Category: Renaissance Art

Things You Didn’t Know About the Mona Lisa

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Things You Didn’t Know About the Mona Lisa

Her tricky smile and timeless allure have inspired academic study and artistic emulation for more than five centuries. But the story of this perplexing portrait is even richer than it looks.

“Mona Lisa” Is Not Her Name

The painting’s subject is Lisa Gherardini, whose wealthy—and presumably adoring—husband Francesco Del Giocondo commissioned the work. This explains the less prevalent title for this painting, La Gioconda. The name Mona Lisa (or Monna Lisa, as the Italians prefer) roughly translates to “My Lady Lisa.”

She’s Smaller Than You Might Think

Mona Lisa’s influence in culture is massive, but the oil-on-wood panel painting measures just 30 by 21 inches and weighs 18 pounds.

Her Eyebrows Are A Matter of Debate

Some claim the subject’s lack of eyebrows is representative of high-class fashion of the time. Others insist her AWOL eyebrows are proof that Mona Lisa is an unfinished masterpiece. But in 2007 ultra detailed digital scans of the painting revealed da Vinci had painted on eyebrows and bolder eyelashes. Both had simply faded over time or had fallen victim to years of restoration work.

She’s Broken A Lot of Hearts

The portrait was first put on public display in the Louvre in 1815, inspiring admiration, as a string of “suitors bearing flowers, poems and impassioned notes climbed the grand staircase of the Louvre to gaze into her ‘limpid and burning eyes.’”

“Mona Lisa often made men do strange things,” R. A. Scotti wrote in Vanished Smile, “There were more than one million artworks in the Louvre collection; she alone received her own mail.” The painting actually has its own mailbox at the Louvre because of all the love letters its subject receives.

Men Have Died from Loving Her

In 1852, an artist named Luc Maspero threw himself from the fourth floor of a Parisian hotel, leaving a suicide note that read: “For years I have grappled desperately with her smile. I prefer to die.” Then in 1910, one enamored fan came before her solely to shoot himself as he looked upon her.

It’s Literally Priceless

In the 1960s, the painting went on a tour where it was given an insurance valuation of $100 million. But the policy was never taken out because the premiums were more than the cost of the best security.

The Paiinting Sits in the World’s Prettish Prison

Mona Lisa gets her own room at the Louvre, one that is climate controlled to keep her in the ideal environment. Additionally, the work is encased in bulletproof glass to prevent threat and injury.

She’s Been Attacked

If you look closely at the subject’s left elbow, you might notice the damage done by Ugo Ungaza Villegas, a Bolivian who chucked a rock at the portrait in 1956. A few months before, another art attacker pitched acid at the painting, which hit the lower section. These attacks inspired the bulletproof glass, which in 2009 successfully rebuffed a souvenir mug hurled by an enraged Russian tourist who’d been denied French citizenship.

France Mourned en Masse when She Went Missing

In 1911, Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. The New York Times retroactively compared the public display of grief to that seen in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Thousands poured into the Louvre to stare in shock at the blank wall where she once hung and leave flowers, notes, and other remembrances.

Pablo Picasso Was a Suspect in the Caper

Because he’d been caught buying stolen Louvre pieces before, Picasso was brought in for questioning. But the true thief would not be caught until 1913.

Louvre employee Vincenzo Perugia was a proud Italian nationalist who smuggled the painting out under his smock because he felt it belonged to his and da Vinci’s homeland, not France. After hiding it for two years, Perugia was busted trying to sell Mona Lisa to a Florence art dealer. However, he did briefly get his wish. Upon her recovery, Mona Lisa toured Italy before returning to Paris.

Her Terun Inspired a Fashion Trend

In her book Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, journalist Dianne Hales writes, “Society women adopted the ‘La Joconde look’ [named for the painting’s French title], dusting yellow powder on their faces and necks to suggest her golden complexion and immobilizing their facial muscles to mimic her smile. In Parisian cabarets, dancers dressed as La Joconde performed a saucy can-can…. Something beyond the painting’s wild popularity had changed. The Mona Lisa had left the Louvre a work of art; she returned as a public property, the first mass art icon.”

Her Smile Doesn’t Change, but Your Mindset Does

That is-she-or-isn’t-she smile has long fascinated artists and historians. But in 2000, Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Margaret Livingstone applied a scientific method to why Mona Lisa’s smile seems to shift. It’s all about where your focus is, and how your brain responds.

