Thursday, August 27, 2015

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Bonaventura Berlinghieri, "St. Francis Altarpiece" 1235


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Form: 
This altarpiece is painted in tempera on wood.  At five feet, the representation of St. Francis is depicted as nearly life-size.  Art of the Byzantine period largely influenced Italian Gothic art.  There is no depth to St. Francis.  He is two-dimensional and at the front of the picture plane.  His feet are not standing on the ground but seem to be floating just above it.

Iconography: 
St. Francis is situated in the center of the painting - a position usually reserved for Christ or the Virgin Mary.  The identification with Christ is further enhanced with the clearly displayed stigmata on his raised blessing hand.  The three knots on his rope belt represent chastity, poverty and obedience. He is flanked on either side by angels and is surrounded by boxes containing major events in his life. 

Context:
This altarpiece was completed in 1235, less than ten years after Francis’ canonization. St. Francis taught that studying nature was a way to understand God and religious ideas should be discovered through human experience of the world.  These observations were partially responsible for the reflection on nature rather than most art of its time and were a prototype for new works.  This led to new observations of nature in art and the beginnings of scientific study.
 
Written by Annette Abbott
Context continued:  Many paintings like this have a rather Byzantine flavor or style to how they are painted.  This formulaic attempts to emulate Greek icons is what Vasari (an art hsitorian from the late 16th C) called the maniera greca in Italy.

According to the Brittanica
from Francis Of Assisi, Saint
The Franciscan rule of life. Although he was a layman, Francis began to preach to the townspeople. Disciples were attracted to him, and he composed a simple rule of life for them. In 1209, when the group of friars (as the mendicant disciples were called) numbered 12, they went to Rome to seek the approval of Pope Innocent III, who, although hesitant at first, gave his oral approbation to their rule of life. This event, which according to tradition occurred on April 16, marked the official founding of the Franciscan order. The friars, who were actually street preachers with no possessions of any kind and with only the Porziuncola as a center, preached and worked first in Umbria and then, as their numbers grew, in the rest of Italy.
The early Franciscan rule of life, which has not survived, set as the aim of the new life, "To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps." Probably no one in history has ever set himself so seriously as did Francis to imitate the life of Christ and to carry out so literally Christ's work in Christ's own way. This is the key to the character and spirit of St. Francis. To neglect this point is to show an unbalanced portrait of the saint as a lover of nature, a social worker, an itinerant preacher, and a lover of poverty.
Certainly the love of poverty is part of his spirit, and his contemporaries celebrated poverty either as his "lady," in the allegorical Sacrum Commercium (Eng. trans., Francis and His Lady Poverty, 1964), or as his "bride," in the fresco of Giotto in the lower church of S. Francesco at Assisi. It was not, however, mere external poverty he sought but the total denial of self (as in Letter of Paul to the Philippians 2:7).
He considered all nature as the mirror of God and as so many steps to God. He called all creatures his "brothers" and "sisters," and in his "Canticle of the Creatures" (less properly called by such names as the "Praises of Creatures" or the "Canticle of the Sun") he referred to "Brother Sun" and "Sister Moon," the wind and water, and even "Sister Death." His long and painful illnesses were nicknamed his sisters, and he begged pardon of "Brother Ass the body" for having unduly burdened him with his penances. Above all, his deep sense of brotherhood under God embraced his fellow men, for "he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died."
"The Franciscan rule of life.."   Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   November 16, 2002.
 
Context and Critical points of view:  The previous section is a a biography of St. Francis's life however, Francis represents a pivotal figure that represents the transition in thinking between the Gothic period and the Renaissance. Previous to the life of St. Francis, the Catholic Church was the sole source of information about God for the layman (every day non-clergy).  The Church interpreted, interceded and imposed a very clear point of view about God's teachings and was the sole source of biblical interpretation.  In fact, laymen were not even allowed to own a Bible, not that they could afford one since they were hand written and very expensive.  This point of view and religious/political system meant that everyday people could not actually "know" God for themselves and supported and maintained a point of view that one was born to a place on this earth that was unchangeable.
Francis's point of view that "To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps." Breaks with this tradition and demonstrates the beginning of a point of view in which the lay person could not only have a direct experience of God but also alter their behavior in accordance with their knowledge without needing to consult the Church for interpretation.  This is important and interesting because aside form the ideas exhibited in the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, this represents the beginning of a change in the way of thinking and the stirrings of individual critical thought.  The art that follows, after the Byzantine period and in the late Gothic and Early Renaissance exhibits a new and critical point of view of the world.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Sculpture During the Classic Period

