Monday, November 11, 2019

Art and the Feudal System

Jacob Wrestling the Angel
The Vienna Genesis,
Probably made in Syria or Palestine.
Early 6th century.
Tempera, gold, and silver paint
on purple-dyed vellum,
approx. 9"x12"
Osterreiche Nationalbibliothek, Vienna
Byzantine Style
detail images go tosee also Stokstad fig 7-35
Page with Rebecca at the Well
Form:  This manuscript page, made on animal skin, marks the evolution of Christian manuscript making.  Manuscripts combined two forms of art, calligraphy and painting.  The term calligraphy literally means beautiful writing (kalos: beauty graphos: to write)  The letters and words are written in silver (now tarnished black) in Greek and follow a fairly unified style of script without much of the variation and ornamentation that develops later in Christian and Islamic manuscripts.The page was conceived of as a whole composition in which the words at the top, packed tightly and uniformly across the surface, balance with the almost frieze like image beneath.  The narrative beneath starts at the left and continues around in a reversed "C" like shape.  Multiple scenes with the same characters inhabit the same space.  This convention referred to as a continuous narrative, run throughout the entire manuscript and mimic the paintings of Dura Europos.
Iconography:  Color and the materials used to adorn the book are iconic.  The silver and gold paint elevate the physical and therefore highlight the spiritual value of the text.  The same is true of the expensive purple dye of the page which is also symbolic of royalty.  (Note the purple robes of Theodora and Justinian above.)  The decorative qualities of how things are written, called calligraphy (calos- beautiful graphy- to write) is symbolic in and of itself.  The beauty and care in which the letters, words, and decorative forms are written is symbolic of the beauty of the meaning of the words and phrases.  Figures are represented very much like Christ figure from Hagia Sofia, which exists from the 13th century. The drapery stylization and face are the same.
The story here is important Read Mencher Liaisons 15-21 (Selections from Genesis-Jacob and Esau)
Context:  Early Christian artists or calligraphers, borrowed and developed the decorative forms of calligraphy from the Romans, Greeks and sacred books of the Jewish Torah, in order to decorate and honor the words of the Old and New Testaments. 
Since Jews and Christians share in many of the ideas expressed in the Old Testament, one of the concepts they share is the second commandment which forbids the creation of graven images.  Early Jews and Christians took this commandment quite literally and did not create any such sculptures or images.  The rational was that image making could lead to idolatry.  Some Jewish groups and Christians felt that the word graven indicated a ban on sculptural images but both graphic ones.  Christians were split over this decision but came on a comprise in which images were useful because they instructed. This controversy is called the iconoclastic controversy (see Stokstad "Iconoclasm" page 309).  This may account for the deliberate stylizations and lack of naturalism of the figures that is similar to the relief sculptures on the Arch of Constantine.

Virgin and Child with Saints and Angel
icon second half of 6th century
Encaustic on wood, 27x18"
Monastery of Saint Catherine,
Mount Sinai, Egypt
Form:  This encaustic painting (wax and pigments) is symmetrical in its composition.  The painting also combines several styles of painting faces and bodies.  The central figures are painted in a slightly more naturalistic Graeco Roman style while the two figures of Theodore (left) and George (right) are painted in a more Byzantine and codified manner.  There are more tonal transitions on the faces and bodies of the Virgin and Jesus and that the anatomy is revealed more by the drapery than in the flanking figures.Iconography:  The symmetry of the composition places the most important figures at the center.  Icons like this begin the tradition of creating the symbolic system in which Mary serves as the throne of God referred to by Stokstad as an intercessor and the Throne of Wisdom.  The halos each wears are derived from the ideas of enlightenment they represent.  A halo is a graphic representation of the light or aura of wisdom or knowledge that sacred individuals exhibit.  The halos are often differentiated almost as if to give a rank.  For example, Jesus' halo is inscribed with a Greek cross.  Her clothing is both Jewish and eastern in style which precedes the invention of the Muslim Hijab but looks very much like it.  The clothing, organization of the composition and use of halos sets the standard for costuming and depictions of Mary and Jesus well into the Renaissance.  The two flanking figures are idealized types and one would have to be told how to identify them to know who they are.  Nevertheless, their attributions as Theodore (left) and George (right) are the warrior saints who slew serpents similar to the one that Adam and Eve were tricked by.
Context:  Not many icons exist from this period mainly because of the iconoclastic controversy.  (see Stokstad "Iconoclasm" page 309)


