Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519
Saint John the Baptist, 1508–1519 (?), Oil on walnut wood, 69×57 cm, the Louvre, Paris, France https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_John_the_Baptist_(Leonardo)#/media/File:Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Saint_John_the_Baptist_C2RMF_retouched.jpg

…an Angel who raises in the air an arm whose part from the shoulder to the elbow, coming forward, appears in foreshortening, while with the other he brings his hand to his heart. And it is an admirable thing that this genius (Leonardo), having the desire to give the greatest relief to his works, had, with the dark shade, gone to find some of the darkest backgrounds, so much so that he was looking for blacks that shade and were darker than the other blacks, so that by their means the light would be more lucid, and that, in the end, there would have resulted from it this manner so dark that, not remaining there any light, his works had the appearance of things. made to counterfeit night rather than the finesse of daylight; but all this was intended to give a greater relief, to reach the end and the perfection of the art. This is how Vasari describes a now-lost Leonardo painting in the collection of the Grand Duke Cosimo I. Could Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci be the natural development of a previous composition by the master? https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062374

I carefully read Vincent Delieuvin, July 2021 text, on the Louvre presentational page for Saint John the Baptist. I also read The Mysterious Meaning of Leonardo’s “Saint John the Baptist” by Paul Barolsky, and Vasari’s Life of Leonardo just to remind myself of the painter’s significance. The bibliography is exhaustive… the scholarly opinions diverse… and I need to read more! https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062374 and https://www.jstor.org/stable/23202683 and http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/leonardo_da_vinci/

I particularly like how Paul Barolsky relates the painting in the Louvre, to the first verses of the Gospel according to Saint John: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not stopped it. There was a man sent by God; his name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness to the Light, that all might believe through him. This man was not the Light, but he was there to bear witness to the Light. https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/1 and https://www.jstor.org/stable/23202683

For Vincent Delieuvin of the Louvre, Leonardo’s Saint John the Baptist is undoubtedly the most accomplished illustration of the Gospel’s text where the last prophet is defined as the witness of the light. The artist uses chiaroscuro to stress the spirituality of the scene. He also uses the characteristic gesture of the upraised hand, expressive as well as prophetic, to create the ideal twist of a body, the perfect rendering of the play of light and shadow to magnify movement, build volume and enliven the smile, with an extraordinary economy of means, almost colourless.

What a journey… so many questions I cannot answer!

For a PowerPoint on St John’s ‘gesture’, please… Check HERE!

Winter by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Winter, 1563, oil on linden wood, 66,6×50,5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arcimboldo_Winter_1563.jpg

Shivering, frozen mid the frosty snow in biting, stinging winds; running to and fro to stamp one’s icy feet, teeth chattering in the bitter chill.     /     To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.     /     We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling. / Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up. / We feel the chill north winds coarse through the home despite the locked and bolted doors… / this is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights. This is Antonio Lucio Vivaldi’s (1678 – 1741) Sonnet L’Inverno (Winter). The great composer wrote it as a descriptive accompaniment, experts believe, for the music of his “Four Seasons.” Today the first day of Winter, I took the time to listen, read and look at Winter by Giuseppe Arcimboldo! It was a magical time! https://www.charlottesymphony.org/blog/vivaldis-four-seasons-poems/

Arcimboldo’s friend, the Milanese art critic, and travelogue author, Paolo Morigia writes for him… This is a painter (Arcimboldo) with a rare talent […] having proved his worth both as an artist and as a bizarre painter, not only in his own country but also abroad, he has been given the highest praise, in that word of his fame has reached the Emperor’s court in Germany.” The “court” Morigia refers to, is the court of the Habsburg rulers in Vienna first, where Arcimboldo moved in 1563 at the age of thirty-six, and Prague later, where he served as court painter for twenty-five years. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/arcimboldo-giuseppe/life-and-legacy/#biography_header and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

