Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rembrant van Rijn, Captain Frans Banning Cocq Mustering His Company

Rembrandt van Rijn, Captain Frans Banning Cocq Mustering His Company (c. 1642)

This painting is often considered to be Rembrandt most famous piece of work. Frans Banning Cocq and seventeen of his men commissioned the painting. Only seven members of the company are identifiable by historical records, but it could have been assumed that a person could have walked up to the painting when it was completed, and recognize every member of the company. This is a prime example of the corporate portraits that were popular at the time.  The painting was so dark that it was called the Night Watch by its early owners. This darkness is part of a technique called chiaroscuro, where extreme lights and dark are used to symbolize the importance of the subject and create a visually distinctive image. Light is heavily focused on three figures, Frans Banning Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash), his second in command Willem van Ruytenburch ( the gentleman in yellow) and lastly a small girl in the center background to the left. The little girl is basically the mascot of the company, kind of like how modern day sports teams have mascots. Basically I'm saying that she is Reveille. The chicken that she is holding is used to represent the weapon that the company was know for, an early rifle called the arquebusier. The claw of the chicken resembles the loading mechanism of the gun. Furthermore, she is holding a specific goblet that was made to represent the group of soldiers as well as the type pistol that was widely used by Cocq's men. She is also meant to resemble Rembrandt's wife. She died during the later stages of the production of this work, so Rembrandt put elements of her face in the little girl's. The dead chicken may also signify a fallen enemy, as Frans Banning Cocq's men were victorious in their military campaigns. The is also another girl wearing a green dress behind the first one, a dog to right of Ruytenburch and what appears to be a little person to the left of the soldier dressed in red. The painting has seen many changes over the years. Several inches were cut off when the painting was moved in 1715. This resulted in the loss of two characters. Additionally this comes in a long line of paintings that were vandalized. The painting was attacked in 1911, 1975 and in 1990; damaged twice with knifes and once with acid. Yeah, acid.  

A biography of Rembrandt

A longer analysis of the painting by Franziska Meister

A press release from the Rijksmuseum explaining the artwork


Friday, July 19, 2013

                                                                      Las Meninas


This painting created by Diego Velazquez, is another example of the rising status of an artist. In this painting there are two children, a female midge,t a little boy and a dog. They all appear to be doing things with little significance. Almost like they're living their everyday lives, well that's because they are. In the background we see paintings and what looks to be a mirror. The mirror has a reflection of the painting that we can't see that Diego Velazquez has just painted. Velazquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a viewer of the painting would stand. This painting demonstrates how far an artist can go with hard work, talent and dedication. It has been described as "Velasquez's supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve, and perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting".This painting, offers a complex composition built with admirable skill in the use of perspective, the depiction of light, and the representation of atmosphere.

                                                                   Flower Still Life

This painting created by Adrian Van Der Spelt, is one of many ways artist would attempt to distinguish them selves from other artists. It was his way of not only saying that he's the best in his field , but he's very familiar with Ancient artists and the legends regarding his field. The painting in this picture is a reference to the story of Zeuxis and Parrhasius. As legend has it Zeuxis and Parrhasius were in competition to determine who was the better artist out of the two of them. Well, one day Zeuxis invited Parrhasius to his house and revealed to him his painting of grapes. The painting looked so real that it fooled birds and the birds began to peck at his painting. Whenever Zeuxis asked Parrahasius to pull the curtain from his painting, it turned out that the curtain was an illusion and in fact apart of the painting. From that point on Zeuxis admitted that Parrhasius was the better artist between the two of them.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Diego Velázauez, The Surrender of Breda

Diego Velázauez, The Surrender of Breda

In 1630, the Count-Duke of Olivares decided to build a new palace near the eastern border of Madrid, and would come to be known as Buen Retiro Palace. When his home was finished, Olivares was faced with task to decorate his Palace. The man decided to have paintings commissioned from many local artisans. The topics varied greatly from the military exploits of the Spanish royalty to the life and times of Hercules. One of the paintings that Diego Velázauez made for the Count-Duke was the surrender of Breda (c.1635), and it is considered to be one of his greatest works. The battle itself was in the later stages of Eighty Years War during the year 1624. The battle was between the Spanish led by aristocrat
Ambrogio Spinola, and Maurice of Nassau, the leader of the Dutch rebellion. Some english soldiers were involved as the british had backed the dutch in their revolt.  Maurice would die during the siege, so the person surrendering to him in the painting is the mayor of Breda, Justin of Nassau. This painting shows might of the spanish forces by displaying them as far more organized and supplied then the dutch. This can best be seen in the status of each army's spears; the spanish have many uniform spears, while the dutch have few randoms weapons. Furthermore the spanish troops look more confident that the dutch, then again they did win.The painting portrays Spinola as not letting Justin kneel before him. Got to say that I like this painting. It perfectly displays the power of the spanish military but also shows that spanish could be understanding of the dutch that they were ruling.