S. Gall Benedictine Abbey, St. Gall Switzerland 7th-8th C
The Monastic System fulfilled the needs and took care of the people. It educated the Lords and the Serfs. The Monks kept the world going by praying, and they were very intelligent. The Monk Monasteries were like Universities, they were a place to learn spiritual renewal and a place to pray. They would also copy the Bible and make manuscript. They preserved some of the text that would have otherwise been burned. In the Monastery the servants slept next to the livestock. There was a big church at the entrance with statues of Gabriel and Michael (Archangels). The Monastery also included a hospice for the poor (a free clinic) where a medieval physician would bleed you. There was also a physicians house. There were breweries and bakeries etc. next to the kitchen. There was a caretakers house and a cemetery. In the middle there was a cloister, a courtyard where you go to reflect on the life of God. There was also a guest house and a school. There was a novitiate house (convent for the novices) for people who were thinking of becoming Monks and Nuns.
 Stokstad 497-502
Political and Theological Systems570 or 580 AD- Pope Gregory comes to power. Everyone is worried because they are moving to a new century. He tries to save as many souls as possible. Some of the things that Pope Gregory does is to codify or systematize worship and the liturgy of the church. One such system was Gregorian Chant.
Gregorian Chant : all sing together (monophonic)
Why was chant invented? It passed on Catholic beliefs in an oral tradition and it helped people remember the words. Gregorian chant started with Pope Gregory -ceremonial from the Jewish temple Gothic cathedral and Gregorian chant-echo (overtones and undertones)
The next passage is quoted directly from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Gregorian chant, monophonic, or unison, liturgical music of the Roman Catholic Church, used to accompany the text of the mass and the canonical hours, or divine office. Gregorian chant is named after St. Gregory I the Great, pope from 590 to 604. It was collected and codified during his reign. Charlemagne, king of the Franks (768-814), imposed Gregorian chant on his kingdom, where another liturgical tradition--the Gallican chant--was in common use. During the 8th and 9th centuries, a process of assimilation took place between Gallican and Gregorian chants; and it is the chant in this evolved form that has come down to the present.
The Ordinary of the mass includes those texts that remain the same for each mass. The chant of the Kyrie ranges from neumatic (patterns of one to four notes per syllable) to melismatic (unlimited notes per syllable) styles. The Gloria appeared in the 7th century. The psalmodic recitation, i.e., using salm tones, simple formulas for the intoned reciting of psalms, of early Glorias attests to their ancient origin. Later Gloria chants are neumatic. The melodies of the Credo, accepted into the mass about the 11th century, resemble psalm tones. The Sanctus and Benedictus are probably from apostolic times. The usual Sanctus chants are neumatic. The Agnus Dei was brought into the Latin mass from the Eastern Church in the 7th century and is basically in neumatic style. The concluding Ite Missa Est and its substitute Benedicamus Domino usually use the melody of the opening Kyrie.
The Proper of the mass is composed of texts that vary for each mass in order to bring out the significance of each feast or season. The Introit is a processional chant that was originally a psalm with a refrain sung between verses. By the 9th century it had received its present form: refrain in a neumatic style--a psalm verse in psalm-tone style--refrain repeated. The Gradual, introduced in the 4th century, also developed from a refrain between psalm verses. Later it became: opening melody (chorus)--psalm verse or verses in a virtuosically embellished psalmodic structure (soloist)--opening melody (chorus), repeated in whole or in part. The Alleluia is of 4th-century Eastern origin. Its structure is somewhat like that of the Gradual. The Tract replaces the Alleluia in penitential times. This chant is a descendant of synagogue music.
The sequence flourished primarily from about the 9th century to the 16th. In its modern form the texts are sacred poems with double-line stanzas having the same accentuation and number of syllables for each two lines. The melody of the first line was repeated for the second line of then stanza, a new melody being given to the next stanza; the music is syllabic. The Offertory originally consisted of a psalm and refrain, but by the 12th century only the refrain remained. The music is quite melismatic. Peculiar to the Offertory is repetition of text. The Communion is, like the Offertory, a processional chant. The music is neumatic in style.
The canonical hours consist of eight prayer services: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. Each includes antiphons or refrains, short texts that precede or follow each psalm and are set mostly in syllabic chant; psalms, with each set to a psalm tone; hymns, usually metrical and in strophes or stanzas, and set in a neumatic style; responsories, which follow the lessons of Matins and the chapter, a brief lesson of the other hours, and have the form response- salm verse-partially or entirely repeated response. The responsory is related to the form and style of the Gradual.
Encyclopaedia Britannica,
St. Augustine-theologen who wrote about man's relationship with God system to understand philosophical structure-spiritual world and physical world are tied together.
Greek Orthodox Church exists in Constantinople and the Roman Catholic Church lives in Rome, Italy. Everybody believes in the ten commandments, that Jesus has come to save them and that he died for our sins. This is a theology everybody has come to accept, except for the Jews and Islamics. The beginning of some of the problems that they have is that they start reading different doctrine and different ways of worshiping into that and that changes what people think. In the Greek Orthodox church they speak Latin, only because it's a trade language.
Feudalism- Starts at almost 600-700 A.D. Feudalism was a system of military service and land ownership that created a pyramid of political and military power. Feudalism is a system of government in which the minority rules the majority. For every Lord there are 60 to 70 Serfs. It called for support mostly from the church and included mainly little kingdoms run by Landlords-kings. It did not rely on one single dictator or person to run the empire. During or about this time Monasteries were also built . They served as universities, hospitals, library, training schools for future monks, public shelter, and many other purposed. These same monasteries also were responsible for preserving many important documents that are so vital in today's history. If it weren't for them we may have not seen many of the documents that have provided us with many important information about history.
In around 500-600 AD there was a breakdown in the pre-established Roman order which had dominated Europe and the Near East.  Feudalism came to the fore and cities, as we know them, disappeared.  The Church at this time became the central repository of classical knowledge.
When Charlemagne, in the late 700 to early 800's attempted to centralize the "Holy Roman Empire," the churches he built also served as a kind of palace/throne room.  The architecture of these structures is not as sophisticated or ornamented as earlier basilica.
Another great achievement of the middle ages was the rise monasticism.  The monastery was almost a great fortress of information.  Scribes and scholars housed in monasteries were basically responsible for transcribing and storing the information of classical antiquity and later philosophers and theologians.