While in Vienna, to celebrate the reign of Emperor Maximilian II, Arcimboldo created his “ signature Portraits of the 4 Seasons,” composed of imaginatively arranging elements of nature like plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. For each “Portrait” (Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter), created in 1563, Arcimboldo combined plants associated with a particular season to form a portrait of that time of year. The series proved extremely popular in the Habsburg court, and Arcimboldo reproduced it several times so the emperor could send versions to friends and important political figures. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Winter (detail), 1563, oil on linden wood, 66,6×50,5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giuseppe_Arcimboldo_-_Winter_(detail)_-_WGA0809.jpg

Closely associated with Mother Earth, Arcimboldo’s “Winter”, the last in his Four Seasons series, takes the form of a withered old man whose skin is rough and wrinkled and whose craggy features are sculpted out of the folds and cracks in the tree’s bark. “Winter’s” face is fashioned out of a single tree and its parts. Giuseppe Arcimboldo used broken branches, cracks in the tree trunk, abrasions, and swellings.  http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/arcimboldo-s-gift–the-fantast/fourseasons/winter

“Winter’s” hair, a mess of twisted branches and small leaves, completes the look at the back part of the head… but the leaves crowning his head are not as bright as the leaves of other seasons’ portraits. Further down, the artist represented the eye as a small blackish split in the log, the ear by a broken small piece of a branch and the nose as a curved stump from a broken branch. “Winter’s” beard is composed of poorly kept, thin roots, and branches, while the mouth is cleverly created by placing two mushrooms just below the nose. https://www.thehistoryofart.org/giuseppe-arcimboldo/winter/

From the neck down the feeling of the composition is different. Clad with a woven mat, “Winter” provides a bit of warmth and the promise of life and renewal beyond the cold.  From “Winter’s” chest a thin branch sprouts an orange and a lemon, and the woven mat is there to protect the fruit, provide warmth and get them through the months of winter. Their bright colors provide a small, cheery note to an otherwise dreary portrait, and assure the painting’s viewers that despite the chill, spring is not long behind. http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/arcimboldo-s-gift–the-fantast/fourseasons/winter

For a PowerPoint of the Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, please… Check HERE!

I would like to draw your attention to a modern take of Arcimboldo’s The 4 Seasons paintings… a set of four and a half meters high fiberglass sculptures of the Four Seasons by American artist and filmmaker Philip Haas, created in 2012. Interesting… to say the least! https://crystalbridges.org/blog/the-four-seasons-philip-haas-interprets-giuseppe-arcimboldo/

Philip Haas, b. 1954
The Four Seasons – Winter, 2012, fiberglass, H. 4.572 m, first seen in the garden of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK
https://laughingsquid.com/giant-head-sculptures-representing-four-seasons/

Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello), ca. 1386-1466
Madonna and Child (the Pazzi Madonna), 1420-25, Marble, 74,5 x 73 x 6,5 cm, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence

…Donatello was so admirable in knowledge, in judgment, and in the practice of his art that he may be said to have been the first to illustrate the art of sculpture among the moderns; and he deserves the more commendation because in his time few antiquities had been uncovered. He was one of those who aroused in Cosimo de’ Medici the desire to bring antiquities into Florence. He was most liberal and courteous, and kinder to his friends than himself; nor did he care for money, keeping it in a basket hanging from the ceiling, where his workmen and friends could help themselves without saying anything to him. When he got old, therefore, and could not work, he was supported by Cosimo and his friends. Cosimo dying, recommended him to Piero his son, who, to carry out his father’s wishes, gave him… enough… Giorgio Vasari writes back in 16th century Florence, to pass the rest of his life as friend and servant of the Medici without trouble or care.  Please allow me to present Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna of c. 1420, as an introduction to Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition, currently at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Musei del Bargello in Florence, Italy (March 19-July31). http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/donatello/ and https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/en/archivio/exhibitions/donatello/

Celebrated as one of the greatest Renaissance artists, Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna, depicts both mother and child with their faces turned towards one another and away from viewers, says Francesco Caglioti, curator of the Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition. Their foreheads are touching, and they share a profoundly intimate moment which every mother has experienced, he continues. It is a profoundly intimate, emotional, and thus, a powerful work of art, proving Donatello to be an exceptionally talented artist in translating nature into art. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence

