Opera House 1911 <ul><li>The artist grew up in a middle-class home. His father was a civil servant who expected his son to follow in his footsteps in seeking a safe and reliable career. But the young man had other ambitions. </li></ul><ul><li>After graduating from high school he traveled to the big city and applied for admission to the university hoping to study art or architecture. But competition for enrollment was intense and the would-be artist failed to gain admission to the college. He stayed on in the city, working odd jobs and selling a few paintings on the street waiting for the next application period. But the following year he was once again turned away. </li></ul><ul><li>By this time the young man was living on the street, evicted from his apartment for failure to pay his rent. Food was scarce and he was barely staying alive. Then his dreams of a college education were fully dashed when the First World War erupted and he found himself in the army and headed for France. </li></ul>
Opera House <ul><li>After his military service… during which he was wounded at least once and decorated for bravery… he returned home to find no jobs and a depressed economy. Many veterans were in the same boat. </li></ul><ul><li>One night in a café he was approached by a man who had overheard him speaking to a group of friends and asked if he would be interested in becoming a professional speaker for one of the political parties. This was before radio and television and candidates would hire speakers to address gatherings on their behalf. He readily accepted the job and excelled at public speaking. </li></ul><ul><li>Eventually he was convinced to run for office and on his first try he won the election and was chosen by the people to lead the country. </li></ul><ul><li>The next slide is a portrait of this famous artist. Although he is not famous for his art… </li></ul>
In 1933 Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany and became the worst mass-murdering dictator in history. He maintained his interest in art and used it for propaganda purposes. We can only wonder how different the world would be if that damn college had just let him in.
This is a hand lotion ad from a newspaper using a subliminal image. Subliminal messages are those that are meant to be seen without the viewer consciously realizing it. They are intended to influence shoppers on a subconscious level. These hidden messages can be either pictures or words. See if you can spot the hidden image in this ad designed to encourage sales.
This detail (close-up view) reveals the image of a bared breast. In Western culture nudity is most often associated with sex but in art nudity can symbolize a variety of concepts. Breasts can represent motherhood, family and nurturing. The image of the bare breast is included in the ad to influence female shoppers who will see the image and associate the product with home and family. A woman may go to the store and buy this product after seeing this ad and not even know why she is choosing this product from among the many offered. It’s because she is responding to the positive feelings she experienced when viewing the ad. Of course for products aimed at male buyers the nudity would be a sexual reference. How often do we see beautiful women in swimsuits selling beer or pickup trucks? The products are mainly purchased by men and the promise of attractive, sexy women is used to influence them.
Vietnam Execution 1968 by Eddie Adams <ul><li>This disturbing and brutal photo shows a captured North Vietnamese soldier being executed by a South Vietnamese general during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Many Americans found the image horrifying because it portrays the general as savagely killing a helpless prisoner. It called the U.S. support for the South into question with many Americans and helped bring about the pull-out of U.S. forces and the fall of South Vietnam to the aggressor North. </li></ul><ul><li>The published version of this photo has been cropped, altering the available information and changing how viewers react to it. </li></ul>
The original image shows obvious signs of warfare occurring in the scene and unlike the cropped version informs the viewer as to why the violence may be happening. Most viewers failed to notice that the prisoner is not in uniform. He is not quite the innocent victim as the photo suggests. He is actually an assassin, sent to murder women and children (wives and offspring of army officers) in order to disrupt military operations defending the city.
This story posted on an Internet news site shows a young black man struggling through flood waters in New Orleans following the disaster of hurricane Katrina with items he “looted” from a store, according to the text of the story. Meanwhile, the lower photo shows a while couple who did the same thing but the text says they “found” the items. We all have our biases but we should be consistent. If he’s looting then so are they. If they are simply finding then so is he. Actually, what they are all doing is called foraging.
Christmas Tree by Christopher <ul><li>Abstract originally meant reduced to its </li></ul><ul><li>most basic elements. Somehow the </li></ul><ul><li>meaning has become interchangeable with </li></ul><ul><li>nonrepresentational. The water-color </li></ul><ul><li>painting at right is really abstract rather </li></ul><ul><li>than nonrepresentational which means that </li></ul><ul><li>it isn’t recognizable. The tree is in fact </li></ul><ul><li>recognizable but the rendering is very </li></ul><ul><li>simple. </li></ul><ul><li>The artist was four years old. </li></ul>
This painting is truly nonrepresentational as it was painted in 1958 by a chimpanzee named Congo. Lacking human intelligence, it is totally random and meaningless.
The notion of lesser animals creating art is not a new one. This photo from the early 20 th century was staged by some famous artists to ridicule the idea of animal artists.
Sammy the Dog <ul><li>Zoo animals, pets, and other </li></ul><ul><li>creatures are often portrayed as </li></ul><ul><li>creative artists. Sometimes done </li></ul><ul><li>for fund-raising purposes, it’s </li></ul><ul><li>highly unlikely that such </li></ul><ul><li>endeavors can really be called art </li></ul><ul><li>by any reasonable interpretation of </li></ul><ul><li>the word.. </li></ul>
Moses 1395 by Claus Sluter <ul><li>Throughout the Renaissance (14 th through the 17 th centuries) Moses was routinely depicted as having horns. </li></ul>
Moses by Michelangelo Even Michelangelo put horns on Moses. It turned out that this was due to a misinterpretation of ancient Hebrew religious texts. The word for “horn” was similar to the word for “light.” The text was misread as saying “Moses had horns emanating from his head” when it actually said that he had light emanating from his head. In other words, Moses should have been depicted with a halo like the saints, angels, and other Biblical figures. Once a mistake takes root, it can last a long time.
St. John 1412 by Donatello This is two photos of the same statue taken from different angles. Sculpture, being three-dimensional, can be affected by the viewing angle and lighting. On the right, we look up at the figure making him appear powerful, wise and dynamic. Looking at him straight in the face on the left makes him look like a tired old man. Generally speaking, looking up at people makes them look more heroic.
