Artwork of the Week

stlukesguild

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The Bronze Horses of San Marco, Venice:

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In 1198, Pope Innocent III called for a new crusade (The Fourth Crusade) against Muslims with the intended goal of conquering Muslim- controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. The crusade was organized in 1199 and placed under the leadership of Count Thibaut of Champagne, but he died in 1201 and was replaced by an Italian count, Boniface of Montferrat.

Boniface and the other leaders sent envoys to Venice, Genoa, and other city-states to negotiate a contract for transport to Egypt, the object of their crusade. An attack on Egypt would require a formidable maritime force and the creation of a fleet. Genoa was uninterested, but in March 1201 negotiations were opened with Venice, which agreed to transport 33,500 crusaders, a very ambitious number. This agreement required a full year of preparation on the part of the Venetians to build numerous ships and train the sailors who would man them, all the while curtailing the city’s commercial activities. The crusade was to be ready to sail on June 24, 1202 and make directly for the Ayyubid capital, Cairo. This agreement was ratified by Pope Innocent, with a solemn ban on attacks on Christian states.

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By 1201 the bulk of the crusader army was collected at Venice, although with far smaller numbers than expected: approximately 12,000 instead of 33,500. The Venetians had performed their part of the agreement: there lay 50 war galleys and 450 transports—enough for three times the assembled army. The Venetians, under their aged and blind Doge Dandolo, would not let the crusaders leave without paying the full amount agreed to, originally 85,000 silver marks. The crusaders could only initially pay 35,000 silver marks. The Doge threatened to keep them interned unless full payment was made so a further 14,000 marks was collected, and that only by reducing the crusaders to extreme poverty.

Dandolo and the Venetians considered what to do with the crusade. It was too small to pay its fee, but disbanding the force gathered would harm Venetian prestige, as well as significant financial and trading loss. Following the Massacre of the Latins of Constantinople in 1182, the ruling Angelos dynasty had expelled the Venetian merchant population with the support of the Greek population. These events gave the Venetians a hostile attitude towards Byzantium but it remains unclear if Constantinople was always intended to be the target and the issue remains under fierce debate today.

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Dandolo, who joined the crusade during a public ceremony in the church of San Marco di Venezia, proposed that the crusaders pay their debts by intimidating many of the local ports and towns down the Adriatic, culminating in an attack on the port of Zara in Dalmatia. The city had been dominated economically by Venice throughout the 12th century, but had rebelled in 1181 and allied itself with King Emeric of Hungary. Subsequent Venetian attempts to recover control of Zara had been repulsed, and by 1202 the city was economically independent, under the protection of the King.

The Hungarian king was Catholic and had himself agreed to join the Fourth Crusade. Many of the crusaders were opposed to attacking Zara, and some, including a force led by the elder Simon de Montfort, refused to participate altogether and returned home. While the Papal legate to the Crusade, Cardinal Peter of Capua, endorsed the move as necessary to prevent the crusade’s complete failure, the Pope was alarmed at this development and wrote a letter to the crusading leadership threatening ex-communication. However, this letter was concealed from the bulk of the army and the attack proceeded. The citizens of Zara made reference to the fact that they were fellow Catholics by hanging banners marked with crosses from their windows and the walls of the city, but nevertheless the city fell after a brief siege. There was extensive pillaging and the Venetians and other crusaders came to blows over the division of the spoils. Order was achieved and the leaders of the expedition agreed to winter in Zara, while considering their next move.

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When Innocent III heard of the sack, he sent a letter to the crusaders excommunicating them and ordered them to return to their holy vows and head for Jerusalem. Out of fear that this would dissolve the army, the leaders of the crusade decided not to inform their followers of this.

