Main Great Paintings: The World's Masterpieces Explored and Explained
Great Paintings: The World's Masterpieces Explored and ExplainedDK
»Великие картины» предоставят вам экскурсию по вашей личной галерее по 60 из самых популярных во всем мире картин. Из работ Боттичелли и Рафаэля, Сальвадора Дали и Фриды Кало книга охватывает картины, которые потрясли мир искусства разных эпох и на разных континентах.
Издание содержит историю создания каждой картины, расшифрует скрытый смысл и символы и содержит более 700 фотографий, которые помогут вам понять основные характеристики, состав и методы рисования, которые делают эти картины выдающимися. Плюс биографии художников обеспечивают исторический фон для каждого произведения искусства.
Great Paintings takes you on your own personal gallery tour of over 60 of the worlds best-loved paintings. From works by Botticelli and Raphael to Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo, the book covers the paintings that have shaken the art world across centuries and across continents.
The story behind each painting is told, unlocking hidden meanings and symbols and over 700 photographs bring the pictures to life helping you understand the key features, composition and techniques that have made these paintings stand out. Plus, biographies of the artists provide the background to each art work helping you paint your own picture of the historical and social context behind each masterpiece.
Издание содержит историю создания каждой картины, расшифрует скрытый смысл и символы и содержит более 700 фотографий, которые помогут вам понять основные характеристики, состав и методы рисования, которые делают эти картины выдающимися. Плюс биографии художников обеспечивают исторический фон для каждого произведения искусства.
Great Paintings takes you on your own personal gallery tour of over 60 of the worlds best-loved paintings. From works by Botticelli and Raphael to Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo, the book covers the paintings that have shaken the art world across centuries and across continents.
The story behind each painting is told, unlocking hidden meanings and symbols and over 700 photographs bring the pictures to life helping you understand the key features, composition and techniques that have made these paintings stand out. Plus, biographies of the artists provide the background to each art work helping you paint your own picture of the historical and social context behind each masterpiece.
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GREAT PAINTINGS PAINTINGS contents The Garden of Earthly Delights Hieronymus Bosch 44 The Great Piece of Turf Albrecht Dürer 48 Mona Lisa Leonardo da Vinci 50 Looking at Paintings 6 The Qingming Scroll Zhang Zeduan 10 The School of Athens Raphael 54 The Lamentation of Christ Giotto di Bondone 14 Sistine Chapel Ceiling Michelangelo The Madonna Enthroned Duccio di Buoninsegna 18 Bacchus and Ariadne Titian 1100–1500 David with the Head of Goliath Caravaggio 88 58 The Judgement of Paris Peter Paul Rubens 90 62 Charles I on Horseback Anthony van Dyck 94 1600–1700 1500–1600 The Annunciation Fra Angelico 22 The Ambassadors Hans Holbein 66 Self-portrait as “La Pittura” Artemisia Gentileschi 96 The Arnolﬁni Portrait Jan van Dyck 26 Spring Morning in the Han Palace Qiu Ying 70 Las Meninas Diego Velázquez 98 The Baptism of Christ Piero della Francesca 30 Netherlandish Proverbs Pieter Bruegel The Elder 74 Self-portrait Rembrandt van Rijn 102 The Hunt in the Forest Paolo Uccello 34 Spring Giuseppe Arcimboldo 78 The Art of Painting Johannes Vermeer 106 The Birth of Venus Sandro Botticelli 38 Cypress Tree Kano Eitoku 80 Akbar's Adventures with the Elephant Hawa’i in 1561 Basawan and Chetar 84 DK INDIA LONDON, NEW YORK, MUNICH, MELBOURNE, DELHI Managing Art Editor Ashita Murgai Managing Editor Saloni Talwar Project Art Editor Senior Editor Senior Art Editor Editors Production Editor Production Controller Picture Research Managing Editor Managing Art Editor US Editors Angela Wilkes Michael Duffy Anna Kruger, Hugo Wilkinson Tony Phipps Mandy Inness Sarah Smithies Stephanie Farrow Lee Grifﬁths Shannon Beatty, Rachel Bozek Rajnish Kashyap Project Editor Garima Sharma Senior Art Editor Anchal Kaushal Assistant Designer Production Manager DTP Manager DTP Designers Diya Kapur Pankaj Sharma Balwant Singh Shanker Prasad Mohamad Usman Managing Director Aparna Sharma First American Edition, 2011 Published in the United States by DK Publishing, 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014 11 12 13 14 15 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 001—177857—October/2011 Copyright © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. Lake Keitele Akseli Gallen-Kallela 192 The Large Bathers Paul Cézanne 194 The Kiss Gustav Klimt 198 202 The Valpinçon Bather Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres 138 Composition VII Wassily Kandinsky 206 The Third of May 1808 Francisco de Goya 142 Berlin Street Scene Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 208 Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog Caspar David Friedrich 146 Northern River Tom Thomson Red Balloon Paul Klee 210 148 Red Canna Georgia O'Keeffe 212 Still Life with Flowers and Fruit Jan van Huysum 112 The Hay Wain John Constable The Metamorphosis of Narcissus Salvador Dalí 214 116 The Fighting Temeraire J. M. W. Turner 152 Marriage à-la-Mode: the Marriage Settlement William Hogarth The Artist's Studio Gustave Courbet 156 Guernica Pablo Picasso 218 Mr. and Mrs. Andrews Thomas Gainsborough 120 Olympia Édouard Manet 160 Nighthawks Edward Hopper 222 1700–1800 1900 to present 1800–1900 Allegory of the Planets and Continents Giambattista Tiepolo 124 Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 James McNeill Whistler 164 An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump Joseph Wright of Derby 128 The Dancing Class Edgar Degas 168 Red Interior, Still Life on a Blue Table 230 Henri Matisse 172 Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) Jackson Pollock 234 The Death of Marat Jacques-Louis David 132 A Sunday on La Grande Jatte Georges Seurat 176 Untitled Mark Rothko 238 Van Gogh’s Chair Vincent van Gogh 180 Marilyn Andy Warhol 240 The Child's Bath Mary Cassatt 182 To a Summer's Day Bridget Riley 242 Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Paul Gauguin The Dance Paula Rego 244 186 Athanor Anselm Kiefer 246 The Waterlily Pond Claude Monet Glossary Index Acknowledgments 248 250 255 Published in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN 978-0-7566-8675-8 DK books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk for sales promotions, premiums, fundraising, or educational use. For details, contact DK Publishing Special Markets, 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014 or SpecialSales@dk.com Printed and bound in Singapore by Star Standard Industries Discover more at www.dk.com Without Hope Frida Kahlo CONTRIBUTORS Karen Hosack Janes Arts and culture educationalist, who teaches History of Art at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. Formerly Head of Schools at the National Gallery, London and now an advisor to several arts and education projects. Has written two series of art books for children, as well as articles for the Times Educational Supplement. Ian Chilvers Writer and editor, whose books include The Oxford Dictionary of Art, A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art, and The Artist Revealed: Artists and their Self-Portraits. Chief consultant on Art: the Deﬁnitive Visual Guide. Ian Zaczek Writer, whose books include The Collins Big Book of Art, Masterworks, Art: the Deﬁnitive Visual Guide, and The Story of Art. 226 LOOKING AT PAINTINGS Looking at Paintings Great paintings come in many guises. The smallest could be held in one hand, while the largest extend magniﬁcently across the vast ceilings of palaces and chapels. Paintings vary just as much in other respects too, ranging from microscopic depictions of the natural world to bold, swirling abstracts, and from beguiling, intimate portraits to interpretations of key moments in history, myth, or literature. The 66 paintings in this book span many centuries and they represent a huge wealth of human experience. Some tell stories, some transport you to faraway places, and some celebrate beauty; others are scenes of almost unbearable horror. Each painting, however, is unique. Looking at any painting is a personal experience, but one that beneﬁts from broader knowledge—the more you know about works of art, the closer you look at them, and the more you see and enjoy. Like a helpful guide standing next to you in a gallery, museum, or church, this book will help you to look at each painting with fresh eyes and expert knowledge: you will ﬁnd out about each painting’s background, its historical context, and the artist who created it. You will also learn about the techniques of the world’s greatest painters— how they have used color, perspective, light, and shade to capture a likeness or a moment in time, and to convey the feelings that it inspired. Perhaps more importantly, this book will lead you through the key details of each painting, elements you may barely notice at ﬁrst—a tiny reﬂection in a mirror, a crescent moon high in the sky, a slipper dangling carelessly on a foot—that help to reveal what a painting is really about. Great paintings often have hidden levels of meaning, but once you start to unravel the clues, everything begins to make sense. Finding your way into a great painting is like setting off on a voyage of discovery—endlessly fascinating and deeply rewarding. 7 The Qingming Scroll The Lamentation of Christ The Madonna Enthroned The Annunciation The Arnolﬁni Portrait The Baptism of Christ The Hunt in the Forest The Birth of Venus 10 1100–1500 The Qingming Scroll c.1100 INK AND COLOR ON SILK 10in × 17ft 3in (25.5cm × 5.25m) ZHANG ZEDUAN Astonishing in its intricacy, this magniﬁcent silk painting on a handheld scroll depicts scenes of everyday city life in 12th-century China. The scroll was designed to be held by the viewer, who would unroll an arm’s length at a time, starting from the right. Below you can see the central section of the scroll. With its bustling streets and beautiful arched rainbow bridge spanning a curving river, the urban landscape is full of vivid, narrative detail. View of an ideal city The city shown in the painting is thought to be the Northern Song capital, Bianliang (modern Kaifeng), in Henan Province, although the artist has not included speciﬁc features, such as a famous temple, that would PALACE MUSEUM, BEIJING, CHINA SCALE make identiﬁcation certain. The word “Qingming” in the title has perplexed scholars over the years. It was thought to relate to a festival that took place 100 days after the winter solstice, when ancestral graves were swept with willow brooms. There is, however, little evidence of the willows in the painting: branches would have been hung up on house roofs but none are shown. Other objects associated with the festival, such as displays of paper houses outside shops, are also missing. An alternative interpretation of the painting, which the lack of unique landmarks would seem to bear out, is that it portrays an idealized cityscape. “Qingming,” which literally means “bright-clear” and “peaceful and orderly,” would then refer to a splendid city where all members THE QINGMING SCROLL of society live harmoniously. Indeed, if you look carefully at the painting, there is no evidence of poverty and people from all social classes are mingling in the streets. The scroll begins at the far right with a morning scene in the country (see p.13), and at its midpoint the artist, Zhang Zeduan, has depicted its most striking feature— the crowded bridge and the drama taking place on the river below. Very little information exists about the artist, and his reasons for painting this masterpiece have not been documented. Yet from the colophons (written notes) at the end of the scroll, it seems likely that Zhang was trying to recall and recapture the illustrious past of the Northern Song dynasty in China—a period of peace, prosperity, and high artistic achievement. ZHANG ZEDUAN ZHANG ZEDUAN c.1085–1145 The Qingming Scroll is the only surviving documented work by Zhang Zeduan, but this alone establishes him as one of the great painters of the Northern Song period (960–1126). What we know about the artist is revealed only in the colophons of The Qingming Scroll. In addition to notes from the various Chinese owners of the scroll, together with their seals, Zhang’s place of birth is given as Dongwu (now Zhucheng, Shandong Province), China, although there is no date. He traveled to the Northern Song capital, Bianliang, to study painting when he was young, and may then have become a member of the Imperial Hanlin Academy. This was set up to support contemporary artists by Emperor Huizong, who reigned from 1100 to 1126. Zhang Zeduan’s great skill was in depicting everyday scenes in exquisite and extraordinary detail on the high-quality silk that was widely produced in the region. With each viewing, the observer gains new understanding of the people and the city shown in such vivid detail VALERIE HANSEN THE BEIJING QINGMING SCROLL AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE STUDY OF CHINESE HISTORY, 1996 11 12 1100–1500 Visual tour 2 2 4 6 5 7 3 1 KEY 4 BOAT ADRIFT On the river below the bridge, boatmen struggle to regain control of a large boat; it has a broken tow rope, and has been pushed off course by the powerful current. Some of the crew are trying to lower the mast, while others attempt to steady the boat with poles. One man is trying to reach the bridge above with a long boat hook. Onlookers lean over the bridge, shouting warnings or words of encouragement, and one has thrown down a rope that is uncoiling. 