Here is an english soldier's account of the seige

A biography of Velázquez

A gallery of other works by Velázquez


Now is it just me or is there something wrong with Jesus in this picture? I don't really remember him being 4 feet tall in all the scriptures, statues, paintings Iv'e seen of him. Did the artist just run out of room on the canvas and want to shove jesus' feet into the picture. Obviously these are not the correct answers.
The name of this piece is "The Mourning of the Dead Christ" by Andrea Mantegna, and yes, Mantegna  had a purpose for painting Jesus the way he did. The style of foreshortening is applied to Jesus' legs to pas them through the two dimensional frame of canvas, straight into the living and breathing space we are in at the moment we see the painting. The audience knows they can reach out and touch his wounds and feel his cold lifeless skin.
                                                           Judith Slaying Holofernes 

"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,". This rage driven piece of art is a scene from the old testament book of Judith. It tells the story of  how Judith a beautiful widow, was able to come into Holofernes's tent, what was an Assyrian General. He was going to destroy her home, the city of Bethulia. She was able to get him drunk and seduce him, but before anything actually happened her and her devoted maid beheaded him with a sword. This picture may be referencing a story, but in reality the artist put some of her own anger and frustration with the men in her life in this creation. Artemisia Gentileshi, the artist of this painting was angry with her father who for a long time would not help her pursue her dream of becoming an artist because he knew she would have to look at naked men. When he finally did, he got her a trainer who she began to have sexual relations with. When her father found out he was furious and the girl's trainer went to trial for statutory rape. The defense attorney put Artemisia and questioned her about having to look at naked men. The attorney questioned her like she was the accused rather than the victim. Although her trainer was convicted of rape, he did not serve any jail time and quit training Artemisia. She was angry and frustrated for years, but continued to work hard and became the first woman to attend the Academy of the Arts of Drawing. In many of her paintings you can see her fury towards men making it easy to connect herself and Judith in this painting.

                                                  The Rape of Proserpina

In every great sculpture there lies a story. A tale known all to well that captures a single moment and captivates the viewers mind, simply because its amazing with what you can say through carvings on a rock. In Gianlorenzo Bernini's Rape of Proserpina you can almost hear the exasperated screams she yells. You can see the smug look on Pluto's face and almost here the cruel thoughts he has knowing that her screams can only be muffled through the walls. This sculpture is one fascinated by many not just because of the intense imagination that willingly comes toward the viewer, but because of the amount of emotion in just this single capture. If you look closely you can see the forced prints Pluto leaves on Proserpina's thigh as she struggles to leave. You can feel the pain that she felt. If you look even closer you can also see where Proserpina lifted Pluto's eyelid during her struggle. Its almost as if you're in that moment with the two of them. You can feel Pluto's dominant presence and his overbearing power over Proserpina. You can feel Proserpina's frustration, her sadness as she tries to escape such a dreadful situation. More importantly though, you can feel whats going on and anticipate what happens next from stone that captured a single moment.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Last Supper by Jacopo Tinteretto


This is the Last Supper painted by Jacopo Tinteretto, in 1594.  Inspired by Albrecht Dürer's woodcut The Last Supper (1523) and most importantly Leonardo da Vinci's late 1490s mural painting of the Last Supper in Milan, Italy, this painting was created using oil on canvas and is 12’ x 18’ 8”.  Tintoretto’s painting although makes use of Mannerist devices, and depicts the Last Supper in an asymmetrical fashion set inside what seems to be a restaurant. This Baroque style painting, made in the Counter- Reformation period of the late 1500’s depicts the radical change in how Biblical parables where experienced.  It currently resides in the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.

The one aspect about this painting that sets it apart from all of depictions of the Last Supper is the setting and frame of how Jacopo captured the Last Supper.  Not only does the asymmetrical view of the last supper differ from all depictions before it but the wider view allows the viewer to see the servants serve the food.  The servants are important because they are shown as joyful and almost dancing in rejoice of having the opportunity to bear witness to an event as substantial as the Last Supper.  This joyous view of a biblical event is a product of the Counter-Reformation’s views of calibrating the bible and its stories instead of the traditional straight faced churchgoer.       

Jacopo Tinteretto Biography:

                                                                  Madonna Enthroned

Madonna Enthroned, also known as the Ognissanti Madonna, is a painting by the Italian late medieval artist Giotto di Bondone, housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy. The painting is traditional, in the fact that the Virgin Mary is seated on what appears to be a thrown with angels surrounded by her with the Christ child seated on her lap. In fact its similar yet different to Cimabue's Madonna Enthroned, who was Giotto's trainer. In this period of time artists were considered manual laborers. Many artists wanted to be more like liberal artists such as musicians and poets, so they began to change their style. This is shown when you compare Cimabue's Virgin and Child. This painting is considered one of the first paintings of the renaissance because of its  new found naturalism and escape from the constraints of Gothic art.