Boniface of Montferrat, meanwhile, had left the fleet before it sailed from Venice, to visit his cousin Philip of Swabia. The reasons for his visit are a matter of debate; he may have realized the Venetians’ plans and left to avoid ex-communication, or he may have wanted to meet with the Byzantine prince Alexios IV Angelos, Philip’s brother-in-law and the son of the recently deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelos. Alexios IV had recently fled to Philip in 1201 but it is unknown whether or not Boniface knew he was at Philip’s court. There, Alexios IV offered to pay the entire debt owed to the Venetians, give 200,000 silver marks to the crusaders, 10,000 Byzantine professional troops for the Crusade, the maintenance of 500 knights in the Holy Land, the service of the Byzantine navy to transport the Crusader Army to Egypt and the placement of the Eastern Orthodox Church under the authority of the Pope if they would sail to Byzantium and topple the reigning emperor Alexios III Angelos, brother of Isaac II.

It was a tempting offer for an enterprise that was short on funds. Doge Dandolo was a fierce supporter of the plan, however in his earlier capacity as an ambassador to Byzantium and someone who knew the finer details of how Byzantine politics worked, it is likely he knew the promises were false and there was no hope of any Byzantine emperor raising the money promised, let alone raising the troops and giving the church to the Holy See. Count Boniface agreed and Alexios IV returned with the Marquess to rejoin the fleet at Corfu after it had sailed from Zara.

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Most of the rest of the crusade’s leaders, encouraged by bribes from Dandolo, eventually accepted the plan as well. However, however there were dissenters; led by Reynold of Montmirail, those who refused to take part in the scheme to attack Christendom’s greatest city sailed on to Syria. The remaining fleet of 60 war galleys, 100 horse transports, and 50 large transports (the entire fleet was manned by 10,000 Venetian oarsmen and marines) sailed in late April 1203.

Hearing of their decision, the Pope hedged and issued an order against any more attacks on Christians unless they were actively hindering the Crusader cause, but failed to condemn the scheme outright.

When the Fourth Crusade arrived at Constantinople, the city had a population of approximately 500,000 people, a garrison of 15,000 men, and a fleet of 20 galleys. For both political and financial reasons, the permanent garrison of Constantinople had been limited to a relatively small force, made up of elite guard and other specialist units. At previous times in Byzantine history when the capital had come under direct threat, it had been possible to assemble reinforcements from frontier and provincial forces. On this occasion, the suddenness of the danger posed by the Fourth Crusade put the defenders at a serious disadvantage.

The Crusaders followed south and attacked the Tower of Galata, which held the northern end of the massive chain that blocked access to the Golden Horn. As they laid siege to the Tower, the Byzantines counterattacked with some initial success. However, when the Crusaders rallied and the Byzantines retreated to the Tower, the crusaders were able to follow the soldiers through the Gate, and took the Tower. The Golden Horn now lay open to the Crusaders, and the Venetian fleet entered.

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continued...
 
On July 11, 1203 the Crusaders took positions opposite the Palace of Blachernae on the northwest corner of the city. Their first attempts were repulsed, but on July 17, with four divisions attacking the land walls, while the Venetian fleet attacked the sea walls from the Golden Horn, the Venetians took a section of the wall of about 25 towers, while the Varangian guard held off the Crusaders on the land wall. The Varangians shifted to meet the new threat, and the Venetians retreated under the screen of fire. The fire destroyed about 120 acres of the city and left some 20,000 people homeless.

Alexios III’s army of about 8,500 men faced the Crusaders’ seven divisions (about 3,500 men), but his courage failed, and the Byzantine army returned to the city without a fight. The unforced retreat and the effects of the fire greatly damaged morale, and the disgraced Alexios III abandoned his subjects, slipping out of the city and fleeing to Mosynopolis in Thrace. The Imperial officials quickly deposed their runaway emperor and restored Isaac II, robbing the crusaders of the pretext for attack. The crusaders were now in the quandary of having achieved their stated aim, but being debarred from the actual objective, namely the reward that the younger Alexios had promised them. The crusaders insisted that they would only recognize Isaac II’s authority if his son was raised to co-emperor and on August 1, he was crowned Alexius IV, co-emperor.

