole chapel plays an active part in the viewer's experience. The alls are covered in polychrome marble (yellow, grey and green). Notice how the effects get intensified near the Theresa sculpture in the center. Then the walls open up to reveal the spectacle of the Theresa drama in gleaming white. The Cornaro Chapel is considered to be the crowning achievement of Bernini's sculptural career. After this, his interests will lie more and more with architecture; building and city planning take up most of his energy after 1650. We can think of the Ecstasy of St. Theresa as the finale begun by the Borghese sculptures.
Annibale Carracci, Loves of the Gods, 1597-1601, ceiling fresco,
Gallery, Palazzo Farnese, Rome LESSON 16 C
Annibale Carracci, (born in 1560; died in 1609) a contemporary of Caravaggio, is also considered to be a "founder" of the Baroque style in Rome. However, his work should be seen not in alignment with Caravaggio, but rather in alignment with Classical principles infused with a Baroque sensibility. Early biographers and theorists claimed that he "rescued art from the mannerists." He was part of a movement—begun in the "Academy" of art in Bologna— that emphasized the need for artists to study of nature with a deliberate return to classical sources (this includes the antique but also the artists of the High Renaissance). The photograph above is a view of the ceiling frescoes made by Annibale Carracci between 1597-1601 inside the Gallery of the Farnese Palace in Rome. Commissioned to celebrate a marriage, the frescoes illustrate the romantic encounters of the classical gods.
Annibale Carracci, Loves of the Gods (detail of Jupiter and Juno), 1597-1601,
ceiling fresco, Gallery, Palazzo Farnese, Rome
LESSON 16 C
For example, the detail of the encounter between Jupiter and Juno above illustrates Carracci's Classically inspired style. Jupiter's athletic, muscular body is an ideal body type based on Classical sculpture; so, too, the body of Juno, which seems as though colored marble.
Carracci sometimes is accused of being eclectic, since he drew inspiration from a wide variety of sources. This ceiling project was his most ambitious project. Over 500 drawings exist for this project alone (as compared to Caravaggio no drawings). It was considered the best mural decoration since Raphael's and Michelangelo's Vatican decorations. Carracci draws on the Sistine ceiling for source material, as well as Raphael (for individual scenes) and Titian.
Annibale Carracci, Loves of the Gods, 1597-1601, ceiling fresco,
Gallery, Palazzo Farnese, Rome
LESSON 16 C
Carracci painted the ceiling to simulate different media, including architectural decoration, panel painting, relief sculpture and stucco. However, this is all an illusion. The entire ceiling is fresco! Explore the entire ceiling project in further detail on ArtStor.
Guido Reni, Aurora, 1613, ceiling fresco,
Casino dell'Aurora, Palazzo Rospigliosi-Pallavinci, Rome
LESSON 16 C
Guido Reni used Annibale Carracci's illusionistic framing devices in his ceiling painting for the Palazzo Rospigliosi in Rome, made about ten years later. Reni had trained in Bologna in the Carracci Academy before coming to Rome, and had come to the city to assist Annibale Carracci on his artistic projects. The ceiling painting shown above, Aurora, demonstrates Reni's dedication to Classical forms; the figures are all ideal types with strong musculature and perfect proportion. The horizontal format of the composition is reminiscent of antique relief panels.
The glowing quality of the colors alludes to the subject of the scene: the moment when Aurora (dawn) opens the day. Aurora is shown leading Apollo (who represents the "day" because he is the sun god) with ore (hours). Reni presents the scene in a single episode; his composition is not fractured like Carracci and Michelangelo before him.
Guercino and Agostino Tassi, Aurora, 1621-23, ceiling fresco, Villa Ludovisi, Rome LESSON 16 C
The same subject, Aurora, was depicted on the ceiling of the Villa Ludovisi in Rome in 1621-3. Agostino Tassi (the artist who worked with Orazio Gentileschi and raped his daughter Artemesia) painted dramatic fictive architecture, which creates the illusion that the ceiling rises infinitely higher than the real boundaries of the room. The painter, Guercino, then completed the illusion with the scene of Aurora leading Apollo in a fictive sky. This feeling of a limitless expansion of the sky should be seen as a development in ceiling painting that begun with Correggio and then became a defining feature of the Baroque painterly style.
Pietro da Cortona, Allegory of Divine Providence, 1633-39, ceiling fresco,
Palazzo Barberini, Rome
LESSON 16 C
Pietro da Cortona's ceiling fresco for the Barberini Palace in Rome in 1633-39 is considered to be the ultimate Baroque ceiling painting, for it combines the dramatic sense of the limitless universe with the illusion of multiple media installation. The work was intended to glorify the Barberini family, whose members included some of the key figures of the Church in Rome, including Pope Urban VIII, who reigned from 1623-1644 and was a great patron of the arts (he was a major patron of Gianlorenzo Bernini). Pietro da Cortona uses the allegorical figure of a woman to stand in for Divine Providence; she and other allegorical figures crown Urban VIII with the papal tiara, a laurel wreath and the keys to the Church. Bees, symbols of the Barberini family, fly through the heavens to rejoice the selection of a Barberini family member by God to be the spiritual leader of the Church. The pomp and circumstance of Pietro da Cortona's fresco would become a standard feature of Baroque religious art, particularly in Rome, as the papacy and the clergy attempted to more forcefully forge their power over the faithful.
Giovanni Battista Gaulli, Triumph of the Name of Jesus, 1672-1679, ceiling fresco, Church of Il Gesù, Rome LESSON 16 C
This trend toward representing the overwhelming nature of the divine power was later incorporated into one of the primary sites for seventeenth-century religious propaganda: the church of the Jesuits in Rome, called Il Gesù. The central painting of the nave, by Giovanni Battista Gaulli, explodes upward to the heavens, where a blinding yellow light shines down upon the congregation. What is glorified in this painting is not a contemporary family, but rather the name of Jesus Christ, which the Jesuits used to go forth and spread the Word of God in their missions to foreign lands.
Meaning of Baroque LESSON 16 B
WiththeriseoftheReformmovementinthe16th century,therecameacounter-movementby the Catholic Church. This movement corresponded to a dramatic shift in the visual arts produced in Catholic territories, as religious art became a means to persuade audiences that salvation was possible only through the institution of the Church of Rome.
Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan LESSON 16 B
Compare and contrast the differing compositional strategies ofLeonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and Jacopo Tintoretto's Last Supper. What are the obvious differences that you see in the two artists' depictions of the same subject? In relation to Renaissance art (represented by Leonardo's version), the Baroque (represented by Tintoretto's version) in many cases seems nearly its opposite. Whereas the Renaissance is relatively static, the Baroque is dynamic. The central idea of the Italian Renaissance is perfect proportion and the image of perfection at rest within itself. It is self-existent, as individual elements are integrated into a "whole space." This whole space is beyond human measure, but always accessible to the imagination. The central idea of the
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 16
Baroque is the interest in happening, the becoming, the limitless, and the colossal. The Baroque is deeply interested in movement in form, theatricality and the overwhelming of the senses.
Tintoretto, Last Supper, 1592-3, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice LESSON 16 B
Compare and contrast the differing compositional strategies ofLeonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and Jacopo Tintoretto's Last Supper. What are the obvious differences that you see in the two artists' depictions of the same subject? In relation to Renaissance art (represented by Leonardo's version), the Baroque (represented by Tintoretto's version) in many cases seems nearly its opposite. Whereas the Renaissance is relatively static, the Baroque is dynamic. The central idea of the Italian Renaissance is perfect proportion and the image of perfection at rest within itself. It is self-existent, as individual elements are integrated into a "whole space." This whole space is beyond human measure, but always accessible to the imagination. The central idea of the
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 16
Baroque is the interest in happening, the becoming, the limitless, and the colossal. The Baroque is deeply interested in movement in form, theatricality and the overwhelming of the senses.