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Artist and Mystic Experience

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Artist and Mystic Experience

Now these are precisely the points of view which the teacher of religion also is constantly seeking to induce. He too calls people from their pursuits and practical ambitions to enjoy the communions of the spirit. He also summons men to leave off for a moment their doing that they may devote themselves to seeing. He also is persuaded of the inadequacy of mere thinking, claiming the possibility of a more nearly immediate experience of reality.

If this is anything like the truth, it is a strange thing that the professional schools for priests and prophets abundantly supply instruction that is intellectual and moral while very meagerly offering any tutelage of the imagination or any instruction in the discipline and development of the emotional career or in the technique whereby the minister of religion may become a proficient master in these areas. This will one day be changed so that every trained leader of religion will be more aware of the universal hunger for beauty and more capable of utilizing this almost unlimited asset for the religious ends of his task.

We are accustomed to thinking that the world of religion is willing to recognize this kinship with the world of the arts more readily than is the critic of the arts. The contrary is true. One is more likely to find the language of religion in the writings of the art world than to discover an equal intelligence amongst religious writers concerning the critique of the arts. When Bernard Bosanquet says that “the mind of man has its own necessity, which weaves its great patterns on the face of the whole world. And in these patterns–the pattern of life itself–the fullest feeling finds embodiment,” he is discussing the impulse and the necessity of the artist toward the same experience as the mystic.

Artist and Mystic Experience

William Temple in discussing some of the noblest works of art, writes: “In the presence of such transcendent Beauty, we realize the hope of mysticism. In a single impression we receive what absolutely satisfies us, and in that perfect satisfaction we ourselves are lost. Duration vanishes; the Now these are precisely the points of view which the teacher of religion also is constantly seeking to induce. He too calls people from their pursuits and practical ambitions to enjoy the communions of the spirit. He also summons men to leave off for a moment their doing that they may devote themselves to seeing. He also is persuaded of the inadequacy of mere thinking, claiming the possibility of a more nearly immediate experience of reality.

If this is anything like the truth, it is a strange thing that the professional schools for priests and prophets abundantly supply instruction that is intellectual and moral while very meagerly offering any tutelage of the imagination or any instruction in the discipline and development of the emotional career or in the technique whereby the minister of religion may become a proficient master in these areas. This will one day be changed so that every trained leader of religion will be more aware of the universal hunger for beauty and more capable of utilizing this almost unlimited asset for the religious ends of his task.

We are accustomed to thinking that the world of religion is willing to recognize this kinship with the world of the arts more readily than is the critic of the arts. The contrary is true. One is more likely to find the language of religion in the writings of the art world than to discover an equal intelligence amongst religious writers concerning the critique of the arts. When Bernard Bosanquet says that “the mind of man has its own necessity, which weaves its great patterns on the face of the whole world. And in these patterns–the pattern of life itself–the fullest feeling finds embodiment,” he is discussing the impulse and the necessity of the artist toward the same experience as the mystic.

William Temple in discussing some of the noblest works of art, writes: “In the presence of such transcendent Beauty, we realize the hope of mysticism. In a single impression we receive what absolutely satisfies us, and in that perfect satisfaction we ourselves are lost. Duration vanishes; the’moment eternal’ is come. The great drama proceeds; the music surges through us; we are not conscious of our own existence. We hear and see; and when all is done, we consider and bow the head.”S * He is writing as an art critic but in the language of religion. Again in discussing one of the lectures of Mr. Arthur Balfour, he writes: “The past and the future vanish; space itself is forgotten: whether or not mysticism is, as Mr. Balfour fears, the only possible philosophy of art, it is beyond question that the aesthetic experience is a purely mystical experience; that is to say, it is the direct and immediate apprehension of an absolutely satisfying object.”

I have somewhere read in a writing of Archdeacon Freemantle, the following: “Art becomes a binding link between men and draws them together toward God. It forms a society which must properly be called a Church. Its yearning toward the ideal is worship, a prayer. The sharing in artistic impressions is a genuine form of worship. It is destined to occupy no mean place in the full redemption of human life.”

The religious feelings relate to life as a whole. They are the response of man to the presently realized existence of divinity. They reach out to grasp the Universal and the Absolute. The feeling for beauty is usually not universal. But it is a feeling for being, for that which has existence. Every work of art says, Notice this fact, this bit of life: be a lover of life as you see it here. Religion says, Be a lover of Life as a Whole, God’s Life, love God. There is a profound identity of attitude between these two.

Religion is not merely thinking and feeling, it is also right doing. The moral issues of religion are ever the concern of healthy human life. We will have nothing to do with a religion which is ineffective in the practical world or weak in its increasing enthusiasm for a thoroughgoing application of its ideals to every phase of life, industrial and political as well as personal. These are the vast problems of the hour. We shall have no future religion at all if they are not manfully and courageously handled.