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Doryphoros (Spear Bearer)
(also called "the Canon")
by Polykleitos c450-440 BC
Roman copy after a bronze original
marble height 6'6"
tree stump and leg brace are later 
Roman additions
Classic, Greek
Form:  This frontally oriented sculpture of a young male figure is well over life sized, is idealized, and naturalistic.  Some of the features of the face, the musculature of the abdomen and above the genitals have been distorted to fit in with an ideal of physical beauty.  The hair, nose of the figure and eyebrows have a rather geometrically stylized aspect to them as does the overall anatomy of the figure.  There is still a hint of the archaic smile. The figure stands in a life like contrapposto pose (contra- against posto- posture) in which the body takes on an over all "s" curve.  There is a shift of weight at the hips and a majority of the figure's weight is on one leg.  The torso is turned in a slight angle opposite to the angle of the hips. The pose looks almost as if the figure is in movement.
This is a marble sculpture made by Romans copied from a bronze original that used the hollow casting or the cire perdue or lost wax process.   The process is referred to as lost wax not because we have lost the process, but because the figure is originally sculpted from wax which is lost in the process.  The original is encased in clay.  Two drainage holes are placed in the clay and when the clay is heated, the wax runs out of the hole leaving a cavity.  Bronze is then poured into the cavity and when the bronze cools the clay mold is broken open revealing the bronze sculpture.  Since the bronze is a fairly soft metal, details can be etched and molded while the bronze is cool.
(go here for diagrams)
 
Iconography: This sculpture depicts a perfect and beautiful young man the essence of kalos. 
In Greek epic poetry the hero is always described as handsome or beautiful and their physical appearance is a reflection of the character's virtue.  The idealism or beauty of the Greek figure is linked to the concept that you can judge a book by its cover.  The Greek term for beauty is kalos (calos).  The term kalos can also be interchanged with and is synonymous with goodness.  Therefore, to call someone or something beautiful also means that that thing is also "good."
The original sculpture was actually designed to be an icon that represented physical perfection of the human form and therefore a god-like kalos.  The Doryphoros by Polykleitos was considered so proportionately perfect that it was called the "canon"  (a set of rules or criterion or standard of judgment). 
The contrapposto pose serves the same purpose as the archaic smile.  Both were designed to give the work a more lifelike illusion.  In the case of the archaic smile, it almost as if there is the beginnings of movement in the face and the same is true of the contrapposto that seems as if the body is about to move.
Context: Schema and correction play heavily into this work.  There are elements derived from the original kouros figures, such as the step forward, the idealized form and the archaic smile, but, Polykleitos builds on the naturalism to make the sculpture more life-like.
Since this is a Roman marble copy after bronze original, this would make this yet another corrected view.  This copy of the work is the "correction" on the Greeks original "schema" and so its accuracy is in question.  Historians and Romans have often called this work the Canon.  This work was designed by Polykleitos to be his canon or his  treatise   (a complete guide of sorts) to making a perfect sculpture.  Unfortunately, neither his sculpture or his written texts survived but we do have Roman descriptions of the text and Roman copies of the sculpture and so the Romans referred to it as the "Canon."  The naming of this sculpture is complicated for this and other reasons.
It is thought that the original bronze carried a long spear and that is where he gets his name.  Doryphoros in Greek translates as "spear bearer."  This marble sculpture of the Doryphoros is a Roman copy of the first original bronze by Polykleitos.  We are lucky enough to have a sculpture that was made at the same time as the original Doryphoros referred to as the Riace Bronze or Young Warrior from Riace (c 460-450 BCE) that approximates what the original Doryphoros must have looked like.

Kouros from Attica (the region surrounding Athens)
c600 BCE 6' 4" marble
polychrome, encaustic
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Archaic

Doryphoros (Spear Bearer)
(also called "the Canon")
by Polykleitos c450-440 BC
Roman copy after a bronze original
marble height 6'6"
tree stump and leg brace are later 
Roman additions
Classic, Greek
Another look at schema and correction: Summary of Gombrich
Renown art historian Ernst Gombrich developed a theory to explain these adaptations and changes and refered to it as schema and correction.  If we were to look at the Archaic period's art and architecture as the plan or schema, we can see how the later Classic period might have taken the archaic art as its schema and updated it in order to make the designs more pleasing according to the  later tastes.  These changes are referred to as the correction.
To understand his theory called "schema and naturalization," or "schema and correction." To understand it you basically just need to know the definitions of three words. 
  • Schema is the cultural code through which individuals raised in a culture perceive the world. For example, we recognize stick figures to be humans.
  • Correction is where you take that schema and you compare it to what your senses tell you about the world and then you make it more accurate.
  • Mimesis is the process of correcting your schema.
Gombrich's idea can be expanded to looking how later groups can take the earlier work of art and mimic it (mimesis).  This is a kind of Darwinian theory kind of like Darwin's theory of the "survival of the fitest." Read some more stuff by Gombrich if it interests you!