Michelangelo Merisi da Carravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew, oil on canvas, 1599- 1602, Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi de Francesi, Rome LESSON 16 B
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is known today simply as Caravaggio (born in 1571; died in 1610). Caravaggio's influence on the painting tradition is immense. He introduced the Baroque painting style to Rome with a dramatic close framing of his subjects and also rethought his subjects in terms of every day life. He is notable for his use of peasant models so as to connect with the "man on the street" and to understand how things really appear in nature, not how things are idealized as in Renaissance art. He is most known for his dramatic and theatrical use of chiaroscuro, often to indicate divine sources of light. His forms have a powerful plasticity and he often uses foreshortening to give dramatic edge to his subjects.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Martyrdom of Saint Peter, 1601, oil on canvas, Cerasi Chapel (left wall), Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome LESSON 16 B
Caravaggio painted another set of large canvases for the Cerasi Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome in 1601. The two paintings, The Martyrdom ofSt. Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul, were placed on the side walls of the chapel (see above photograph of the view of the chapel, with Peter on the left and Paul on the right). Often paired together, Peter
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 16
and Paul were foundational figures of the Church who were held up as models for contemporary Christians. In The Martyrdom ofSaint Peter, however, Caravaggio shows Peter as a humble old man who preferred to die upside down on the Cross as a sign of respect for Christ. Peter's body is not glorified; his flesh wrinkles in his midsection. Yet, the extreme naturalism does not detract from the religious message, but rather augments the viewer's awe in Peter's dedication to Christ and willingness to die for his beliefs. We are given a close view of his death, with intricate details that emphasize the physicality of his martyrdom. Caravaggio shows the strain of gravity against Peter's body; his face filled with blood rushing to his head. The calf muscles of the squatting man in the foreground bulge under the weight ofPeter on the cross. Caravaggio rejects the symbolism and complexity typical of Mannerist pictures before him. Instead, he boils the subject down to its simplest elements and shifts the iconography to naturalistic elements (as opposed to the mystical tradition).
Artemisia Gentileschi 16 B
Until the middle of the 19th century, women artists were largely restricted to painting portraits, genre scenes, and still lifes. They had problems getting instruction in figure drawing and anatomy, so they were essentially barred from figure painting. Exceptions to this rule, however, were daughters born into artistic families. One of the earliest leading female painters in Europe was Artemesia Gentileschi, the daughter of the painter Orazio Gentileschi. Her father trained her as an artist and introduced her to the working artists of Rome, including Caravaggio, whose chiaroscuro style greatly influenced her work.
Among those with whom Orazio worked was the Florentine artist Agostino Tassi, whom Artemisia accused ofraping her in 1612, when she was nineteen. Her father filed suit against Tassi for injury and damage, and, remarkably, the transcripts of the seven-month-long rape trial have survived. Tassi was ultimately convicted on the charge of raping Gentileschi; however, he served less than a year in prison and was later invited again into the Gentileschi household by Orazio.
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 16
During and soon after the trial, Gentileschi painted made paintings of Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612-1613). Violence is increasingly included in the images. The painting shown above is remarkable not only for its technical proficiency, but for the original way in which Gentileschi portrays Judith, who had long been a popular subject for art. You can think about Artemesia's personal stake in portraying the female heroine who murdered and decapitated the general, Holofernes, after a sexual escapade. Look at the violence of the image and the emphasis on the gore of the murder.
Artemesia married a Florentine painter after the trial and left Rome for Florence. Both Artemesia and her husband worked at the Academy of Design, and Gentileschi became an official member there in 1616. This was a remarkable honor for a woman of her day. It was most likely made possible by the support of her Florentine patron, the Grand Duke Cosimo II of the powerful Medici family. During her years in Florence, he commissioned quite a few paintings from her, and Gentileschi left Florence to return to Rome upon his death in 1621.
Michelangelo, Last Judgment, 1536-41, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Vatican LESSON 16 A
Michelangelo returned to the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1534 (more than twenty years after completing the ceiling). The West was in the middle of the spiritual and political crisis of the Reformation and Catholic reform movements. Michelangelo's beliefs had changed as well. In his earlier phase, Michelangelo's views were still related to the humanist concerns of the Renaissance, but also had a strong tinge of Neoplatonic idealism.
By about 1530, the attempts of the papacy to form a powerful secular state in Italy had failed. The Reformation had split the Church and weakened the position of the Pope. The whole social structure on which humanist art of High Renaissance Rome was based was swept away. This situation affected different generations in different ways. Michelangelo became a religious fervent. His religion took on the form of a serious but not fanatical piety. He belonged to a group who wanted to build up a new and spiritualized Catholicism by means of reforming doctrines—doctrines that wouldn't destroy the Catholic Church but that would improve it.
This change of outlook is most clearly shown in the fresco of the Last Judgment over the altar of the Sistine Chapel. It was painted for Clement VII and Paul III between 1534-1541. Here Michelangelo does not deal directly with the visible beauty of the physical world. When Michelangelo painted the Adam on the Sistine ceiling, he was aiming at a rendering of what could be considered a beautiful body in real life, even though that rendering was idealized above reality. In the Last Judgment, his aim was different.
Here again, there are nude figures, but now they are heavy, with thick limbs and lacking in "grace." Some have tried to explain this fresco by saying that Michelangelo was getting old and that his skills were deteriorating: this is not true. He had a different set of artistic goals in this fresco. He was no longer interested in physical beauty for its own sake. Instead, he used the human body as a way to convey an idea, a way to demonstrate a spiritual state.
There are still so-called "classical" passages in the fresco. For example, the figure of Christ is based on the figure of the god Apollo. And he still uses the traditional Renaissance symbol to express his views: the human body. But the most noticeable divergences from the Renaissance notion of painting in this fresco are the absence of space, perspective and proportions. Michelangelo does not attempt to make a reconstruction of the real world.
Michelangelo, Vestibule of the Laurentian Library, begun 1523; designed 1558-9,
San Lorenzo, Florence
LESSON 16 A
At the same time as the New Sacristy project, Pope Clement VII (a member of the Medici family) commissioned Michelangelo to create a vestibule, or entryway, to the library at San Lorenzo for the public of Florence. If Michelangelo was experimenting with the decorative and expressive aspects of architecture in the New Sacristy, then here in the vestibule, he completely rejects Renaissance rules for architecture. Michelangelo rejects the Classical proportion: the stairwell is too big for the small space it was allotted. The stairs are oversized, and are shaped into waves that spill into the vestibule. The pediment above the entrance door to the library is broken and the columns are made in an invented style—they do not correspond to any order we have seen before. Michelangelo also introduces recessed columns: this is totally radical and never been done before! While the vestibule was criticized for being made in the incorrect manner by certain contemporaries, the entrance way has since been lauded for its innovative break with Renaissance ideals. The impact of the great staircase and the busy walls of the vestibule was very large on Michelangelo's followers, and will be used in the later Baroque period of art and architecture.
Michelangelo, Tomb of Giuliano de'Medici, 1519-34, marble,
New Sacristy, San Lorenzo, Florence
LESSON 16 A
When the Medici were established in Florence after the Sack of Rome, they used Michelangelo to create two projects for the Medici neighborhood church of San Lorenzo. The first, a funerary sacristy to hold the tombs of Lorenzo 'il Magnifico' de'Medici and his brother Giuliano, as well as two younger Medici, also named Lorenzo and Giuliano. Michelangelo designed the sacristy—a square space— with an altar on one side, facing a sculpture of the Virgin Mary on the opposite wall. The two side walls featured architectural niches, filled with sculpture, that framed the tombs below. Each tomb held two reclining figures on top. The two tombs were nearly mirror images of each other.
Above, you can see a view of the side wall of the chapel, with a sculpture of Giuliano de'Medici in the niche and figures of "Day" and "Night" reclining on top of the tomb. Michelangelo—even though he was considered to have represented the "adulthood" of the Renaissance—is categorized as a Mannerist artist later in his career, including the New Sacristy project. The architectural features of the room no longer feature Classical proportion and functional use, but rather are used as expressive decoration. For example, look at the niche in which is placed the sculpture of Giuliano de'Medici. The niche itself is too small for such a large statue. The figure barely fits! But also look at how Michelangelo has squared off the niche in contrast to the rounded architraves on either side. He disrupts the rhythmic flow of the design. Further, he embellishes the architecture with windowless windows framed by attached columns. The overall effect is to take the Classical elements of Brunelleschi and amplify them in order to glorify the Medici family.
Parmagianino, Madonna with the Long Neck, c.1535, oil on panel,
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
LESSON 16 A
Parmigianino's most famous work is perhaps this painting, an altarpiece known as the Madonna with the Long Neck. The painting was commissioned in 1534 for the Church of the Servi in Bologna (but it was never delivered). This work of elongated proportions, sloping shoulders, chill eroticism, which is already evident in the Vision of St. Jerome, is refined to produce shapes of ornamental beauty. The Virgin's body and neck are impossibly attenuated as she looks down at the Christ Child. Parmigianino purposefully emphasized her long neck and long fingers. The Christ Child lays asleep across the Virgin's lap, in a pose suggestive of death. His left arm hangs as in Michelangelo's Pieta'. Whether or not the child's head was intended to remain bald is unknown; the work is unfinished, thus it is impossible to project Parmigianino's intensions for certain. Some art historians have argued that Parmigianino painted the Christ Child in this way as a conscious allusion to the shaving of Christ during his Passion. The allusion to death in the child's pose, and perhaps his physiognomy, connects the painting to its function as an altarpiece, above the sacrificial altar.