It is too commonly assumed that at this point the arts must part company with religion. Many have felt that to be interested in Beauty while the world is suffering from inhumanity is an ignoble thing. Unfortunately, both the conduct of artists in general and many critics of the arts have tended to foster such a view. Mr. Merton Stark Yewdale sets forth a correct note on the expressive desire of the aesthetic experience and then completely spoils the picture by separating that experience from practical life.

“We have a sensation of an enhanced power, a compelling desire to rid ourselves of a certain state of tension, eagerness to reciprocate the force which the artist exerts toward us.”So far so good. Then something extremely bad: “As our faculties are again assembled we see once more that life is the great delusion and Art the supreme counter-agent to existence.”

How could anyone write that who had ever read Emerson’s “Compensation”? There are in fact no real barriers between the world of Art Life and the world of Common Life. The artist marks off a bit of the world and harmonizes it and sees that it is good or beautiful. Religion rises to see that all creation is good. It will admit no barriers. It would glorify all life.

The very nature of artistry is activity. Works of art are described as creations. Whatever may be said about the appreciation of Beauty, art is the production of Beauty. Artistry is expression, release, liberation, outgoing effort, authorship, origination. Its results are not called thoughts of art or feelings of art but works of art.

And the artist not only creates new forms of material beauty but also new persons. The very essence of the thing that happens to people when they are impressed by beauty, either of nature or of art, is increased vitality. They are literally remade, increased in strength of body and strength of mind.

Still a third practical effect of the artist’s work is the result in the world of the enhanced power developed in the aesthetic experience. This is the point least clearly intimated by writers on the subject, and denied by many. It is the point of disagreement with Mr. Yewdale. Even Professor Hocking in his profound discussion of art and religion in the volume, “Human Nature and Its Remaking,” does not sufficiently get away from his suggestion that the world of art is an arena in which man may make his conquests more easily than in the world of fact.

“Art is the region which man has created for himself, wherein he can find scope for unexpressed powers, and yet win an absolute success, in testimony of his own reality… It has but feeble contact with the more pressing problems of the ‘common man.’ It fits no one for dealing with the as yet unharmonized aspects of experience. Its tendency would be to seclude itself, build for itself high garden walls, and in the midst of a world small enough to be perfectly controlled, forget the ugly, the squalid, the disordered, the just causes for warfare and rebellion.”

There are undoubtedly many facts which bear out this view. And with the facts coincides the oft-repeated description of the experience of beauty as being a feeling of power coupled with the paradoxical feeling of repose, a sense of great energy but of no demand to exercise it. The aesthetic moment is by everyone described as the moment of perfect satisfaction.

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Religion Art: Adam, Eve and That Famous Apple

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Religion Art: Adam, Eve and That Famous Apple

Apart from narrative images, portraits of Adam and Eve are not common. Those one does find are likely to be nude sculptures of the first parents in their prelapsarian state – attractive young adults, as in the statues at right or this one from Notre-Dame de Paris or this willowy Eve at Autun.

Narrative images are seen in six different categories as follows.

The Creation of Adam and Eve

In the first account of creation God makes “man” in his image and likeness, “male and female” (1:26-31). In the second Adam is created from mud and Eve from Adam’s rib (2:7, 21-22).

The creation of Adam is seen in some Genesis sequences, for example the reliefs on the façade of Orvieto Cathedral and the mosaic sequence at the cathedral in Monreale, Sicily. We see the creation of Eve as early as a 4th-century Roman sarcophagus, where she is created by one of the earliest images of the Trinity. In the sarcophagus relief Eve is already standing by the side of the sleeping Adam, but later works such as the 12th-century mosaics at Monreale Cathedral and Palermo’s Palatine Chapel and the reliefs on the 14th-century façade of Orvieto Cathedral all show her emerging from Adam’s ribcage or torso.

Eve’s creation seems to be a more popular subject than Adam’s. In a 13th-century Swiss manuscript page with a medallion for each day of creation, the sixth day has God creating a human who is almost certainly Eve.

In modern illustrations the Creator will often be an old man with a beard, but in all the images mentioned here he is visualized as the Son, not the Father. The Son, who was to become incarnate as the man Jesus, is the “Word” of John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God and the Word was God.… And the Word was made flesh.” At least as early as the 2nd century Christian writers extended this to imply that it was the Son who interacted with Adam and Eve in the garden, and the artists followed this cue.1

Religion Art: Adam, Eve and That Famous Apple

The Fall of Man

In Genesis 3:1-8 the serpent persuades Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God had forbidden. Eve then gives some of the fruit to Adam and they immediately realize they are in big trouble. From the earliest times Christian writers identified the serpent with what Revelation 12:9 calls “that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world.”