The Madonna Enthroned show the numerous styles of art that influenced Giotto. In both the gold coloring used throughout the artwork and the flattened gold background, Giotto's art continued the traditional Italo-Byzantine style so popular in the proto-Renaissance time period. The altarpiece represents a formalized representation of an icon, still retaining the stiffness of Byzantine art, and Giotto retained the hierarchy of scale, making the centralized Madonna and the Christ Child much larger in size than the surrounding saints and religious figures.

Giotto's figures however escape the bounds of Byzantine art. His figures are weighty and are reminiscent of three-dimensional sculptures, such as that in classical Roman sculpture. The Madonna's intricately decorated throne, which itself is an Italian Gothic design, has a very specific use of colored marble as a surface decoration. This use of marble was a style that ended in the early Christian time period, and thus gives a clue that Giotto was knowledgeable of art of that time period.

                                                               Melun Diptych


This oil painting by Jean Fouquet, is on the left side of a diptych. The other side is a painting of a queen who resembles the Virgin mary. She has red and blue cherubim on each side of her and a baby in her arms, who is represented as Christ. This part of the panel was dedicated to a king whose dying wish was for his mistress to be painted as the Virgin Mary. Fouquet was employed by Charles VII and Louis XI and was called “peintre du roi” meaning painter to the king. He was called upon to create portraits, manuscript illuminations, altarpieces, ephemeral decorations, and sculptural designs.The left side of the panel which is of course shown above is Étienne Chevalier, the treasurer to King Charles VII of France, kneeling in a red robe in prayer next to St. Stephen, in a dark deacon’s robes with gold trim.His right arm is draped across Chevalier’s shoulder while his left hand holds a book and a jagged rock, his representational attribute as he was stoned to death.The right panel shows the baby that represents Christ pointing to both the patron and the saint as if encouraging his followers to be more like these two men.

                                                             Hercules and Antaeus

This sculpture was created by Antonio Del Pollaiuolo.It tells part of a story of Hercules.The subject is taken from Apollodorus . On his way back from the Hesperides, Hercules engaged in a wrestling match with the giant Antaeus who was invincible as long as some part of him touched the earth, from which he drew his strength. Hercules held him in the air in a vice-like grip, until he weakened and died. Hercules is depicted with his arms locked round the waist of Antaeus, crushing the giant's body to his own. Pollaiuolo's background as goldsmith equipped him to respond to the taste for small bronzes in the last third of the 15th century. The statuettes, frequently patinated to resemble antique bronzes, were meant for conoisseurs. The Hercules and Anteus demonstrate Pollaiuolo's knowledge of anatomy and his ability to represent physical and emotional violence. The group was famous in the artist's own lifetime: Leonardo studied it and Michelangelo included a sketch of it on a sheet illustrating bronze casting. It is one of the earliest appearences of a mythological subject in the round. The unusual poses of the protagonists correspond to those painted by Pollaiuolo on a panel in the Uffizi, which is related to a larger lost painting for the Medici Palace.  Sources: 
                                                               The Deposition



The Deposition or The Descent of Christ from the Cross, was painted between 1435-1438 by Rogier Van Der Weyden. The c. 1435 date is estimated based on the work's style, and because the artist acquired wealth and renown around this time, most likely from the prestige this work allowed him.It was painted early in his career, shortly after he completed his apprenticeship with Robert Campin and shows the older painter's influence, most notable in the hard sculpted surfaces, realistic facial features and vivid primary colours, mostly reds, whites and blues.The work was a self-conscious attempt by van der Weyden to create a masterpiece that would establish an international reputation. The painting not only demonstrates the expansion made into the guild system, but also emphasizes the pain that was suffered by not only Christ's followers but by his beautiful mother as well. The curvature motion  of both Christ and Mary shows that Mary felt the pain her beloved son experienced. It shows the grief that breaks a mother's heart over the loss of her child.  Its clear that this painting targeted women viewers especially. At the time in which this art work was created mortality rates were high and so were the numbers of grieving mothers for the loss of their babies. This painting shared a feeling many women could relate to at the point in time and that feeling was grief.

                                                            The Merode Altarpiece 

The Merode Altarpiece is a triptych created by Robert Campin. The piece is on a three part panel, and was created for private use, seeing as the painting is relatively small being 64 x 63 cm and each wing measures 65 x 27 cm. Many believe that this piece is a copy of the original created by a follower of Robert Campin's so its currently described as being created by "Robert Campin and assistant". Even still its considered to be one of Campin's greatest works of art. The portraits of the donors are in the left panel; the figure of the female donor, and the servant behind her.The discovery of additional layers of paint has led to the conclusion that the donor's wife and the man at the gate were added at a later stage. X-rays of the left-hand panel indicate that the identity of the artist of this part is more likely to be Rogier van der Weyden, Campin's most gifted pupil. In this scene the patrons of the altar, Peter Engelbrecht and his wife, are depicted, kneeling devoutly, along with a man standing by a gate in the background.