There are five young figures on the left hand of the painting; they appear in various stages of undress. One holds a large urn and looks up at the Virgin, while another gazes out at us. But even more disturbing than any of the figures is the towering column behind the Virgin. It is a column that rises, but what does it support? It is not topped with a capital, so it seems incomplete. At the base, we can see that the column seems to be part of a temple portico, but Parmigianino left this building incomplete. Why? Perhaps he realized that an elaborate architectural site in the background would detract from the monumentality of the Virgin. Equally interesting is the small figure in the lower right who holds a scroll. Perhaps he is a representation of the prophet Isaiah, who predicted the Passion of Christ.
Parmigianino, Vision of St. Jerome, 1527, National Gallery, London LESSON 16 A
The Mannerist paintings of Francesco Mazzola—known as Parmigianino— contrast to Correggio's style. The painting on the screen is considered to be his bravura piece, The Vision of St. Jerome, painted in 1527 for the chapel of the Bufalini family in San Salvatore in Lauro in Rome. When the Sack of Rome hit in 1527, however, the project was abandoned and the Bufalini family took the painting with them to their palace.
The painting depicts the Madonna and Child at the top of the composition, surrounded by heavenly light. John the Baptist kneels in the foreground, and looks out to the viewer while pointing to the Holy Family behind him. In the right middleground, Jerome reclines, partially nude, as he dreams the entire vision that the viewer sees on the panel. Parmigianino uses sharp foreshortening for the pose of Jerome, and places the main protagonist of the scene in an awkward spatial position between the looming figure of the Baptist and the larger-than-life figure of the Virgin Mary. St. John and the Virgin and Child are nearly twice the size of Jerome, making the subject difficult to discern at first.
St. John points into the picture in typical Renaissance fashion, encouraging his viewer's to engage with the subject represented. We have seen a pointing figure in Leonardo's Madonna of the Rocks. Parmigianino's painting has the same sort of menacing quality to it. Notice how John seems tremendously enlarged in contrast to his foreshortened and partially enshadowed right leg. Unlike Leonardo, though, there is not the same kind of psychological unity to the grouping of the figures. None of the figures looks at the others in the painting. Every surface is cold, porcelain-hard, almost glassy. Parmigianino seldom let his brushwork show. In contrast to the healthy eroticism of Correggio's paintings, this one has a perversity to it. The Christ Child's genitals are emphasized and the Virgin's nipples are erect through her dress.
Correggio, Jupiter and Io, oil on canvas, 1530s,
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
LESSON 16 A
Correggio, too, worked for Duke Federigo Gonzaga in Mantua at the Palazzo del Te. Some of his most alluring compositions also deal with classical scenes of the gods' exploits, especially the series of paintings that he made for the Duke of Mantua apparently in the early 1530s (but he never delivered it). The paintings were designed to line an entire room in the ducal palace with the "Loves of Jupiter." Jupiter was a mythical ancestor of the Gonzaga family. Some say that Federigo's amorous exploits were not unlike those of Jupiter.
In the painting of Jupiter and Ganymede, Jupiter takes the form of an eagle. The young boy Ganymede is swept up in Jupiter's wings. He looks out to the spectator in combined fear and pleasure. Correggio depicts the moment immediately after Ganymede's capture: the dog is staring upward. In the companion painting of Jupiter and Io, Jupiter appears to the mortal maiden, Io, in the form of a cloud. Io is postured with head thrown back, willingly accepting the embrace of one huge, cloudy paw. Jupiter's face emerges and kisses her lips. Note how the contrast between the soft, trembling flesh of Io and the mystery of the divine cloud increases the intensity of what is clearly a representation of sexual climax. The overt sexuality and pagan subject matter of these paintings is countered by the inclusion of subtle Christian symbolism. For example, in the lower right of the Jupiter and Io painting, a stag drinks from water. This was an accepted symbol of the human soul, drawn from Psalm 42: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O lord."
Giuliano Romano, Fall of the Giants from Mount Olympus, 1530-1532, fresco, Sala dei Giganti, Palazzo del Te, Mantua LESSON 16 A
The illusionistic use of space through painted fresco decoration was picked up by the artist and architect, Giuliano Romano, a former assistant to Raphael in Rome. Giulio was called to the city of Mantua, also in northern Italy, to work for Duke Federigo II Gonzaga. Duke Federigo wanted a villa to be built outside of the city so that he could rendez-vous with his mistress. The villa itself is a Mannerist architectural example—like Michelangelo, Giulio Romano subverted the Classical principles of architecture and invented new forms of architectural details for expressive impact.
Inside, Giulio Romano decorated a series of rooms with illusionistic frescoes, most with themes from classical mythology. The room shown above, the Sala dei Giganti (Room of the Giants), transforms the room into a dramatic whirl of clouds and figures. The subject was the expulsion of the giants from Mount Olympus. Above, the gods throw out the giants, and their massive bodies plummet to earth. The architecture of the fictive space cracks and falls, with the illusion of spilling into the real space of the room. Duke Federigo considered himself analogous to Jupiter (Zeus), so he aligned himself with the gods on top of the mount. The decoration is a symbol of power.
Correggio, The Vision of St. John the Evangelist, 1520-1524, fresco,
San Giovanni Evangelista, Parma, Italy
LESSON 16 A
To the north of Florence, in the town of Parma, the artist Antonio Allegri—known as Correggio—began using Mannerist innovations in large-scale fresco decoration. Correggio never studied the arts in Rome, although he was influenced by the High Renaissance style. However, instead of slavishly copying it, he transformed it into his own personal style. He substituted emotional for formal principles in the unification of his compositions
Historically, Correggio's major triumphs were his dome compositions, which opened up a whole new field for religious painting, particularly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
The painting shown above of The Vision of St. John the Evangelist is the first of several fresco compositions that he would make for the interior of domed architectural spaces. The drum of the dome, one of the first elliptical spaces ever constructed, serves as a frame through which one looks into the open sky. Twelve Apostles are seated in pairs around the cornice of the drum.
The poses are reminiscent of Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling figures. In the center, Christ rises into heaven. There are other suggestions of the Sistine Ceiling as well, as many of the figures have adopted a Michelangesque "grandeur" and muscular power. The heavenly scene is supported by putti like those who carry Michelangelo's Deity on his flights through space. Correggio's idea of looking through an opening across which flies a divine figure may have been suggested by the Separation of Light and Dark.
But the handling of the forms shows Correggio's own melting style, without any of Michelangelo's tension or linear power. And Correggio gives a view of the ascending Christ from below—partly wrapped in a floating cloak but sharply foreshortened from a very unconventional angle and apparently upside down. But when standing below the interior of the dome, none of this seems to matter. It is awe inspiring. In Correggio's dome compositions we are dealing with rapture in the strict etymological sense of the word. The central figure is rapt, torn loose from earthly moorings, carried upward as the spectator is intended to be.
Jacopo da Pontormo, Deposition (Entombment), 1526-28, oil on panel,
Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicita, Florence
LESSON 16 A
The theme of the Eucharist may also be found in another early sixteenth-century painting by the Mannerist artist, Jacopo (Carucci) da Pontormo. Look at the painting for a moment. What is the subject? Is it a painting of the Deposition? If so, then where is the cross that establishes the subject? Is it a painting of an Entombment? Is so, then where is the tomb that establishes the subject? What other clues can you find in the painting to help you determine the subject? There is no clear demarcation between sky and earth; the only object in the background is a floating cloud. What can we learn from the painting itself? In the foreground we can see two young boys supporting the body of Christ, whose wounds are barely visible. Christ's face has greenish tinge of death and his lips are blue. Mary swoons in the middle ground and there are several women around her. At the top, St. John (in green) bends over the group.
There is a sculpture-like clarity of form and surfaces throughout the painting. Form is defined by full-rounded continuities of outline and modeling. Here, just as in Rosso's Descent from the Cross, what unites the various figures is not a central axis or a fixed position for the viewer. Rather there is a cursive connection among shapes that binds them together. Forms are interlaced in a counter-clockwise motion. The composition flows from Christ's body in the lower left to sweep around the circular frame and up to the Virgin and then to John above her, then back down again to Christ's body. The narrative unfolds for us in this manner. Pontormo's compositional strategy has been described as a "circular polyphony." The overall emotional content of the painting unites the figures as well. The faces demonstrate an expression something akin to yearning or perhaps shock. No one is crying.
One of the most striking aspects of the painting is the colors: Pontormo uses intense pinks, blues, and "shot colors." There is a particular eeriness to the quality of the colors used here. They are otherworldly, not based on nature as insisted upon by Renaissance artists. Looking more closely at the figures themselves, we can see that the figures are organized into rather improbable positions. There is a general confusion of the hands around Christ, and strange spatial relations of bodies to ground. The bodies themselves are strange. For example, the "flesh" of youth in front is actually what appears to be a body suit. However, there is a tautness to the organization, and it is this complex ornamental composition that makes the harmony.