1 3 1 INTERACTION A sense of drama is conveyed by the reaction of the spectators watching the drifting boat. Although you cannot make out the details of their faces, they are all intent on the action and are pointing or gesturing. The man above is standing on the roof of his boat, gesticulating at the drifting vessel. The river is high and the water is swirling dangerously. 2 RAINBOW BRIDGE The main focus of this part of the painting, and indeed of the whole scroll, is the beautiful, arched rainbow bridge spanning the river. It is thronged with people, traders, and animals. Food is being cooked and sold at stalls, with room for sitting and eating. Other vendors display their goods on the ground, sheltered under temporary awnings. Although this rainbow bridge is very distinctive, similar bridges also existed in other Chinese cities besides Bianliang, the Northern Song capital. THE QINGMING SCROLL ZHANG ZEDUAN ON TECHNIQUE 3 HOUSEBOATS Long, ﬂat houseboats are moored along the side of the river— one even has its own potted garden. Behind them, the riverbank is lined with cafés. The tables are not yet occupied. In the evenings, the cafés and restaurants would have been lit by lanterns. 4 Zhang Zeduan drew the buildings and other structures in The Qingming Scroll with a ﬁne brush, and used a ruler to help him draw straight lines. The colophons (written Chinese characters) at the end of the scroll refer to this technique as “ruled-line painting.” It is also known as jiehua, which means “boundary” or “measured” painting. Most of the scroll is monochrome and has faded to brown with age, but a few details are in color, such as the green buds of the willow trees. Zhang has drawn most of the scenes from overhead, enabling you to see the tops of roofs, umbrellas, and people’s heads. However, sometimes the perspective shifts so that the viewer can explore other angles. From certain viewpoints you can see both the top and the underside of the bridge. IN CONTEXT 5 6 Following the course of the day from morning until mid-afternoon, the scroll begins on the right with a quiet, rural landscape and ends on the left in the busy capital city. Signs of commerce appear throughout the scroll, from the donkeys laden with wood on their way to market in the opening scene to a pharmacy with two female customers in the ﬁnal one. The Qingming Scroll is a unique and precious historical document that provides a fascinating glimpse of what life was like in China 800 years ago. 2 WHEELBARROW It takes two men to maneuver this wheelbarrow with a giant wheel—one at the back, and another at the front, who pulls with the aid of a donkey. There is room for passengers on either side. 3 TAKEOUT The scroll is full of incidental detail, depicting characters going about their everyday lives. Here you can see a man carrying two bowls of takeout food—probably noodles— and chopsticks. 1The ﬁrst scene of The Qingming Scroll, to the far right of the scroll, shows the river meandering through a peaceful rural scene in the country. 7 1 SEDAN CHAIR The wealthy traveled in enclosed sedan chairs, carried on poles by bearers. The servants of the person inside this one are disputing who has right of way with the servants of the man on horseback. 1The last scene, to the far left of the scroll, shows the teeming life in the city streets. 13 14 1100–1500 THE LAMENTATION OF CHRIST GIOTTO The Lamentation of Christ c.1305 FRESCO 72¾ × 78¾in (185 × 200cm) SCROVEGNI CHAPEL, PADUA, ITALY GIOTTO SCALE Painted on the wall of the Scrovegni Chapel in focal point of the painting. Like Christ’s large and the old university town of Padua, the drama elongated body, Mary’s grief seems unbearably depicted in this fresco is unbearably poignant. heavy. To Mary’s right, John the Evangelist The griefstricken faces and postures of the throws back his arms in a gesture that expresses ﬁgures, the strong composition, and the use of shock and dismay, and Mary Magdalene sits space all convey a sense of tragedy at Christ’s mourning at Christ’s feet. death. This scene forms part of a sequence of Giotto’s use of simple shapes and blocks frescoes depicting episodes from the lives of color helps the viewer to concentrate on of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Virgin’s the main areas of emotional expression in the parents, Anne and Joachim, and is in many painting: the faces and hands. The solid masses ways the emotional highpoint of the Chapel. of the ﬁgures in the foreground are draped with With these frescoes, Giotto succeeded in clothes that describe the shape of the bodies breaking away from the artistic conventions underneath. We do not need to see these of the day, and his new, naturalistic style of people’s faces—their sorrow is expressed by painting marked a turning point in the their bowed heads and hunched shoulders. The development of Western art. Before Giotto proportions of the composition are realistic and created his innovative images of realistic, there is a convincing sense of space. In this three-dimensional people, the stiffness of respect, Giotto anticipates the techniques of ﬁgures in the Byzantine tradition and the ﬂat, perspective that were to be formulated and one-dimensional space they inhabited made it developed in detail over a hundred years later. difﬁcult for the viewer to experience any real connection with the subject matter. Mosaics had often been used previously for religious images, but these were not only expensive and timeconsuming to produce, they were also primarily decorative and were not intended to engage the GIOTTO DI BONDONE c.1270–1337 One of the giants of the history of art, Giotto is generally considered to be the founder of the mainstream of modern painting. viewer emotionally. This engagement is exactly what makes The Lamentation of Christ so powerful. It portrays the most emotional episode in the sequence of frescoes and Giotto endows the scene with an intensity that is both touching and beautiful. Bringing the narrative to life In the biblical account depicted here, Christ’s body has been taken down from the cross and is encircled by his grieving family and friends. The Virgin Mary cradling her dead son is the Born in Colle di Vespignano, near Florence, Giotto studied under the Florentine painter Cimabue and went on to create a powerful, naturalistic style that broke away from the ﬂat, remote conventions of Byzantine art, which had been dominant for centuries. His ﬁgures seem solid, weighty, and set in real space, and they express human emotion with conviction and subtlety. This huge achievement was recognized in Giotto’s lifetime. He worked in various major art centers, from Florence to Naples, and was the ﬁrst artist since classical antiquity to become renowned throughout Italy. Unfortunately, many of his paintings have perished over the centuries and his career is difﬁcult to reconstruct in detail. However, his masterpiece—the fresco decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua—survives in good condition, and this work alone is enough to secure his reputation as one of the greatest artists of all time. 15 16 1100–1500 Visual tour 7 8 6 3 2 1 4 5 KEY 2 4 MARY MAGDALENE The simple ﬁgures in Giotto’s composition have no objects surrounding them to help us identify them. Here, however, Mary Magdalene is recognizable from her humble posture and actions. The dead Christ’s feet rest on her lap and she touches them lovingly, just as two other women touch Christ’s hands. Mary Magdalene seems to be weeping at the terrible sight of the wounds. In many images of the period she is shown with a jar of ointment. 1 1 MOTHER AND SON The Virgin Mary holds the dead Christ in her arms, an expression of the most intense grief on her face. The close contact between mother and son, their faces almost touching, helps us to empathize with the human tragedy before us. Bereavement is a universal experience and the painting resonates on an emotional and very personal level, whether or not you hold religious beliefs. 4 SEATED FIGURES The people with their backs to us in the foreground of the painting strengthen the composition in several ways. They and the other people in the crowd encircle Christ, giving the scene a greater feeling of intimacy. The space between the two ﬁgures also draws us into the heart of the scene, bringing the drama to a human level. It is as though we are offered the choice of watching from afar or becoming emotionally involved. 3 4 5 THE LAMENTATION OF CHRIST GIOTTO ON TECHNIQUE 6 7 2 ANGUISHED ANGELS Ten angels, like shooting stars—some with ﬂaming trails—look down from the azure sky on the holy scene below. Their tiny, contorted bodies express their anguish eloquently. Some pray, some are clearly weeping, and others simply hold their heads in their hands to show their despair. To paint these frescoes, Giotto transferred a preliminary sketch directly on to the plaster of the wall. The outlines of the sketch were pricked, and powdered charcoal was then brushed through the holes. Applying water-based paint while the ﬁnal layer of plaster was still wet (fresco means “fresh” in Italian) allowed the colors to embed. Giotto had to work quickly, completing small sections at a time. Once dry, frescoes become part of the plaster on the wall and some last for hundreds of years. Giotto used gold leaf on the halos, on the angels’ wings, and for detailing on clothes. When the chapel candles were lit, the gold would have helped light up the scenes. IN CONTEXT The series of frescoes, including The Lamentation of Christ, was commissioned around 1300 by a wealthy banker and merchant, Enrico Scrovegni, to decorate the walls of the chapel next to his palace in Padua. Giotto was asked to depict stories from both the Old and New Testaments. The vaulted roof of the chapel is decorated like a star-studded blue sky and the walls are lined with the framed panels of fresco. The series ends with The Last Judgment, which ﬁlls the whole of the west wall facing the altar. 1 MOURNERS The faces of the mourners are natural and animated, yet have a sculptural quality. They are all inclined toward the body of Christ, as if no one can quite believe their eyes. There is a calm dignity about the group and their gestures are expressive, but not overly theatrical: they hold their hands up in despair or clasp Christ’s hands and feet. In their facial expressions you can discern pain and anger—emotions that they are trying hard to keep under control. This acute sense of realism is Giotto’s trademark. 8 1 STILLNESS AND MOVEMENT The swooping and twisting bodies of the angels in the sky form a strong contrast with the stillness of the scene below. The tension between these two opposing forces helps to create a powerful and somber atmosphere. 