One of the main products or art forms the monks produced was the illuminated manuscript.

Bonaventura Berlinghieri, "St. Francis Altarpiece" tempera on wood 60' x 42' (approx. 5" x 3.5) Byzantine Style (maniera greca) painted during the Gothic Period

Bonaventura Berlinghieri, "St. Francis Altarpiece" tempera on wood 60' x 42' (approx. 5" x 3.5) Byzantine Style (maniera greca) painted during the Gothic Period

Bonaventura Berlinghieri,  "St. Francis Altarpiece," tempera on wood 60' x 42' (approx. 5' x 3.5') Byzantine Style (maniera greca) painted during the Gothic Period

The main reasons why this altarpiece is studied are because it is an excellent example of the Byzantine painting style during the late Gothic period, it also represents St. Francis who is a historical religious figure who represents humanistic changes in culture during the late Gothic period into the Renaissance.

This is painted with egg tempera on wood panel. The medium of egg tempera is quick drying but very prominent in terms of color. The style that this was painted in, sometimes referred to as maniera greca, which literally translates as “in the Greek style or manner,” is a very flat not very illusionistic style of painting that is probably closer to what we think of as a cartooning style than a style that is meant to depict light and shadow or shading. If you look very closely at the figure and how things like how the facial features are rendered, you’ll probably notice that there is an attempt at shading however, it is not based in observing how light shades an object.

The way in which the people or figures are painted is also not very realistic and also closer to what we consider a cartoon rather than a realistic depiction of the bodies’ proportions and anatomy. The figures tend to be elongated, the posture is stiff and unrealistic, and the proportions of the face are unrealistic as well. For example, the eyes seem to be placed a little too high up into the four head, the nose is too long, and the mouth is placed further into the chin than his realistic.

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The creation of space, and the relationship of the sizes of the buildings to the people in the pictures is also not realistic. For example, the figures seem to be too large when compared to the buildings. The size and scale of the figures to the buildings to the landscape our overall disproportionate and unrealistic.

The size of the panel, which is about 5 feet tall, makes the central figure of St. Francis almost life-sized. St. Francis is placed in the center of the composition. The composition is overall symmetrical, which means that you can cut it in half and it seems to be equal on either side of a vertical line. The central figure of Francis divides the overall composition into a left and right series of six scenes are vignettes that contain images of Francis and other figures as well as environments. The scenes represent the life and times of Francis and in particular focus on his deeds.  The scenes range from, Francis ministering to the poor, to animals, and helping to save souls in general.