How are we supposed to understand this image? Supposedly, Pontormo walled up the chapel for three years while he worked on it and he let no one see it. His emotional investment in the painting is revealed by his inclusion of a self-portrait in the left background: he is among the actors in the scene. His presence may be read as a symbol of what he wishes of us as spectators: that is, an assimilation into the scene. This painting is above all a meditative picture, remote from the historical reality described in the Biblical story.
The real subject, however, is most likely about the Eucharist. In these years, there was the institution of the Blessed Sacrament. Pontormo's painted figures appear to lay the body of Christ upon the altar as a Eucharist sacrifice. A family tomb below the altar also links to the theme of the Eucharist: by ingesting the body of Christ during the liturgy, one ensured salvation after death.
Rosso Fiorentino, The Descent from the Cross, 1521, oil on panel,
Pinacoteca Communale, Volterra
LESSON 16 A
The artist Giovanni Battista di Jacopo, known as Rosso Fiorentino, was commissioned by a religious confraternity in 1521 to paint this large altarpiece for the Cathedral of Volterra. The confraternity, called the Company of the Cross of the Day, was a flagellant group that whipped their bodies as part of the performance of penitence. Rosso's altarpiece of The Descent from the Cross, depicts the narrative moment of the Passion after the dead Christ was un-nailed from his cross and brought down. The painting's functional use as an altarpiece for the Cathedral of Volterra is reflected in its large size (11' x 6'5") and in its iconography of Christ's body above the sacrificial altar of the church. Rosso emphasized the cross in the painting to connect the scene to his patrons' confraternal identity.
Several specific elements of The Descent from the Cross have contributed to its stylistic characterization as "Mannerist." Compositionally, there is no real center in the painting to locate us as viewers and to centrally fix the composition. The composition hugs the frame of the painting as opposed to the central axis. This represents an antithesis of the High Renaissance compositional ideal. The painting also uses architectural and environmental compression to destabilize the composition in three-dimensional space. The cross is pressed against the surface of the painting, with two ladders on either side, plus a third ladder placed diagonal to the central axis. While the ladders establish the subject of the painting (i.e. the descent from the cross), they are not placed "in space," as Italian artistic predecessors were clear to establish. The compression of space within the scene also promotes ambiguity of figures and their relation to space. For example, it is difficult to discern who is actually supporting the weight of Christ's body.
Rosso manipulates light to cast his figures in sharp relief from one another, as opposed to the High Renaissance use of diffused light to create a unification of the scene. The low side light differs from previous "Renaissance" uses of light to describe the figures; the light defines each form sharply and then fragments its surface into planes instead of being used as a unifying element. Rosso further articulates shapes with hard edges, emphasizing disegno, or drawing, as opposed to the blending of edges, as seen in Leondardo da Vinci's sfumato. Figures are composed of hard muscles with sharp contrasts of light and dark. The draperies are stiff, as if carved from wood, and do not reveal the body, as was a key goal of High Renaissance artists, but rather conceal the body. For example, the drapery of the kneeling figure of the Magdalene has a sharp crease that splits the figure from elbow to knee, effectively splitting the figure into light and dark halves; her belt conforms to the crease, which is a clear sign that Rosso privileged geometric, as opposed to natural, representation. Likewise, St. John the Evangelist (in the lower right foreground) covers his eyes while his body is engulfed in a sharply folded bundle of cloth; the raking light serves to emphasize the stiff shell of the drapery, which is unlike Renaissance artists' use of drapery to emphasize the form of the body.
Lastly, Rosso's painting introduces a new element of spiritual expression into the altarpiece that elevates the emotional intensity of the work beyond his High Renaissance predecessors. While the figures surrounding scene may be described as in various states of despair and mourning, Rosso has depicted the face of the dead Christ as serene. The contrast between the frantic piety of Christ's followers and the serenity of the dead Christ serves to set up a devotional model for the altarpiece's viewers, encouraging them to understand Christ's necessary sacrifice on the cross, translated into the Eucharist on the altar.
Mannerism LESSON 16 A
This lecture is concerned with the art-historical movement known as "Mannerism." There has been much disagreement among art historians surrounding the use of the word "Mannerism" to characterize a period style that arose in the 16th century. Mannerism is a term requiring rather careful definition because, unlike Early or High Renaissance, and later, Baroque, it cannot be equated with a defined period and used as a label for the works produced within that period. It is a much more selective definition.
Mannerism is used to label only certain works that were produced by certain artists between roughly the 1520s and 1570. So how are we to know when it is appropriate to use it and when it is not appropriate to use it?
One view on the proper usage of the term is provided by the art historian, John Sherman. He breaks down the concept of Mannerism to its Italian root "maniera," which may be taken to mean "style" in its broadest connotation. Vasari used the word in his Lives of the Artists. Giotto was said to have rescued Italian art from the "maniera greca"—or Greek style. Michelangelo, at the apex of the High Renaissance style, was said to have had "bella maniera" or beautiful style. However "maniera" in the sixteenth century also referred to a particular type of behavior—often used in a sophisticated courtly context to mean a type of "grace" in speech and gestures. This is often connected to the Book of the Courtier that was written by Castiglione, which described the proper etiquette for men and women in social settings. Shearman tries to apply this type of reading of the word to the artworks of the 16th century. In part, what motivates Shearman's argument is his attempt to reclaim "mannerism" as a positive term and also as a valid term for evaluating art of a particular period.
The artists covered in this lecture have each been described as Mannerist artists by various art historians. What unites them, generally, is their distinction from the classicism of the works of Raphael and Michelangelo produced in the High Renaissance style. Their artworks move away from the Renaissance ideals in form, composition, clarity, and organization that we have been studying up until this point. They are works that experiment with new ways of composing the subject, new ways of organizing the composition, and new ways of creating an expressive effect.
This experimentation away from the High Renaissance style has sometimes been termed "anti-classicism" (as in a rebellion against the classical style). But, in reality, these artists and their artworks are building up from the premises of the classical style.
We can think about this new trend in painting in a very broad sense in terms of the external forces that may have had an effect on artistic production at the time. The works may be understood as responding to the religious challenge and unrest brought about by Martin Luther's attack on the Catholic Church and the rise of the Protestant movement, as well as the unsettling of Papal authority through these events. This was also a period of many challenges to the security of the government; multiple wars of varying sizes were ongoing simultaneously. There was a subsequent major alteration of the economy. In May 1527, there was the event that has been described as the most disastrous historical event in the history of Christian Rome: the Sack of Rome. This "Sack" refers to the invasion of the city by Imperial troops of Charles V, who overtook the city and forced the Pope into hiding. Within a few years, Charles V would assume the title of Holy Roman Emperor, the leader of a vast geographical territory of Europe. In the violent conflict of 1527, many families fled the city; artists followed and sought the more secure (and safe) environment of the courts, where single families held power over segments of the northern Italian countryside. Florence, too, became a courtly society in the 1530s, when the Medici family was installed as the Dukes of the city and territory of Tuscany. Each of these factors may have worked to counter the cultural ties to classicism that artists previously drew on and described.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Return of the Hunters, 1568, oil on panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna LESSON 15
Breugel was interested in the interrelationship of human beings and nature. His paintings explored landscape, peasant life and moral allegory. Like Durer, he traveled to Italy and he often included an Alpine mountain range to locate his viewers in a particular geographical context, that of the region between Italy and the North. This is one of six paintings in a series that illustrate seasonal changes in the year. We have already seen an early calendar that used secular images to describe such seasonal changes (the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry). With the Return of the Hunters, Bruegel portrays the landscape covered with winter snow. Note how the diagonal representation takes you from the hunters' position on top of the ridge in the foreground down to the sprawling landscape of the frozen ponds of the valley, then to the frozen mountains in the background. The painting may be considered a scene of everyday life and a document of the landscape of the north.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Blind Leading the Blind, 1568, oil on panel, Campdimonte, Naples LESSON 15
Another artist painting at this time in Antwerp, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, also used his paintings to comment on his society and to make moralizing paintings. The subject of this painting is the visual interpretation of a proverb, or wise saying. It is based on a passage from the Bible (Matthew 15:12-19): "And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." Here we see the proverb literally played out: blind men lead each other straight into the ditch. However, do you see the church in the background? Perhaps Bruegel is making a commentary about church establishments, or perhaps that the church encourages individuals to be blind to what was going on around them? Or, perhaps that these men are spiritually blind, so they miss seeing the Church? This painting is a poignant picture during this period of political and religious battles.