The Pazzi Madonna in the Berlin Staatlichen Museum is believed to originate from the Palazzo Pazzi in Florence, where according to a 1677 Florentine Guide Book, the sculpture could be seen in the Palazzo Garden. Although this identification is challenged, it is worth reading the Renaissance text… In the house of Francesco Pazzi there is a beautiful marble Madonna in low relief by Donatello; the Christ Child, seated upon a cushion, is supported by the Virgin’s right hand, while he, with his raised left hand, holds the veil that hangs from her head. It is charming in every part, the draperies are most beautiful, and the Virgin’s tenderness toward her son is expressed with great art and is such, that in the following succession, Alessandro, the father of Francesco, bought it for 500 scudi according to the valuation that was made. http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&lang=en

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello), ca. 1386-1466
Madonna and Child (the Pazzi Madonna) (detail-faces), 1420-25, Marble, 74,5 x 73 x 6,5 cm, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/en/upcoming-exhibitions/
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello), ca. 1386-1466
Madonna and Child (the Pazzi Madonna) (detail-lower part), 1420-25, Marble, 74,5 x 73 x 6,5 cm, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donatello_Bode_Madonna_Pazzi_05.jpg

Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna is greatly admired for its Renaissance “modernity.” The artist revived, for example, Antiquity by using and “playing” with monochrome, off-white coloured marble for his bas-relief, diverging from the popular tradition of using color in sculpture. He employed linear perspective to present spatial perception, a novel, introduced in 1415, “invention” by Filippo Brunelleschi. He used strong foreshortening to accentuate the best point of vision for the viewer. He created a tender, yet emotionally powerful, very “humanized” composition. The Pazzi Madonna is a Donatello masterpiece that still inspires and enchants viewers today.

Today, Francesco Caglioti, curator of the Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition believes that Donatello is a colossal artist, more important than Giotto, Raphael or Caravaggio because those three revolutionized the traditions of their time. Donatello broke with tradition completely, taking inspiration from the art of antiquity and the Middle Ages and mixing all those elements with his own vision to create an entirely new language for art. Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition is currently on view in Florence (March 19-July31), will be presented in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie (September2-January 8 2023), and in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2023. This is a historic Exhibition hosting over 130 works from the world’s leading museums and collections set out to reconstruct the astonishing career of one of the most important and influential masters of Italian art of any age. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence

For a new PowerPoint on Donatello’s Masterpieces, please… Click HERE!

Teaching with Donatello is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I much admire… Click… https://www.teachercurator.com/art/teaching-with-donatello/

The commemorative Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition Book https://www.artbook.com/9791254630068.html

La Fornarina

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino known as Raphael, 1483–1520
Portrait of a Woman – La Fornarina, about 1519–20, Oil on Panel, 85×60 cm, Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica (GNAA), Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy
https://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:La_Fornarina,_por_Rafael.jpg

The life of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino was short, his work prolific, and his legacy immortal. This is how the National Gallery in London experts introduce their audience to the blockbuster Credit Suisse Exhibition on Raphael (9 April – 31 July 2022)… But I want to return to Giogio Vasari… The liberality with which Heaven now and again unites in one person the inexhaustible riches of its treasures and all those graces and rare gifts which are usually shared among many over a long period is seen in Raphael Sanzio of Urbino, who was as excellent as gracious and endowed with a natural modesty and goodness sometimes seen in those who possess to an unusual degree a humane and gentle nature adorned with affability and good-fellowship, and he always showed himself sweet and pleasant with persons of every degree and in all circumstances… and take another look at La Fornarinahttp://www.artist-biography.info/artist/raphael/ and https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/the-credit-suisse-exhibition-raphael#content

Ever since I saw La Fornarina at Palazzo Barberini in Rome, I was intrigued by its captivating beauty and mysteries. Who is the beautiful woman who modestly tries to cover herself?

