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.

Uffizi gallery

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.


siobhan   Dec 2, 2008 12:56:57 AM

I love the room where the last painting Damon mentioned is hung. You have two really startling pieces on both ends - on one end is the Artemesia Judith. On the other end is the Caravaggio Medusa on the Aegis ( Image:Medusa_by_Carvaggio.jpg). In the middle? Is like the ponciest Bacchus in christendom, to wit: this totally useless tart ( Image:Michelangelo_Caravaggio_007.jpg).

Binky   Dec 2, 2008 11:29:01 PM

My favourite from the Uffizi is Michelangelo's <a href=" tondo">Doni Tondo</a>. I lugged a poster of it back with me - there's something fantastic about the structure of it, the perspective and the simple humanity of the family.

Also, there is the best steak ever at a place called Trattoria ZaZa, in the backstreets near the Medici Chapel. They looked at me like I was mad when I asked for a small one.

Damon   Dec 4, 2008 10:54:14 PM

I remember seeing the Doni Tondo - the poses are so very different from every other Madonna, and it's good to see a Joseph that isn't looking very depressed at the turn his life has taken.

lian   Dec 13, 2008 3:43:31 AM

wow. This is a very, very tarty Bacchus indeed. And I feel very instructed! I especially love Michelangelo "let me show you my anatomy skillz!" Bunarotti.

lian   Dec 13, 2008 3:45:25 AM

*sighs* (...I actually know how to write Michelangelo BuOnarroti. Just y'know. Typo)

Damon   Dec 17, 2008 4:11:16 AM

I quite liked another saucy Bacchus ( _Bacchus) in the Borghese too, but we once again didn't get into the Bargello Bacchus ( ichelangelo)). That is a story in itself...


Edit reports (Admins only)
Edit comments (Admins only)