Pieter Aertsen, A Meat Stall, 1551, oil on panel, University Art Collection, Uppsala University, Sweden LESSON 15
The Protestant Reformation largely rejected religious imagery and, in many cities, encouraged iconoclasm, or the destruction of images, so as to prevent idolatry. In this climate, Catholics in northern Europe came up with new kinds of imagery, like this painting from 1551 that was developed that responded to the iconoclasm of the Protestants. If you were Catholic and you wanted to paint religious images, but you were living in a place where Protestants might take your images and burn or break them, how could you continue to paint, but do so in a way that would fool the iconoclasts?
This painting was painted in the Dutch city of Antwerp by the artist Pieter Aerstsen. It seems to be a painting about a butcher's stall; basically, a painting about describing meat. Antwerp was a mercantile center of Europe, famous for trade and as a center for the exchange of goods. The painting describes the various meat for sale in intricate detail. There is a sign in the upper right that advertises that a farm is also for sale. So we have the market literally described on the canvas. But then, when you look into the background, you can make out tiny figures. It is actually a religious scene: the Virgin and Child on their flight into Egypt! Also represented are lined up crowds of people, waiting to go into Protestant church. They ignore the Virgin and Child. On the right in the background, there is a tavern scene where much drinking and frolicking is occurring. You can see oyster shells strewn about outside the tavern--- these were known as an aphrodisiac.
This placing of the still-life in the foreground and the placing of the religious scene in the background is what is called an "inverted still life." There are embedded religious images as reminders to viewer. For example, the crossed fishes on the platter are an allusion to crucifixion. The pretzels and wine in rafters allude to "spiritual food" (pretzels often served as bread during Lent). The painting is intended for a Catholic audience and contains a moralizing message. It contrasts the gluttony and lust of the Protestants with the purity of the Holy Family. The viewer had a choice to make.
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Portrait of Elizabeth I (Ditcheley Portrait), c. 1592, oil on canvas, The National Portrait Gallery, London LESSON 15
In this portrait, we see King Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth, who goes on to rule England. She became queen when she was just 20 (in the year 1558) and she held on to the throne until 1603! This period of time in England is called the Elizabethan Age, a period of political unification (uniting disparate territories of England once again, bringing communities in conflict together). The period is also categorized by literary and artistic growth, largely through the sponsorship of the Queen. Elizabeth refused to get married, saying that she was married to England.
Here she is represented in an elaborate dress, in white—symbolic of virginity. She is shown standing on a map of all of her territories, reigning over them. The portrait is a representation of authority and not her personal or psychological character. Her person became the symbol of England itself. She carefully controlled her representation by artists. She even threw people in jail who made unsanctioned images of her!
Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of Eleanora of Toledo and Her Son Giovanni de'Medici,
c. 1550, oil on panel, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Heads of state and their wives and families were often portrayed in painted portraits. The portraits could stand in for the body of the leader or his family; that is to say, portraits make the absent present. The above painting was made in Florence, which since we last talked about the city, had transformed from a Republican government into a Duchy. The Medici family took control of the city and proclaimed themselves Dukes after a period of political strife in the 1520s and 30s. This turmoil in the city was directly related to the upheavals of Luther's challenge to the church. Like we talked about earlier in the class, the Medici family was always a dominant presence in the city in the fifteenth century because of their important bank and their increasing wealth in the city, which also corresponded to their power as the leading family within the republic. But at the turn of the sixteenth century, they gained more and more political power.
Beginning in 1512, the Medici took control of the city, abolished its republican government, and ruled. This was partially connected to the fact that two members of the Medici family became the Pope in Rome, Pope Leo X and Pope Clement VII. The Pope and the Roman Catholic Church were in crisis as the Protestant Reformation grew throughout northern Europe. The Pope and all religious officials were worried that their congregations would begin to believe that they no longer needed them! The controversy was not just about religion; it was about political clout, territory, and the economy too. If the authority of the pope wasn't respected, then the whole church was going to go down.
For the Medici in Florence, the transition from simply a leading family in the city to the leaders of the city as the Dukes manifested itself in a new court culture. This meant that the Medici now had artists on staff now that defined the family style. This painting by Agnolo Bronzino is exemplary of the courtly style in Florence. Bronzino portrays Eleanora (the wife of Duke Cosimo I de'Medici) with her son, the male heir of the Medici dynasty. The portrait asserts the bloodline of the family. Eleanora was wealthy in her own right. She was the daughter of the viceroy of Toledo, Spain, a noble position. The portrait painted here forged a new style of representing a particular social class. This mode of representation is distant, cold, and formal. It concentrates not on the psychology of the sitter (like Leonardo da Vinci's portraits) but rather on the material trappings of wealth. The courts of northern Europe also followed this trend, as we have already seen in the Portrait of Henry VIII by Holbein.
Hans Holbein, Portrait of King Henry VIII, 1540, oil on panel, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome LESSON 15
Holbein painted many official portraits at the royal court in England, including this one that shows the King in his authoritative position of power. The physical bulk of the King is emphasized so as to display his masculine authority and his right to rule over England and its expanding territories. While at the court of the King Henry, Holbein also worked in many of the ephemeral projects that court artists had to participate in, including pageants and rituals. He even designed the King's robes! He painted portraits of the members of the court, including Henry's multiple wives (Henry had a long list of wives, including the infamous Anne Boleyn).
Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1523, oil on panel, Musee du Louvre, Paris LESSON 15
One artist that was intimately involved in the dissemination of Luther's ideas was Hans Holbein the Younger. Holbein was a southern German artist, who worked in Switzerland in the city of Basel. Basel was a city filled with intellectuals and Holbein interacted with many of them, including the very famous Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch scholar and humanist, who would go on to retranslate the Bible from Greek into Latin. It was Erasmus's version of the Bible that Luther would use for his own translation into German!
Here we can see Holbein's portrait of the scholar. Holbein and Erasmus would collaborate on printing projects, where Erasmus would provide the text and Holbein the illustrations. Holbein also contributed to several other book publishing projects but the Reformation made it hard to live on artist's salary (remember that images and sculptures are largely being wiped out...). So Erasmus helped him to go northward to England and provided him with letters of introduction to members of the court of the King of England to see if he could find work there as a court artist. It worked. Holbein began painted for King Henry VIII, as seen in the below portrait.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of Martin Luther, 1529, mixed media on panel, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt LESSON 15
This portrait of Luther was painted just eight years later, after he became a hero in Germany. Luther's fame spread and initiates what is known as the Protestant Movement, or Reform movement. But the ways in which this movement spread and developed were quite outside of Luther's original intention. The Protestant reformers in Northern Europe went to extremes. Certain followers urged other followers to destroy religious images, saying that they were offering false gods to the masses. They believed that the only true representation of God is in the Word (the Bible). All else, including the mediating presence of the priest, should be eliminated. So Protestant churches were whitewashed, altarpieces smashed, sculptures smashed. Obviously, artists in these regions were no longer as needed for religious commissions. Many left for work elsewhere, while others turned to other forms of artistic work.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Martin Luther as Junker Jorg, c.1521,
Museum der Bildenden Kuenste, Leipzig
While Luther was being transferred to prison after his arrest, one of his supporters, Frederick III of Saxony, arranged for Luther's escape. He hid Luther in his castle at Wartburg for a full year. Luther grew a beard and assumed a false identity as a country squire named Junker Jörg, as you see in this portrait by Lucas Cranach from 1521. Eventually, Luther returned to Wittenburg—still in his disguise—and he was received as a hero. The artist of this portrait, Lucas Cranach the Elder, was actually a very close friend of Martin Luther. Cranach was there in Wittenberg when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the wall of the university. They were such good friends that Luther was the godfather to Cranach's daughter and Cranach was the godfather of Luther's son.
LESSON 15 Martin Luther, Germany,
As the sixteenth century in Germany moved forward, a new figure emerged in theological discussions who impacted the way that European society would interact from that point forward: Martin Luther. This figure also greatly impacted the trajectory of art making in Europe. Martin Luther was a German monk—he was invested greatly in the Church (he actually attributed his decision to become a monk to divine intervention. He was at university studying to be a lawyer, when he was nearly struck by lightning in 1505; there and then he decided to become a monk). Actually, while he was in the monastery, he was described as extremely introverted, and was even described as excessively so—too deeply meditative. He was ordered to pursue an academic career. So he went to the University of Wittenberg and became a professor of theology; his title was Doctor of the Bible.