Alexios IV realized that his promises were hard to keep. Alexios III had managed to flee with 1,000 pounds of gold and some priceless jewels, leaving the imperial treasury short on funds. At that point, the young emperor ordered the destruction and melting of valuable Byzantine and Roman icons in order to extract their gold and silver, but even then he could only raise 100,000 silver marks. In the eyes of all Greeks who knew of this decision, it was a shocking sign of desperation and weak leadership, which deserved to be punished by God. The Byzantine historian Nicetas Choniates characterized it as “the turning point towards the decline of the Roman state.”

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Forcing the populace to destroy their icons at the behest of an army of foreign schismatics did not endear Alexios IV to the citizens of Constantinople. In fear of his life, the co-emperor asked the crusaders to renew their contract for another six months, to end by April 1204. Alexios IV then led 6,000 men from the Crusader army against his rival Alexios III in Adrianople.

During the co-emperor’s absence in August, rioting broke out in the city and a number of Latin residents were killed. In retaliation, armed Venetians and other crusaders entered the city from the Golden Horn and attacked a mosque (Constantinople at this time had a sizable Muslim population), which was defended by Muslim and Byzantine residents. In order to cover their retreat, the Westerners instigated the “Great Fire”, which burnt from 19 to 21 August, destroying a large part of Constantinople and leaving an estimated 100,000 homeless.

In January 1204 the blinded and incapacitated Isaac II died, probably of natural causes. Opposition to his son and co-emperor Alexios IV had grown during the preceding months of tension and spasmodic violence in and around Constantinople.

A nobleman Alexios Doukas became the leader of the anti-crusader faction within the Byzantine leadership. While holding the court rank of protovestilarios, Doukas had led Byzantine forces during the initial clashes with the crusaders, winning respect from both military and populace. He was accordingly well-placed to move against the increasingly isolated Alexios IV, whom he overthrew, imprisoned and had strangled in early February. Doukas then was crowned as Emperor Alexios V. He immediately moved to have the city fortifications strengthened and summoned additional forces to the city.

The crusaders and Venetians, incensed at the murder of their supposed patron, demanded that Mourtzouphlos honour the contract which Alexios IV had promised. When the Byzantine emperor refused, the Crusaders assaulted the city once again. On April 8, Alexios V’s army put up a strong resistance which did much to discourage the crusaders.

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The Byzantines hurled large projectiles onto the enemy siege engines, shattering many of them. A serious hindrance to the crusaders was bad weather conditions. Wind blew from the shore and prevented most of the ships from drawing close enough to the walls to launch an assault. Only five of the wall’s towers were actually engaged and none of these could be secured; by mid-afternoon, it was evident that the attack had failed.

The Latin clergy discussed the situation amongst themselves and settled upon the message they wished to spread through the demoralized army. They had to convince the men that the events of 9 April were not God’s judgment on a sinful enterprise: the campaign, they argued, was righteous and with proper belief, it would succeed. The concept of God testing the determination of the crusaders through temporary setbacks was a familiar means for the clergy to explain failure in the course of a campaign.

The clergy’s message was designed to reassure and encourage the Crusaders. Their argument that the attack on Constantinople was spiritual revolved around two themes. First, the Greeks were traitors and murderers since they had killed their rightful lord, Alexios IV. The churchmen used inflammatory language and claimed that “the Greeks were worse than the Jews”, and they invoked the authority of God and the pope to take action.

Although Innocent III had again demanded that they not attack, the papal letter was suppressed by the clergy, and the crusaders prepared for their own attack, while the Venetians attacked from the sea; Alexios V’s army stayed in the city to fight, along with the imperial bodyguard, the Varangians, but Alexios V himself fled during the night. An attempt was made to find a further replacement emperor from amongst the Byzantine nobility but the situation had now become too chaotic for either of the two candidates who came forward to find sufficient support.

On April 12, 1204, the weather conditions finally favoured the Crusaders. A strong northern wind aided the Venetian ships in coming close to the walls. After a short battle, approximately seventy crusaders managed to enter the city. Some Crusaders were eventually able to knock holes in the walls, large enough for only a few knights at a time to crawl through; the Venetians were also successful at scaling the walls from the sea, though there was extremely bloody fighting with the Varangians.