1The Scrovegni Chapel (also known as the Arena Chapel) interior, looking toward the altar 17 18 1100–1500 The Madonna Enthroned c.1308–11 TEMPERA AND GOLD ON PANEL 7 × 13ft (2.13 × 3.96m) MUSEO DELL’OPERA DEL DUOMO, SIENA, ITALY DUCCIO DI BUONINSEGNA SCALE Hailed as one of the greatest masterpieces of the age, regarded as sacred and painters were expected to copy Duccio’s painting helped to change the course of Italian them faithfully. Originality, personal expression, and art. For much of the medieval period, the prevailing any form of realism were not encouraged. Led by Giotto inﬂuence in art came from the East. Byzantine devotional (see pp.14–17) and Duccio, Italian masters gradually art was powerful and hieratic, but its ancient images were broke away from many of these constraints. In Duccio’s THE MADONNA ENTHRONED DUCCIO DI BUONINSEGNA remarkable altarpiece there are signs of human warmth ofﬁcially designated as the city’s patron and protector. in many of the ﬁgures, there is genuine drama in the The inscription beneath her throne reads, “Holy Mother narrative scenes, and the draperies look far more ﬂuid of God, bestow peace on Siena.” and natural than in their Byzantine counterparts. Duccio was commissioned to produce the altarpiece by Siena’s civic authorities. A contract from 1308 has A monumental undertaking survived, indicating the lavish nature of the project. It is This imposing panel dominated the front of a huge notable, for example, that the patrons pledged to provide altarpiece commissioned for Siena Cathedral. It represents all the artist’s materials. Accordingly, the Virgin’s robes the Maestà (Virgin in Majesty) or The Madonna Enthroned. were painted in ultramarine—a rare and expensive Presiding over the Court of Heaven, surrounded by saints pure blue pigment made from lapis lazuli, only found in and angels, are the Virgin and Child. Siena’s four patron quarries in Afghanistan. By contrast, the blue coloring saints kneel at Mary’s feet, interceding for her favor. in the Rucellai Madonna in the Ufﬁzi, Florence, which is This is entirely appropriate, as the Virgin had been attributed to Duccio, was composed of azurite, a much cheaper pigment that is slightly more turquoise in tone. The altarpiece was completed in 1311 and carried in a triumphal procession to the cathedral. At this stage, it was even more massive than it is now. In addition to the Maestà, there were originally scenes from the infancy of Jesus and the Death of the Virgin on the front, with further episodes from the life of Christ on the reverse. Unfortunately, the altarpiece was cut down in 1771 and some sections were lost or sold. DUCCIO DI BUONINSEGNA c.1255–c.1318/19 A Sienese painter, Duccio was one of the key ﬁgures in the development of early Italian art. He owes his fame to a single masterpiece—the magniﬁcient altarpiece in Siena Cathedral. Very little is known about Duccio di Buoninsegna’s life. There is no reliable evidence about his birthplace or training. Some scholars have suggested that he may have been a pupil of Cimabue or Guido da Siena, but the ﬁrst documentary reference to him dates from 1278. Records of several commissions have survived, but The Madonna Enthroned is the only work that can be attributed to him with absolute certainty. Hints about his character emerge from other documentary material, suggesting that he had a rebellious streak. He was ﬁned for a variety of offenses—for refusing to do military service, for declining to swear an oath of fealty, and perhaps even for a breach of the regulations against sorcery. Whatever faults Duccio may have had, they were clearly outweighed by his prodigious talent. The Sienese authorities were anxious to secure his services for their most important commission and the reasons for this are plain to see. Along with Giotto, Duccio was instrumental in freeing Italian art from the limitations of its Byzantine sources. 19 20 1100–1500 Visual tour 4 6 2 1 3 5 7 KEY 3 ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST This distinctive ﬁgure is John the Baptist. He can be identiﬁed by his unkempt appearance and his tunic made out of animal skins. These refer to his ascetic lifestyle, wandering in the desert, living off locusts and honey. John was frequently included in paintings of the “Court of Heaven” because of his status as the forerunner of Christ. He was also regarded as a symbolic link between the two parts of the Bible—the last of the Old Testament prophets and the ﬁrst of the New Testament saints. 3 ST. ANSANUS The four ﬁgures in the foreground, kneeling before the Virgin, are the guardian saints of Siena: Ansanus, Savinus, Crescentius, and Victor. Their prominent position conﬁrms that Duccio’s altarpiece was a civic commission as well as a religious one. This man is St. Ansanus. He came from a noble Roman family, as his aristocratic attire indicates, but he was betrayed by his father for preaching the Gospel. Condemned to death by Emperor Diocletian, Ansanus was thrown into a vat of boiling oil, before being beheaded. 1 2 4 1 THE VIRGIN AND CHILD Italian artists borrowed the theme of The Virgin Enthroned from Byzantine sources (see opposite). Early examples can be found in the mosaics at Ravenna in Italy, which for a brief time was the Western capital of the Byzantine Empire. The Virgin represents the Queen of Heaven, as well as the personiﬁcation of Mother Church. In keeping with the normal medieval practice, she is depicted on a larger scale than the other ﬁgures, to underline her importance. The star on her cloak—another Eastern feature—refers to her title, “Star of the Sea.” 1 ANGELS’ FACES Duccio followed tradition in his depiction of the ﬁgures surrounding the Virgin. Artists had developed their own conventions for the physical appearance of many of the better-known saints, based on the accounts of their lives. St. Paul, for example (on the left, immediately above St. Ansanus), was normally shown as a bald man with a dark beard. Angels, on the other hand, were frequently given the same, idealized faces. They were regarded as sexless beings, so painters invariably strove to make them appear androgynous. Sometimes their bodies were omitted altogether and they were represented by a head encircled by three pairs of wings. 3 THE MADONNA ENTHRONED DUCCIO DI BUONINSEGNA ON TECHNIQUE 5 2 ST. AGNES This is St. Agnes, a Roman virgin who was one of the many Christians to suffer martyrdom during Diocletian’s reign (284–305). She is carrying her traditional attribute, a young lamb. This association probably arose because of the similarity to her name (agnus is Latin for “lamb”). Agnes was a young girl, aged about 13, who was thrown into a brothel after refusing the attentions of a high-ranking ofﬁcial. Duccio’s Virgin is loosely based on a Byzantine format known as Hodegetria (meaning “She who shows the Way”). Here, Mary gestures towards Jesus, indicating that he is the way to salvation. Both ﬁgures gaze at the viewer and there is no show of maternal affection. The original was said to be by St. Luke, so painters followed its format, as in the Virgin of Smolensk. Duccio was one of the ﬁrst Italian artists to soften this approach, giving it a warmer, more naturalistic appearance. 3 NATURALISTIC INTERACTION The Byzantine models for this type of picture were deliberately stiff and hieratic. By contrast, Western artists gradually adopted a more naturalistic approach. Rather than depicting rows of repetitive ﬁgures, Duccio introduced a degree of variety into the scene. His saints and angels exchange glances and appear to commune with each other. 6 1Virgin of Smolensk, c.1450, tempera on fabric, gesso, and wood, 53¾ × 41¼in (139 × 105cm), Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia IN CONTEXT The back of the altarpiece, which is now displayed opposite the front, tells the story of Christ’s Passion in 26 scenes. Duccio made the Cruciﬁxion, the climax of the story, larger than the other panels and gave it a central position. 4 FEET AND ROBES Duccio’s career predates the development of mathematical laws of perspective. However, he did make some attempt to create a sense of depth in this picture by showing the feet and robes of some ﬁgures overlapping with the edge of the platform. In part, this was to draw attention to the inscriptions on the base, which identiﬁed some of the lesser-known saints. 7 1The Cruciﬁxion, detail of panel from the back of The Madonna Enthroned, 1311, Museo Dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy 21 22 1100–1500 The Annunciation c.1430–32 TEMPERA ON PANEL FRA ANGELICO WHOLE ALTARPIECE 76¼ × 76¼in (194 × 194cm) PRADO, MADRID, SPAIN SCALE THE ANNUNCIATION FRA ANGELICO Fra Angelico is not an artist properly so called, but an inspired saint JOHN RUSKIN MODERN PAINTERS, VOLUME II, 1846 In a portico ﬁlled with light and color, we lifelike. The architectural structure also reveals witness a signiﬁcant encounter between two Fra Angelico’s command of perspective. With haloed ﬁgures. Both adopt a similar attitude its receding columns and the open chamber at of graceful humility, inclining their heads and the rear, the composition has a sense of depth crossing their hands. This still, meditative and creates the impression that both ﬁgures tableau depicts one of the deﬁning moments inhabit a real, physical space. In this respect, of the Christian tradition, when the Archangel it is possible to see the inﬂuence of other early Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she Renaissance painters such as Masaccio—Fra has been chosen by God to be the mother of Angelico’s contemporary and one of the ﬁrst Christ. The Annunciation as interpreted by artists to paint convincingly lifelike ﬁgures in Dominican friar Fra Angelico was created settings that appeared three-dimensional. Fra as a devotional panel for the altar of San Angelico’s work, however, possesses delicacy Domenico in Fiesole, near Florence. The painting and gracefulness that set it apart from that has a predella (horizontal panel of religious of his contemporaries. scenes) below it, hence its square shape. The diagonal shaft of holy light falls on Mary, illuminating the intense ultramarine of her cloak and the complementary peach tones of her dress. On the other side of the central column, Gabriel’s shining, gold-patterned robe, a similar shade to Mary’s dress, also complements the rich, saturated blue. The angel’s rounded back Fra Angelico painted numerous altarpieces and frescoes, including several Annunciation scenes, all characterized by simplicity of line and vivid color. For him, painting was an act of spiritual devotion and his works seem to convey the strength and inspiration he derived from his Christian faith, as well as the beauty he saw in the world around him. harmonizes with Mary’s graceful pose and is echoed by the curve of his massive, exquisitely detailed wings. The tips of Gabriel’s wings project beyond the portico structure into the ﬁrst section of the painting, which takes up a FRA ANGELICO quarter of the composition and depicts a scene c.1395–1455 from Genesis, the ﬁrst book of the Bible. It is the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, an episode that adds drama to the A devout friar, Fra Angelico painted many ﬁne frescoes and altarpieces. His ﬁne line and use of light and pure color inspired other Renaissance artists, including Piero della Francesca. whole painting and sets the Annunciation in context: Christ will be born on earth to save humanity from original sin. Color, light, and space This precious work displays Fra Angelico’s keen observational skills and ﬁne craftsmanship. The use of light, glowing color and the naturalness of the poses animates the ﬁgures of Mary and Gabriel, giving them weight and making them Born Guido de Petro, Fra Angelico was already illustrating or “illuminating” manuscripts when he joined the Dominican order at Fiesole, near Florence. He was known as Fra Giovanni; the epithet “Angelico” (angelic) was probably added after his death. What little is known about Fra Angelico is derived mainly from the writings of Giorgio Vasari. Apart from the church’s patronage, Fra Angelico also received other commissions and he traveled widely in his later years. He is perhaps best known for the beautiful frescoes that he painted in the monks’ cells of the monastery of San Marco, Florence, c.1440. He was later referred to as “Beato (blessed) Angelico” and was in fact ofﬁcially beatiﬁed in 1982. 23 24 1100–1500 Visual tour 2 5 6 8 3 4 2 7 1 2 ARCHANGEL GABRIEL The glowing halo around Gabriel’s head, which has been painted with gold leaf and then burnished and tooled, reinforces the divinity of God’s chief messenger. Gabriel’s respectful pose is as graceful as Mary’s submissive gesture and the two ﬁgures, each framed by an arch, complement each other perfectly. Fra Angelico has skilfully portrayed the intensity of their encounter, yet there is also a sense of stillness, which gives the altarpiece a meditative quality. KEY 1 3 2 WINGS Fra Angelico has given Gabriel a solid, human form and his stance is realistic. In contrast, the beautifully shaped wings deﬁne him as a divine being. Each feather is carefully depicted, and the overall impression is of a real bird with a large wingspan. You can almost feel the weight of the wings on the angel’s back. 4 1 SHAFT OF LIGHT The divine light cutting diagonally through the painting represents the all-powerful presence of God. From its ﬁery source in the ﬁrst section of the painting, the golden beam touches the archangel’s gilded halo and diffuses softly in front of Mary, linking the two different narrative episodes. Within the heavenly light a white dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, is making its descent, which marks the moment of conception. 