Symbolic Representation When asked to identify what is seen in this image most students respond that they see a train. Of course, there is no train in the classroom and what they are seeing is actually a photograph of a train. This is a symbolic representation of a train. Objects in art may be used to symbolize things, people, or ideas completely different from the actual object being depicted. Some of these symbols are well-known to artists and are commonly used, others may be more specific to a particular artist.
Analysis of Symbolic Representation When we try to determine the meaning of the objects we see in art it’s called analyzing the image. There are two basic ways to attempt this analysis; either try to figure out what message the artist intended for the viewer to perceive or if that’s not possible, or if it’s not desired, then the viewer can analyze the image to suit his or her own vision. There are virtually no limits on the number of differing analyses that can be produced. The train could be seen as representing the American economy. It’s big and strong, producing goods and services. It may be slowed by a bend in the tracks, symbolizing an economic slow-down, but stoking the furnace with tax cuts, low labor costs, and favorable interest rates on business loans will drive the economy back up to speed. An environmentalist might see the train as representing the destruction of the Earth’s resources. It required felling trees to lay the tracks, tearing up mountains to dig the coal needed to fuel the engine, then it spews pollution into the air and drips oil as it rolls along fouling the soil. These are totally different versions yet both are completely valid. The next two slides contain a list of some symbolic representations. This is not by any means a complete list, just a starting point.
Animals: Horse: Speed, power, movement, travel, transition, work, or in some cases, high status. Bull: Masculinity, power, aggression, destruction, savagery, bravery, or determination. Dog: Loyalty, faithfulness, devotion, companionship, trust, or partnership. Sheep: Obedience, loyalty, mildness, subservience, or conformity. Snake: Stealth, deception, evil, wile, corruption, healing, or fertility. Bird: Freedom, escape, high status, metaphysical, occult, divine, war, or peace. Lion: Majesty, royalty, bravery, strength, or savagery. Shark: Danger, killer, unfair, uncompassionate, cold, brutal, or menacing. Ape: Jungle instinct, savage nature, uncouth behavior, or Man’s darker side. Colors Red: Danger, stop, blood, life, death, pain, heat, war, or courage. Blue: Loneliness, solitude, sadness, cold, or depression. Yellow: Cowardice, caution, wealth, sickness, or age. Green: Fertility, resurrection, health, or coolness. Black: Sinister, evil, unknown, death, aggression, or unlawfulness. White: Purity, life, death, innocence, cleanliness, a fresh start, or lawfulness. Objects : River or stream: Transition, movement, or obstacle. Wall or fence: Obstacle or opponent. Gate, door, window, ladder or stairs: Opportunity, escape, or access and thus also free will. Any motorized vehicle or manufactured item: Modern industrialization, mass production, travel, or transition. Scientific instruments: Science, discovery, education, or progress. Books or writing devices: Education, learning, or literacy. The head: Leadership or authority. Legs: Travel or transition. Arms: Strength.
Some commonly recognized symbolic representations <ul><li>A single lighted candle: The presence of Jesus Christ </li></ul><ul><li>A convex (rounded) mirror: The presence of God </li></ul><ul><li>Swords and later firearms: Power (also relate to authority and prestige) </li></ul><ul><li>Hats, helmets and anything else worn on the head: Authority or leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Eggs, fruit with many seeds or animals that reproduce quickly or in great numbers: Fertility </li></ul><ul><li>Shoes, motor vehicles, bicycles or any other means of transportation: Travel and/or transition* </li></ul><ul><li>Armor: Something offering protection </li></ul><ul><li>Books: Knowledge or learning, law </li></ul><ul><li>Lamps or lanterns: Knowledge or learning, hope </li></ul><ul><li>*Travel means going from one physical location to another. Transition is changing one’s status or condition. Representing transition is a daunting task so artists cheat and simply use symbols that represent travel to also suggest transition. You must consider the context of the art to determine which the artist intends and in many cases both concepts are being symbolized. </li></ul><ul><li>The next two slides contain a sample analysis of the Statue of Liberty. Note that each element in the sculpture is considered for what it may represent. The analysis is underlined to draw attention, but do not underline in your analysis paper. </li></ul>
Analysis of the State of Liberty The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor is the figure of woman who stands upon a pedestal with a book under one arm while her other hand holds aloft a burning torch. She may represent motherhood, perhaps symbolizing that this country is the mother country or birthplace of freedom and liberty . This is where high ideals are born, and where brave people are nurtured. She may also stand for family as women are often seen as the backbones of the family unit, symbolizing that America is a nation united into a single family and built upon the strength of womanhood, and or motherhood. The figure’s face is feminine, yet strong and determined. This could represent the strength of character Americans believe they possess . It could also symbolize our own determination to survive, to prosper , and to hold our proper place in the world. The figure’s eyes gaze off into the distance, looking towards the future as a symbol of our desire to lead the world into that future . The pedestal upon which she stands may represent achieving a higher ideal , or climbing to the peak of human endeavor. Perhaps the pedestal stands for faith in God , and she may be seen as elevating the goals and ideals of America, or even America itself, to a divine level by climbing to the heavens. The pedestal may also represent our family or cultural values , being the strong and sturdy base upon which our society is built.
Statue of Liberty continued Perhaps the pedestal represents the faith upon which this nation was founded , or it could symbolize our forefathers who established this nation and whose early efforts we now depend on to support us. What they made is strong and enduring, as is the foundation for the statue. The pedestal is made of stone, symbolizing our strength as a nation and as a people as we build upon the foundation left for us. Perhaps the base is America , with the figure of the woman representing our goals and ideals supported by the “rock-solid” foundation that is America. The figure is garbed in a long dress. Its simplicity may represent our own modesty or maybe our practicality . The sandals on her feet might represent our religious roots , as Christians often associate sandals with Jesus and the Apostles. Her simple dress could be seen as a toga, such as would be worn in ancient Greece. Combined with the sandals, this manner of dress would give her the appearance of the ancient Greeks, a people we tend to admire and whom we have emulated for so many aspects of our culture and society. This statue could be seen as paying homage to the ancient people from whom we have borrowed so much . Or it could be viewed as a means of associating ourselves with the ancient Greeks , who are often considered to have been wise and educated, the philosophers, teachers, and great thinkers from history. The book may be seen as indicating our thirst for knowledge , or our desire to educate ourselves in order to be world leaders. The book may be a book of laws , indicating that ours is a society built on a system of equal justice for all. It could also stand for our desire to educate all of our children so that none are left ignorant and uneducated. The book may even be seen as a register containing the names of all the immigrants who came to this country seeking a new and better life. Or perhaps it is a list of our achievements as a nation. The torch could be seen as the light of freedom , signaling the way for others to find the path leading here. Maybe it represents our enlightened society , symbolizing how we have driven away the darkness of ignorance, fear, and evil . It could symbolize a means of drawing attention to ourselves , to make us stand out in a world of darkness as a nation worth noticing and emulating.