 

THE RIACE BRONZE c460-450 BCE Classical Greek bronze w/ bone, glass paste, silver & copper inlaid,h. 200cm Reggio Calabria: Museo Nazionale
This sculpture was made in Greece, possibly by the Greek Sculptor Phidias.


Diana Holcombe 
Art History 103A 
April 30, 2001 
Professor Mencher 
A Great Reason to Scuba Dive 
Scuba diving in exotic places can be great exercise, as well as a fun thing to do with your friends.  But there might be another surprising advantage to this rather extreme hobby.  You could actually discover buried treasure!  The Young Warrior from Riace (c 460-450 BCE) was discovered in exactly that way.  A tourist was scuba diving off the southern coast of Italy and found what appeared to be a human arm sticking out of the ocean floor. After more careful investigation he discovered it was a metal human arm, and after careful excavation it was discovered that the statue was almost six feet tall, and made out of very heavy bronze.  After the statue was retrieved and revived, theories flew around about how, and where the Riace Warrior came from.  By studying the form, and iconography of the sculpture, and then comparing these traits to the context in which the sculpture was made, I will attempt to analyze the Young Warrior from Riace as in depth as possible. 
The sculpture was made using the cire perdue (lost wax) process.  This process was a favorite for Greek sculptors because it enabled them to make sculptures that were in much more life like poses.  (Stokstad 181)  The first step of this rather complex procedure is to make the sculpture out of wax, and then cover the wax with clay.  Then the clay is fired which melts the wax so that the clay embodies a hollow form.  Molten bronze is then poured into the hollow space.  Once the bronze is cooled, the clay shell is removed, and you have your finished, beautiful, bronze sculpture!  Sound easy?  I'm sure it's not.  Which makes some of the other details of the statue even more incredible.  The eyeballs are made of carved bone, and colored glass.  And each eyelash and eyebrow are of separately cast bronze. The nipples, and lips, are a pinkish copper, and the teeth are made from silver.  The entire statue is of a Greek Warrior that has a young body, but an old face.  He is about six feet tall with a contrapposto stance, and an almost naturalistic, but still very idealized body form.    His body is very smooth, and athletic looking, but his face has deep lines, and bags under the eyes.  The hair, and beard are both done very purposefully with separate strands all overlapping each other.  He would be holding a sword, and a shield if he were in his completely original form.
The iconography of this statue is fairly clear.  The purpose of this statue was probably to instill a sense of pride about the Greek army, and to illustrate the strength and wisdom that Greek men were expected to have. The body form is exaggerated because of the height and the muscle structure in the stomach, but is still realistic enough to make men and women feel that Greek men could, should and do look this way.  The beard is symbolic of wisdom, but the long hair is a sign of youthfulness.   A major contradiction, but also an image that is being radiated to men.  Telling them it is possible to achieve great intellectual achievements while you are still young?  If only you were Greek!  The athletic body and contrapposto stance is symbolic of an athlete or warrior.  And the smoothness of the body makes it fairly obvious this was a young man. 
This statue is from the Classical period of Greek art (480-350 BCE). This was a time of expansion to farther parts of Europe.  Including colonies in Italy, and Sicily.  It is accepted that the statue was being exported, or imported to a Greek colony located on the tip of Italy. (Stokstad 182)  How the statue wound up in the ocean is all speculation. Perhaps the ship was in distress and the statue was thrown over board intentionally, or it could have been lost in rough seas.  Either way, that part remains a mystery. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, this period of Greek history is one of expansion, but mainly a peaceful time, where the Greeks embraced their heritage and developed miraculous strides in their architectural, and artistic methods.  Trade flourished, and so did the cultural trading of ideas.  Pericles came to power and brought with him refreshing ideas to change the face of the Greek temple, and the Greek government.  The Parthenon was erected, as well as numerous other temples, and altars.  During this mostly governmental and architectural renaissance, sculpture was being seen as an even bigger way to express wealth, and power.  Much like our models in magazine photographs, sculptures capture the essence of a time period, or of a person.  They can be used as propaganda, or as a way to record history. The Young Warrior from Riace does both.  He is a good looking warrior, selling his image to the people of Greece.  And yet he represents a time period, so he captures the events taking place during the Classical period of Greek life. 
Many things have been found hidden beneath the vast waters of the ocean. But few have matched up to this statue.  We have looked at the form, and iconography of the statue.  We also looked at some of the things surrounding its creation.  It's not hard to understand why the Greek government and its people loved this statue, and the things it stood for.  It was a representation of the country's power, and pride.  It showed the exquisite craftsmanship that the Greeks were capable of.  And last, but not least: for the last thirty years it has inspired people all over the world to go scuba diving. 