Well right about this time in Rome, the papacy was doing all of these big projects—remember that is the time when Michelangelo is painting the Sistine Ceiling, Raphael painting the Stanza della Segnatura, and also rebuilding Saint Peter's Basilica. Yet, the Church is totally broke! So the Church began a campaign to raise money by selling indulgences (indulgences were pieces of paper that guaranteed the buyer a certain amount of years out of Purgatory; basically, they were a way to buy your way into Heaven!). They were going to use the money to rebuild Saint Peter's Basilica. Luther was outraged by this practice, so he wrote an official letter to the Archbishop of Mainz, Germany, protesting the sale of indulgences. Within this letter, he included a copy of The 95 Theses (arguments on how to improve the Church through reform).
In 1517, Luther then nailed his 95 Theses to the wall of the university. Basically it was a challenge to his colleagues to debate the Roman Catholic Doctrine. The most important challenge was to the Pope and the priesthood in general. For example, Thesis 86 asks: "Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?" Luther also specifically challenges the notion of indulgences. He insisted that, since forgiveness was God's alone to grant, a person could not buy this. He also argued that a believer did not need a priest to mediate between himself and God. For Luther, the only important thing was to listen to God directly, he argued that it was necessary so read the Word (i.e. the Bible).
Luther's arguments were spread quickly through Europe—it was translated from Latin into German and then printed in massive quantities so that the people could learn of his challenge. Within just two weeks, the theses had spread throughout the entirety of Germany; within two months, his ideas had circulated throughout Europe. Think about the printing press again for a moment. Luther's writings circulated widely, reaching France, England, and Italy as early as 1519, and students thronged to Wittenberg to hear him speak. He published further commentaries and sermons. His goal was for everyone to have unmediated access to God. So he translated the Bible into German vernacular and prepared a printed edition (remember that Germany is the center of the printing industry! The first printed book with moveable type was a Gutenberg Bible, but this was printed in Latin, not in laymen's language).
Even though Luther initiated this challenge in order to better the Church that he himself participated and believed in, his writings were deemed heretical. The Pope demanded that he recant 41 out of 95 of his theses or else they would excommunicate him from the Church! Eventually, in 1521, Luther was excommunicated by the Diet of Worms, presided over by Emperor Charles V. The Diet ultimately concluded that Luther was an outlaw. His literature was banned and he was arrested.
Albrecht Durer, Self-portrait, 1484, silverpoint, Albertina, Vienna LESSON 14
When speaking about innovative ideas happening north of the Alps, especially in printmaking, the artist, Albrecht Durer, is the defining figure. The sixteenth century in Northern Europe was defined by his artistic output. Durer has been called the exemplar of Northern art by some and, alternatively, the most Italian ofthe German artists by others. He has been considered as the Leonardo da Vinci of Germany because he was deeply interested in the physical and psychological makeup of humans. He wrote and illustrated treatises on the ideal proportions of the human body, but he was also extremely interested in the effects ofthe humors or temperaments on the nature of man. Thus, for many, Durer is seen as the first true humanist in the North. But despite his great impact on the trajectory of art, he hasn't achieved the recognition of the likes of Michelangelo or Leonardo (at least for Americans).
Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremberg in 1471 at a time when the city was embracing humanism. His father was a goldsmith from Hungary—this fact is important to keep in mind, because Durer is considered to be one of the finest graphic artists of his day. Most likely he learned his initial techniques of engraving from his father and, with him, built up his foundational skills of working in metals. At the age of 15, he was apprenticed to the leading painter in Nuremberg, Michael Wolgemut, who headed a large workshop that produced woodcuts for the local printers. This experience is considered crucial in Durer's artistic development.
We have a unique document of Durer's youth in the silverpoint drawing you see above, which is a self-portrait from 1484, made when Durer was only 13. Silverpoint was a technique that used a stylus of silver as a pencil. One had to be extremely precise because any errors were difficult to cover up and they were nearly impossible to erase. We can see that the face of the young Durer is free of any of the cramped lines or errors; he was confident as a draftsman. The inscription, which was added later, tells us that the drawing was "made from a mirror."
Albrecht Durer, Self-portrait with a spray of Eryngium, 1493, Musee du Louvre, Paris LESSON 14
Durer made many self-portraits throughout his career. In this self-portrait from 1493 (when he was 21), his features are already set—we know this from later portraits. The inscription written above his head reads, "My affairs must go on as ordained on high." He holds a spray of eryngium (sea holly) in his hands; the plant was considered to be an aphrodisiac and a symbol of luck in the matter of the heart. It has been suggested that this self-portrait was made in anticipation of his marriage to Agnes Frey (a marriage which had been arranged by his parents that year). The marriage has been the topic of much discussion. His wife was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and there seems to have been little love between the two (they had no children together). Just a few months after the marriage, Durer left her to go to Italy with his friends and he stayed there for a year!
With the figure ofDurer, there began a tradition ofNorthern artists coming to Italy to study and work (others had come before, of course, but this began a trend on a large scale). Durer went to Italy twice in his lifetime, once in his visit right after his marriage in 1494 and then again in 1505, and we know that he studied the arts and ideas of Giovanni Bellini, Pollaiuolo, Mantegna, Alberti and others.
Andrea Mantegna, Battle of the Sea Gods, engraving and dry point, c. 1493, The Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth Lesson 14
For example, Durer made a pen drawing after the engraving ofthe Battle ofthe Sea Gods by Andrea Mantegna (compare the two above). Durer's drawing is a faithful copy of Mantegna's engraving, but Durer's version is softer in tone and more graceful in line. Mantegna creates blocky volumes in the torsos with a hard outline and emphasizes planar modeling by parallel strokes. Durer, on the other hand, uses a more subtle shading technique with fine cross- hatching, which follows the contours of the forms. Durer's skill as a graphic artist, and particularly a draftsman and engraver, was unparalleled at the time. When Durer came back to Nuremberg from Italy in 1495, this is precisely the avenue of artistic production that he pursued.
Albrecht Durer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, c.1498, woodcut, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York LESSON 14
When he returned to Nuremberg, Durerr began work on one of his most famous projects: the illustration and printing ofthe Book ofthe Apocalypse (Book ofRevelation). This book was one of the most influential Biblical texts in Christian art from the 4th century on. The first edition of Durer's version of the book was issued in 1498—just two years before the year 1500, the millennium that was believed to mark the day of the Last Judgment (as prophesized in the Bible). Perhaps you can remember how anxious many people became when the year 2000 approached; certain individuals preached that the Apocalypse and others formed cults to prepare for the end of days.
Albrecht Durer's woodcut print ofthe Four Horsemen ofthe Apocalypse (above) was made as part of the book project. In a woodcut, what one does is to carve into the block of wood—what is carve away becomes the white part of the illustration, the space, and what is left, the raised ridges, makes the lines. The artist inks the block and presses it onto the paper so that the design becomes reversed. Think about how the artist must plan ahead and think in reverse during the process of creation (not very easy!).
A single woodblock could yield thousands of print copies. Each print was sold for very little money, which enabled people from all different social classes to now buy "Art." But woodblock prints before Durer were not necessarily considered what we might call "high art"—people would pin the prints up on the wall and use them like functional objects.
Buxem Saint Christopher, 1423, woodcut, The John Rylands University Library, Manchester LESSON 14
Printing from woodblocks had been in practice in the north since the late fourteenth century. The print you see above is the earliest dated print in Europe (1423). It comes from a monastery in southern Germany (named Buxem, thus the name of the print since the artist is anonymous). The print shows Saint Christopher as he travels across the waters with Christ on his shoulder. St. Christopher is the patron of travel, so individuals would carry this image with them as they made their own travels. Note the prayer attached to the bottom of the image. These kinds of prints were popular with a broad cross-section of the population. They were very inexpensive. The development of new support materials, such as paper, cost pennies to produce per sheet. A single woodblock could yield thousands ofcopies. We need to think about these kind ofimages in terms of mass production and distribution.
Analyze the style of the Buxem print: note the flat, heavy lines, and the relative lack of shading. Compare this to Albrecht Durer's style in the Four Horseman ofthe Apocalypse. Durer's technique refined the woodcut medium. Notice how his lines are extremely thin. Imagine carving delicately around them. Durer uses the horizontal lines to shade the background and parallel lines to model the figures. Look at Durer's attention to the description of the body. He emphasizes the three-dimensionality of the figures.
Traditionally in printmaking, the division of labor was normally between a painter, who supplied the drawing, and the wood block carver, who actually produced the carved block. But Durer was different in that he provided both the design and the labor. He had the technical skill to translate his drawings onto the wooden block.
In Durer's woodcut print, we see an episode from the apocalyptic history of the Book of Revelations, which describes how the wisdom of the Lord, symbolized in a seven sealed book of the Lamb, will be opened at the end of days and how the Lord will triumph over Satan and his peoples, who will be victims of the seven plagues. This scene illustrates the episode of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which appeared when the seals were opened on the book of the lamb. The horsemen represented the ways of destruction that would come to the Earth at the end of days through war, fire, famine and death.