Statue on Campus at Rick’s College (BYU Idaho) Schools operated by churches concern themselves with not just the education of the students’ minds, but also with their moral and spiritual well being. This sculpture on campus at a Mormon college shows two students behaving as the Latter Day Saint faith would have them act while on campus. The two figures seem to ignore each other as they concentrate on their books. The message is that students are not here to have parties, they are here to learn. The fact that the female figure’s knees are tightly clamped together suggests that sex is also to be avoided.
The casual attitude of the model for this photo used in a course schedule at a state-supported public college seems to suggest an entirely different message than the sculpture on campus at the Mormon college. Perhaps not intended to be sexually suggestive, it is at the very least much more casual than the image from the Mormon college.
Whenever a nation’s flag appears in art, it may be assumed that the message will at least be partly patriotic in nature. Always take the audience into consideration when analyzing art. Who was supposed to see the art and what was the message directed towards them?
Liberty Leading the People 1830 by Eugene Delacroix <ul><li>The French Revolution (1789) threw France into decades of violence and turmoil. Suffering years of internal strife and warfare with numerous factions fighting for power, France was in a desperate state with continuing violence as one leader after another failed to unite the nation and regain a sense of national unity. Delacroix seems to be encouraging all French citizens - young and old, men and women, rich and poor - to rise up and fight for their nation to save it from the despised king who ruled at that time. The dead men in the foreground wear the uniforms of the king’s soldiers to make it clear who the people are fighting. </li></ul><ul><li>One victim of the violence seen in the lower left has not only lost his life in the struggle, but also his trousers. The nudity could symbolize the loss he has suffered; since he has lost his life he has lost everything. The artist might be warning the viewer that this ultimate sacrifice may be asked of people in order to save the country. </li></ul><ul><li>The figure of Liberty bares her breasts not to be sexually stimulating but to symbolize motherhood and nurturing. All must nurture our mother country and save her from destruction. </li></ul>
There’s no way Like the American Way 1937 by Margaret Bourke White <ul><li>Most books state that this photo shows the division of whites and blacks in America. The usual explanation is that a line of poor black people waiting in a food line stand before a billboard touting the greatness of America’s standard of living. If one is white then one drives a fine car and is smiling and happy in prosperity. But if one is black then one must wait for a handout to survive. </li></ul><ul><li>But a closer look reveals the people in line don’t really look poor, being clean and well dressed. The original title of this photograph was After the Louisville Flood and these people await assistance only because they have been temporarily displaced from their homes by the flooding in their neighborhood. A few blocks over there was likely a similar line made up of white residents (the city would have been segregated at this time) because their neighborhood was also flooded. This photo wasn’t intended to illustrate racism but it is often interpreted that way. </li></ul>
Norman Rockwell was an American artist who is best known for painting covers for the Saturday Evening Post magazine. Although most people tend to associate his work with homespun scenes of Americana, family, and values such as duty and honesty, many of his paintings contain serious social commentary. When analyzing art it helps to know something about the artist to understand what he might be saying. It also helps to know something about the time and place where the art was created. Rockwell was a deeply religious man and a proud patriot. His art often celebrates God and country.
Rosie the Riveter 1943 by Norman Rockwell <ul><li>Rosie was created to star in an ad campaign to encourage women to come and work in factories during World War II when many men were serving in uniform. Her image is meant to celebrate the strength these women demonstrated in doing men’s jobs and to reassure them that they would not lose their femininity by working in jobs seen as traditionally for men. </li></ul><ul><li>Rosie’s arms are huge and muscular to symbolize the strength of the women who stepped up when their country needed them. But her face is still cute and feminine. She eats a large sandwich. This could symbolize the paycheck she and the other women received. It’s a man’s sandwich representing the man’s pay they got for doing a man’s job. </li></ul><ul><li>The clear face shield pushed up on Rosie’s head so she can eat appears like a halo over her head. The artist was a devoutly religious man for whom calling someone an angel would be the highest compliment and that seems to be what he’s saying about these women. </li></ul><ul><li>Of course the background of the painting is an American flag as this is definitely a patriotic scene. </li></ul>
Sergeant’s Coat Thanksgiving 1943 by Norman Rockwell <ul><li>The November, 1943 issue carried an image of a woman wearing a soldier’s coat and giving thanks for the small portion of food which was also a gift from the soldier (it’s in a plate that would be part of a military mess kit so we know the source of the food). The broken and fallen architectural columns suggest we are in Italy, a country certainly damaged by the Second World War. These columns could symbolize the loss of the woman’s home, family, or even hope. But her life was spared by the generosity of some American soldiers (note the flag on the sleeve identifying the source). </li></ul><ul><li>Rockwell is saying that soldiers don’t just come to kill and destroy, but also to save. By extension, Rockwell is saying all Americans are compassionate and generous. </li></ul><ul><li>A secondary message in this painting may be directed to Americans who by 1943 were likely grumbling about the lack of consumer goods due to the war effort. He is telling any who might be griping to shut up and be grateful for what they have like the young woman in the painting who thanks God for so simple a blessing as a coat and crust of bread. </li></ul>
