The first piece of artwork I chose was Masaccio’s Holy Trinity, Florence, Italy, ca. 1428 (Video #3, part 1). It is a fresco in the Santa Maria Novella. It showcases two principal interests of the Florentine Renaissance; realism based on observation and pictorial organization based on mathematics. The Virgin Mary and Saint John flank Christ, while God the Father emerges from behind and supports the crucified Christ. Classical columns and a monumental barrel vault frame Christ and God. It is a powerful image that takes the viewers from deep sorrow of death to the joyful hope of resurrection.
My next choice was Jan Van Eyck’s Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride, 1434 (Video #3, part 2). In this oil painting the shifty eyed merchant holds his right hand in the air while the left holds the hand of his bride. The painting shows the trend of Northern painters to use many translucent layers of pigment with quick drying oils to paintings with convincing pictoralism. The painting contains many symbolic images that refer to marriage; a small dog in the foreground stands for fidelity.Order now
The painting gives viewers an insight to Van Eyck’s skill as well as Flemish life in the 15th century. I then chose Leonardo Da Vinci’s Virgin and Saint Anne, an oil painting from about 1507 (Video #4, part 1). In the image, Saint Anne holds her virgin daughter Mary on her lap as an infant Christ reaches for the Lamb of God. Leonardo creates a pyramid of intermingled gazes and forms held together by transcendent love; it is above the physical. The landscape behind the group is idealized, yet based on closely observed nature.
The muted colors glow from the untamed Italian wilderness. Titian’s 1538 oil painting, Venus of Urbino, is the last piece I chose (Video #4, part 2). In this painting, Titian, the official painter of Venice, domesticates a Goddess and brings her into the context of the bedroom. Venus reclines on pillows and rich folds of fabric, her right hand covers her pubic area and the left holds flowers. There are two handmaids in the background. One is bending over the marital chest while the other holds garments over her shoulder; perhaps to dress the naked Venus.
Titian presents the viewer with an image of woman as Goddess and wife. Section Two When we look at the Well of Moses by Claus Sluter, 1406, Dijon, France (Videotape #3, part 2) and David by Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1504, Florence, Italy (Videotape #4, part 1) we can compare styles, religious impact, and political content. Both of the sculptures are on a massive scale; the limestone figures on the Well stand six feet tall, and David is no slouch himself at over thirteen feet tall.
Sluter died before completion of the Well, but he did finish the four prophets- Moses, David, Jeremiah, and Zachariah. The Well is non-functioning, because splashing water would break the Carthusian need for silence, but it is religiously symbolic. It represents the Fountain of Life with the blood of Christ flowing over the prophets, washing away their sins. It represents the promise of an eternal life. The original piece had a surmounting of the crucifixion, which was later destroyed; the head and chest of Christ are all that remains.
The face of Christ illustrates the agony of the crucifixion as well as the ecstatic release from suffering that death brings. David, on the other hand, symbolizes the political strength required to rule Florence; he is seen as the defiant hero of the Florentine republic. The figures on the Well have an intense realism never before seen in European sculpture; they are naturalistic and tangible, chief characteristics of 15th Century Flemish artwork. David is Michelangelo’s homage to the Greco-Roman artists of antiquity; it is reminiscent in style to Hellenistic sculpture.
Michelangelo captured the muscular tension and sinewy power of a hero with David, fully prepared to leap from his pedestal and battle Goliath. Even with their natural faces and incredible expressions Sluter’s figures are much more locked into place, their weight seems heavy and unmoving. Section Three While watching the videos I waited for the piece that most related to current events to “pop” out at me. Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of the Duke of Bourgogne, and his wife Giugone de Salins, created the Hotel Dieu in Beaune, France as a pious foundation in 1443.
The initials of Rolin and his wife are in the stained glass windows and tiles, making it hard to mistake the hostel as a memorial. Generous acts by the rich were not uncommon at the time, but none were on this grand of a scale. This brought to mind Oprah Winfrey building a school for girls in Africa. No doubt that her intentions are the best in the world; helping girls in a third world become powerful women, but it is also a memorial to Ms. Winfrey. I dare say Chancellor Rolin would be very proud of the lasting image of his generosity, wealth, and humanitarianism.