Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gardner: Chapter 14, 400-405
Vasari: Introduction and Part 1

Two of the major stylistic elements found in late medieval Italian art are exemplified in the work of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Nicolo worked in the classical style, as seen in the figures in his Annunciation,Nativity, and Adoration of the Shepherds relief panel in the bapistry pulpet in Pisa, which are taken directly from those found on Roman sarcophigi. Nicolo's son, Giovanni worked in the French Gothic style characterized by an emotionalism and sinuosity not present in his father's work. His Annunciation panel the pulpet of St. Andrea in Pisola exemplifies this style. However, I have seen this same active depiction of figures in some of the Roman sarcophghi in the Uffizi, so I am not sure the distinction Gardner is making is a valid one.

A third element in the art of this period is the Italo-Byzantine style as seen in the work of Buonaventura Berlinghileri, as in the St. Francis Alterpiece.
Gardner suggests the source for this work may be a Byzantine illuminated manuscript, and indeed it appears to hearken back to an earlier era.

Gardner: Chapter 14, 406-412
Vasari: Cimabue, Duccio, Giotto

Cimabue, Madonna Enthroned With Angels and Prophets
Gardner suggests you  notice how the use of gold as an embellishment is not merely decorative, but is used to enhance the three-dimensionality of the robe as evidence of the evolution toward a more naturalistic style. Nonetheless, the figures are hardly human, with the baby's trunk quite distorted. No one is drawing from life models at  this point.
Giotto di Bondone, Madonna Enthroned
Not sure you'd want this no nonsense Mary for your mother, and the baby still looks more like a leg of lamb than the lamb of God, but the figures are more recognisably human than in the Cimabue  work. Gardner sez: "his figures have dimensionality, substance and bulk, and give the illusion that they could throw shadows", and I guess they do.
Vasari places these two artists among those of his first group: those struggling to emerge from the barbarism of pre-Rennaisance times:  "anyone who will consider the nature of the times in which they lived, the scarcity of artisans, and the difficulty of finding good assistants will hold their works to  be not only beautiful (as I have stated) but miraculous..."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gardner, What is Art History?

Some reflections on the lectures and readings so far:
The heads of the 13th century madonnas by Cimabue and Duccio shown in the Powerpoint illustrations of 29 August might have been xerox copies: both
heads tilted at the same angle, both faces virtually expressionless. By the 15th century, Fra Filippo Lippi and Bellini are drawing figures that are recognizably human, flesh and blood creatures. I'd like to understand better what led these artists to choose such different ways of representing essentially the same devotional subject.
The Head of a warrier (figure 1-17 on page 11 of Gardner) I found interesting as an early example of casting large objects in bronze. Of course bronze had
a military application in those days and thus there was some motivation to develop the art of working it. I was puzzled by the information that such a large object was "welded" together (and presumably still intact). What sort of welding shop would be in operation in 500 BC, without acetylene or arcs?
But this is bronze, of course, and bronze is "welded" by the process of  brazing, a sort of low temperature form of welding, which could presumably be
done by a charcoal flare and bellows. An explanation of the process the Greeks of this period used to cast bronze statues, can be found at this ThinkQuest site