After closely studying the fresco The Flight into Egypt by Giotto, the tempera panel The Rucellai Madonna by Duccio and the gilding The Annunciation by Martini, it is evident that the content and style of each painting is influenced majorly by the process in which it was created. Discussed will be the extent to which I believe these paintings are affected by the medium they are created from, with specific evidence. The artist Giotto could be described most accurately, although amongst other things, as extremely innovative. His artwork The Flight Into Egypt , which is painted on fresco, is just one example of his incredible innovation.Order now
It is fairly obvious though, within looking at the artwork for more than a few seconds, that the painting process he used had a rather huge impact on the finished product. For example, no panel painting of the time had achieved such naturalistic depth, or such simple and clear narrative. So what was it about the fresco medium that made it so influential on a innovative new artist? Well, to begin with, it’s size. A fresco covers the entire span of a wall, and with such huge area to cover, an artist barely has the time (nor patience no doubt) to spend time on intricate and decorative detail.
In fact, the simplicity of the composition and therefore readability is heaven-sent for an illiterate society. Instead, wide washes of paint are brushed onto the plaster surface, creating naturalistic tonal variation, which adds volume and weight to figures and landscape. Keeping in mind that the artist only has a few hours a to work on each new plastered section, they waste no time on unnecessary details. The problem with fresco is if it dries too much before you paint on it, the plasters won’t “suck in” and preserve the pigment brushed onto it. Time is therefore the biggest issue for fresco painters.
The selection of pigment colour to paint on fresco was actually very limited. This is because the chemical make up of pigments often didn’t mix well with the lime, so generally only earthy type colours were used. On top of this, once the paint had been “sucked in” by the plaster, the colours become muted. This means the artist can not be dependent on colour, but more on the composition to spotlight important figures and objects. Simplistic but effective use of lines due to lack of time, take away any distracting decorative detail that takes away from the story being depicted.
For example, in The Flight into Egypt, instead of making use of the traditional Italo-Byzantine gold background, Giotto improvised by putting naturalistic landscape that actually highlighted the figures he intended the viewer to focus on. Lastly, emotion was easily expressed with simple facial expressions and gestures drawn with simple lines, this is another effect of the limited time frame available to the artist, that he adapted and found useful in creating the mood of the painting. The artist Duccio who worked on panel however, seemed to me to be somewhat restricted by his choice of the traditional media.
The depth and tonal variation created by Giotto in his fresco attempt couldn’t be matched in Duccio’s The Rucellai Madonna. This was mostly due to the wide range of vivid and vibrant decorative colour. This colour was applied solidly, and didn’t allow for any tonal variation. Unlike fresco, panel allows unlimited time to fill in any exotic details, and so great amounts of attention were spend on decorating the painting with exquisite but unnecessary details. Such fine detail is characteristic of the Italo Byzantine style artwork, which he originally studied and is typical of his media.
With so much time on his hands to create the artwork, the artist is able to use a small brush and use cross hatching and small brush strokes to achieve specific well-structured detail. The traditional formulaic approach to painting figures is evident in this painting, with Mary’s face looking unnatural, and non-representative of human qualities. Mary dominates the painting in the medieval hierarchy of scale. She is glorified by a gold halo and ultra-marine blue drapery, as traditional in Italo Byzantine art.
The background is also gold and surrounded by angels, which is ionic and non-contextual, making the image seem divine and unreal. After researching this work, it feels to me as if the traditional expectations of the panel medium held back Duccio’s innovative creativity in this particular painting, but can be seen in his later works. Lastly, the artist Martini chose the interesting process of gilding, and produced both an innovative, and exquisite artwork that mixed both traditional and new ideas into one painting.
Again, with the panel type media, time was not an issue and great importance was placed on decorative details. In true Italo Byzantine style, the background of the The Annunciation is overwhelmingly gold, even more so than typical. In fact, the emphasis on gold barely leaves room for any other contents. The gold background is not contextual and places the figures in a heaven like surrounding. However, looking closely enough at the figures there are some very innovative ideas that become obvious.
For example, in The Annunciation the figures are life size, and all consistent with each other which is far more naturalistic and easier for people to relate to. Noticeably, there is no hierarchy of scale. Perhaps most fascinating of all, is the feature that would be commonly recognized as modern design ? ‘- the words flying from the angels mouth. This was extremely innovative and perhaps a result of the experimental composition of the painting. Gold being so valuable, this painting was made to show wealth and extravagance.
Although still traditional with human-esque facial features and the like, the creativity on this traditional media seems almost beyond its time, and a true result of an artist’s search to discover the artistic unknown. It is evident that the process in which an artwork is created heavily influences its outcome, whether in limitations or endless opportunities. Without a doubt these processes had huge impact on the art produced. Just as much so, is the influence of the innovative ideas and creative skill of these amazing artists that looked far beyond their own time.