The location for this painting (next slide) can be determined by the red flag and the lantern setting on top of the travel trunk. These items would be used to signal an approaching train and stop cars crossing the tracks as the train came near. These would only be found in a train depot operating before being wired for electricity. These items would not have been used at a bus station or an airport. Also, the track can be seen at the bottom of the painting. We can tell it’s a rural setting because the ground is dirt and not paved. The two men are sitting on the running board of an old pick up truck. It’s likely a farm truck because of the wooden side boards on the bed, something seen in agricultural use. One man is older while the other is still a youngster, probably in his teens. We don’t know for certain what the relationship is between the two individuals so we must make an assumption. There doesn’t appear to be any reason to discount them as being father and son and this appears to be the most logical conclusion based on the scant evidence available. When making an assumption it should be stated as such right up front and from that point on what was assumed may be discussed as fact. The father is dressed in gray, and his posture is slumping. Older people often represent the past. The youngster is erect and seems filled with anticipation. His suit is white, and white can symbolize a fresh start or a new beginning. Children or young people can symbolize the future. The artist gives us a clue that the young man is the future by having him face in the same direction the truck is parked while his father looks back. The suitcase represents travel and in this case also transition. The decals tell us he is going off to college so he is indeed traveling and making changes in his life. The books on the suitcase symbolize knowledge and learning, which he will do as student. The artist even tells us that he will be a good student by placing bookmarks in all of the books. Not even on campus yet, the youngster is already reading his textbooks and will be prepared in class. The dog symbolizes loyalty. This is a common symbolic representation but bear in mind it’s never the dog being loyal. Someone or something is being loyal but it’s never the dog. In this painting it’s obvious the father is being loyal to his son by allowing him to leave the farm. A healthy young man would be a great resource on a family farm and it’s a sacrifice for the family to let him pursue his dream of a college education. For his part, the young student promises to study and succeed (and he has already started by reading his books). A sack lunch is held in the son’s lap. He clasps it with both hands as if to never let it go. This nourishment represents his mother and by extension his entire family. The reality of leaving home will likely not hit him until he opens the wrapper hours from now on the train. The father holds both his and his son’s hats. A hat can symbolize authority and this is a powerful symbol in this painting. When the train arrives they will stand and the father will hand his son his hat, signifying that he is now own his own, and adult and a man responsible for himself. It will be a very powerful moment. Breaking Home Ties 1954 by Norman Rockwell
Homecoming GI May 26, 1945 by Norman Rockwell <ul><li>The title of this painting refers to the time when the World War II in Europe was ending and the soldiers started returning home. The young soldier arrives home and his family rushes out to greet him as a girl, maybe the neighbor who was too young for him in the past, waits to surprise him. </li></ul><ul><li>The soldier’s duffle bag symbolizes travel and transition and he has done both as he went around the world and fought a war for freedom, maturing in the process. His family is all dressed in red, white, and blue reminding us of the American flag and adding a patriotic note to the image. </li></ul><ul><li>The clean, white laundry hanging on the line could represent a fresh start for the country or perhaps even the whole world. The man working on the roof may represent how the country… or again the world… needed some “fixing up” after the war years. </li></ul><ul><li>The ever-present dog symbolizes the loyalty of the young soldier to his nation and his family and they have been loyal to him by keeping him in their hearts and by welcoming him home. </li></ul><ul><li>Windows are often seen as opportunity for the future and the children seen hanging from the tree in front of the windows may symbolize the future and the opportunity to make it a better one. </li></ul>
Following the conversion of Pagan Rome to Christianity in the 4 th century, art in all of Europe was forced to conform to Christian sensibilities. Sculpture fell out of favor because of its popularity with Pagans and nudity in art was not tolerated as Christians considered it to be offensive as well as Pagan. It would be nearly 1,000 years before a European artist would exhibit a nude sculpture. This statue broke the moratorium on nude sculpture. The artist was not prosecuted by the Church or imprisoned by the king so he apparently got away with this bold move. But it would be 50 years before another artist would make such an attempt so it was a bold move, indeed. One question remains unanswered. Is the sculptural figure male or female? A
David 1430 by Donatello <ul><li>Even when viewed from the front it may be difficult to immediately identify the gender of the figure. But as the title states it is in fact David, the Biblical king and hero of the story involving the defeat of the giant Goliath. </li></ul><ul><li>The hat David wears is not one that would have been worn in Biblical times. It’s a man’s hat that would have been fashionable in 15 th century Florence, the city where Donatello lived and worked. </li></ul>B
This full-length view reveals that the victorious David stands with his foot upon the severed head of Goliath (detail on Slide E), whom he felled with a stone from his sling before beheading him with the giant’s own sword. Goliath wears a helmet of the Roman style. At this time Italy was not the unified nation we know today, but was made up of independent city states. Rome was the largest and most powerful of the city states while Florence was comparatively small and weak, being mostly known as an art center rather than military or economic power. When the statue was erected in the city square an angry mob tried to pull it down. It was not the nudity that concerned them, but the fact that they feared the Romans would be insulted by the sculpture. Indeed, with the Florentine hat, and Goliath’s Roman helmet, Rome may have perceived this statue as suggesting that the smaller Florence could defeat the larger Rome just as David slew Goliath. It didn’t help matters when the statue was placed so as to face Rome in what could be interpreted as open defiance. But apparently Rome ignored the insult. The sword handle is another symbolic representation. It is quire phallic looking (a phallus symbol suggests a penis) and likely represents that David took Goliath’s manhood along with his sword and his life. But why did the artist choose make David so un-heroic looking? Rather than a muscular and athletic physique, Donatello depicts David as puny, even feminine. Certainly not heroic. C
Perhaps the message to us is that one does not need to look like a hero to do heroic things. D
This news photo of an angry Palestinian youth protesting against the Israeli military shows what David’s sling probably looked like.