The iconography of this narrative is exemplified in the second picture at right. This iconographic type has been in use since at least the 4th-century and has experienced little change. The couple stand on either side of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with Adam usually on the left. The serpent coils around the trunk of the tree, which carries fruit. Eve will be variously reaching for the fruit, taking it, and/or passing some to Adam. The couple is sometimes shown completely naked when they take the fruit, as stated in Genesis 2:24 and illustrated in the second picture at right. But most artists either pose them so as to preserve modesty (example) or simply neglect to include the genitalia (example).

Before the Gothic era the serpent was just a generic snake, but in the mid-12th century Peter Comestor wrote that there is a certain species of serpent that has the face of a young girl, and that Satan had chosen to use that kind of serpent to beguile Eve because “like heeds like.”3 This claim was repeated by subsequent commentators, the putative species acquired a name (“Draconcopedes”), and by the early 13th century female faces started to appear on the serpent.4 The earliest may be this relief at Amiens. By the 14th and 15th centuries they become quite common (example). The most illustrious example is Michelangelo’s panel on the Temptation in the Sistine Chapel.

God Confronts the Couple and Expels from Paradise

After they eat the fruit the couple realize they are naked and make themselves garments of fig leaves. These are almost always represented as single leaves covering the genitals, as in the third picture at right, where we see God confront them. The confrontation is less common in the art than the actual expulsion from Eden, in which God “cast out Adam; and placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubims and a flaming sword turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). The images usually have an angel do the casting out, as in the fourth picture at right. That picture also portrays the “garments of skins” (3:21) that God made for the couple. These vary in the art, sometimes taking the form of shaggy tunics as at right and sometimes more leather-like as in this sarcophagus relief.

The fourth picture at right portrays a Cherub in addition to the angel, but that is much less common in the art.

The Assignment of Labors

As part of their punishment God tells Adam he will have to work to eat: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (3:19). The point is repeated a few verses later: “The Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken” (3:23). In the 8th century Bede commented on 3:19 that the curse of work applied to Eve as well (In Pentateuchum Commentarii, col. 213), and she has always been included in images of God’s assigning labor to mankind.

There have been two ways of looking at the curse. One was to see it as a plain hardship, as in this 12th-century relief where Adam and Eve bend sadly over a little hillock with their hoes, or this mosaic where Eve looks up disconsolately from her spinning. (The stereotypically female task of spinning thread is the one most commonly given to Eve in images of this kind.)

The other way of looking at the curse is to accentuate the positive. Sarcophagi of the 4th century, for example, symbolize the assignment of labor to the couple by showing Adam with a sheaf of wheat and Eve with a lamb (example). The sheaf represents the fruit of Adam’s labor. The lamb refers to the task of spinning, but with an emphasis on the lamb’s closeness to Eve and possibly a reference to the “lamb of God” that will be borne by Eve’s counterpart, Mary. A catacomb painting from the same century seems to show the couple’s progression from wearing animal skins to the more comfortable life that results from the labors God has assigned.

We see this optimism again in the Middle Ages in this example of domestic contentment in Adam’s family and in Bede’s remark that Adam “…was sent out from the paradise of bliss ‘to till the earth,’ that is, to labor in the body and gain for himself the merit to return to life, which is what the name of Paradise signifies, and be able to touch the tree of life and live forever” (ibid., col. 215, my translation). In the early sarcophagi this optimistic emphasis is so strong that the sculptors almost invariably place the sheaf of wheat in the scene of eating the fruit, as in this sarcophagus. There is another sarcophagus that puts both the sheaf and the lamb in the picture.

Adam Pictured at the Crucifixion

Medieval and earlier images of the Crucifixion sometimes include Adam in a coffin below the base of the cross (example). This is to remind the viewer that “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22), a point especially stressed in this manuscript illumination, where Adam holds a chalice to collect the blood falling from Jesus’ body on the cross.

The Anastasis or Harrowing of Hell

In “Anastasis” or “Harrowing of Hell” images the risen Christ rescues the souls of those who were faithful in the years before the Redemption. Adam and Eve are always the first of these. In western images they may be naked (example); in eastern ones they will be clothed (example).

adam and eve, adam and eve posters, christianity posters, biblical figures, renaissance art, old testament figures, religion and spirituality, decorative art prints

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Did Leonardo da Vinci copy his famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?