The Anglo-Saxon “axe bearers” had been amongst the most effective of the city’s defenders but they now attempted to negotiate higher wages from their Byzantine employers, before dispersing or surrendering.

The crusaders captured the Blachernae section of the city in the northwest and used it as a base to attack the rest of the city, but while attempting to defend themselves with a wall of fire, they ended up burning down even more of the city. This second fire left 15,000 people homeless.

The crusaders completely took the city on April 13... one of the darkest days in the history of the West

continued...
 
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The crusaders inflicted a savage sacking on Constantinople for three days, during which time they looted, terrorized and vandalized the citizens of Constantinople. A great many ancient Greco-Roman and medieval Byzantine works of art were either stolen or destroyed. The magnificent Library of Constantinople was destroyed.

Works of immeasurable value were destroyed merely for their material value. One of the most precious works to suffer such a fate was a large bronze statue of Hercules, created by the legendary Lysippos, court sculptor of no lesser than Alexander the Great. Like so many other priceless artworks made of bronze, the statue was melted down for its content by the Crusaders whose greed blinded them.

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Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the crusaders ruthlessly and systematically violated and sacked the city’s churches, monasteries and convents. The very altars of these churches were smashed and torn to pieces for their gold and marble by the warriors who had sworn to fight in service of Christendom

The civilian population of Constantinople were subject to the Crusaders’ ruthless lust for spoils and glory: thousands of them were killed in cold blood. Women, even nuns, were raped by the Crusader army, which also without question.

Although the Venetians engaged in looting too, their actions were by far more restrained. Doge Dandolo still appeared to have far more control over his men. Rather than wantonly destroying all around like their comrades, the Venetians stole religious relics and works of art which they would later take to Venice to adorn their own churches with.

Principal among the riches plundered were the Four Horses displayed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople. They are most likely of Roman origin, although some argue for an older, Greek origin. Originally accompanied by a quadriga or chariot, they were , having arrived there centuries before, from Rome.

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The horses were placed on the facade, on the balcony above the porch, of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice with a clear political intention of conveying a sense of triumph… as the symbol of the continuity of the imperial power of Byzantium… and ultimately the Roman Empire…that Venice had now inherited.

The sculptures date from classical antiquity and have been attributed to the 4th century BC Greek sculptor Lysippos, although this has not been widely accepted. Dating of the sculpture has been uncertain. Some scholars now suggest it dates from between the second half of the second century and the early third century AD in the Roman imperial period. Analysis with carbon 14 suggests it dates to the beginning of the second century BC.

Although called bronze, analysis suggests that as they are at least 96.67% copper.

In 1797, Napoleon had the horses forcibly removed from the basilica and carried off to Paris, where they were used in the design of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel together with a quadriga.

In 1815 the horses were returned to Venice by Captain Dumaresq. He had fought at the Battle of Waterloo and was with the allied forces in Paris where he was selected, by the Emperor of Austria, to take the horses down from the Arc de Triomphe and return them to their original place at St Mark’s in Venice.

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The “Bronze” Horses of San Marco undoubtedly rank among the most stunning works of classical antiquity to have survived.
 
YES! These are radically insanely beautiful. I don't have the right adjectives, but I saw most of these in real life and I was floored. You can't know how ominous they are until you really see them and all the buildings and details in San Marco's square.
 
Ancient Greece is an incredible treasure trove... and tragedy. So much has been inherited from the Greeks: the Parthenon, Praxiteles, Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Sappho, the Laocoön and His Sons, the Pergamon Altar, Sophocles, Socrates, Plato, etc... The Ancient Greeks are the undisputed foundation of Western Art and Civilization. Yet at the same time, so much has been lost that it is unimaginable. Only 7 of Aeschylus' 71 plays survive... and yet he still stands as the foundation of Western theater and one of the greatest playwrights ever. All that remains of Sappho are brilliant fragments. Only one marble certain to have been by Praxiteles still exists:

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The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus or Tomb of Mausolus was once deemed one of the 7 Wonders of the World. All that remains are fragments... but again... brilliant fragments:

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The Colossus of Rhodes, another of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World was a sculpture of the Greek sun-god Helios so large it reportedly stood astride the entrance to a seaport where ships entered between the figure's legs. Nothing at all remains. And then there is the loss of the Library of Alexandria (How literary treasures of the ancient world were lost forever when it burned?) and the whole of Greek painting. Looking at the fragments of the Ancient Greek sculpture and the drawings on bronze mirrors and ceramic vessels, we can only surmise that Ancient Greek painting must have rivaled that of the achievements of the Renaissance.
 