Death, Knight and Devil by Albrect D ü rer 1513 <ul><li>Printmaking was revolutionary for art because for the first time in history it allowed average working class people to buy art. Prior to this, paintings and sculpture were so expensive that they were luxury items, purchased only by the wealthy, the Church, and the government (king). Because prints were mass produced, it brought the unit price down to where almost anyone could afford to buy them. </li></ul><ul><li>Albrect D ü rer was a German artist who became famous for his prints. He is also known as the first artist in history to sue someone in civil court for making unauthorized copies of his work. This print is filled with symbolism that supports a Christian lifestyle. </li></ul><ul><li>Death is depicted as the ghastly looking figure beside the knight. He holds an hourglass to remind the knight that his days are numbered and his time is running. The hourglass was a common attribute for Death during the Renaissance. An attribute is an object closely associated with an individual or group and allows us to identify the bearer. Later Death’s attribute would become the scythe, the large sickle he is seen carrying on his shoulder. </li></ul><ul><li>Behind the knight comes the Devil, rendered to look like a goat. This was common in religious art from the Early Christian Era right through the Renaissance. The goat had been a powerful Pagan fertility symbol, second only to the snake, and Christians made the goat evil by associating it with Satan to dissuade the Pagan worship of these animals. The snake is demonized for the same purpose by making the serpent the villain in the garden of Eden story from the Bible. </li></ul>
Despite having Death and the Devil trying to frighten and intimidate him, the knight rides along resolutely, unconcerned by their presence. The knight is confident that he is protected from their influence. His armor protects him. Of course metal armor can’t protect us from the Devil, or Death if it’s our time, so obviously the armor is a symbolic representation of that which emboldens the knight. The armor represents his faith. He is a devout Christian and his faith in God, his relationship with God and his Church, protects him from sin and evil. The horse elevates him, symbolizing his superior status as a righteous man. The sword is a power symbol, usually representing secular power but in this case perhaps referring to the power of the Lord to watch over and protect His followers. The dog that accompanies him symbolizes the faithfulness and loyalty exchanged between the knight and God. The castle on the hilltop could represent Heaven, the knight’s ultimate destination. Death, Knight and Devil by Albrect Dürer 1513 (continued) Early Renaissance
Wedding Portrait 1434 by Jan Van Eyck (Early Renaissance) <ul><li>This painting has long been known as The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait as it was understood to depict the marriage ceremony of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami. However, some sources have recently suggested that this in fact a depiction of the betrothal rather than of the actual wedding ceremony. I believe that it can be demonstrated beyond argument that this painting is indeed of the wedding itself and not the betrothal. </li></ul><ul><li>First, the bride wears a wedding gown. In Western culture the current trend is towards white gowns, symbolizing purity of spirit, chastity of the body, cleanliness of the spirit and the fresh start on a new life together. But in Renaissance Europe the popular color for wedding gowns was green, representing the bride’s willingness and desire to conceive and start a family. Green is traditionally seen as a fertility color. Another fertility symbol is the dress being padded to make the bride appear pregnant. </li></ul><ul><li>Another symbol of reproduction is the bed seen behind the bride and groom. The ceremony is taking place in his home rather than in a church, and the bed symbolizes that as a married couple they may now be intimate with one another. A bed in a portrait of an unmarried couple would be scandalous, suggesting that they were having premarital relations. </li></ul><ul><li>The couple has removed their shoes. His are right beside his stocking-clad feet (Slide B) and hers are seen back near the couch (Slide C). This has long symbolized being on holy ground and is something the early Christians borrowed from the Pagans. It was a practice to remove one’s shoes when standing on holy ground and since they are not in church, it must be the fact that a religious ceremony is taking place that makes this apartment holy, if only on a temporary basis. A wedding would be a holy ceremony, a betrothal would not. </li></ul>A
The candelabra holds but one candle despite having room for several more. In Renaissance art a common symbol for Jesus was the single lighted candle. At least one author has suggested that the reason for using only one candle was that candles were expensive and they were trying to economize. I suspect that candles were not so pricey as to cause a couple with such obvious wealth as these people to fret about burning a few if needed. The lone candle is clearly symbolic and not utilitarian. The convex mirror on the far wall is also symbolic, representing the presence of God (Slide E). The convex mirror, which allows a fantastic field of view, symbolizes the “all seeing eye of God” and therefore the very presence of God Himself. Other obvious symbols present in the painting include the dog which represents the loyalty between the husband and wife, the fruit on the window sill and bench (Slide F) which is a Pagan fertility symbol (today’s brides carry flowers but in Renaissance Europe they carried fruit to distribute to the guests as they walked down the aisle), the small broom hanging in the far right corner representing the wife’s duties in keeping the home, and the figural carving atop the bedpost of St. Margaret, the patron saint of housewives and mothers. The window could symbolize free will, meaning neither of the happy couple are here against their will. It could also represent the opportunity for a bright future together. The artist’s signature is quite unusual. Rather than signing his name in the lower corner as was customary, he signed in the middle of the canvas with his signature seen directly above the mirror. Instead so simply writing his name, he wrote an entire sentence, saying “I, Johann van Eyck was here.” It is believed by many art historians that this statement serves as testimony; with van Eyck becoming a witness to the marriage and the painting thus assuming the role of documentation. This might be important as the state didn’t issue marriage licenses or certificates at this time and there could come a time when the woman may need to prove that she was legally married, such as when her husband dies and she wants to inherit the estate. It would make no sense for this to be a painting of the betrothal, with was more like a business negotiation than a ceremony. Although the location of the original painting is unknown, a painting of the painting suggests that Giovanni Cenami commissioned a portrait to give her husband as a wedding gift. This was very common amongst wealthily Europeans and the painting presented by the bride to the groom was often an intimate portrait (Slide G). Wedding Portrait 1434 by Jan Van Eyck (continued) D
The bride’s nudity could symbolize her purity of mind and spirit. It could also represent her giving herself without reservation to her husband. The convex mirror over the basin invokes the presence of God into her marriage and in the mirror can be seen the image of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus, also invited into the home of a devoutly Christian family. The bride’s mother is also seen, perhaps to act as chaperone and soothe any suspicions the husband might feel as he realized that his naked wife was in the room with a male artist. The mother’s presence implies that the bride posed, the artist painted, and nothing untoward happened. These nude portraits of brides were very common and it was a popular gift for new brides to give their husbands. Usually the man would hang the portrait in “his room” such as his den or office and then cover the painting with a curtain to keep it discrete. G
This is the painting in which can be seen the nude Cenami portrait (center of image about 1/3 in from the right) on display in a wealthy collector’s home. The original appears to be lost. H
The Early Renaissance The 14 th & 15 th centuries
The Renaissance “Rebirth” Following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 4 th century, much of Europe fell into a state of despair. For several hundred years little advancement was made in the areas of medicine, art, and especially science as scientific study and research was denounced as heresy (anything contrary to Church doctrine) by the Church. Art was not immune to the powerful influences of the Church which dictated content and style and censored any art it considered blasphemous or Pagan. Indeed, religious fanaticism gripped Europe and with the Christians in power the governance of nations was dictated by the Pope in Rome. Many of the faithful believed that the calendar year 1000 would see Armageddon, the end of the material world when Jesus would return to sit in judgment of all Humanity. For the last several hundred years of the first millennium A.D. life was fairly miserable throughout the Christian world and this time period is referred to as the Dark Ages. Of course, the year 1000 came and went without the destruction of the Earth occurring. When Christians found their world still intact after New Year’s 1001 they decided to start improving their culture and making societal advances. This period is known as the Middle Ages and covers the approximate time frame from 1000 A.D. to around 1300 A.D. The Gothic Period is really just a subsection of the latter half of the Middle Ages. By the end of the Gothic Period European society was ready to burst forth and art was no exception. Religious zealotry still existed and Christianity maintained its grip on European culture, but the people were ready to move forward and the Renaissance became a turning point for artists even though the Church continued to dominate art and artists for a long time.