2 VIRGIN MARY In the delicate portrayal of Mary’s face you can see Fra Angelico’s expertise at painting detail. As an illuminator of manuscripts, he would have needed an aptitude for ﬁne, small-scale work. Mary’s pose, with her hands crossed, symbolizes her submission to God’s will. As protector, she played a central role for the Dominican friars, Fra Angelico’s order. THE ANNUNCIATION 6 FRA ANGELICO ON TECHNIQUE Fra Angelico uses linear perspective to convince the viewer that the area within the classical portico structure is a real, three-dimensional space. The Corinthian columns decrease in size and appear to recede into the background, as do the arches of the star-studded ceiling. A small room can be seen through the doorway, with a window set into its back wall. There is, however, no single vanishing point and the perspective is not completely resolved. Fra Angelico was working at a pivotal point in Florentine art, when the Gothic conventions were giving way to more sophisticated techniques. 4 ADAM AND EVE Beyond the conﬁnes of the portico, we see the dejected ﬁgures of Adam and Eve who have fallen from God’s grace and are being expelled from the fertile Garden of Eden. The forbidden fruit under their bare feet, they move beyond the frame of the painting. Fra Angelico contrasts their sinfulness with Mary’s immaculate state and reminds us that Christ was born to redeem the sins of humanity. 3 GOD THE FATHER Above the central column of the portico is the sculpted head of a bearded male. This is an image of God, the wise, all-seeing Father. 5 IN CONTEXT 7 8 Fra Angelico revisited the theme of the Annunciation in paintings and frescoes made at different times in his career. The Madrid Annunciation was made at roughly the same time as another altarpiece for the church of San Domenico in Cortona, Tuscany. Although the two are similar in composition, the Cortona altarpiece is more decorative and features gold text ﬂowing from the mouths of the archangel and Mary. Fra Angelico created a third celebrated Annunciation, a fresco (shown below), for the convent of San Marco, near Florence, where it can be seen on the wall at the top of the dormitory stairs. Compared with the two earlier versions, which are dramatic and colorful, it is a pure, serene image of contemplation. 1 DECORATIVE PLANTS The Garden of Eden, which lies beyond the portico and takes up the ﬁrst quarter of the painting, is so richly patterned with plants that it resembles a medieval tapestry. In the stylized treatment of the meadow ﬂowers in the foreground, Fra Angelico’s work reveals the inﬂuence of the earlier Gothic style. 2 SWALLOW Perched on the central column, above the heads of Mary and Gabriel and below the image of God, is a swallow. It probably symbolizes the resurrection of Christ. Just as Christ dies and is then reborn, so the swallow disappears, then returns each spring. Its presence in the painting brings together the trinity of God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. 1The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, c.1438–45, fresco, 90½ × 126¼in (230 × 321cm), Convent of San Marco, Florence, Italy 25 26 1100–1500 The Arnolfini Portrait c.1434 OIL ON PANEL 32¼ × 23½in (82.2 × 60cm) NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON, UK JAN VAN EYCK SCALE The exquisite detail in Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece and audiences of the day, underline their strong moral the level of precision in the painting give this celebrated principles and beliefs. The proportions of both ﬁgures also double portrait an authenticity that is very convincing. emphasize their stature in society. Their bodies appear The sense of space is realistic, the light is handled with elongated, emphasizing the volume of their garments and immense skill, and the composition is tightly controlled. reinforcing the impression of wealth and status. In a richly furnished room, a prosperous couple stand It is, however, the skill of the artist that is perhaps the together, the reﬂections of their backs glimpsed in an most striking aspect of this work. Van Eyck perfected elaborately carved mirror at the center of the tableau. the technique of oil painting at a time when tempera There has been much speculation about the identities (pigment mixed with egg) was still the most popular of the man and woman in the double portrait. They were medium. By carefully building up layers of paint and long thought to be the Italian merchant Giovanni di Arrigo adding detail and texture, he created the illusion of real Arnolﬁni and his wife, who lived in Bruges, and the objects and surfaces. The fur linings of the couple’s heavy painting was known as The Arnolﬁni Marriage, until it robes are painstakingly reproduced and look soft to the was established that the couple was married some years touch. The patina of the wooden ﬂoor with its worn grain before the 1434 date written on the wall in the painting. seems accurately depicted, and the oranges on the table It is now thought that the painting depicts Giovanni’s and the windowsill look good enough to eat. cousin and his wife. Central to the composition and beautifully illuminated by the light from the window, their hands touch in a display of togetherness. JAN VAN EYCK Social documentation c.1390–1441 Most people who see the painting wonder whether One of the greatest artists of the Northern Renaissance, van Eyck was an early master of oil painting. He was famed for his ability to produce detailed paintings. Arnolﬁni’s wife is pregnant. Apart from her rounded stomach, which was considered a becoming feature in women and often seen in portraiture at the time, there are other small details that may suggest pregnancy. However, it is possible that she is simply holding up her dress to display the folds of its sumptuous fabric. Indeed, the main purpose of the painting was probably to emphasize the couple’s wealth and social standing in 15th-century Bruges. The interior of the fashionable Flemish house is richly furnished, both sitters are dressed in ﬁne clothes, and particular visual symbols, which were employed by In his early years, van Eyck probably trained as a manuscript illuminator. This might account for his immense skill in observing and representing objects and ﬁgures in great detail. His earliest known works show his interest in painting people in a landscape, which was very unusual at the time. Van Eyck is ﬁrst recorded working as an artist in August 1422 in the Hague. There he took up the post of court painter to the Count of Holland, John of Bavaria. After the Count’s death, he moved to Bruges and became painter to the court of Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy. This post offered opportunities for travel and van Eyck was inspired by the scenery and works of art he encountered. The Arnolﬁni Portrait and the Ghent Altarpiece are his most celebrated works and display not only his his acute powers of observation, but also his naturalism and superb craftsmanship, particularly when describing the fall of light. other artists and would have been understood by cultured Van Eyck’s inspired observations of light and its effects, executed with technical virtuosity…enabled him to create a brilliant and lucid kind of reality SISTER WENDY BECKETT THE STORY OF PAINTING, 1994 27 28 1100–1500 Visual tour 3 COSTLY FABRIC The superb modeling of the folds of the emerald-green gown emphasize the fabric’s quality and heavy weight. The fabric is probably velvet, which was extremely expensive at the time. The intricate rufﬂes and pleats on the sleeves increase the overall impression of luxury and opulence. 6 5 1 2 7 9 3 4 3 8 5 2 CARVED STATUE The ﬁgure of St. Margaret with a dragon has been carved into the high back of what is probably the bedpost, and the hanging brush to the left is associated with St. Martha, patron saint of housewives. St. Margaret is the patron saint of childbirth, which would support the view that the wife is pregnant. KEY 3 ARNOLFINI Crowned by an enormous hat, the ﬁgure of Arnolﬁni conveys the impression of great wealth and status. His eyes are downcast and his expression is serious. This is in contrast to the welcoming gesture of his right hand, almost like a wave, as he moves to place it into his wife’s open palm. 1 2 1 ARNOLFINI’S WIFE A headdress of ﬁne linen with an intricate frill frames the youthful face of Arnolﬁni’s wife, which is bathed in light. Both the husband and wife’s faces are seen in three-quarter view. Van Eyck employed this angle in other paintings and it brings a natural human quality to the ﬁgures. 4 2 SHOES In the bottom left-hand corner of the painting Arnolﬁni has taken off his wooden, clog-like shoes. Look closely at them and you can see the ﬁne detail of the wood grain and splashes of mud. The wife’s daintier red shoes are visible in the background, under the bench beneath the mirror. THE ARNOLFINI PORTRAIT JAN VAN EYCK ON TECHNIQUE 6 2 CHANDELIER There is a solitary candle burning in the impressive brass chandelier. The single ﬂame symbolizes the all-seeing eye of God. Together with other signs of devotion, such as the prayer beads on the wall and the miniature paintings of the Passion of Christ around the mirror, it demonstrates the couple’s strong Christian beliefs. 7 Van Eyck used oils rather than tempera to bind powdered pigments (ﬁnely ground particles). He attained a level of precision using oil paint that had not been seen previously and his techniques were innovative and inﬂuential. Using layers of translucent glazes to build effects for a multitude of textures, he was able to depict light on surfaces with extraordinary skill. In The Arnolﬁni Portrait you can see his mastery of oil paint in the glints on the chandelier and the magical reﬂective quality of the mirror. 8 1 DOG For its association with loyalty and its reputation as a faithful companion, the dog was widely used as a visual symbol. In this painting, the dog stands between the feet of its owners, uniting them in ﬁdelity. 2 CENTRAL MIRROR Ten miniature paintings encircle the round, convex mirror. They depict in astonishing detail the events leading up to and including the cruciﬁxion of Christ. The craftsmanship in such a piece would have been highly valued in the Netherlands at the time. At least four ﬁgures can clearly be seen reﬂected in the mirror. Two of them are the couple seen from behind, the third is probably van Eyck, and the identity of the fourth person is unclear. 9 2 SIGNATURE The Latin inscription on the wall with the date 1434 can be translated as “Jan van Eyck was here.” Van Eyck often signed and dated his paintings in creative ways. ON COMPOSITION Van Eyck uses perspective to add a sense of depth and create the illusion of interior space. The straight lines of the ﬂoorboards, echoed by the angle of the bed and window frames, draw your eye toward the central focus of the composition, the mirror on the back wall. This is the vanishing point of the painting where the lines meet, as can be seen in the overlay below. 