We'll never know for sure, but certainly that's fair to say. I wish there were more pieces that survived. It seems like a lot of ancient Egyptian artifacts survived, but then again, there were probably so much more we don't even know about.

Thanks for posting this. Amazing!
 
Thinking on the ruins of Greek civilization and art always leads me to think of Sheeley's poem, Ozymandias:

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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And there’s something about a field full of giant statue men that make me cringe A LOT.

Inspired by Mount Rushmore, Presidents Park was built for $10 million by Everette “Haley” Newman in 2004 so visitors could walk among 20-foot tall busts of the presidents while learning more about them. The busts themselves were created by modernist sculptor David Adickes. Doomed by a poor location and lack of visitors, the park went under in 2010.

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The busts were supposed to be destroyed but Howard Hankins, a man whose construction company worked on the park, suggested moving them to his farm in Croaker, Virginia instead. So began the laborious process of moving 43 giant presidents, each weighing in between 11,000 and 20,000 pounds, to a field ten miles away. Hankins estimates the weeklong process cost about $50,000—not including the damage done to each sculpture during the move.

Holes had to be smashed into the top of each head to attach them to the cranes that lifted them onto flatbed trucks, and several were badly damaged in the process. Nevertheless, they made the move to Hankins' field, where they now reside. Hankin's hope is to include them in an even more grand reimagining of Presidents Park, including an "Air Force One fuselage, Secret Service museum, First Lady memorabilia, Wounded Warriors room, interactivity and more.

At the moment, however, the busts continue their quiet deterioration; Hankins is rumored to be rather aggressive in chasing off unwanted visitors and as of 2019 his plan was to move them sometime in 2020. Whether this happens remains to be seen, as moving the heads will only become more difficult the longer they decay - but they still present quite the spectacle now, an unintended memento mori reminding us that even those who are most enshrined in our collective history crumble over time like everyone else.

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Accck! It appears I somehow forgot last week to post an "Art Work of the Week"... unless you count those presidential portraits. :oops: So... to rectify the problem I'll need to post 2 "Art Works of the Week". Let's start with this marvelous example of "Book Arts": the illuminated manuscript: The Commentaries on the Apocalypse of the Beatus of Liébana of Saint Severe. Rather a mouthful, eh?

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The Commentary on the Apocalypse is a work of erudition but without great originality, made up principally of compilations put together by the monk, theologian and geographer, Saint Beatus of Liébana. This particular version... at a time during which every copy of every book had to be hand-made... was made at Saint-Severe Abbey then in the Duchy of Gascony in South-Western France. The Beatus codix is a fine example of Mozarabic Art —that is, art of the Mozarabs (from musta’rab meaning “Arabised”). The Mozarabs were Iberian Christians living in Al- Andalus, the Muslim conquered territories in the Iberian Peninsula c. 711 to the end of the 11th century.

The Commentary on the Apocalypse explored and interpreted the visionary Biblical narrative of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelations not as a inspirational theme for the visual artist nor merely as a literary genre but also as a political and religious voice against the opponents of orthodoxy…As a political, doctrinal, and spiritual text, the Apocalypse commentary stood ready to face the year 1000.

The simple graphic shapes and the bold reds and greens rooted in North-African Islamic art lend this book a look unlike most other works within the world of illuminated manuscripts.

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The famous scene of the birds plucking the eyes from “captains and kings” is a frightening predecessor to Picasso’s Guernica… and almost certainly a direct influence on the work of the Modern Spanish master who was quite cognizant of early Iberian art.