Reliquary Bust of San Gennaro 1304 Etienne Goderfroyd From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance many Christians believed that ostentatious displays of wealth were necessary to prove one’s faith. Apparently they felt that God would look more favorably on them if they decorated the churches with gold and silver. Coinciding with the trend towards rich furnishings was an obsession with the collecting of relics. A relic is an object of great religious significance. Anything associated with a Biblical figure or sacred event could become a relic and every church had to have at least one good relic to inspire the congregation. Wealthy people (including some popes) collected them in large numbers. A popular relic is a sliver of wood purported to be from the True Cross, the one upon which Jesus was crucified. Of course, many relics were fakes, sold to anxious buyers by unscrupulous sellers. A box to hold a relic is called a reliquary and they are often made of precious materials like the gold plated bust seen here. This is actually a box to contain a valuable relic.
Mariotto di Nardo 1395 The Annunciation Artists struggled for thousands of years with trying to imply depth in paintings. The concept of perspective, where objects get smaller as they get farther away, wasn’t fully realized until the late 15 th century. Until then the spaces depicted in paintings were clumsy, and visually incorrect. The scene at right isn’t really all that realistic looking, is it?
Wood Crucifix 1412-13 Filippo Brunelleschi Nudity in art has always been popular but at the same time controversial. The figure of Jesus seen here is nude and that’s very unusual for Renaissance work. The positioning of the figure’s legs maintain a sense of modesty but we can still imagine that many viewers were uncomfortable. Those of us living in Western culture tend to associate nudity with sex but that is only one of many possible references nudity can suggest. It can also imply loss; vulnerability; piety and purity; poverty; honesty; or strength and confidence in the case of nude figures who appear casual and relaxed or even empowered despite their lack of clothing.
Church sculpture 14 th century In the 6 th century AD when Paganism waned throughout Europe and Christianity became the dominant force, the new leaders imposed their own morality on art and artists, suppressing those concepts they found blasphemous or socially unacceptable. Nudity was unacceptable to many Christians and the unclothed figure nearly disappears from Western art for 800 years. When nude figures do start to return as art subjects, it is often in the context of people suffering damnation for their sins. Sculpture had always been popular with the Pagans so of course Christians rejected it, preferring painting and mosaics as media suitable for expressing religious ideals. From the 6 th through the 15 th centuries sculpture was largely limited to relief sculpture seen on churches.
Altar1 1377 Leonardo di ser Giovanni As previously mentioned, churches were decorated with rich furnishings and the altar where prayers would be offered were no exception. Altars were frequently made of precious materials, decorated by famous artists, and were in general fit for a king.
Altar1 1377 Leonardo di ser Giovanni Detail (art history term meaning close up view) showing the relief sculpture found on Altar 1. As expected, pieces done for the church will generally feature Biblical scenes and other religious themes.
1401-25 Lorenzo Ghiberti These massive bronze doors were created for a church and each panel features religious scenes. The symbolism of such fortress like doors is intriguing. Are these sturdy barriers intended to keep someone out… or in?
Gates of Paradise Florence Cathedral 1425-52 Lorenzo Ghiberti Another example of bronze doors covered with relief sculpture. The detail in the next slide is interesting. Do the figures of the young man wearing the very, very short tunic (with his back to us) and the group of women to the left not seem rather sexy and seductive? Is this entirely appropriate for a church door? What might be suggested, here?
Bronze door 1445 Filarete One last example of bronze doors. The detail seen in the next slide (The Martyrdom of St. Peter) seems to be more in keeping with traditional religious subject matter. Death, torture and terror rather than pleasures of the flesh.