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Did Leonardo da Vinci copy his famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?

Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of a male figure perfectly inscribed in a circle and square, known as the “Vitruvian Man,” illustrates what he believed to be a divine connection between the human form and the universe. Beloved for its beauty and symbolic power, it is one of the most famous images in the world. However, new research suggests that the work, which dates to 1490, may be a copy of an earlier drawing by Leonardo’s friend.

Another illustration of a divinely proportioned man — the subject is Christ-like, but the setting is strikingly similar to Leonardo’s — has been discovered in a forgotten manuscript in Ferrara, Italy. Both drawings are depictions of a passage written 1,500 years earlier by Vitruvius, an ancient Roman architect, in which he describes a man’s body fitting perfectly inside a circle (the divine symbol) and inside a square (the earthly symbol). It was a geometric interpretation of the ancient belief that man is a “microcosm”: a miniature embodiment of the whole universe. Leonardo and other scholars revived this vainglorious notion during the Italian Renaissance.

After decades of study, Claudio Sgarbi, an Italian architectural historian who discovered the lesser known illustration of the Vitruvian man in 1986, now believes it to be the work of Giacomo Andrea de Ferrara, a Renaissance architect, expert on Vitruvius, and close friend of Leonardo’s. What’s more, Sgarbi believes Giacomo Andrea probably drew his Vitruvian man first, though the two men are likely to have discussed their mutual efforts. Sgarbi will lay out his arguments in a volume of academic papers to be published this winter, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

The key arguments are as follows: In Leonardo’s writings, he mentions “Giacomo Andrea’s Vitruvius” — seemingly a direct reference to the illustrated Ferrara manuscript. Secondly, Leonardo had dinner with Giacomo Andrea in July 1490, the year in which both men are thought to have drawn their Vitruvian men. Experts believe Leonardo would have probed Giacomo Andrea’s knowledge of Vitruvius when they met. And though both drawings interpret Vitruvius’ words similarly, Leonardo’s is perfectly executed, while Giacomo Andrea’s is full of false starts and revisions, none of which would have been necessary if he had simply copied Leonardo’s depiction.

Other scholars find the arguments convincing. “I find Sgarbi’s argument exciting and very seductive, to say the least,” said Indra McEwen, an architectural historian at Concordia University who has written extensively about the works of Vitruvius. “But [I] would opt for the view that Giacomo Andrea and Leonardo worked in tandem, rather than Leonardo basing his drawing on Andrea’s.”

Rather than competitors, the two Renaissance men were colleagues working together to bring a beautiful, ancient idea back to life. “Whose was the ‘original’ drawing is a non-question as far as I’m concerned. Much as it is a preoccupation of our own time, I don’t think it would have been an issue in Leonardo’s day,” McEwen told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Patrice Le Floch-Prigent, an anatomist at the University of Versailles in France who has analyzed the anatomical correctness of Leonardo’s famous work, noted that, for both drawings, “the source is Vitruvius.”

Furthermore, regardless of their chronology, Leonardo’s work is an improvement on Giacomo Andrea’s, McEwen said: “Leonardo is by far the superior draftsman, with a far superior understanding of anatomy.”

Leonardo’s is also more faithful to the text, she explained. “Nowhere does Vitruvius say that the man is positioned inside the circle and the square at the same time. A man lying flat on his back, can be circumscribed by a circle if his hands and feet are outstretched,” writes Vitruvius. “Similarly, his height is equal to his arm span, ‘just as in areas that have been squared with a set square.'” Giacomo Andrea’s figure has only one set of arms and legs, which are simultaneously circumscribed by a circle and outlined by a square, while “Leonardo deals with [the two propositions] by having the position of his man’s arms and legs change. That, I would have to admit, makes his drawing a closer approximation to the textual description than Giacomo Andrea’s,” McEwen wrote.

One thing is certain. The better Vitruvian man gained international fame, while the simpler, but possibly more original, one was left to languish in a library for five centuries. That may have to do with the very different fates met by Leonardo and Giacomo Andrea. When the French invaded Milan in 1499, the former fled to safety and went on to achieve eternal renown. The latter stayed in Milan and was hanged, drawn and quartered by the French, and largely forgotten by history — until now.

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Religion Art: Adam and Eve After the Expulsion from Paradise

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Religion Art: Adam and Eve After the Expulsion from Paradise

The Renaissance, in the largest sense of the term, is the whole process of transition in Europe from the medieval to the modern order. The Revival of Learning, by which is meant more especially the resuscitated knowledge of classical antiquity, is the most potent and characteristic of the forces which operated in the Renaissance. That revival has two aspects.