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Simone Martini: The Annunciation

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This painting... Simone Martini’s Annunciation... has remained among my most beloved since I first came upon it a good many years ago.

The Annunciation with St. Ansanus and St. Margaret (or St. Giulita)... to give its full title... is a painting by the Italian artists Simone Martini and his Brother-in-Law: Lippo Memmi from the International Gothic period of the Italian Renaissance. The painting dates from 1333 as is revealed in the “signature” in Latin hidden beneath the ornate frame: SYMON MARTINI ET LIPPVS MEMMI DE SENIS ME PINXERVNT ANNO DOMINI MCCCXXXIII. It is uncertain as to what role Lippi Memmi played in the realization of the painting, but a hypothesis has been put forth suggesting that Martini painted the central panel, while Memmi was responsible for the side panels of the saints and/or the tondos with prophets in the upper part. The painting originally decorated the altar of St. Ansanus in the Cathedral of Siena, and had been commissioned as part of a cycle of four altarpieces dedicated to the city’s patrons saints. It is housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The central panel depicts the moment in which the Angel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she shall give birth to the son of God:

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Luke 1:26-33

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Gabriel’s announcement can be seen quite literally… coming forth from his mouth and moving toward Mary: Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: “Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou among women…” (Literally: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you…)

The figures are rendered in the most elegant and sophisticated linear manner. Gabriel’s robes flutter and float about him as if he had only just landed, while Mary’s angular form recoils… suggesting both modesty as well as a sense of fear of the other-worldly apparition that has confronted her.

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Above Mary the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is seen. Rays of light… the light of God… issue forth from his open beak and emanate toward the Virgin as a second blessing.

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Gabriel holds forth a olive branch (and also wears a crown of olive leaves). The olive branch is symbolic of the coming of Christ and hearkens back to the story of Noah and the dove returning with the olive branch denoting the coming of peace and the covenant with God.

Martini clearly took great pleasure in rendering the most elegant lines that twist and turn and hook about the picture like the images in a Greek Vase painting…

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... or a line drawing or print by Picasso or Matisse:

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Martini also clearly embraced the decorative expressiveness of the resplendent textures. The angel’s gown… as flat as wallpaper… shimmers with a golden floral pattern. Rather than the usual golden wings, the wings of Martini’s Gabriel suggest the plumage of a rare and marvelous bird.

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There are a few elements that suggest a more three-dimensional form, such as the vase, holding the lilies, a symbol of Mary’s purity, and the throne upon which she sits. There is a certain tension between these more solid 3-D forms and the overall flat space made even more flat and graphic by the background of gold leaf. Martini has organized the image in a flat, linear, graphic manner that will appear outdated by later Renaissance artists… but would certainly have been admired by more modern painters such as Gauguin, Maurice Denis, and Matisse.
 
Enguerrand Quarton: Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon c. 1450

Let's throw up another painting:

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The Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon is an oil painting on the theme of the Pietà from the mid-15th century in France. Its authorship was long disputed, though it has recently been accepted as the work of Enguerrand Quarton. It is now in the Musée du Louvre. The Pietà, where the dead Christ is supported by his grieving mother, is a common theme of late-medieval religious art. The subject of a fully grown male Christ laying in a woman's lap is inherently awkward and difficult to portray without the use of Expressionistic distortions such as we see here. Michelangelo amazingly pulled off the subject with what initially appears a classical naturalism and grace...

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... that is until one notices... or it is pointed out... that he achieved this by placing Christ on a platform created by the folds of her drapery... and the fact that she is quite a bit larger than he is.

Quarton's painting is as much a merger of naturalism and expressionistic distortion as Michelangelo's sculpture. I love the hard straight lines of Christ's arm and back which echo the diagonal thrust of his legs and Mary Magdalene's back bent in sorrow...