The first horseman appeared after the first seal on the book was opened; he is described as riding on a white horse, and he held a bow. You can see him on the far right. A crown was given to him and he went out conquering and to conquer. The second horseman came out when the second seal was broken; this horse is next to the rider with the bow. His horse was bright red and its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth so that men would slay one another. He was given a sword. The third horseman rode on a black horse. This rider held a balance (or a scale) in his hands; however, you can see that the balance is off, and is wobbling. The fourth horseman rode on a pale horse. This rider is Death. Following him is Hades. These two were given one-fourth of the earth and their mission was to kill with the sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts ofthe earth. We can see how Durer brought together these four horsemen in his diagonal composition. The movement and gestures of the figures give drama to the scene and enact it. The four horsemen ride in unison and trample the people below.
Albrecht Durer, Self-portrait, 1500, oil on panel, Alte Pinakothek, Munich LESSON 14
After Book of the Apocalypse project was completed, Durer's reputation was firmly established. He was elevated to a social status of the upper social circle of the city—the wealthy merchant class. He made yet another self-portrait at this time, shown above. This painting was made in the year 1500 and is signed "Albrecht Durer ofNuremberg...age twenty-eight."
Durer no longer depicts himself in three-quarter view, as though painting while looking at his reflection in a mirror. His head is posed frontally so that his gaze directly engages the viewer. His right hand is held in a position of benediction, in the manner of a religious icon. One may call this self-portrait and "iconic portrait" since it emulates the representation of saints in icons.
Salvatore Mundi icon
Durer's physical appearance bears a striking resemblance to Christ's appearance. Images of Christ, like the Salvator Mundi icon shown above, were particularly popular in Germany and the Netherlands, so this allusion would have been obvious for early sixteenth-century viewers. Was Durer, the artist, likening himselfdirectly to Christ? We can contextualize Durer's artistic decision to make his image in the likeness of Christ in a number of ways. Durer lived in an age of the "imitatio Christi" in Europe. Those who followed this religious path attempted to live completely in imitation of Christ's life and to use Christ as a model and ideal. Perhaps Durer was trying to communicate his religious beliefs through the manner of presenting himself in the portrait. Another way to interpret Durer's self-comparison with Christ is as a reference to the creative genius ofthe artist: Christ the Creator is likened to the artist as creator. In this way, Durer may be using his portrait to respond to the contemporary conflict between those who viewed artists as craftsman and those, including Durer, who considered the artist as a "genius." In one of his notes, Durer wrote, "The more we know, the more we resemble the likeness of Christ who truly knows all things."
Albrecht Durer, Adam and Eve, 1504, engraving, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston LESSON 14
The engraving shown above was made just a few months before his second trip to Italy in 1504. Durer used it as a sort of business card while he was in Italy to promote himself as an artist— more particularly as a technically savvy artist who also was familiar with the kinds of Classical art that Italians were so into at this moment (remember this was the height of the High Renaissance in Rome). In his print of Adam and Eve, he draws on what he had learned from Pollaiuolo and Mantegna concerning the theories of ideal beauty in the body.
Engraving was another technique classified as graphic arts. From the start, however, engravings were associated with a different kind of patron—part of a smaller and more elite, sophisticated public. The technique involves using a flat metal plate (usually copper) and incising lines into it. To do so, the artist used a tool called a burin, which would make v-shaped grooves in the metal surface. The plate would then be inked and wiped, and the ink would remain in the grooves. It is the opposite of woodblocks, because where the artist made a mark,
Dr. Terry-Fritsch/ Western Art II—Lecture 14
this is what would show up on the printed page. The plate would be covered with a damp piece of paper and put through a press. That is why, when you see an engraving, you can see the impression of the plate on the page—it will be indented.
In this scene, we see Adam and Eve in what looks like a forest. The serpent is located in the center with the forbidden fruit in its mouth handing it to Eve. So we know that it is a representation of the Fall of Man. The bodies of the two figures are highlighted, shown frontally, and in very stylized poses. Durer's approach to the body in this engraving is quite interesting. He was familiar with classical writings on proportion. Here he portrays Adam and Eve as ideal types (that is, he draws upon the classical representations of Apollo and Venus and turns them into Adam and Eve).
Apollo Belvedere (Roman copy of a Greek Hellenistic sculpture), Vatican Museum, Rome LESSON 14
Durer based the pose and body of his Adam on the classical sculpture of Apollo. Note the taut muscular anatomy of Adam—look how it contrasts to the figure of Eve. Adam holds a cartello, which reads: "Albertus Durer Noricus faciebat 1504" (Noricus=Nuremburg) The sign is like an advertisement for the artist!
Praxiteles, Medici Venus (Roman copy ofa Greek Hellenistic sculpture), Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Durer based the pose and body of his Eve on a sculpture that we have seen before—the Medici Venus. Note the minor changes in the position ofthe arms. He repeats the stance for both figures.
The garden in which Durer has placed Adam and Eve is not lush as one might imagine the garden of paradise. It is detailed and, in keeping with Northern iconographic tradition, is full of symbols. To the left, one can see the Tree of Life with a parrot sitting on the branch. In the middle is located the Tree of Wisdom; it is from this tree that Eve receives the forbidden fruit from the serpent. But the fruit seems to be a hybrid—it is an apple, but with fig leaves. This could be a reference both to the Fall and also to the shame of Adam and Eve after the Fall. The corresponding Biblical passage is from Genesis 3:7: "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." As Adam is about to acquire the knowledge of good and evil by eating forbidden fruit, he will lose his innocence and his immortality, and both Adam and Eve, after being driven from Paradise, will be subjected to the pains outside the garden.
The consequences of the Fall are cleverly symbolized by the animals grouped around the tree— each animal is symbolic of a humor or temperament. The word "humor" refers to the "fluids of the body." According to Northern natural history, the unleashing of the humors in our bodies was a consequence of the Fall. The humors had the power to affect our personalities in various ways. In Eden, before the Fall, these effects on the personality were held in check and had no consequence. But after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of knowledge, they were suddenly affected by these fluids, these humors.
There are four humors: two from the liver, one from the lungs and one from the blood. The two humors secreted by the liver were black and yellow bile. Black gall or bile prompted the vices of despair and avarice, the causes of bitterness that brings on the humor of melancholy. Yellow bile caused hot temper and impatience, which resulted in the vices of pride and wrath—or the choleric humor. Durer represents these humors through the representations of animals at the base of the trees. The elk is symbolic of melancholy because of its lonely existence. The cat represents the choleric humor because of its quick temper and aggressiveness. The humor secreted by the lungs is phlegm, which results in laziness, sluggishness, and apathy— representing the vices of gluttony and sloth. This is symbolized by the ox. The last humor was secreted by the blood—particularly excessive active blood circulation—this humor is sanguine (Italian still uses this—sangue=blood). Overly active blood circulation causes an overly active sensuous and fertile spirit, which provokes the vices of lust or lechery. This is symbolized in the animal Rabbit (we all know about the sex drives ofrabbits). We can see that each ofthese humors, represented through the symbolic animals, is in the process of being activated: the cat is ready to pounce; the rabbit finds a mate, and so on.
Rogier van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross, 1435, oil on panel, Museo del Prado, Madrid LESSON 13
Another artist working contemporaneously with Jan van Eyck was the artist Rogier van der Weyden. Whereas Jan worked as the court artist for Phillip the Good in Bruges, Rogier worked as a regular artist within the artist's guild in Brussels. Rogier's paintings are more emotionally driven than van Eyck's highly precise and symbolically rich works. Rogier's paintings were created to stir particular emotions in their viewers. This painting was created in about 1435 in Louvain (outside of Brussels)—it is an altarpiece. It was commissioned by the crossbowmen's guild (can you see the crossbows in the upper corners of the altarpiece?)
The scene depicts the moment when Christ's body was taken down from the cross after his Crucifixion. Notice how the entire scene takes place in an extremely shallow space. The background is a golden wall that is quite close to the foreground. As a result, the figures are pressed into the foreground, crowded around Christ's body in the center. The shape ofthe bodies forms a parenthesis around Christ's body. The composition is compact, direct and in close proximity to the viewer, all strategies for heightening the emotional content ofthe work.
Rogier van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross (detail of tears), 1435, oil on panel, Museo del Prado, Madrid LESSON 13
Each of the figures is pictured in a stage of grief. Mary Magdalene wrings her hands at the feet of Christ and other figures weep. Notice how the Virgin Mary faints and her body echoes that of her son. She demonstrates complete empathy—and is often called the co-redeemer because of her close relationship with her Son. Notice how the representation of tears immediately causes a process of empathy develop within the viewer.