 

Kritian Boy by Kritios, 
"Ephebe of Kritios" c480BCE
marble, height 46"
Greek, Classic,
Form:  This sculpture shares much in common with the Doryphoros:  it is of a young male figure, it  is idealized,  naturalistic and shares in the same stylizations.  Some of the features of the face, the musculature of the abdomen and above the genitals have been distorted to fit in with an ideal of physical beauty.  The hair, nose of the figure and eyebrows have a rather geometrically stylized aspect to them as does the overall anatomy of the figure.  There is still a hint of the archaic smile. The figure stands in a life like contrapposto pose (contra- against posto- posture) in which the body takes on an over all "s" curve.  There is a shift of weight at the hips and a majority of the figure's weight is on one leg.  The torso is turned in a slight angle opposite to the angle of the hips. The pose looks almost as if the figure is in movement.
Iconography:  This sculpture, like the earlier Kouros figures, was actually designed to be an icon that represented physical perfection of the human form and therefore a god-like kalos.  This sculpture might even have been the schema for the Doryphoros by Polykleitos. 
Context: This sculpture was found in the rubble underneath the Acropolis and was preserved in the same way as the Moscophoros.  Since the only sculptures that survived by Kritios were Roman marble copies, this sculpture was considered quite a find and was attributed to the sculptor based on its formal and stylistic similarities to Roman copies. 

 

Blonde Boy's Head 480B.C.- 
This sculpture is a good formal example of the idealized distortions made by Greek sculptors of the human head and face.  Side view facial features are idealized.  Hair is perfect. No indention from nose to forehead, known as a "Greek Nose." The ear is too high and far back. This sculpture is made based on their conception of physical beauty. They simply decided to make nature over according to their tastes.

 
Diskobolos (Discus-thrower)
by Myron  c450BCE
5'1"
Roman marble copy after a
Greek bronze original
Greek Classic

Form:  This sculpture shares much in common with the Doryphoros and Ephebe of Kritios:  but aside from the idealized stylizations of these sculptures it appears to be in movement.  In actuality the sculptor Myron has chosen to freeze an actual moment in the process of an athlete throwing a discus.  Nevertheless, the sculpture, like all Greek sculptures, whether in the round or relief style, is frontally oriented.  There is only one way the sculptor meant for the viewer to see the image. Iconography:  This is a symbol of Greek male athleticism and therefore the ideal citizen and soldier.  The athletic activity he is participating in is probably also a reference to heroism during the Olympics.
Context: This sculpture is one of the first examples of a figure caught in a convincing frozen moment.  The original sculpture would have been cast from bronze and this possibly would have eliminated the need for the tree stump and for one of the arms to be engaged or connected with the leg.  This sculpture also demonstrates the ability of the Greeks to actually observe nature and mimic the movement of the human body convincingly.
canon
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Latin, ruler, rule, model, standard, from Greek kanOn
Date: before 12th century
4 a : an accepted principle or rule b: a criterion or standard of judgment c : a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms
1 a : a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council b: a provision of canon law
2 [Middle English, prob. from Old French, from Late Latin, from Latin, model] : the most solemn and unvarying part of the Mass including the consecration of the bread and wine
3 [Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, standard] a: an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture b: the authentic works of a writer c: a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works canon
of great literature>
5 [Late Greek kanOn, from Greek, model] : a contrapuntal musical composition in two or more voice parts in which the melody is imitated exactly and completely by the successive voices though not always at the same pitch
synonym see LAW kalos In Greek epic poetry the hero is always described as handsome or beautiful and their physical appearance is a reflection of the character's virtue.  The idealism or beauty of the Greek figure is linked to the concept that you can judge a book by its cover.  The Greek term for beauty is kalos (calos).  The term kalos can also be interchanged with and is synonymous with goodness.  Therefore, to call someone or something beautiful also means that that thing is also "good."
trea·tise
Pronunciation: 'trE-t&s also -t&z
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English tretis, from Anglo-French tretiz, from Old
French traitier to treat
Date: 14th century
1 : a systematic exposition or argument in writing including a methodical
discussion of the facts and principles involved and conclusions reached
treatise
on higher education>
2 obsolete : ACCOUNT, TALE

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