The subject of the Altarpiece is the Annunciation, which is shown in the central panel. The central panel is a great example of an artist creating a work of art that is the "precision of the moment". It depicts the moment right before the angel Gabrielle tells the Virgin Mary that she will be the mother of God's son. As the painting so elegantly shows you, Mary is so engaged in her scriptures that she doesn't even notice the Angel sitting in front of her, she doesn't even pay mind to the wind that just blew the candle out signaling God's presence. The central Panel is most famous for its "domestication and naturalization of the sacred". Anybody, at the time this painting was created, could identify and even relate to the Virgin Mary because of how close the scene looks to their own home. They can imagine the shock or surprise she must have felt when she finally looked up from her scriptures. This touch many people's hearts because such a scared and definable moment in history is something they could feel so close to.

The right wing depicts Joseph at work in his carpenter's shop. The objects in Joseph's workshop are chosen so as to symbolically prefigure the Passion: the sword-shaped saw in the foreground alludes to the weapon that St Peter would use to cut off Malchus' ear while Christ was being arrested; the log that lies nearby recalls the wood of the cross; the stick propped against it, of the crown of thorns; nails, hammers, pliers and screwdrivers all prefigure the instruments of the Passion. The mousetrap which Joseph is making may be a reference either to Christ's arrest (the mouse being associated, in popular tradition, with the soul) or to the Augustinian doctrine that the Virgin's marriage and Christ's Incarnation were planned by Providence as a trap in which to catch the devil, like a mouse lured by a bait.

Francesco Mochi, Saint Veronica

Francesco Mochi, Saint Veronica

Mochi's statue of St. Veronica (c. 1632) is perhaps known as his greatest work. The statue is one of four statues made of marble to adorn the Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Four great sculptors of the time  each were commissioned to make a statue. The other three are Saint Longinus by Bernini, Saint Andrew by Doquesnoy and Saint Helena by Bolgi. Each statue was to represent a holy relic that was at that time under the property of the Pope and held at St. Peters at the time. The four relics were the Veil of Veronica, Longinus's Spear, Saint Andrew's head, and a piece of the True Cross that Helena found in the Holy Land. Mochi's statue is the most emotional one of the group, which caused the church to be displeased with his work. The church's response would aggravate Mochi. This would prove to be a low point in his career, with him only doing smaller projects from this point forward. Mochi had a roller coaster career with many ups and downs. He was well aquatinted with the influential Farnese from Montevarchi. This factor led him to early success the early seventeenth century, but he would eventually be eclipsed by the younger Bernini. More and more frequently he lost commissions to newer artist who kept more in line with the concepts of Baroque art. This would make him considerably more and more bitter. The man would figuratively go on to die with a chip on his shoulder. If you are a fan of American history, think of this man as Henry Clay. He was an immensely important part to the formation of the system at hand (helping to form Baroque art and America respectively), but when it can time to be called upon (getting commissions or the presidency) he would be constantly beaten down by the younger members of society. For me, I don't see what the Catholic Church was in a huff about. The statue better displaces the emotion and the vibrancy of the situation, a common women wipes his brow in his final hours and is elevated to sainthood. I think a more emotional statue would have conveyed this message and have greater impact to the peasants visiting the church. Also it is interesting to mention that when a matador del toros is taunting a bull with his cape, it is called a Veronica. I feel like if matadors envisioned a more static St. Veronica, then there may be less of them alive today. In the end, I believe that Francesco Mochi was cheated and that this is a fine example of art from the period.

A Gallery of other works by Mochi

The Website for St. Peter's Basilica

A Biography of Francesco Mochi

More information on Saint Veronica


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Albrecht Dürer - Self-Portrait


This is a self-portrait of the artist Albrecht Dürer, created in the early 1500’s.  Dürer previously painted two other self-portraits, found here and here.  The third seen above, created just before his 29th birthday with oil on wood panel, (26.25” x 19.25”) is considered the most profound and iconic self- portrait of its time.  The book The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art suggests this this painting was most likely sold to the Nuremberg City Council and was publicly displayed from 1528 to 1805.  It was then sold to the Bavarian Royal collection and currently resides in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany.

The most profound and iconic idea behind this self-portrait is Albrecht Dürer portrays himself to resemble to Jesus Christ. Although the idea of being like Christ has been seen in the past the depiction of it was never represented as a self-portrait until this painting.  Fortunately for Dürer this painting was not considered a “gesture of arrogance or blasphemy”, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, but was seen as a statement of Dürer’s faith to  try to imitate or be like the image god.