29 30 1100–1500 THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA The Baptism of Christ c.1450 TEMPERA ON PANEL 65¾ × 45½in (167 × 116cm) NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON, UK PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA SCALE Solemn in mood yet ravishing in coloring, lofty in attitude by his cousin John in the River Jordan. Piero, however, yet full of earthy details, this altarpiece exempliﬁes the places the scene in the kind of hilly countryside that he perfect balance between science and poetry that makes saw around his own hometown. Indeed the town (with its Piero’s art so memorable. He was a profoundly thoughtful fortiﬁed towers) that can be glimpsed between Jesus and artist who worked slowly and deliberately in a rational, the tree bears a strong resemblance to Sansepolcro, which scientiﬁc spirit (in his old age, when fading eyesight has changed comparatively little since Piero’s day. perhaps made him give up painting, he wrote treatises on mathematics and perspective). His love of lucidity and order was matched by an exquisite feeling for color and light, however, so his paintings never seem like dry demonstrations of theories. He was inﬂuenced by some of his great Italian predecessors and contemporaries in this handling of color and light, but an innate sensitivity to the beauty of nature must have been equally important to him. A fresh look at a popular theme Nothing is recorded about the commissioning of this picture, but circumstantial evidence indicates that it was painted as an altarpiece for a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist (one of the two principal ﬁgures in the painting) in an abbey in Sansepolcro in Tuscany. When the abbey closed in 1808, the painting was transferred to Sansepolcro’s cathedral, which sold it in 1859, an indication that Piero was regarded as a minor ﬁgure at Painting is nothing but a representation of surface and solids…put on a plane of the picture…as real objects seen by the eye appear on this plane PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA DE PROSPECTIVA PINGENDI, c.1480–90 that time, rather than far and away the town’s greatest son, as he is now. Two years later, it was bought by the PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA National Gallery, London, whose director at the time, Sir c.1415–92 Charles Lock Eastlake, played a leading role in Piero’s rediscovery. There is no external evidence to help with dating the painting, but because it has such a feeling of springlike freshness, it is generally considered to come from fairly early in Piero’s career. It is perhaps the ﬁrst work in which he revealed his full powers. The Baptism of Christ has been a popular subject from the earliest days of Christian art, and many aspects of Piero’s painting can be paralleled in works by other Italian artists of the time. None of them, however, rivaled Piero in creating a scene of such monumental dignity and authority. Nor did any of them give the event such a lovely setting. In the biblical accounts, Jesus is baptized Piero’s majestic powers of design, combined with his extraordinarily sensitive handling of color and light, have made him one of the most revered ﬁgures in Renaissance art. Piero spent most of his life in his hometown of Borgo San Sepolcro (now known as Sansepolcro) in the Tiber valley, southeast of Florence, Italy. It was a prosperous town, but not particularly distinguished artistically, so he also found employment in several other places, including major art centers such as Florence and Rome. Much of Piero’s work has been destroyed over the centuries, and few of his surviving paintings are well documented, so his career can be followed only in broad outline. He was highly respected in his lifetime and worked for some of the most eminent patrons of the day, but after his death his reputation faded. This was largely because his major works were in rather out-of-the-way places. Before the days of photography and easy travel, they therefore tended to be overlooked. It was not until the late 19th century that his reputation began to rise to its present exalted heights. 31 32 1100–1500 Visual tour 2 3 4 2 1 5 6 2 JOHN THE BAPTIST John was the forerunner or herald of Jesus, and the baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. In art, he is often depicted as something of a “wild man”—an ascetic who lived in the desert and dressed in animal skins. Piero, however, shows him as rather better groomed than Jesus. KEY 3 JESUS In Renaissance paintings, Jesus is usually depicted as ﬁnefeatured and otherworldly, emphasizing his divine nature. In contrast, Piero gives him the look of a robust farmer, the kind of ﬁgure he could have seen working in the countryside at any time around Sansepolcro. In this painting, Jesus is far from conventionally handsome—his ears are large, his lips thick, and his hair rather lank. Nevertheless, there is nobility in his bearing, and his grave, pensive expression leaves no doubt as to his holiness. 4 CENTRAL AXIS Jesus is very much at the center of the painting. The water pouring from John the Baptist’s bowl creates an imaginary central line. The line runs vertically through the picture, bisecting Jesus’s head and praying hands. Piero prevents the effect from being stiff or obvious by giving a slight twist to Jesus’s lower body. He stands naturally and convincingly, his weight solidly on the ground. 1 3 1 DOVE The biblical accounts say that when Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended on him from Heaven like a dove, and it became common in art to depict an actual dove hovering above him. A dove was used in a similar way in other religious scenes, and often as a generalized symbol of peace, innocence, or good tidings. Piero’s renowned skill in perspective and foreshortening is shown in the difﬁcult head-on position in which he has chosen to depict the bird. The dove’s shape also echoes the shapes of the clouds. 4 THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA ON TECHNIQUE 6 2 ANGELS Paintings of the Baptism of Christ often include two or three angels standing to one side, sometimes holding Christ’s garments, but sometimes used more ornamentally or to balance other features of the composition. Piero’s angels are among the most individual and lovable ever painted. Like the ﬁgure of Jesus, they seem based on the observation of real people rather than conventional ideas of celestial beings. They look like chubby, blonde-haired peasant children who have dressed up for a village festival, and one leans on the shoulder of another with a delightfully casual gesture. However, for all this charm, they do not detract from the picture’s solemn atmosphere. Piero’s lifetime coincided with the introduction of oil paints in Italy. By the end of his career, he had adopted them, appreciating—like many other artists—their ﬂexibility and versatility. When he painted The Baptism of Christ, however, he was still using the older technique of tempera, in which pigments are mixed with egg rather than oil. Tempera can produce beautiful, durable results, but it is difﬁcult to master, requiring patient craftsmanship. Colors cannot easily be blended (whereas they can with oils), so effects have to be painstakingly built up, layer after layer, touch after touch. Sometimes, paintings in this transitional period were begun with tempera and ﬁnished with oils. IN COMPOSITION Piero was a mathematician as well as an artist and his paintings often have almost geometrical lucidity. The painting has a round top, and in its basic proportions it is made up of a square topped by a circle—two of the fundamental geometric forms. Less obviously, the diagonal of John the Baptist’s left leg is part of a triangle whose apex is formed at Jesus’s hands. In this way, even the most dynamic part of the composition—as John leans forward with the baptismal bowl—is anchored in geometrical order. 5 2 FEET ON THE GROUND The monumental grandeur of Piero’s style is encapsulated in Jesus’s legs, which almost seem like marble columns and are as ﬁrmly planted on the ground as the tree alongside them. Yet there is great subtlety in the way the light molds their form and in the way the water is observed around the ankles. In reality, Jesus’s baptism may have involved total immersion, but Piero, like many artists of the time, reduces a substantial river, the Jordan, to a small stream winding through the painting. According to the biblical accounts, the event took place “during a general baptism of the people,” and the legs to the right of this detail belong to a man who is stripping off to take his turn. 33 34 1100–1500 The Hunt in the Forest c.1470 TEMPERA AND OIL ON PANEL 29 × 69¾in (73.3 × 177cm) ASHMOLEAN, OXFORD, UK PAOLO UCCELLO SCALE A striking panorama, this hunting scene displays Uccello’s Uccello cleverly uses perspective to evoke the excitement mastery of the new techniques of perspective, in which of the chase and to draw us further into the darkness as objects and ﬁgures appear to grow smaller with distance, we follow the men with their horses and hounds as they creating the illusion of space and depth. Riders, horses disappear rapidly into the trees. The bright vermilion of and huntsmen, either galloping or running alongside their the hunters’ hats and jackets, the beaters’ leggings, and the dogs, move directly toward the center of the painting. horses’ harnesses stand out dramatically against the verdant Here a stag disappears into the the forest and the lines grass and foliage and the dark background, giving the of vision converge in a central vanishing point. composition a decorative, jewel-like quality. THE HUNT IN THE FOREST The meaning of The Hunt in the Forest is not immediately clear. The stylized setting and symbolic motifs create an air of pageantry and suggest that this is a scene of chivalric make-believe rather than a realistic depiction. One interpretation is that the painting is an allegory of the quest for love. This quest, which can lead into the darkness of unknown territory, is perhaps represented symbolically by the hunt, and the painting may have been intended as a wedding gift, such as a decoration for the headboard of a large bed. Alternatively, the painting may simply have been commissioned from Uccello by a sophisticated nobleman who wanted a unique and ornamental scene by a contemporary artist that could be set into the wooden paneling of a grand interior. PAOLO UCCELLO PAOLO UCCELLO c.1397–1475 Most of Uccello’s surviving paintings demonstrate his passion for perspective. His innovative use of this technique to create the illusion of depth in paintings helped transform the course of art. Born Paolo di Dono in Florence, this artist was nicknamed Uccello (uccello is Italian for “bird”) because of his love of birds and animals. He trained in the workshop of the Florentine sculptor, Lorenzo Ghiberti. The chronology of his career is difﬁcult to establish, but records show that he was invited to Venice to work on mosaic designs for the Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Cathedral) in 1425. In Florence he worked on The Creation of the Animals and The Creation of Adam, two frescoes for the cloisters of the church of Santa Maria Novella, and later produced two more. He also designed stained glass windows for Florence Cathedral, the Duomo, two of which survive. The Hunt in the Forest, the three panels that make up The Battle of San Romano (see p.37), and St. George and the Dragon are perhaps his most famous paintings. 35 36 1100–1500 Visual tour 9 7 1 3 2 8 6 5 4 KEY 1 14 HUNTERS All the hunters in the painting have similar faces. Even though some adopt different poses and others appear to be shouting, they all have the same distinctive nose, eyes, and facial proportions. Most of the hunters are shown in proﬁle and this makes it easier to spot the similarities between them. This repetition, together with the use of bright red for their clothing and hats, gives the scene a pattern-like uniformity and makes it seem like part of an imaginary world. 2 5 3 4 1 STAGS The stylized forms of the stags are, at ﬁrst glance, similar to those of the dogs. However, when comparing the two, you can see that the dogs are running, whereas the stags are leaping. Uccello’s skill in depicting the forms of animals with a strong degree of realism, however stylized and decorative the treatment, is clear when you study the painting closely. 2 DOGS The speed at which the hunting dogs are running is expressed by their outstretched legs and arched backs. Some look almost identical and parts of their bodies overlap to give the picture a three–dimensional quality. The dogs’ collars are exactly the same shade of vermilion as the hunters’ jackets. This complements the green of the grass in the foreground, adding to the vibrancy of the painting. THE HUNT IN THE FOREST PAOLO UCCELLO ON COMPOSITION 6 2 HORSES Uccello loved painting animals and would have made many preliminary drawings of horses, using real animals as models, for this and other works. He would then simplify the forms of the animals so they were in harmony with the overall composition of the painting. Uccello’s skilful use of perspective can be seen clearly from the diagram below. Here the radial lines that make up a grid system to guide the artist in the initial design have been overlaid on the painting. Above the horizon line, the trees diminish in size and appear to recede into the distance, whereas everything below the horizon converges on a central vanishing point. The tree trunks on the ground and patterned areas of foliage also follow the lines. The principles of perspective as applied to painting were ﬁrst described in a treatise written by Leon Battista Alberti in 1435. 3 MOON In the center of the dark blue sky is another reference to Diana, a slender crescent moon. Whether this suggests evening or nighttime, this detail is almost impossible to see without the aid of a magnifying glass. 7 8 9 IN CONTEXT Uccello’s battle scene below is one of three that were once in the Medici Palace. It was assumed that they were commissioned for it but research published a few years ago shows that they were painted for the Bartolini Salimbeni family and were later seized by Lorenzo de Medici. Uccello has used the same perspective devices in this painting as in The Hunt in the Forest. Note how the lances on the ground point toward a spot above the white horse’s head. The lines in the ﬁelds also lead your eyes into the distance, although they converge at a different point. 