Manuscript illustration 1475 Gherardo di Giovanni Prior to the invention of the printing press with movable text books were very expensive luxury items. Each book had to be written by hand and this was a laborious and time consuming process. The result was that high illiteracy rates really didn’t mean much as only a very few could afford to buy even one book. Naturally, Bibles and other Church related texts were produced without concern for the cost as nothing was too expensive when doing God’s work. In addition to the hand-written text, the pages were often decorated with fancy calligraphy or illustrations. The following slides contain some examples of religious texts and the decorative elements found on the pages. An interesting side note is that numerous examples of erotic imagery in religious text illumination are known to exist. One explanation is that since books, all books including religious themes, were horribly expensive before the invention of the printing press, buyers could request such images to suit their own desires and the publishers were willing to accommodate the buyers. There are no examples of X rated Medieval images in the slide show. Sorry…
Portable three-part altarpieces known as Triptychs A triptych is three wooden panels hinged together with paintings done on the inside panels. Some of the fancier and more grandiose triptychs feature painting on the outside as well although this is generally seen only on those altarpieces that were intended to stay in one place and not be moved around too much. The advantage of the triptych was that by folding it in on itself, the wooden exterior would prevent damage to the interior paintings during transport. There were two typical uses for the triptychs. Sometimes priests who traveled a circuit, visiting a string of small communities that were too small to accommodate a full-time clergy in residence, would carry a triptych to be set-up for services in whichever village he happened to be visiting that week. The other way that the portable altars would be used is in the homes of wealthy and devout Christians. Often rich families would have one of these for use in family services held at home when it was inconvenient or dangerous to travel to the church. One difference to look for in the triptychs is the presence of the donors in the paintings. A priest would not have been provided with a triptych by the Church and would have had to rely on a donation from a wealthy member of his congregation to obtain one. This was no small donation as these were very expensive items so it’s understandable that the donor (and the word donator is sometimes used) would want to receive proper credit for such a generous gift. That is why the artist very frequently included portraits of the faithful couple (it was generally a married couple making the donation) who purchased the altarpiece for the priest’s use. A privately-owned triptych is less likely to incorporate donor portraits. The donors will most often be depicted as being present during some Biblical scene, such as the Birth of Jesus or the Annunciation (when the Angel Michael informed Mary of God’s plans for her). The donors will appear pious and penitent, often kneeling in the presence of Jesus and/or Mary. The larger and more expensive the triptych, the more likely it is that we will see the donors included in the paintings. Slides A & B show the Merode Altarpice attributed to Robert Campin (Slide A shows the wooden frame with the three parts hinged together and slide B is more interesting in its color reproduction). This means historians believe he is the artist but are not 100% certain. Many Renaissance artists, particularly on religious themes, often did not sign their names believing their talent to be God’s gift so signing their own names would be boastful or presumptuous.
Merode Altarpiece c. 1425 attributed to Robert Campin A
Merode Altarpiece c. 1425 attributed to Robert Campin The center panel of the Merode Altarpiece contains numerous symbolic representations relating to the story of Jesus. Mary is dressed in red, a color associated with birth, life, death, courage, passion, and sacrifice. All are concepts affiliated with the life of Jesus. Also, the highlight on her knee resembles a starburst, reminding us of the star that marked the birth of Jesus. The angel wears a white robe, and white is for purity, innocence, a fresh start, and a new beginning. Again, all applicable to Jesus’ story. His belt is blue and this color stands for loyalty, faithfulness, and also loneliness and despair. All a part of the life of Jesus. The open window represents opportunity, access or escape, and ultimately free will. This tells us that Mary assumed her role of her own free will. Mary leans against a wooden bench as she sits on the floor. Look for anything that figures stand, sit, or lean on as this could symbolize who or what supports that person (or entity). In this case it’s a simple wooden bench rather than something fancy and expensive. It could represent the simple, common people who made up the bulk of the Christian faith.
There are other symbols present, but perhaps the most telling is the candle on the table. In Renaissance art a single lighted candle is used to symbolize the presence of Jesus. But this candle has just now been extinguished. We need to look at the two round windows in the upper left corner of the scene (Slide D). Soaring in through one of the round windows is the spirit of Jesus, depicted as an infant. Upon His shoulder He carries a cross, the object of His own destruction. With the candle’s flame going out as Jesus arrives carrying the symbol of His own death, the artist seems to be saying that Jesus was born with full knowledge of His own fate. The wire mesh on the windows take on the appearance of bars, indicating the opposite concept of an open window meaning Jesus has no choice. His fate is sealed. Also note the writing on the vase. It appears to be in Hebrew. It goes along with the clerical garment hanging on the wall which also looks Jewish. These could be references to Jesus being born a Jew or perhaps pays homage to the Judaic roots of Christianity. C
On the right “wing” panel we see Joseph the Carpenter working in his shop. Joseph is always depicted as a middle aged, even elderly man while Mary is forever young. Perhaps Joseph’s maturity was meant to symbolize the wisdom and strength of character required of him to fulfill his role. E
So, who are these two well-dressed people seen on the left wing panel? It’s highly unlikely they were actually present when Gabriel the Angel appeared to Mary. Of course these are the donors. Someone making such a generous gift to the Church would want everyone who saw it to know its source. As usual, the donors are shown as pious observers. The artist has depicted the kneeling man with a very large and fancy… maybe even inlaid with silver… purse to symbolize his great wealth. Yes, men wore purses back then as pockets had not yet been invented. A man’s purse would be a cloth or leather pouch worn on the belt. Depicting the donors on a triptych wing is common practice but they may also appear somewhere else in the composition. The next slide shows an altarpiece with the donor prominently featured on the left. The donor appears to be accompanied by a child (his son?) and also a man who might well be a Biblical figure. This treatment of the donor would elevate him beyond the status of casual observer into a role as a participant in the event. F
A Donor Presented to the Virgin 1616 Guercino Here we see the donor being specifically introduced to the Virgin Mary, clearly making him a part of the action. We may never know if this was done at the request of the donor to boost his own ego and sense of importance or if the artist took it upon himself to elevate the donor to such lofty status. Perhaps it depended on how much the donor was paying for the painting?
The Virgin and the Chancellor Rollin 1435 Jan van Eych Perhaps the ultimate in self-promotion. Not only is the donor in the scene (as opposed to being picture off to the side looking in), meeting the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus (who gestures at the donor acknowledging his presence and thus his importance), but the Holy Mother and Child have come to see the donor in his apartment rather than him visiting them. It would take a substantial ego to suggest that Mary and Jesus come to call on you in your home.
