VISA 1Q99 Lecture Notes - Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Military Engineering
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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
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