1The Battle of San Romano, Paolo Uccello, c.1456, tempera on panel, 71½ × 126in (182 × 320cm), Ufﬁzi, Florence, Italy 1 CRESCENT MOTIF The symbol of the Roman goddess of hunting, Diana, is a crescent moon. Gold crescents decorate the horses’ reins and appear on the harness straps on their rumps. Diana is the protector of chastity. It was more common for wedding gifts to depict Venus and Mars, the god and goddess of love. 2 TREES We can see that the trees are oaks from the shape of their leaves, some of which would once have been decorated with gold leaf. Uccello made sure that there were no branches below the canopy to obstruct our view of the hunt. Oak groves were sacred to the Roman goddess Diana. 37 38 1100–1500 The Birth of Venus c.1485 TEMPERA ON CANVAS 68 × 109¾in (172.5 × 278.5cm) SANDRO BOTTICELLI UFFIZI, FLORENCE, ITALY SCALE THE BIRTH OF VENUS SANDRO BOTTICELLI This supremely graceful painting is full of gentle beautiful, iconic ﬁgure of Venus is positioned right movement and harmony. It depicts the arrival of Venus, at the center of the perfectly balanced composition. Roman goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, on the island Botticelli’s Venus embodies the Renaissance ideal of of Cyprus. All around her are signs of spring, which is a beauty. Her pale limbs are long and elegant, her shoulders time of new beginnings and renewal. The extraordinarily slope, and her stomach is sensuously rounded, yet there is something otherworldly about her, especially the expression on her exquisite face. The painting was probably commissioned by a member of the wealthy Medici family, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, for his villa at Castello near Florence. A cultured individual, he would have been familiar with the stories of classical Greek and Roman mythology as well as the philosophy of Plato, so Botticelli’s Venus can be seen as the physical manifestation of a divine and perfect beauty. In Renaissance Italy, mythological scenes were usually commissioned to decorate wooden furniture such as cassone (wedding chests). Religious images, on the other hand, were created on a grander scale and used in churches, often as altarpieces. In creating the The Birth of Venus, Botticelli broke with tradition, producing the ﬁrst work on canvas to feature a mythological image that was comparable in size to a large-scale religious painting. Aphrodite the fair… she with the golden wreath…was conveyed by the swelling breath of Zephyrus, on the waves of the turbulent sea HOMERIC HYMN TO APHRODITE, c.5000 BCE SANDRO BOTTICELLI c.1445–1510 One of the most celebrated painters of the Renaissance, Botticelli developed a graceful and ornamental linear style that harked back to elements of the Gothic style in art. Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, was born in Florence. He worked as an apprentice in the studio of Fra Filippo Lippi, then established his own workshop c.1470. At the high point of his career Botticelli was producing work for Florence’s churches as well as receiving commissions from the most powerful families in Florence, particularly the Medici. By 1481, his reputation was such that he was summoned to Rome to paint frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Botticelli’s good fortune did not last, however. The Medici family was expelled from Florence, his style of painting went out of fashion, and he died in poverty and obscurity. It was only in the late 19th century that interest in his work revived. Botticelli’s masterpieces were his large mythological paintings, The Birth of Venus and Primavera (see overleaf). The Mystic Nativity, 1500, another of his great works, was the only painting of his that was signed and dated. 39 40 1100–1500 Visual tour 1 6 3 5 4 2 3 SHELL Venus is about to alight from her boat, a scallop shell, which anchors her in the center of the composition. Despite the painting’s title, the moment of her birth occurred under less poetic circumstances. According to Greek mythology, Venus emerged from the fertile foam that was created when her father Uranus’s severed genitals were thrown into the sea. 2 7 KEY 1 3 2 VENUS The mythological goddess emerges as a fully grown woman. Her right hand covers one of her breasts, while her left holds long skeins of golden hair over her pubic area. Her classical pose is known as the Venus pudica, the modest Venus; some artists portrayed the goddess as a more erotic ﬁgure. Botticelli’s Venus represents the 15th-century Italian ideal of female beauty—she has a small head, an unnaturally long neck, steeply sloping shoulders, and a rounded stomach. Apart from the pink roses wafting down on her, Venus is pictured without her usual attributes, such as her pearl necklace or Cupid, her son. 4 1 ROSES Around Zephyrus and Chloris, delicate pink roses tumble, each with a golden heart and gilded leaves. Known as the ﬂower of Venus, the beautiful and fragrant rose is a symbol of love, with thorns that can cause pain. It also represents fertility. THE BIRTH OF VENUS SANDRO BOTTICELLI ON TECHNIQUE 5 2 FLORA The female ﬁgure on the right is generally identiﬁed as Flora, the goddess of ﬂowers, who appears similarly attired in Botticelli’s Primavera. An allegorical ﬁgure, she represents spring, the time of rebirth. Around her neck she wears leaves of the myrtle, a tree sacred to Venus; her dress is sprigged with cornﬂowers, and she wears a high sash of roses. There are more spring ﬂowers on the billowing pink cloak she holds out to the naked Venus. In the painting, Venus stands with her weight on her left leg, giving her body a graceful S-shaped curve. The pose is based on that of classical statues. Venus’s stance, and the way in which she has been painted without shadows, give her delicacy and make her seem almost to ﬂoat. In Botticelli’s ink drawing (below), the female ﬁgure adopts the same pose, this time with her weight on her right leg. Being able to represent a ﬁgure in this relaxed pose was greatly esteemed by Renaissance artists. 3 GOLD HIGHLIGHTS The foliage of the orange trees is picked out in gold leaf, as are the individual feathers on the wings of Zephyrus. All the ﬁgures have gold highlights in their hair, and the veins of the shell, the stems and centers of the roses, and the grass stalks in the foreground are similarly gilded. With these gold details the whole painting would appear to glimmer after dark when lit by candlelight. 6 1Allegory of Abundance or Autumn, Botticelli, 1480–85, pen and ink on paper, 12½ × 10in (31.7 × 25.2cm), British Museum, London, UK IN CONTEXT 1 ZEPHYRUS AND CHLORIS The personiﬁcation of the west wind, the winged Greek god Zephyrus brings movement to the scene. His cheeks are puffed out as he blows the waves that cast Venus toward the shore. He is clasped by a semi-clad female, probably Chloris, a mortal nymph abducted by Zephyrus to be his bride. Chloris was later transformed into the goddess Flora, the gorgeously clothed ﬁgure on the right of the painting. In terms of composition, Zephyrus and Chloris are balanced by the graceful ﬁgure of Flora. 4 LAPIS LAZULI The intense blue of the cornﬂowers on Flora’s dress comes from ultramarine, an expensive pigment made by crushing lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone. Botticelli’s wealthy patron clearly spared no expense when he commissioned this painting. 7 There is much debate as to whether The Birth of Venus is a companion piece to Botticelli’s other allegorical masterpiece, Primavera, perhaps commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici about ﬁve years earlier. Both are symbolic representations of the cycle of spring and both depict Venus, Zephyrus, Chloris, and Flora. Primavera (which means “spring” in Italian) is, however, painted on wood rather than canvas. In this painting, Flora has Chloris and Zephyrus on her left and Venus on her right. Venus is fully clothed and can be identiﬁed by her son, Cupid, who is ﬂying overhead. On the left is Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and next to him are the three Graces, Venus’s handmaidens. 1Primavera, Botticelli, c.1482, tempera on panel, 78 × 123½in (203 × 314cm), Ufﬁzi, Florence, Italy 41 The Garden of Earthly Delights The Great Piece of Turf Mona Lisa The School of Athens Sistine Chapel Ceiling Bacchus and Ariadne The Ambassadors Spring Morning in the Han Palace Netherlandish Proverbs Spring Cypress Tree Akbar’s Adventures with the Elephant Hawa'i in 1561 44 1500–1600 The Garden of Earthly Delights c.1500 OIL ON PANEL 86½ × 153in (220 × 389cm) PRADO, MADRID, SPAIN HIERONYMUS BOSCH SCALE Across three large panels an astonishing vision unfolds. alleged to have belonged to the sect and, therefore, to Scores of ﬁgures—some human, some monstrous—inhabit a have exalted lust in the painting rather than condemned visionary world that encompasses radiant beauty as well it. Such theories can be entertaining, but they are based as scenes of hideous torment. The two outer panels depict on little or no hard evidence. the Creation of Eve on the left and Hell on the right. In the central panel, teeming nude ﬁgures engage in unbridled sexual activity in a luscious garden. Although many of the details are bafﬂing to the ordinary observer, the general idea of the painting seems clear—God gave man and woman an earthly Paradise, but the sins of the ﬂesh have led them to the tortures of Hell. However, because the painting is so unconventional and the circumstances of its creation are unknown, there has been endless commentary on how exactly it should be interpreted. Open to speculation The painting was ﬁrst documented in 1517, the year after Bosch’s death, when it was said to be in a palace in Brussels belonging to Count Hendrik—Henry III of Nassau. Paintings in triptych (three-paneled) format were very common as altarpieces in Bosch’s time, but this one is so personal that it was almost certainly created for a private patron rather than a church, and in the absence of other evidence it is reasonable to assume that this patron was Hendrik or one of his relatives. Bosch left behind no letters or other writings, and there are no reminiscences by people who knew him. There are numerous contemporary documents relating to him, mainly preserved in the municipal archives of ’s-Hertogenbosch. While they provide some information about the outline of his life, they throw no light on his character. The gaps in our knowledge have been ﬁlled with a wealth of speculation by modern writers, who have portrayed Bosch as everything from a scholarly theologian to a heretic with a disturbed mind. It has been proposed, for example, that the ﬁgures in the central panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights are members of an obscure sect who practised ritual promiscuity to try to recapture the initial innocence of Adam and Eve. Bosch is THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS Instead, all the contemporary records indicate that Bosch was a respected member of society who held conventional religious views. Aspects of his work that seem strange to us probably reﬂect the popular culture of his time rather than bizarre personal views. Religious pageants and plays, for example, sometimes used repulsive demon masks to suggest the horrors of Hell. …it is his ability to give form to our fears that makes his imagery timeless LAURINDA DIXON TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION, 2003 HIERONYMUS BOSCH HIERONYMUS BOSCH c.1450–1516 Bosch produced some of the strangest and most perplexing paintings in the history of art. Very little is known of their creator, inspiring much speculation about his character and motives. As far as is known, Bosch spent all his life in the town after which he is named, ’s-Hertogenbosch, which is now in the southern Netherlands, near the Belgian border. In Bosch’s time, when the map of Europe was very different from that of today, the town was in the Duchy of Brabant. Bosch was the leading painter of the day in ’s-Hertogenbosch, which was prosperous and a notable cultural center. By the end of his life, his work was sought by leading collectors in Italy and Spain as well as his homeland. His paintings continued to be admired and inﬂuential throughout the 16th century, but thereafter they were long neglected. It was not until about 1900 that there was a serious revival of interest in him. 45 46 1500–1600 Visual tour 1 2 ADAM AND EVE In the biblical account of the ﬁrst days of the world, God creates Eve from a rib he has taken from the sleeping Adam. Here God, looking very like the traditional image of Christ, takes Eve’s wrist and presents her to Adam. With his other hand, he makes a gesture that confers blessing on their union. 2 6 5 9 4 3 8 7 1 KEY 3 FOUNTAIN OF LIFE This strange and beautiful structure in the left-hand panel is the Fountain of Life, from which the rivers of Paradise ﬂow. It is not mentioned in the biblical account of creation, but it appears in Christian art from the 5th century onward. 