Ghent Altarpiece (closed view) 1432 Hubert & Jan van Eych Hubert and Jan were brothers and their painting styles were so similar that art historians generally can’t tell their work apart. This triptych does feature paintings on the exterior and we see the Annunciation and images that appear sculptural that likely represent saints. We also see the donors at both ends on the lower series of panels. We expect to see the donors depicted in these expensive pieces that were often donated to the Church. Also note that the exterior has an architectural feel and resembles a cathedral. Opening the triptych (slide 58) reveals a number of images including Adam and Eve flanking portraits of the Virgin Mary to the left of center and John the Baptist on the right. The center figure is often identified as the image of God but there are problems with this. First, physical (rather than symbolic) depictions of God from this time period are extremely rare and only a few are known to exist. Also, the painting of Jesus by Jan van Eych seen in slide C appears to be identical to this enthroned figure. Mary is usually associated with Jesus not God, as is St. John and he is depicted in the exact same pose (holding an open book and pointing with the right forefinger) as seen in the Crucifixion Scene on the Isenheim Altarpiece (as we will see). It is more likely that this is Jesus and not the physical image of God. In the lower register we see gathered masses, with the wealthy on the left, the poor on the right, and angels encircling a casket awaiting the resurrection of Jesus. God as the sun beams His blessings down on t the scene. The dominant color in the paintings is green, associated with fertility, rebirth, and regeneration. Perfect for the concept of the resurrection. A
God the Father 1442 Andrea del Castagno Physical depictions of God are extremely rare in Renaissance art. Only a small number have been observed by your instructor. His physical appearance is rather uniform, with Him looking like an older Caucasian man with long white hair and beard. It is unknown if later artists were influenced by these paintings when creating their own interpretations of God or if they independently conceived this image.
Fresco Cycle in the Spoleto Cathedral (1466-69) 1469 Lippi A reminder of how 15 th century painters struggled to accurately imply depth in their work. It was around this time that the concept of single point perspective was developing. This is the technique of having all lines converge at one “vanishing point” on the horizon. See the next slide for an example of single point perspective.
Diagram Demonstrating Single Point Perspective
Circumcision 1465 Fra Filippo Lippi The use of single point perspective is obvious in this painting. Note how the floor, ceiling, and side rails converge as they get farther away from the viewer? As renaissance artists experimented with this revolutionary new technique they created compositions to show off their talent at rendering the illusion of depth and space. Look at the next slide for an example of a painting in which the artist seeks to demonstrate his mastery of using single point perspective.
Miracle of the Desecrated Host 1469 Paolo Uccello
Portrait of a Humanist c. 1480 Bellini Throughout history artists have tended to idealize their subjects in portraiture. That is, they made them look as good as possible… or maybe even a little better than they really looked. But a Humanist would be a down to earth sort of guy. He would favor realism in art and honesty in a portrait. So we see the man depicted as he probably really looked. Not a God, or great hero, but a man with all of the imperfections that come with being human.
St. Bartholomew 1480 Matteo di Giovanni Depictions of the saints in Christian art are common, of course, and meant to speak to an audience that was largely illiterate. Most common people at this time in Europe could not read and write, but the paints and stained glass windows in the churches could instruct them on Biblical themes and personalities. Every saint was recognizable by his or her attribute, and object that is so closely associated with a specific individual that we can identify the person by the object. St. Bartholomew was flayed, meaning he was skinned alive. His attribute is his own skin that he is seen holding draped over his shoulder and arm. Fortunately, most attributes are not this gory.
Sandro Botticelli never knew the success he deserved despite being in the employ of one of Renaissance Italy’s most influential families. Even after his death, when most artists’ work surge in value, Botticelli’s paintings remained largely ignored by critics and collectors. It wasn’t until the 19 th century that the art world started giving Botticelli the respect he was due. His most famous work is The Birth of Venus (next slide). At this time the Church held great power in Europe, and censoring art that was overtly Pagan or offensive to the sensibilities of the Church was one of the powers most exercised. The Birth of Venus is an example of how artists would sometimes avoid having the local priest condemn their work by misrepresenting the subject as Biblical rather than Pagan. This painting would have been titled The Birth of Mary to clear the Church censors. Anyone familiar with the story of Venus would instantly recognize that this is the Roman goddess rather than Mary, but the hope was that the priest doing the review would be an art lover and let the painting survive. It’s hard to imagine how any fast-talk could allow the Church to approve of Botticelli’s 1483 painting Venus and Mars (Slide A) as it appears totally Pagan with nothing that could be interpreted as Biblical. In this case perhaps it the protection of the powerful Medici family (which produced numerous cardinals and popes) that enabled the artist to create such paintings. Botticelli was a favorite of the Medicis and received several commissions for paintings from them. In The Birth of Venus we see the Roman Goddess of love and beauty being carried ashore on a clam shell (in another variation of the story it’s a dolphin that bears her to land) after being born on the sea foam. The wind god, Zephyr, provides the necessary propulsion while the Earth goddess Galatea prepares to wrap her in a garment. Birth of Venus 1480 Sandro Botticelli
Venus and Mars 1483 Botticelli Here the god of war appears defeated by the goddess of love. An anti-war statement? Indeed, Mars appears to be mocked in this painting as the immature satyrs play with his weapons.
Many famous art works have been used for commercial advertising purposes. The Birth of Venus has long been popular with advertisers. In this case a luxury condominium uses the image (in an ad obvious aimed at men) to suggest that moving into these apartments will allow one to meet women who look like the one replacing the image of Venus.
Madonna of the Pomegranate 1487 Botticelli This painting is interesting because of the obvious Pagan reference. The infant Jesus and the Virgin Mary are holding a pomegranate between them (see detail slide B). This would be a powerful Pagan fertility symbol but rather than the usual practice in Christian art of demonizing Pagans or trying to alienate them, it almost seems to be a welcoming gesture. Certainly Christians did encourage Pagans to join their religion (and often the Pagans brought elements of their old ways with then that became incorporated into Christian practices) but see such a statement in art is somewhat rare.
Madonna with the Child 1487 Bellini Painters in the Renaissance and earlier struggled to accurately depict infants. Most often small children looked like very short adults. Ideas and concepts, such as loyalty, virtues, patience, etc. were often rendered in the visual arts. The next slide is an example of how a virtue (prudence) would be celebrated and held in high esteem while a vice such as being untruthful (falsehood) would lead to ruin. Too bad some modern politicians don’t take notice of such messages.