Francis literally takes the words of Jesus into his life by giving away all of his earthly possessions, ministering to the poor, and in general doing unto others as he would have others do unto him. The three knots in Francis’ rope belt represent, poverty, chastity, and obedience to God’s will. The subject matter of the altar focuses on the central figure of Francis and several scenes from his life that led to his canonization as a saint and amplify the concepts of charity, living a life of non-materialism, and thinking about as well as behaving in the way that Jesus prescribes in the New Testament.

In the upper left-hand scene, Francis receives the stigmata from a type of Angel called a Seraphim. This scene, explains and amplifies the wounds that Francis exhibits in the almost life-sized figure on his hands and feet that represent an honor that he receives because these are the same ones that Christ received while on the cross. Probably the next most important scene for Catholics is the scene in the middle of the left-hand column in which St. Francis delivers a sermon to the animals in the wild, because all living creatures are invested with God’s love. By the way, this does not necessarily mean that St. Francis believed that all animals have souls because this is inaccurate according to Catholic theology.

This altarpiece was painted in 1235 less than 10 years after Francis his canonization. Probably the most important reasons why this painting is taught as part of the great Canon of European late Gothic painting is because it represents the ideas that Francis represented. Since St. Francis taught several revolutionary ways of thinking about Catholicism, he’s almost like the “poster boy” for the changes that were happening in the transition from the late Gothic to the early Renaissance periods. For example, Francis represents humanism and critical thinking in the way that Francis chose to physically act out the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Previous to the life of St. Francis, the Catholic Church was the sole source of information about God for the layman (every day nonclergy).  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 from 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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Friday, November 8, 2019

Only one more week of grant applications! Deadline details inside.
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NOVEMBER 08, 2019

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November 8
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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy 526-47 CE Byzantine Style

Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy 526-47 CE
Byzantine Style

Form: This central plan structure has an octagonal shape and two levels.  The arches walls and floors are all covered with ornate and intricate Byzantine style mosaic and tile work.  Arches and some vaulting are used and the center even has a dome, which from the exterior looks like an octagons full of windows that flood the interior with light. Eight large piers alternate with columned niches to define precisely the central space and to create a many layered design.  Nevertheless, the technology used to construct San Vitale is not quite as advanced as Hagia Sophia although the walls were lightened by the use of hollow pots in its interior.Iconography:  San Vitale reflects Byzantine influence and technological creativity. St. Vitale is the major Justinian monument in the West. It was probably built as a testament to the power of Orthodoxy in the declining kingdom of the Ostrogoths. He tries to establish a place where there are severe Christian Churches (people were forced to convert to Christianity).
Context:  On the second level of the ambulatory, is a special gallery reserved for women. This was a typical custom of Jewish religious worship. The reason for this, was to segregate the males from the females in order for them to pray with greater devotion.
For more details of  San Vitale go here.

Emperor Justinian and his Attendants
mosaic on north wall of the apse
Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy 526-47 CE
Byzantine Style
Empress Theodora and Her Attendants.
mosaic on south wall of the apse
Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy 526-47 CE
Byzantine Style
Form:  The interior of St. Vitale, is similar to the Pantheon and Hagia Sophia.  The design includes an enormous amount of different colored marble and all the other surfaces are decorated with mosaic or tile.  The ornamentation in the church's interior looks Islamic or Arabic although it predates Islam. The figures are stylized in a typical Byzantine mode.  The heads are too large and the bodies are covered completely with drapery that does not reveal the anatomy beneath.   It also shares some elements from the Arch of Constantine, the heads are big and there's no Contrapposto (liberal movement in figures).  The facial anatomy is stylized.  The face is also elongated and the nose meets the bridge of the brows and the eyebrows actually go directly into the nose.  These are some of the elements that become standardized in Byzantine Manuscript.
Stokstad discusses the reverse perspective of the image which basically is a denial of the illusionistic systems of Roman art that are apparent in the mosaics and frescoes of Pompeii.
Iconography:  Both the empress's and emperor's mosaics face one another across the apse and each holds one component of the eucharist.  Justinian holds the tray and the wafer which symbolizes the body of Christ.  In his twelve companions, which are roughly the equivalent to Jesus' twelve apostles, the emperor also has two symbols of the power he holds: on the earth he has his army to support him at his right hand.  Notice they have the implied mandate of the power of Constantine because of the chi ro on their shield.  (Here's what a chi ro is)
Chi-Rho n, pl Chi-Rhos [chi + rho] (1868): a Christian monogram and symbol formed from the first two letters X and P of the Greek word for Christ--called also Christogram What is Chi Ro? Chi Ro, pronounced (KI ROW), is probably the oldest monogram used for the name of Christ. It was found written along the walls of the catacombs, which were the cemeteries of the early Christians and also a place where they held their secret meetings. The Chi and Ro are the first two letters in the Greek word for Christ. Our CH was one letter in Greek and was shaped like our X. The Greek R had the shape of our P. By combining the RO or P to one arm of the Chi we get XP. As a pre- Christian symbol, the Chi Ro signified good fortune. The Chi Ro became an important Christian symbol when adopted by the Roman Emperor Constantine, representing the first two letters in the name Christ. According to Church Father Eusebius, on the eve of the Battle of Milvan Bridge, the Emperor saw the emblem in a dream, with the inscription "With this symbol, you shall conquer." According to the story, the battle was won. In return for the victory, Constantine erected Christian Churches. The symbol was the standard of the Emperor's army, prominently displayed on the Emperor's labarum, or battle standard. 
For his spiritual power he has the members of the clergy on his left.  Directly to his left is the archbishop Maximus whose face is almost as defined and unique as Justinian's. Theodora is surrounded by her ladies in waiting and the local clergy as well and Theodora holds the wine which symbolizes the blood of christ.  On her gown is an image of the three Magi carrying their gift to the newborn Jesus.  Both are wearing royal purple and both are placed at the center of the image.  The placement and the icons they carry and wear were meant to communicate to the viewer that the emperor and empress were the church and the only path to salvation.  This links theological and political power as a single theocratic unit.
Context:  (Stokstad gives a much more detailed discussion of the iconography in the Byzantine chapter.)
For more details of  San Vitale go here.