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino known as Raphael, 1483–1520
Portrait of a Woman – La Fornarina (detail of the face), about 1519–20, Oil on Panel, 85×60 cm,  Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica (GNAA), Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy
Foto di Mauro Cohen https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/the-credit-suisse-exhibition-raphael/a-brief-introduction-to-raphaels-life-and-times

Giorgio Vasari describes Raphael as a very amorous man,  fond of women, …always swift to serve them. This description “helps” Raphael enthusiasts identify the woman portrayed in La Fornarina with Margherita Luti, Raphael’s Roman lover, the daughter of a baker in Trastevere. Unfortunately, there is no description or record of such a painting created by the artist at the time. There are, however, “hints” that supporters of this interpretation like to consider. For example, her right-hand rests, gently, over her heart, holding her exposed breast. More so, her left hand, the hand of the heart, is adorned with a luxurious armband bearing the inscription “Raphael Urbinas,” the painter’s signature and her fourth finger is adorned with a ruby wedding ring, hidden under flesh-coloured paint for almost five centuries, and revealed in 2001 when an x-ray analysis was carried out on the painting. According to primary sources, Raphael died a young, unmarried man of 37, engaged at the time to a woman named Maria Bibbiena, the daughter of his patron Bernardo Dovizi. Could La Fornarina truly be the portrait of Margherita? There are “hints” but no evidence… https://www.barberinicorsini.org/en/opera/la-fornarina/ and http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/raphael/ and https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/art-culture/art-history-mystery-la-fornarina-raphael

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino known as Raphael, 1483–1520
Portrait of a Woman – La Fornarina (detail), about 1519–20, Oil on Panel, 85×60 cm,  Galleria Nazionale di Arte, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fornarina_03.jpg

Then come the Palazzo Barberini experts who have a different “reading” on the identity of the elusive young woman… They suggest that Raphael’s female Portrait in their Collection presents no other than Goddess Venus. The position of her hand, for example, one placed on her lap and the other on her breast, follows the classic statuary model of the “Venus Pudica”: a gesture of modesty that yet directs the viewer’s gaze to what she actually seeks to conceal. Other symbols are to be found in the painting’s background… the myrtle bush, laurel, and branches of quince are sacred emblems of Venus, marriage, lust, and fertility. Plausible but not decisive… https://www.barberinicorsini.org/en/opera/la-fornarina/

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino known as Raphael, 1483–1520
Portrait of a Woman – La Fornarina (detail), about 1519–20, Oil on Panel, 85×60 cm,  Galleria Nazionale di Arte, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy
https://claudiaviggiani.com/fornarina-di-raffaello-in-palazzo-barberini/

Finally, I enjoyed reading Rona Goffen’s article on Raphael’s Designer Labels: From the Virgin Mary to La Fornarina (Artibus et Historiae Vol. 24, No. 48, 2003). pp. 132-135). Raphael, the author believes, tantalized, and still tantalizes his audience with clues to the woman’s identity but withholds her name. Whatever La Fornarina’s real name might have been, the author concludes, whatever (personal amorous) considerations might have motivated Raphael, he painted her portrait as the embodiment of the beauty of his art, that is, not universal, but idiosyncratic, individual, unmistakable for any other. Redefining beauty according to his own criteria, asserting his possession of her, whose image he created, Raphael asserted possession of art itself. And so Raphael signed the Fornarina without a date, because his possession is forever, his achievement immortal. This is an article worth reading! https://www.jstor.org/stable/1483734?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A2d02ae94d96f8d5167a5b6a3fb35f281&seq=13#page_scan_tab_contents pp. 132-135

For a PowerPoint on Raphael’s Portraits of Women, please… Check HERE!

Spring by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Spring, 1563, oil on canvas, 76×63.5 cm, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, Spain
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giuseppe_Arcimboldo_-_La_Primavera_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Festive Spring has arrived, / The birds salute it with their happy song. / And the brooks, caressed by little Zephyrs, / Flow with a sweet murmur. / The sky is covered with a black mantle, / And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm. / When they are silent, the birds / Return to sing their lovely song     /     And in the meadow, rich with flowers, / To the sweet murmur of leaves and plants, / The goatherd sleeps, with his faithful dog at his side.     /     To the festive sound of pastoral bagpipes, / Dance nymphs and shepherds, / At Spring’s brilliant appearance. This is Antonio Lucio Vivaldi’s (1678 – 1741) Sonnet A Primavera (Spring). The great composer wrote it as a descriptive accompaniment, experts believe, for the music of his “Four Seasons.” Today the first day of Spring, I took the time to listen and read Vivaldi’s music and sonnet, looking at Spring by Giuseppe Arcimboldo! It was a magical time! https://www.charlottesymphony.org/blog/vivaldis-four-seasons-poems/

