No Kangaroos, No Trampoline Acts
Posted: Dec 1, 2008 11:21:56 PM
Back in 2003 I wrote that Siobhan "knows more about the Renaissance than I do," especially the art parts of it. Having been through so many galleries in Florence and Rome, and with the biggest still to come, Siobhan is an essential boon. Here's my (inferior) take on her explanations, illustrated with paintings that we have seen in the last couple of weeks.
The possibilities of art are infinite. With such an array of places, people, and events, both historic and fictional, a skilled artist can create any scene in their imagination. Fortunately, in the Renaissance, painters sidestepped this startling array of potentialities by painting the same six scenes over and over again.
Scene 1: Madonna and Child. Jesus features quite a bit in Renaissance art (see Scenes 2 and 3 below, and pretty much every other painting of the 14th to 17th centuries), but he appears in only two places. For some reason, baby Jesus is very popular. Grumpy, ugly, lumpy baby Jesus. John the Baptist turns up too, also a child, but dressed in fur so you know which baby is which.
Scene 2: The Adoration of the Magi. So, how many wise men are there, anyway? The Bible is silent on this subject. So painters in the Renaissance just keep adding wise men until they get bored or run out of space. Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch: "One?!"
Scene 3: The Crucifixion. Geez, way to be morbid, guys. Jesus did a lot of excellent things while he was alive (kicking the money-changers out of the temple is my personal favourite), but in Renaissance art he's either a baby, or nailed up. It doesn't help that Mary Magdalene is too often making a scene around the base of the cross. As I mentioned back in 2003, you can tell Mary Mags because she doesn't have her hair covered (scandalous!).
Scene 4: The Annunciation. Mary gets a visit from an angelic stork. I actually like these the most - something about the dynamics of the interaction between these two is truly poetic. But they copied each another, more than usual. Take this progression: Baldovinetti, Da Vinci, Botticelli. Pretty much the same pose, but every artist does something new. Siobhan likes the large gap between the two in the Da Vinci, and I like the dynamic movement of the Botticelli. No-one likes Baldovinetti.
Scene 5: Saint Sebastian. The most popular saint, it seems. Usually full of arrows.
Scene 6: Judith and Holofernes. So much violence and bloodshed! As a remedy to all this strang und durm, there were a fair few pictures of this loving couple. Aw, so touching. And very popular with the children on the tours that constantly surround us.