Capital, Church of San Vitale,
Ravenna, Italy 526-47 CE
Byzantine Style
Form:  This capital at first appears to be an almost Tuscan or Doric capital but on closer inspection it is the correction of the original Greek and Roman orders.  Between the arch and the capital is an additional structure called an impost block.  The designs on the capital are much more ornate and less solid looking then its predecessors and combines carving, polychroming and mosaic.  The over all intricate organic patterning and weaving of the ornamentation is abstract and overly ornate. Iconography:  The organic vine like qualities refer to the symbol of Christianity as a vine that keeps spreading.   In the center of the column's capital and impost block are cruciform symbols.  Notice on the capital, the Greek cross formed of four circles that looks like the domed greek cross plan discussed on page 324 The Elements of Architecture, Multiple-Dome Church Plans.  The use of classical ornamentation and then the obvious changing of it is symbolic of the fusion of the Roman and Greek classic ideals wedded to the culture and decorative forms of the east as well as the iconography of Christianity.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Art History Update

"art history"
Daily update  October 25, 2019
Two of European Art History's Most Dramatic Figures, Bernini and Caravaggio, Go Head to Head in ...
A new exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna gathers together works by leading Italian Baroque artists. Kate Brown, October 24, 2019.
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MOMA's Heady Introduction to Betye Saar, “The Conscience of the Art World”
Last year, the Getty Research Institute acquired Saar's archive, for its African American Art History Initiative, deeming her “the conscience of the art ...
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Samuels Public Library to host 'Degenerate Art' lecture
Samuels Public Library in Front Royal will host a lecture on an important period in art history on Tuesday. Titled “Degenerate Art: The Persecution of ...
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In the flesh: Kimbell exhibition dares to examine Renoir's nudes
Renoir is the dominant force, because we see him literally digesting art history and defining himself both with and against it. Occasionally, as in the ...
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Do Art Movements Still Matter?
It's no surprise that we often think of art history this way, too, grouping artists by the time, place, and medium in which they work. The term “.
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Actor Cheech Marin displaying private art collection 'Papel Chicano Dos' at the Loveland Museum
“This exhibit functions as an art history lesson in some ways, defining the earlier days of the Chicano art movement and the ways in which it addresses ...
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Double, double toil and trouble — a new exhibit on witchcraft opens at UC Irvine
Derek Quezada, outreach and public services librarian for UCI, said inspiration for the exhibit came out of work he was doing with a group of art history ...
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Q&A: Kate Hoffman, CEO of Spacey, on Breaking Down the Barriers to Investing in Art
I love art; I studied fine arts and art history in college as well as being a marketing major, and so I started thinking about what the art world looks like ...
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Spinozzi '01 To Bring Met Expertise to Hartwick College
During her return to campus, she will also meet with art history and English majors. In February, 2020, Spinozzi will host Hartwick alumni for a private ...
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Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson
More than 30 doctoral candidates in art history at the university have interned at the Anderson family collection and the Anderson Collection at ...
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