2 4 5 3 1 EXOTIC ANIMALS Scenes of the Garden of Eden allowed artists to depict all manner of animals, both real and imaginary, to illustrate the abundance of God’s creation. The mythical unicorn was adopted into Christian art as a symbol of purity. 1 NAKED MEN RIDING ANIMALS Groups of men—mounted on real and imaginary animals—energetically circle a pool, from which women look out invitingly. Animals were traditionally associated with the lower or carnal appetites of humankind, and in Bosch’s day, as now, the act of riding was often used as a metaphor for sexual intercourse. THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS HIERONYMUS BOSCH ON TECHNIQUE 3 GIANT STRAWBERRY In art, the strawberry was sometimes interpreted as an allusion to drops of Christ’s blood. However, it was also used as a sexual metaphor, its juicy voluptuousness suggesting carnal activity. 6 3 BUTTERFLY AND THISTLE Few details in the painting have escaped symbolic interpretation. The butterﬂy has been seen as an allusion to inconstancy or capriciousness and the thistle to corruption. In other contexts, however, both can have positive associations. 7 Bosch was a free spirit in terms of technique as well as imagery. Most of his contemporaries in the Netherlands cultivated smooth, tight, precise handling of paint, but Bosch’s brushwork is ﬂuid and vigorous. He was also one of the ﬁrst artists in northern Europe to produce drawings intended as independent works. This typically lively example is a variant of the tree man in The Garden of Earthly Delights. 8 1The Tree Man, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1505, quill pen and brown ink, 11 × 8¼in (27.7 × 21cm), Graﬁsche Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, Austria IN COMPOSITION The hinged side panels of the triptych can be closed over the central panel to form an image of the Earth, painted in shades of grey. God can be seen top left; his creation of the world— shown here as barely formed and unpopulated —forms a prelude to the creation of Eve inside. 1 POOL OF NAKED WOMEN In the middle of the central panel is a pool full of naked women who excite the circling men. Medieval moralists writing on sexual matters invariably saw women as temptresses— following the example of Eve. This “Fountain of Flesh,” a kind of crazy merry-go-round of courtship, can be seen as a sinful counterpart to the Fountain of Life depicted in the ﬁrst panel of the triptych. 4 TREE MAN Part man, part egg, part tree, this weird construction deﬁes precise analysis, but it is surely intended as Hell’s counterpart to the Fountain of Life on the left-hand panel. It has been suggested, although without any real evidence, that the haunting, pale face is a self-portrait of Bosch. On his head, demons lead their victims around a disc, which in turn supports a bagpipe, an instrument that often had sexual connotations. 9 4 KNIFE AND EARS A pair of ears and a knife present an obviously phallic appearance. The knife bears the letter “M”, as do other blades in paintings by Bosch. Various explanations have been offered for this. One suggestion is that the letter stands for mundus (“world” in Latin ). 1Creation of the World, the monochrome exterior side panels of The Garden Of Earthly Delights as they appear when the triptych is closed 47 48 1500–1600 The Great Piece of Turf 1503 WATERCOLOR, PEN, AND INK ON PAPER 16 × 12½in (40.8 × 31.5cm) ALBERTINA, VIENNA, AUSTRIA ALBRECHT DÜRER The minute detail in this exquisite painting of a simple piece of meadow turf is of almost photographic precision. Painted more than 500 years ago, it is one of the ﬁrst SCALE Visual tour great nature studies. Here, Dürer has given us an insect’s perspective of 1 2 nature. He has recreated the small, tangled plants with such clarity that it is possible to identify each one, making 1 it one of the ﬁrst European studies of biodiversity. The Great Piece of Turf is a masterpiece in its own right but, like his Italian contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer made his nature studies primarily to increase his understanding of the natural world and to help him with the detail in his engravings, such as The Fall of Man, 1504, his woodcuts, and his large-scale paintings, such as The Feast of the Rose Garlands, 1506. Dürer has used watercolor here, enabling him to work relatively quickly and concentrate on the colors and textures of the plants. With watercolor, unlike oil paint, which Dürer used in his large works, it is easy to mix subtle shades quickly and layer washes of paint on top of each other without having to wait too long for them to dry. Dürer mixed the different shades of green with great accuracy, both to differentiate each plant from the others and to create a sense of depth in the composition. 3 KEY 2 1 KEEN OBSERVATION The ﬂeshy leaves of a greater plantain stand out among the grasses. Note how Dürer has used ﬁne, dry strokes of a deeper green to model the forms of the leaves, and ﬁne white lines to highlight the veins and the edges of the leaves. 2 PALE BACKGROUND This detail shows a spent dandelion head. You can trace the fading stem of the plant down to its familiar toothedged leaves. The top of the painting is covered with a pale wash so that the plants are delineated clearly against it. ALBRECHT DÜRER 3 1471–1528 Surely the greatest of all German artists, Dürer was a brilliant Northern Renaissance draftsman, printmaker, and painter. His work was characterized by accuracy and inner perception. Born the son of a master goldsmith in Nuremberg, a center of artistic activity and commerce in the 15th and 16th centuries, Dürer was apprenticed with Michael Wolgemut, whose workshop produced woodcut illustrations, then travelled as a journeyman, making woodcuts and watercolors. He visited Italy twice and was deeply inﬂuenced by Italian Renaissance art and ideas. Back in Nuremberg, Dürer took printmaking to new heights. He completed several series of revolutionary woodcuts on religious topics, studied the nude, and published books on proportion in the human body and perspective. Dürer became an ofﬁcial court artist to Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V. He was also the ﬁrst artist to produce several self-portraits. 1 SILVERY ROOTS Dürer has not limited his study to what grows above the ground. He has cleared the soil away in places to reveal the ﬁne, threadlike roots of the plants and has set them against a dark wash to make them more visible. The dark sepia tones weave around the bases of the plants and give the composition depth and solidity. THE GREAT PIECE OF TURF ALBRECHT DÜRER 49 50 1500–1600 Mona Lisa c.1503–06 OIL ON POPLAR 30¼ × 22in (77 × 53cm) LOUVRE, PARIS, FRANCE LEONARDO DA VINCI SCALE From behind bulletproof glass in the Louvre, France’s Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy national gallery, Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda) Florentine merchant, hence her other title, la Gioconda. looks out at her adoring crowds. Mystery surrounds this Monna meant “Mrs.” Giocondo’s purchase of a new home around the time the portrait was painted, as well as the birth of the couple’s third child in 1502, are both plausible reasons for commissioning a portrait. Mona Lisa is seated in a half-length composition, one of the earliest Italian examples of this kind of pose in a portrait. beautiful woman, not only because her identity has been debated for so long, but also because her facial expression is ambivalent: strangely open and yet quietly reserved at the same time. She sits turned slightly toward you as if on a terrace, with an imaginary landscape in the background. Framed by two barely visible columns, she smiles and gazes almost straight into your eyes, but her folded arms keep you at a distance. With this amazing image, Leonardo established a sense of psychological connection between the sitter and the viewer, an innovation in portrait painting that was soon taken up by other artists. Realism in portraiture Leonardo’s great skill was to breathe life into this remarkable portrait. It is almost as if a real person is sitting in front of you. The softness of Mona Lisa’s skin, the shine on her hair, and the glint in her eyes are all achieved by minute attention to detail. Plainly dressed She has the serene countenance of a woman sure she will remain beautiful forever and appearing relaxed, she is particularly renowned for her smile, often described as enigmatic. It is very difﬁcult THÉOPHILE GAUTIER GUIDE DE L’AMATEUR AU MUSÉE DU LOUVRE, 1898 to determine her exact mood from the mouth or eyes alone. The ﬂicker of a smile plays on her lips, yet her eyes show little sign of humor. The fashion in portraiture at the time was to paint women as mythological, religious, or historical ﬁgures embodying desirable female traits, such as beauty or LEONARDO DA VINCI 1452–1519 A genius of the Renaissance, Leonardo is now famous for the range and variety of his talents, embracing science as well as art. He is regarded as the main creator of the High Renaissance style. grace. Such portraits exaggerated women’s features to realize these ideals: noses were elongated and necks lengthened. Mona Lisa is represented neither as Venus, the Roman goddess of beauty, love, and fertility, nor as the Madonna—both popular and idealized roles for women at the time. In celebrating this woman’s own perfectly balanced features without any need for allegorical embellishment, or even decorative jewelery or costume, Leonardo was clearly breaking with tradition. There are no existing records of a commission for this portrait and what we know about the sitter comes from biographies of Leonardo. She was probably Lisa Born in or near Vinci, close to Florence, Leonardo served an apprenticeship in the workshop of the Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio. He then spent most of his career between Milan and Florence. His last years were spent working for the French monarchy and he died in Amboise, France. The diversity of Leonardo’s interests meant that he produced few ﬁnished paintings, but he left behind many sensitive, highly detailed drawings and notebooks. Among other subjects, he studied anatomy, the ﬂight of birds and insects, the forms of rocks and clouds, and the effects of the atmosphere on landscape. All of his observations informed his paintings, in which he combined grandeur of form and unity of atmosphere with exquisite detail. Leonardo’s mastery of composition and harmony can be seen in another of his most celebrated works, The Last Supper (c.1495–97). Sadly, the painting has deteriorated badly over time because of the experimental technique he used. 51 52 1500–1600 Visual tour 3 8 2 1 5 7 6 4 1 4 ENIGMATIC SMILE Leonardo introduced a painting technique known as sfumato, which makes subtle use of blended tones. Used here to great effect, it gives Mona Lisa’s smile a mysterious softness. Her lips tilt gently upward at the edges, but her expression is hard to read. Alongside other aspects of her pose, this gives Mona Lisa an air of remote calmness. KEY 2 1 EYE CONTACT It is natural to look into someone’s eyes. As is the case with many portraits, Mona Lisa's eyes seem to look straight back at you and to follow you around if you move. Leonardo achieves this illusion by directing the left eye squarely at the viewer, and positioning the right eye slightly to one side. 4 HAIR Look carefully at this part of the painting and you can see a dark veil over Mona Lisa’s head and to the side of her face, probably indicating her virtuousness. Her hairline and eyebrows may have been plucked, as was fashionable at the time. 3 1 ARMS AND HANDS Mona Lisa's folded arms form the base of a triangle that reaches up from each arm to the head. Leonardo used this compositional technique to place his model within a harmonious space—in a geometrical sense—that is pleasing to the eye. Mona Lisa wears neither rings nor bracelets, and her hands look youthfully plump. Her hands and arms look relaxed, as if she is sitting comfortably. MONA LISA LEONARDO DA VINCI ON TECHNIQUE 3 BRIDGE IN PERSPECTIVE Just behind the right shoulder, you can make out the arches of a bridge spanning a river. As with other parts of this imaginary landscape, Leonardo has painted it so that you look down on it. Mona Lisa’s eyes, however, are at the same level as the viewer’s. 3 SLEEVES Leonardo’s skilful application of oil paint can be seen in the modeling and tones of the sleeves. Originally these sleeves would have been saffron yellow, but the pigment has faded over many years and the varnish applied to the surface to conserve the paint has also darkened the color. 