In one, it is the recovery of a lost culture; in another, of even higher and wider significance, it is the renewed diffusion of a liberal spirit which for centuries had been dead or sleeping. The conception which dominated the Middle Ages was that of the Universal Empire and the Universal Church. A gradual decadence of that idea, from the second half of the thirteenth century to the end of the fifteenth, was the clearest outward sign that a great change was beginning to pass over the world.

From the twelfth century onwards there was a new stirring of minds, a growing desire of light; and the first large result was the Scholastic Philosophy. That was an attempt to codify all existing knowledge under certain laws and formulas, and so to reconcile it logically with the one Truth; just as all rights are referable to the one Right, that is, to certain general principles of justice. No revolt was implied there, no break with the reigning tendencies of thought. The direct aim of the Schoolmen was not, indeed, to bind all knowledge to the rock of St Peter; but the truth which they took as their standard was that to which the Church had given her sanction.

In the middle of the fourteenth century, when Scholasticism was already waning, another intellectual movement set in. This was Humanism, born in Italy of a new feeling for the past greatness of Rome. And now the barriers so long imposed on the exercise of the reason were broken down; not all at once, but by degrees. It was recognised that there had been a time when men had used all their faculties of mind and imagination without fear or reproof; not restricted to certain paths or bound by formulas, but freely seeking for knowledge in every field of speculation, and for beauty in all the realms of fancy.

Those men had bequeathed to posterity a literature different in quality and range from anything that had been written for at housand years. They had left, too, works of architecture such that even the mutilated remains had been regarded by legend as the work of supernatural beings whom heathen poets had constrained by spells.

The pagan view was now once more proclaimed, that man was made, not only to toil and suffer, but to enjoy. And naturally enough, in the first reaction from a more ascetic ideal, the lower side of ancient life obscured, with many men, its better aspects. It was thus that Humanism first appeared, bringing a claim for the mental freedom of man, and for the full development of his being. But, in order to see the point of departure, it is necessary to trace in outline the general course of literary tradition in Europe from the fifth century to the fourteenth.

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Michelangelo and Sistine Chapel Artworks

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Michelangelo and Sistine Chapel Artworks

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco is both a masterpiece and the object of one of the fiercest-ever campaigns about morality and decency. The unveiling of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco in 1541 revealed a masterpiece and a colossal scandal. Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti Simone was a sculptor, architect and engineer and considered painting a lower form of artistic representation; for this reason he considered Pope Julius II’s commission to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1506 in Saint Peter’s Basilica a humiliation. He nevertheless agreed and signed the contract of his life with the Catholic Church.

The Making of a Masterpiece: Perfection Was Not Enough

The maestro spent endless hours on a scaffold (which he engineered himself) almost 20 meters in the air and worked incessantly from 1508 to 1512 under less-than-ideal conditions. Natural light was poor and the only artificial light available were dozens of burning candles, and because the ceiling plaster had to be a fresco (created in damp plaster), wet paint was constantly dripping on Michelangelo.

The work was daunting, but Michelangelo was no common mortal. It was customary to work with one or more assistants for large projects, but he went solo with the massive project after dismissing six assistants he had summoned from Florence to help him with the fresco technique. He was not satisfied with the work they had begun, and, having seen everything he needed to know, he liquidated them and worked in solitude until the project was completed. Through the affresco technique of the time, Michelangelo single-handedly painted the doctrine of the Catholic Church on the 1,100 square-meter chapel ceiling. From 1508 to 1541 he painted some 300 figures illustrating narrative scenes from the Book of Genesis to the Last Judgment.

He worked longer than was expected of him, much to his and the pontiff’s frustration. For Michelangelo, perfection was not an option – for the pope it was a matter of life and death. Pope Julius II didn’t live to see Michelangelo’s work. He was succeeded by Pope Leo X who was shortly succeeded by Pope Clement VII who commissioned the Maestro with painting the Last Judgment on the altar of the Sistine Chapel. But time also ran out for Clement VII and he died before seeing the finished work. Pope Paul III oversaw the work which commenced in 1536 and was finished in 1541 with the Last Judgment.

What should have been Michelangelo’s shining moment became his darkest hour. A scandal descended upon the Vatican when the work in the Sistine Chapel was finally unveiled. Michelangelo’s heaven had no rage nor hell had fury like the Vatican’s wrath. Saints and sinners with nothing on but their skin were scattered across the sacral walls and ceiling, the fresco seemed “better suited to a bathroom or roadside wine shop than to a chapel of the Pope.”said at the time a papal master of ceremonies. The maestro’s skill in anatomy was aparent in all its glory. The unclad figures resembled classical pagan gods and there was little if anything of the canonical biblical figures gracing the walls elsewhere in the Vatican.