Matthias Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece (closed position), 1509-1515, oil on panel, Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France LESSON 13
The emotionality of the Descent from the Cross set a precedent for a particular strain of Northern European art that emphasized the viewer's emotional connection with Christ's Passion. The Isenheim Altarpiece, painted by the artist Matthias Grunewald between 1509-1515, is the early sixteenth-century development of this emotional trend. The subject is motivated more by its emotive qualities than by its intellectual content.
The paintings were part of a giant shrine located in the choir of a chapel in the monastery of Saint Anthony in the village of Isenheim (Isenheim is about halfway between Colmar and Basel). The monastery was populated by hermit monks called Antonines, who were known for their ascetic way of life, quiet devotion and contemplation. They were also well attuned to the mystical traditions of the "Imitatio Christi" (Imitation of Christ), which was so widespread in the Rhineland. These hermit monks were also hospitalers of a sort, who treated persons afflicted with skin diseases. There was one particular skin disease that was commonly known as Saint Anthony's Fire, which was a devastating disease caused by eating certain ryes and grains that were infected with a fungus. The monks had a hospital for these patients, and their monastery became a pilgrimage site for people who suffered from diseases. The Isenheim Altarpiece was explicitly connected to this practice of healing. It was before Grunewald's paintings that a sick person would begin the healing process. The patient would confront the lacerated body of
Christ depicted on the exterior ofthe altarpiece. Then, after, the medical treatments would begin.
Diagram of the different positions for the Isenheim Altarpiece LESSON 13
Today, the altarpiece is broken up and displayed in a museum in Colmar, but originally the polyptych had a very strict set of rules for its display. During the weekdays, the polyptych would be closed (bottom diagram). During Sundays or special feasts like Christmas, the first set of wings was folded back to reveal the representation of the Annunciation, Incarnation, and Resurrection (middle diagram). On the feast of Saint Anthony, the second set of wings would be opened to reveal a sculpted shrine dedicated to Saint Anthony with paintings of scenes from the life of the saint (top diagram). The three stages of the altarpiece therefore encompassed three different kinds of subject matter and three modes of representation.
The representation of the Crucifixion in the altarpiece's closed position is overpowering in its size and its frightening realism. Christ is in the center of the composition on the cross with Mary Magdalene below. The Virgin Mary is depicted swooning on the left, held up by John the Evangelist. John the Baptist stands on our right, pointing to Christ's body. Natural scale is ignored here. Christ's body is monumental; it fills the entire central area. Mary and the others are smaller. As opposed to proportion and scale, Grunewald instead chooses to focus on emotional states.
The painting is connected to the strong religious textual tradition that focused on the dying body of Christ. Religious faithful were encouraged to imagine the humiliation of Christ in his last moments on the cross. Texts would provide vivid description of his wounds, his blood, and every gory detail of the Passion. Christ's huge body is one of the most gruesome and disturbing ever painted. The cross-arm of the wood bends under his weight. Note the greenish color of his dead flesh. Sores and pock marks cover his body. His distorted limbs are shown pulled out of the sockets. Rigor mortis contorts his hands and feet, and his mouth is full of blood. Think about the relationship of the sick patient who would pray before this and contemplate his own diseased flesh.
Hans Memling, Madonna and Child and Diptych of Martin van Nieuwenhove, 1487, panel, Hans Memling Museum, Musea Brugge, Sint-Jans Hospital, Bruges LESSON 13
The emotive aspects of Rogier van der Weyden's painting was picked up by certain artists in the Netherlands such as Hans Memling, who worked in Bruges. This kind of painting (above) was intended for the home to aide in the private devotion of an individual. It is made of two parts on a hinge, thus it is called a diptych (two=di). On the one side, the Madonna and Child frontally face the viewer. On the other, a portrait ofthe patron, named Martin van Nieuwenhove, sits in a three-quarter view. Notice that Martin is represented in the act of prayer. He has his prayer book in front of him. When the painting was properly displayed (i.e. opened on its hinges), Martin's portrait would have faced the Madonna directly.
You can see that details in the painting reflect, literally, his position. Note the reflection in the curved mirror behind the Madonna (go to ArtStor to explore this more fully!). The scene takes place in Martin's home: his family coat of arms is in the stained glass behind the Madonna. His patron saint, St. Martin, is figured in the stained glass behind him. This kind of painting represents a new trend in portraiture: to create an entire environment for the sitter and a context for his representation.
Jean Fouquet, Melun Diptych (left wing), c. 1450, oil on panel, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemaldegalerie LESSON 13
Other artists in northern Europe participated in new forms ofpainting. For example, in France, the King of France, Charles VII, appointed as his court artist Jean Fouquet. Fouquet was deeply influenced by Netherlandish painters. This painting was made for the King's treasurer, a man named Etienne Chevalier (Etienne=Stephen in French). It is a diptych (so, there are two parts— only the left wing is shown here). On one side, the patron Etienne kneels with his name saint (St. Stephen, identifiable by the rock on his book). Just as in the Diptych ofMartin van Nieuwenhove, the other wing represents the Virgin and Child. The Madonna's physical features are actually the portrait of the King's mistress, named Agnes Sorel. So the Treasurer is paying her a compliment; she stands in for ultimate beauty in the form of the Mother of God.
Hieronymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (open position), c.1480-1515, oil on panel, Museo del Prado, Madrid LESSON 13
Other kinds of religious imagery began to take shape in the Netherlands. In the north of the Netherlands (where Holland is today), an artist named Hieronymous Bosch lived and worked. The Garden ofEarthly Delights is his most famous work; it is a triptych, so it is divided into 3 parts (we are looking at the painting in its open position). The triptych is painted in oil and comprises three sections: the square middle panel is flanked by rectangular wings, which can close over it as shutters. These outer wings, when folded shut, display a grisaille painting of the earth during the Creation. When opened, there is a landscape that unites the three panels into a continuous scene.
Starting with the left (just like you would read a book), the scenes progress from Adam and Eve in Paradise to the central scene of human activity to the right scene of Inferno. But the painting is much more complicated than that (go to ArtStor to explore this work in rich detail). Notice how the nature represented in this painting is not quite what you might find outside your doors. It is a fantasy world, filled with fantastical creatures. What could this all mean? The painting may be understood a visual statement about the moral depravity of humans: the consequences of the Fall of Man in Eden are played out throughout the piece and, ultimately, the consequences of sin are played out in Hell.
Art historians and critics frequently interpret the painting as a didactic warning on the perils of life's temptations. However the intricacy of its symbolism, particularly that of the central panel, has led to a wide range of scholarly interpretations over the centuries. What kinds of interpretations could you come up with for this? How would you support it with visual evidence?
Gutenberg Bible, c. 1450, printed with movable type LESSON 13
The most important technological advance of the fifteenth century was the systematic use of movable type in the printing press in Europe. This technology really made new waves in Germany in the mid-15th century when a man named Johann Gutenberg printed the first significant run of printed books with about 300 pieces of moveable type. In 1454-1455, he printed the Bible, known as the Gutenberg Bible, which revolutionized the way that information was communicated. Since it was not handpainted and hand-written, a printer could make multiple copies (several hundred copies) of a text on a much more efficient timescale.
New processes were developed to make cheap paper on which to print (not vellum, like the handpainted manuscripts). This meant that a printer could distribute the text to a much larger audience, and one that was socially diverse, since it didn't cost as much as the luxury books such as the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Gutenberg's innovation had profound impact on
literacy, which was on the rise. It also impacted the visual arts in that this new technology began to be used for distributing images in this multiple copy form... printed images!
Martin Schongauer, Temptation of Saint Anthony, c. 1480-90, engraving, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York LESSON 13
One artist in Germany, named Martin Schongauer, became a master printmaker in the city of Colmar. One ofhis most well-known prints is The Temptation ofSt. Anthony, made in about 1480-1490. It depicts how the devil sent temptations to try to turn Anthony from his devotion to God. Fantastical beasts pull at Anthony's body, surrounding him, but he looks steadfastly away from them. The temptation doesn't work. Note the "MS" at the bottom of the print. With prints, you begin to notice the introduction of the printmaker's initials into the actual field of the work of art. Printing was considered a technical skill—Schongauer was trained first as a goldsmith and used those skills in printmaking. He is working with metals: this particular image is an engraving in which lines are incised into the plate. Notice how line now becomes the dominant feature of the work. Schoengauer is not working with brushes and color, but rather with positive and negative space. Schongauer is able to manipulate these lines to introduce a great variety of tones as well as textures. In the next lecture, we will turn to the printmaking of Albrecht Durer, a master of tonality and technique.