5 6 4 7 Leonardo would have made studies of every aspect of the portrait, sketching each part individually beforehand. Such attention to detail was unusual and helped to give his paintings their realistic quality. This study of drapery shows how Leonardo modelled the material using charcoal, chalk, and wash to create the impression of creases. He used the same technique with oil paint on the sleeves of the Mona Lisa. Leonardo dipped rags in plaster to help him paint drapery. The plaster held the fabric in place and emphasizied its folds, giving Leonardo the time to make detailed drawings. 1A Study of Drapery, Leonardo da Vinci, 1515–17, charcoal, black chalk, touches of brown wash, white heightening, 6½ × 5¾in (16.4 × 14.5cm), The Royal Collection, London, UK IN CONTEXT This iconic image has been subverted through the ages, perhaps most famously by Marcel Duchamp in his 1919 “readymade,” L.H.O.O.Q. (below). Duchamp drew a beard and moustache on a postcard of the portrait with those letters beneath it—a crude pun in French suggesting that Mona Lisa is a sexually available woman. Duchamp may also have intended to underline the ambiguity of the sitter’s gender. 8 1 SOFT FOCUS The hazy appearance of the landscape has been achieved with a technique called glazing, in which layers of thinned, transparent oil paint are applied one over the other. Each layer of paint has to be dry before the next is applied. Blue emphasizes the dreamlike effect of the landscape and helps to create the illusion that the background is receding. 1 WINDING PATH In an early drawing, Leonardo had already used the pictorial device of a long path or river to lead the viewer’s eye into the distance. Visually, the feature appears simply to be part of the landscape but the device is used very cleverly to give the painting depth and to make the space appear less ﬂat and one-dimensional. 1L.H.O.O.Q., Marcel Duchamp, 1919, pencil on card, 7¾ × 4in (19.7 × 10.5cm), Centre Pompidou, Paris, France 53 54 1500–1600 The School of Athens c.1509–11 FRESCO RAPHAEL 16ft 4¾in × 25ft 3in (500 × 770cm) VATICAN, ROME, ITALY SCALE THE SCHOOL OF ATHENS The School of Athens is the most famous of the frescoes commissioned by Pope Julius II when he remodeled his private chambers in the Vatican Palace. Raphael and his assistants undertook the task of decorating all four of these stanze (grand rooms) in 1508. They continued their work RAPHAEL under Julius’s successor, Leo X, but Raphael died before the rooms were completed. This monumental fresco, which depicts an imaginary gathering of classical philosophers and scholars, sits above head height on the wall of the Stanza della Segnatura with its vaulted ceiling. It is justly famous for the graceful poses of its ﬁgures, the sense of movement they embody, and their expressiveness—all of which Raphael achieved after making hundreds of detailed studies and sketches. The painting’s other outstanding feature is the harmony of its composition. Pursuit of truth and knowledge The pictorial scheme of the Stanza della Segnatura shows that it was used as the papal library and private ofﬁce. The theme of the frescoes on all four walls is the search for truth and enlightenment, and The School of Athens represents the pursuit of rational truth through philosophy. Central to the composition are the ﬁgures of the two great classical Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, who represent different schools of thought. The majestic style of The School of Athens, the serene movements and gestures of the ﬁgures, and the grand architectural composition with its sense of symmetry and spatial depth all combine to make this work a masterpiece of the High Renaissance. In the brilliant portrayal of the subject matter and the assured style of its execution, Raphael has encapsulated the classical ideal of the pursuit of knowledge. RAPHAEL 1483–1520 The precociously talented Raphael took on major commissions at a young age. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he dominated the High Renaissance period. Born in Urbino in central Italy, Raffaello Sanzio initially trained with his father, Giovanni, who was a poet as well as a painter. He later assisted in the workshop of the painter, Perugino. In 1508, with his reputation already established, the 25-year-old Raphael was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II and given a prestigious commission—the decoration of the papal apartments. Other major commissions followed but these were increasingly executed by assistants in Raphael’s workshop. The workshop was so well organized that it is often hard to tell how much workshop contribution there is in a painting. Apart from The School of Athens and the other frescoes of the Stanza della Segnatura, Raphael’s designs for the 10 tapestries for the Sistine Chapel are considered to be among his ﬁnest work. He also painted several portraits. Under Julius’s successor, Pope Leo X, Raphael became Papal Architect. He died in Rome of a fever, aged just 37. 55 56 1500–1600 Visual tour 2 1 4 3 5 6 2 7 2 HERACLITUS The expressive body language of this ﬁgure gives him an air of melancholy. He represents the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus, commonly known as the “weeping philosopher.” His well–built frame leans on a block of marble and he seems to be writing dark thoughts on a piece of white paper. This ﬁgure is a portrait of Michelangelo, another of Raphael’s contemporaries, who was working on the nearby Sistine Chapel when Raphael was painting The School of Athens. Raphael is paying the artist a great honor by depicting him in such illustrious company. KEY 1 3 1 DIOGENES A controversial character in Greek philosophy, Diogenes chose to drop out of society and live in poverty inside a barrel. He is pictured here lounging on the steps partially clothed, but he is usually depicted as a beggar living on the streets, unwashed and dressed in rags. 2 PLATO AND ARISTOTLE These two great Greek philosophers represent theoretical and natural philosophy. Under his right arm Plato holds the Timaeus, one of his dialogues. Plato believed that a world of ideal forms existed beyond the material universe, so Raphael shows him pointing towards the heavens. He looks like Raphael’s contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci, to whom the artist is paying tribute. Aristotle is holding his famous Ethics and is gesturing towards the ground. Unlike Plato, Aristotle held that knowledge is only gained through empirical observation and experience of the material world. THE SCHOOL OF ATHENS RAPHAEL IN CONTEXT 4 SELF-PORTRAIT The ﬁgure looking out of the far right of the painting straight at the viewer is Raphael himself. Wearing a dark beret, the customary headgear of the painter, he is not only identifying himself but possibly making a link between the worlds of the past and the present. 4 3 EUCLID Leaning over and demonstrating a mathematical exercise with a pair of dividers, the Greek mathematician Euclid is surrounded by a group of young men. Known as the “Father of Geometry,” Euclid’s writings include observations on “optics,” which is closely related to perspective. The ﬁgure is a portrait of the architect Bramante. 5 Raphael worked on the fresco scheme of the Stanza della Segnatura, where each fresco represents one of four themes, between 1508 and 1511. Besides The School of Athens, there are three other frescoes in the vaulted Stanza. On the wall opposite is the Disputation of the Most Holy Sacrament (see below), a representation of theology. Above the painted horizon is the Holy Trinity with saints and martyrs arranged in a semicircle; below them are the Church’s representatives on earth, similarly arranged with the Sacrament in the center. 1Disputation of the Most Holy Sacrament, Raphael, 1509–10, fresco, 16ft 4¾in × 25ft 3in (5 × 7.7m), Vatican, Rome, Italy ON COMPOSITION 7 6 1 PYTHAGORAS On the opposite side of the painting to Euclid, we ﬁnd the celebrated Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. He is demonstrating theories of geometry and, like Euclid, is being watched eagerly by a group of students. One of them holds up a diagram on a slate. 1 ZOROASTER AND PTOLEMY By bringing together philosophy’s greatest minds in this painting, Raphael took the opportunity to depict discussions that could never have taken place. Here we see Zoroaster, prophet and philosopher of ancient Persia, talking to Ptolemy, the Greek mathematician, geographer, and astronomer. Ptolemy, who believed the earth was the center of the universe, holds a terrestrial globe in his left hand; Zoroaster is holding a celestial sphere. The architectural setting of the fresco is imaginary, but its scale and splendor represent the ideals of the High Renaissance. The setting was inspired by the plans of Raphael’s friend and distant relative, the architect Donato Bramante, for the papal basilica of St. Peter’s. It is an acknowledgment of Rapahel’s admiration for Bramante. In The School of Athens, the large central arches decrease in size, creating the illusion of depth. Raphael has placed the two most important ﬁgures, Plato and Aristotle, in the center of the painting, where the horizon line converges with the central vertical (see overlay below). Lines radiate outwards from this point. These can still be seen in the original drawing made for the fresco. 57 58 1500–1600 Sistine Chapel Ceiling 1508–12 FRESCO 45 × 128ft (13.7 × 39m) VATICAN, ROME, ITALY MICHELANGELO SCALE Painted single-handedly over a period of four years deep admiration of classical Roman sculpture and the way and including almost 300 ﬁgures, this superhuman it expressed the beauty of the human body. In the niches achievement earned its creator the title il Divino below the ignudi, Old Testament prophets alternate with (the Divine) during his lifetime. Michelangelo, an artist sibyls, the female seers of ancient Greek mythology. with a profound religious faith, also planned the whole Michelangelo ﬁlled the arches around the high windows imaginative design, making hundreds of detailed, with more paintings of biblical scenes. preliminary drawings for the frescoes and skilfully working out the complicated perspective needed for the Summoned to the Vatican large, curved surface that would be seen from 20 meters Leading Renaissance artists, such as Botticelli and below. His elaborate scheme divides the vaulted roof into Perugino, had been commissioned to decorate the walls of narrative scenes, each illustrating a key episode from the the Sistine Chapel some 20 years earlier, and Pope Julius creation story in the book of Genesis. Between the scenes II, an ambitious and authoritarian ﬁgure, was determined are naked, muscular youths, known as ignudi. Like all the that Michelangelo should renovate the ceiling, which had other ﬁgures on the ceiling, they reveal Michelangelo’s been painted to resemble a star-studded sky. After initial SISTINE CHAPEL CEILING reluctance—Michelangelo saw himself primarily as a sculptor not a painter—the special scaffolding designed by the artist was put in place and Michelangelo embarked on years of lonely and physically demanding work, while beneath him church services were conducted as normal. The great ceiling fresco was ﬁnished in October 1512. Before the most recent restoration work, which was completed in 1992, Michelangelo’s biblical scenes looked dark and muted. Once hundreds of years’ worth of accumulated grime had been expertly removed, however, the brilliance of the colors shone through. Even in reproduction the ceiling is an awe-inspiring sight as well as a ﬁtting testament to the extraordinary vision and artistic genius of this intensely spiritual man. As we look upwards we seem to look into…a world of more than human dimensions ERNST GOMBRICH THE STORY OF ART, 1950 MICHELANGELO MICHELANGELO 1475–1564 One of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarroti was a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. No other artist has ever equalled his mastery of the nude male ﬁgure. Born near Arezzo, Tuscany, into a minor aristocratic family, Michelangelo worked as an apprentice in the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, where he learned fresco painting. Soon afterward, he joined the household of Lorenzo de’ Medici and made ﬁgure drawings based on the works of Giotto and Masaccio. After Lorenzo’s death, Michelangelo moved to Rome, where he made his name with the beautiful, sorrowful Pietà, the marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead Christ. His technical mastery was also evident in David, the colossal statue he created for the city of Florence, completing it in 1504. A year later, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to create sculptures for his papal tomb, but this grand scheme was scaled down dramatically. Meanwhile, the deeply devout artist had embarked on another prestigious commission for Julius—the Sistine