Michelangelo did not seek inspiration from the established representations of sacral art of the time but from infinite readings and interpretations of the Old Testament His humanist upbringing had been shaped in the milieu of the de Medici humanist academy in Florence. The nude figures had a symbolic meaning that was largely misunderstood by Church officials who called the artist “inventore delle porcherie” (inventor of obscenities). Michelangelo’s artistic output reflected a reconciliation between Christian theology and classical rationalism. There was no room in Michelangelo’s heaven and hell for clothes but only for souls awaiting their fate.

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Michelangelo, Fiorentine and Renaissance Art

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Michelangelo, Fiorentine and Renaissance Art

For Michelangelo was a Florentine, and many of the major episodes of his life took place in the very buildings and squares. Nearly half of the statues made by Michelangelo now stand in Florence: at the Academia, in the Medici Chapel, in the Casa Buonarroti (Michelangelo’s family name being Buonarroti), in the Duomo, and in the Bargello. A painting of his hangs in the Uffizi Galleries. When you have read the fascinating background of these masterpieces, which is related to the turbulent times of Renaissance Florence, you’ll receive an unparalelled thrill from seeing them before your very eyes.

Anyone going up to the Piazzale Michelangelo should also see the lovely Romanesque church, San Miniato al Monte; it and the seven Michelangelo statues in the San Lorenzo Chapels were the high points of an an entire trip.

We found nearly every shop was also a small factory, particularly in San Croce Square, where we spent the day watching mosaics, leather, silver and ceramics craftsmen at work. This cost nothing: you are shown the working processes in the hope you’ll later buy something in the retail display room-just as in Murano.

Don’t miss the view of Florence from the top of the Cathedral of Santa Karia del Fiore. Climb to the cupola on top of tpe Duomo. It’s 436 steps up, but the view is well worth it.

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Italian Art: Mars, Venus and Amor by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

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Italian Art: Mars, Venus and Amor by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Tiziano Vecellio (Titian)

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (in Veneto), in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth.

Recognized by his contemporaries as “The Sun Amidst Small Stars” (recalling the famous final line of Dante’s Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.

During the course of his long life Titian’s artistic manner changed drastically[4] but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art.

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The Majesty of Sistine Chapel

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The Majesty of Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel isn’t only about Michelangelo. It’s a collection of art from the minds and hands of other great Italian painters. The history of the Sistine Chapel can be traced back in the 1400s when the pope at that time, Sixtus IV della Rovere, opted to have Capella Mana renovated. The results are the different paintings and false drapes that do not only mean beauty but story as well.

Among the most popular painters who labored include Pietro Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Sandro Boticelli, and Pier Matteo d’Amelia, who painted the skies full of stars. It was in August 15, 1483, when Michelangelo Buonarroti took the responsibility of altering some of the designs of the Sistine Chapel, per the initiative of Julius II della Rovere, Sixtus IV’s nephew.

The Ceiling

The greatest art piece of the Sistine Chapel would probably be its ceiling. However, if not for the cracks that could have been effects of the excavation, we will not be able to appreciate the most magnificent work of Michelangelo. The tale of the ceiling is quite enthralling. It seems like God planted desire in Michelangelo’s heart. It should have just been a mere visual representation of the 12 Apostles.

Feeling dissatisfied, though, Michelangelo, with the full permission of Julius II, decided to change everything. If you will take a good look on the different depictions on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you’ll know that it is actually composed of the 9 central stories that make up the Genesis, such as the Fall of Man, the story of Noah, and the Story of Creation. The painting usually starts at the entrance wall of the chapel.

The Last Judgment

After the Sack of Rome and before the start of the Council of Trent, Michelangelo worked on the Last Judgment, a huge mural occupying the entire wall at the back of the Sistine Chapel altar. It was a representation of the coming of Christ and the day of damnation. It showed the various nude souls descending into hell or ascending into heaven after they have faced clear judgment from Christ.

Looking at the Last Judgment, you will probably not feel awed of the entire backdrop but of the entire message it hopes to convey. It displayed the great reverence of the people to the ultimate power of God. The painting had been controversial, however, after Cardinal Carafa thought that it was very immoral and obscene, considering that the images were deliberately showing their genitals. He ordered the removal of the fresco, which could have been pushed through if not for the insistence and persistence of Michelangelo. To tame down its effect on the onlookers, the genital as were then later “covered” by Daniele da Volterra.