A scion of a noble and artistic family, his father was an artist, and his uncle held the position of Archbishop of Milan, Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593) was in all probability introduced to artists, scholars, and writers from a young age. Born and raised in Milan, the cradle of Renaissance naturalism, young Arcimboldo learned a mode of artistic expression based on the direct observation of nature. Well-trained as an artist Arcimboldo was commissioned to do exceptional work since the age of 21. For example, in 1549 he was commissioned to design stained glass windows for the Duomo, in 1551 he painted coats of arms for the future Emperor, Ferdinand I, in 1556, he created frescoes for the Cathedral of Monza; and, in 1558, he drew the cartoon for the Dormition of the Virgin tapestry, which remains on display in the Como Cathedral in Lombardi to this day. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/arcimboldo-giuseppe/life-and-legacy/#biography_header and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

Arcimboldo’s friend, the Milanese art critic, and travelogue author, Paolo Morigia writes for him… This is a painter (Arcimboldo) with a rare talent […] having proved his worth both as an artist and as a bizarre painter, not only in his own country but also abroad, he has been given the highest praise, in that word of his fame has reached the Emperor’s court in Germany.” The “court” Morigia refers to, is the court of the Habsburg rulers in Vienna first, where Arcimboldo moved in 1563 at the age of thirty-six, and Prague later, where he served as court painter for twenty-five years. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/arcimboldo-giuseppe/life-and-legacy/#biography_header and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Spring (detail), 1563, oil on canvas, 76×63.5 cm, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, Spain
https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Figura-16-Giuseppe-Arcimboldo-La-Primavera-1563-Real-Academia-de-Bellas-Artes-de-San_fig16_318795156

While in Vienna, to celebrate the reign of Emperor Maximilian II, Arcimboldo created his “ signature Portraits of the 4 Seasons,” composed of imaginatively arranging elements of nature like plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. For each “Portrait” (Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter), created in 1563, Arcimboldo combined plants associated with a particular season to form a portrait of that time of year. The series proved extremely popular in the Habsburg court, and Arcimboldo reproduced it several times so the emperor could send versions to friends and important political figures. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

Closely associated with Mother Earth, Arcimboldo’s “Spring”, the first in his Four Seasons series, takes the form of a youthful woman composed entirely of flowers and bright green leaves. Arcimboldo uses roses and daises, tulips and lily buds, green leaves like strawberry stems, and large leaves of a dandelion plant. In profile, and smiling, showing her lilies of the valley teeth, “Spring” seems fully aware of her beauty and the joy that looking upon her countenance will bring to a viewer. Her youth and beauty are a fitting opening to the series, and the beginnings of the cycle of life and the seasons. http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/arcimboldo-s-gift–the-fantast/fourseasons/spring

For a PowerPoint of the 4 Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, please… Check HERE!

A monumental installation in the grounds of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London of The Four Seasons, a set of four fifteen-foot fiberglass sculptures by American artist and film-maker Philip Haas in 2012
https://poulwebb.blogspot.com/2012/06/giuseppe-arcimboldo.html

I would like to draw your attention to a modern take of Arcimboldo’s The 4 Seasons paintings… a set of four and a half meters high fiberglass sculptures of the Four Seasons by American artist and film-maker Philip Haas, created in 2012. Interesting… to say the least! https://crystalbridges.org/blog/the-four-seasons-philip-haas-interprets-giuseppe-arcimboldo/

A monumental installation in the grounds of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London of The Four Seasons (photo of The Spring), a set of four fifteen-foot fiberglass sculptures by American artist and film-maker Philip Haas in 2012
https://poulwebb.blogspot.com/2012/06/giuseppe-arcimboldo.html