VISA Nov 7
Continuing from October 31st lecture
Masaccio, Frescoes at Brancacci Chapel, Florence, 1427: Private chapel. One side of
the wall. Depicts the story of Christ’s disciples. They do not want to pay taxes, but Christ
is advising them to pay taxes, because it is proper to pay him. Money is being handed to
tax collector. Figures are modeled in a new way, “light to dark”. Modeling them not
through line but through shadows. There is no hierarchy here, Christ is not much larger
than any of the other figures. Architectural elements have a sense of space and mimic
the influence of Brunoleschi?. More of an expression on figures faces trying to convey
the important elements of the story.
Detail, Expulsion from Eden: Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden. They cast
shadows on the ground behind them. Very involved with the psychological state of the
couple, how do they feel? Agony, regret, remorse all conveyed through their faces.
Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, c. 1484-86: This is a philosophy that believes if you
contemplate something beautiful, it has the ability to raise your mind to a spiritual place.
It was meant to transform physical beauty into spiritual beauty. Source of Christian
imagination and love. May have been made as a sort of mock tapestry. Recalls Greek
vase painting. No sense of Venus standing on the shell. Entanglement of figures is
unusual as well. Venus is being received on right to be covered by drapery.
Individual artists are now recognized. The high point in terms of art. A period in time
where they proclaimed themselves the height.
Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper, c. 1495-98: Mural painting, in S. Maria delle Grazie in
Milan. This was an experiment. Da Vinci rarely finished projects he began. This work
was intended to be a contemplation when eating a meal. This is not a usual fresco. It is
a mix of oil and tempera on plaster. Leonardo wanted to see how these pigments
worked together, was a nightmare, flaking off. Unusual beauty for a fresco. Leonardo
was hired as a military engineer. Very curious and investigative style. The Last Supper
is considered the first painting of the Renaissance. Sense of narrative in how they
express what they’re feeling in their faces and body language. The three windows at the
back allude to the trinity. Grey blue distant hills to give a feeling of distance and space.
Leonardo, Mona Lisa, c. 1503-6: Looking at this work and trying to figure out what this
woman is thinking is what draws people to it. Portrait depicts Lisa, a 24 year old wife of
a merchant. Details in background make you wonder what’s going on. Some people
suggest that this is a self portrait, that he has conveyed elements of himself in this figure. She is smiling, but her eyes do not suggest a smile. Full frontal face with the
figure staring directly at the viewer. There is a term associated with this type of painting
“sfumato” which is a smokey, gray type of painting.
Raphael, The Small Cowper Madonna, c. 1505: Virgin Mary and child. Raphael has a
soft modeling of the figural forms and is less atmospheric with his backgrounds. They
are more crisp and clear.
Raphael, School of Athens, c. 1510-11: Gathering of all the great philosophers in the
world. Representing ideas rather than a historical moment. Use of the rounded arch,
hallow glow added to figures. The figures are similar to Michelangelo’s figures. Full
formed, muscular figures. Includes a portrait of himself in the background with a black
hat. Barrel vaulting interior inspired by a church being built at the time. Shows a rational
space and harmonious form.
Michelangelo, David, c. 1501-4: He often is talked about as having an inner war
between spiritual ideas and their manifestation in physical manner. Commissioned for
the city of Florence for the city cathedral. They decided to put it in the city square next to
the government buildings. Figure is slightly disproportionate, hands and head are much
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, c. 1508-12: Tended to not listen to his patrons. A
theological advisor would be advised to make sure Michelangelo got everything right (in
the religion). Michelangelo’s design he has added pedestals to organize the space of
the ceiling. Alternating figures from the old testament and classical sidles. Nude men sit
atop the pedestals (ignudi), Michelangelo showing his skill with form. Figures are
typically bulky and well defined, muscular people. God gives life to this figure of Adam,
which is lazily lying on a roughly sketched out hill. Huge body with an oversized head
and hands. Modeling of figures: uses shadows to develop bodies. Even the female
figures are massive, colossal figures. A lot of detail taken to give a sense of architectural
frame. Sustained effort needed to complete this.
Last Judgement, c. 1538-1541: The figures are