Touring the Chapel

There are many Italian tours that include visitation to the Sistine Chapel. You can even simply choose to tour the Vatican Museums, and definitely, you will land yourself inside the chapel. Normally, the tourists will arrive inside the chapel passing through the back portion of the altar. Then, they will observe the chapel until they can reach the entrance of the church. This will give them better opportunities to study and marvel at the different masterpieces surrounding and within the chapel. Nevertheless, before you can enter the chapel, you need to have tickets or entrance passes, which you can possibly get at the gates. Whiling Away at the Gorgeous Vatican Gardens

There’s one garden that will remind you that there will always be a special place you can run to whenever you feel troubled, but it doesn’t take the fact that its overall design is more than enough to make you feel so blessed for the rest of your life. Such can be the simple message you will get once you get into the Vatican Gardens.

A tour to the Vatican Gardens can take up to 3 hours. By now, you probably have a good idea of just how vast and big it is. In fact, it covers 1/3 of the entire land area of the Vatican City, the smallest country in the entire world. Walking through the various types of foliages means going back on the history that span for more than 2 centuries.

A Look-back on the Gardens

The history of the Vatican Gardens can be traced back on the times when it was then a large orchard and vineyard that’s part of the Apostolic Palace. It used to be surrounded by walls until it was torn down, and two courtyards emerged. They were called the Pine Cone, or Pigna, and the Belvedere. There are two reasons why the gardens were created. First, Nicholas V wanted to have a venue for their papal court ceremonies. He also liked something that would give him some form of entertainment.

Design of the Gardens is the same text of Vatican Gardens

Today, anybody can visit the Vatican Gardens, provided that they choose to take a private guided tour. Normally, it will be opened at 11:00 a.m., every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday between March and October. For the remaining months, it will be accessible every Saturday, on 11:00 a.m.

The Vatican Gardens is like going through another kind of world-a beautiful one-as expressed by the pair of small arches that can be located at the back area of the First Martyrs Courtyard. There’s a 2-mile Renaissance Wall, which is now being occupied by the oval piazza and St. Peter’s Basilica. You can also find the world-famous Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and other offices totaling almost 10,000 rooms.

The Different Species Found in the Gardens

Plants are not all Italian. As a matter of fact, it’s like taking a stroll into the different natural flora of the world, as almost every country is well-represented in the Vatican Gardens. You will be able to observe North America’s maples, evergreen magnolia, and plane trees; Lebanon’s cedars; Japan’s sago palms; and Tasmania’s eucalyptus, to name a few. Over the years, churchmen and missionaries contributed their own finds in the garden. Fortunately, they have found a great home in the Roman soil.

One of the highlights of the tour will be reaching the slope found at the eastern portion of the Vatican Hill, which was then considered to be infested with wild snakes by the ancient Romans. However, it’s also the perfect venue for the Etruscans to practice their prophecies. The hill today is far from the untamed jungle you may have in mind. It’s now covered with well-tended beds, lawns, and shrubs. There are around 30 gardeners who take care of the garden full time, so you know that you’re not going to be disappointed once you decide to visit.

There are simply some places on Earth that will make you feel that life can still be rosy and a walk in the park. Just think of the Vatican Gardens, and you’ll know what this means.

Related Links:

• The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance
• Leonardo Da Vinci
• Michelangelo Buonarratti
• Raphael
• The Majesty of Sistine Chapel
• The High Renaissance in Italy
• Why is it Called High Renaissance?

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The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance

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Raphael Angel

They were: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio). These are the very first artists that come to mind when ever the term “Renaissance” is uttered. Towering geniuses of staggering talent, these three.

But, before we go any further, keep three things in mind. First, while the Big Three deserve every bit of lasting fame they enjoy, they were not the only artistic geniuses of the Renaissance. There were many dozens, if not hundreds, of “Renaissance” artists.

Secondly, during this period, the “Renaissance” was happening all over Europe. Venice, in particular, was busy with its own artistic geniuses.

Finally, the “Renaissance”, was a long, drawn-out process. It happened over centuries, not twenty-five to forty years. If little else from this series of articles sticks, please remember this point.

That said (and it had to be said), let’s return to the Big Three. We’re going to play around a bit with that infamous essay question, the one which begins: “Compare and contrast…”

Related Links:

• The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance
• Leonardo Da Vinci
• Michelangelo Buonarratti
• Raphael
• The Majesty of Sistine Chapel
• The High Renaissance in Italy
• Why is it Called High Renaissance?

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