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... as well as the hard diagonal divide of light and dark on Mary (his mother's) face:

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These almost abstract elements contrast with the naturalism/realism of the portrait of the patron or donor to the left:

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Perhaps the most delicious detail of the painting is the manner in which John the Baptist plucks at the various rays of Christ's halo as if he were plucking the strings on a harp:

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Like Simone Martini's Annunciation Quarton has replaced the sky with flat gold leaf and incised halos and inscriptions. Of course, I would be seduced by this painting that straddles the line between Realism, Expressionism, and flat Abstraction. And then there's the gold leaf... almost as seductive as RED! :p

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All this stuff is water gilded, btw. This takes an enormous amount of skill; it's nothing like oil gilding, which is quite simple by comparison. The technique is well described in D.V. Thompson's Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting, one of my favorite art books.
 
thank you so much,
it's an incredible masterpiece,
how wonderful, I had never seen it, wonderful.
ps: MIchelangelo's piety is one of my favorite works of art, one of the first that comes to mind when I think of something beautiful.
always beautiful to see it, and I find it equally beautiful to see this, once on TV they quickly showed some works on Jesus, sculptures, dipindi, there was that of Van Gogh, this by MIchelangelo and many, there was another that had impressed me so much that I did not cricordanvo and I have not memorized, (which could also be this, searched now on google for some works with jesus, perhaps ECCE HOMO was the one I did not remember, perhaps this did not show her)
off topic.
Seeing Michelangelo here made me think of it
Pietro Torrigiano (for the story on MIchelangelo's broken nose, I had read that it is said to have been him and there are two versions, that MIchelangelo provoked, really offended all the others who drew with him? I was struck reading this, another story that was jealous , but I don't think, I think he was incredible too), I can ask you if you think it is a name that you think could be considered a Forgotten Master (with the Forgotten master topic I had this curiosity), or ask yourself if you like it or if you think it was anyway very skilled.
Torrigiano is one of the artists that intrigues me, he likes it very much, I'm also sorry for how his story went.

Anyway I think he's one of my favorite sculptors,
this San Geronimo penitente https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:San_Jerónimo_penitente_001.jpg
 
That piety made me cry when I saw it in real life and I am not a religious person. It was just that incredibly astonishing.
 
Pierre Bonnard: Bather

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Before it's assumed my admiration for art is limited to the old masters and the ancients, I take a look at one of my favorite paintings of the 20th century:

Pierre Bonnard's Bather 1908 is also known as Nude Standing Before the Light, Eau de parfum, and several other names. The painting is of Bonnard's long-time lover and muse (later wife) Maria Boursin who went by the name Marthe de Méligny.

Bonnard was a Post-Impressionist and leading figure in the Nabis. This painting is clearly inspired by Degas late pastels and paintings of bathers:

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Like Degas, Bonnard employed a tilted picture plane inspired by Japanese Ukiyo-e prints and a voyeuristic point-of-view into a woman's bath or bedroom. Consider that this was a time at which men rarely saw their wives... let alone girlfriends... naked. It's for this reason that Degas' paintings... and Bonnard's... were considered shocking to many.

Beyond the influence of Degas, Bonnard, like most of the Nabis, was influenced by medieval art... especially tapestries. The over-all patterns of the dancing brush work results in a tapestry-like surface... especially when seen IRL.

Bonnard also drew influences from ancient Greek art. The cool, ghostly refection of Marthe in the mirror is a reversed or mirror image of the Aphrodite of Menophantos/Capitoline Venus/Venus de' Medici which take the pose of the Goddess of Love modestly covering her breast and her sex.

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The result is that Bonnard suggests his lover is as beautiful as the ancient Goddesses.

The sun filters through the lace curtains which look almost like a waterfall raining down. The suggestion of water is echoed in the tub below. The sunlight illuminates Marthe's body throwing most of what is visible to us into the shadows and casting flicring highlights on her shoulder, arm, and breast, and on the edge of her hair and face. Pethaps THE focal point is the glowing bottle of perfume that Marthe holds from which the painting earns its frequent title as Eau de parfum.
 
Botticelli: Primavera

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Many of us have probably been asked at some point, "If you could own any single painting (or other artwork) what would it be?" For longer than I can remember my answer would have been: "Botticelli's Primavera".

Botticelli's Primavera is one of the most written about, and most controversial paintings in the world. It was one of the first large-scale paintings of classical Greco-Roman mythological narratives of the Renaissance and includes one (or rather, three) of the earliest portrayals of the nude outside of Biblical themes such as Adam & Eve.

The painting was completed sometime between the last 1470s and early 1480s shortly before Botticelli was called to Rome in 1481/82 to work on frescoes for the Sistine Chapel. It was quite likely commissioned by the Lorenzo de' Medici ("Lorenzo il Magnifico") as a wedding gift for his cousin Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici's wedding. It is frequently suggested that Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco is the model for Mercury in the portrait, and his bride Semirande represented as Flora. An inventory taken in 1499 finds the painting housed in the palace of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici and his brother Giovanni.

The intended narrative of the painting is still open to debate. The painting clearly depicts a group of figures from Greco-Roman mythology gathered in a garden, but no definite story has been found that brings this particular group together. Suggestions have been made that Botticelli drew inspiration from various authors and poets including Ovid, Seneca, Hesiod, and Lucretius, as well as Poliziano, the Medici house poet. Not only is there some uncertainty and debate among art historians as to why the painting was commissioned and the narrative, but even the original name is unknown. The title, Primavera, was first assigned to the painting by the Renaissance-era art historian, Giorgio Vasari, in 1550.

We can, however, make an educated interpretation of the painting employing some knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology. The entire scene takes place in an orange grove. Oranges are a symbol of the Medici Family and the use of gold leaf on the oranges might also allude to the golden apple given to Venus which began the Trojan War. The painting reads from Right to Left. At the far right, Zephyrus (in icy blue)... the biting wind of March... kidnaps the fleeing nymph Chloris, who is associated with new growth (chlorophyll) and Spring.

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Zephyrus later marries and transforms Chloris into Flora, the goddess of Spring, eternal bearer of life, who is seen scattering roses on the ground.

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In the center... and somewhat set back from the other figures... stands Venus, the Goddess of Love, draped in red and standing beneath an arch of leaves. As with Flora, she returns the viewer's gaze. In the air above her is a blindfolded Cupid aiming his bow to the left. Venus' hair is covered as was traditional for married women in Florence at this time.

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To the left of Venus we see the Three Graces... who frequently are portrayed accompanying Venus. They are portrayed nude... or rather, nearly nude, wearing translucent robes that recall the "wet drapery" employed by classical Greek sculptors...

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... that allows for a clear view of the female body while meeting expectations of the time that the body remains clothed. It makes me think of the manner in which models and photographers employ the least bit of nearly transparent clothing in order to meet censorship rules on Facebook and Instagram.😄

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The Three Graces are portrayed dancing, like the Greek nymph (above) and their diaphanous robes swirl around them. Cupid points his arrow at the central figure, who represents Chastity, suggesting an end of chastity and the bloom of love. This idea would be perfectly suited to a painting intended as a wedding gift.

The last figure to the left is Mercury... messenger of the gods... who shoves the clouds out of this Garden of Love.

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The pastoral scenery is elaborate. There are 500 identified plant species depicted in the painting, with about 190 different flowers, of which at least 130 can be specifically identified. The overall appearance, and size, of the painting is similar to that of the millefleur or "thousand flower" Franco-Flemish tapestries that were popular decorations for palaces at the time. These tapestries had not caught up by the 1480s with the artistic developments of the Italian Renaissance with regard to the portrayal of space and perspective,and the composition of Primavera has aspects that belong to this still Gothic style.

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There are any number of elements that make this painting important to me artistically. The use of pattern and flattened space, the stylized figures, the flowers, and the gold leaf are all important elements in my own paintings. Where the majority of paintings in the West employ the greatest degree of detail within the focal point, Botticelli reverses this. The figures stand out against the incredible wealth of detail due to their simplicity. This is an idea I have also been employing for some time. I also admire the frieze-like composition of figures moving across the canvas (panel) and especially the dancers. For some time I have planned on creating a large (8 x 18 or 20 feet) painting with multiple figures in motion. Unfortunately, that painting will need to be put on hold until I get a real studio space again.
 
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