Monday, October 6, 2014

Bernini and Carraci

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Jeff Gross
Art History 103B
July 17, 2001
Professor Kenney Mencher
High Drama in Baroque Rome: Bernini's David
There have been several variations on the biblical theme of David versus Goliath portrayed in both painting and sculpture before Gianlorenzo Bernini produced his version for the nephew of Pope Paul V in 1623. True to Baroque style, Bernini captured the character of David so full of energy and motion, the viewer is immediately drawn into the action. David is shown so involved in the movement of battle that the viewer feels compelled to get out of David's way, lest they themselves might be felled by the fatal stone about to be unleashed (Stokstad 758). This type of extreme motion is common to Bernini's, and most all Baroque sculpture.
Carved entirely in smoothly polished white marble and standing a life size 5 foot seven inches tall, Bernini's David is currently housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, Italy. It portrays a male figure, mostly nude, except for some loosely draped robes that appear to be falling from the figures body, a sling used as a weapon being drawn from the rear-side of the figure, and a small pouch slung over the left shoulder. The figure is wearing no armor, helmet, shoes or other materials suggesting he is a professional soldier. The figure is standing over what seems to be a warrior's armor & robes. A look of steely determination is portrayed on the character's face, and every muscle looks tautly drawn in the middle of strenuous physical action.
Though the symbolism may not be obvious to some, Bernini's portrayal of the heroic David is every bit as iconographic as many other Italian works, such as Giotto's Last Judgement (Arena Chapel, Padua. 1305) or Augustus of Prima Porta (Musei Vaticani, Rome. 100 C.E.). The fact that David is shown barefoot and nearly naked while standing over the finery of a warrior may suggest that the armor is not what makes David strong, but his unswerving faith in both God and himself. The falling drapery modestly hiding David's nakedness might lead the viewer to believe that since this work was produced for the nephew of Pope Paul V, that this sculpture was truly intended for the depiction of a well known biblical story. It was likely not intended as a beard for titillation or an excuse to look at nudes under the guise of fine art. The fact that Bernini himself looked remarkably like the work he created is likely no mistake or coincidence. Many artists of this period would put themselves in their work, and Bernini was no exception. This may signify that he felt empowered by portraying himself as an underdog triumphing over a particularly difficult work of art in it's completion. This work is considered a breakthrough in its composition and form, as it directly engages the viewer by its powerful depiction of humanistic motion. The depiction of actual muscle strain in the figure as well as the strain shown on the face may also portray the intensity of the artist's exhausting input into the sculpture itself.
Compared to other sculptures of David portrayed by Donatello and Michelangelo, Bernini shows a far more natural depiction of David in form and structure. Bernini does, however, portray David as a much older person than the other artists, as well as how the character is described in the Bible. David's actual age is estimated at around thirteen years of age at the time of his triumph over Goliath. Donatello portrays David as a young teen of about the age of thirteen, and Michelangelo portrays him a little older at maybe seventeen to twenty years old. Bernini shows a more mature David that appears to be somewhere between twenty and thirty years old. This was likely no accident, as Bernini seems to be adding his own features to the figure. As he was far older than a young teen when the sculpture was produced, if he portrayed himself as thirteen years old on his David, nobody would likely recognize the informal self portrait included on the work. Donatello puts his David (Museo Nazionale del Borgello, Florence. 1428) in a fanciful garden hat, slouching almost playfully and Michelangelo shows his David (Galleria dell'Accademia - originally in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. 1504) merely standing still and gazing into the distance in the nude. Bernini portrays David as a man of action with robes flying off his body from the extreme nature of his movement, expressing the strength, power and fury of his action in every part of his body and face.
Most Baroque artworks that emerged at the time of Bernini's David show far more action, drama and movement that most previous works. This was a time of extreme social change, and works such as this were merely a reflection of the struggle and social anxiety of the times. Bernini would come to produce many other dramatic sculptures that helped define the Baroque era. As this was one of the most recognized and famous, it likely set the stage for him as well as others to take sculptural art to a new level of 'high drama' during the Baroque period in Europe.
Works cited:
Web Gallery of Art.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History 2 volumes. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc. 1999
Mencher, Kenney. Art History 103B lectures, Ohlone Community College. California 2001
New Advent Org.
The 'Troy McClure Pretty-Much-Everything' Site.
Document converted to HTML by Jeff Gross on July 27, 2001

DeeAnn Kennedy
Essay Due: 04/23/02
The Ecstasy of St. Theresa

Gianlorenzo Bernini, 
The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, 
created between 1645-1652, 
Cornaro Chapel, Rome Italy
(For more details of the sculpture 
and it's environment click here.)
As a reaction to the Manneristic style that consumed the Late Renaissance in Europe, Baroque art began to surface around 1600.  The Baroque style has many distinguishing characteristics, such as the use of different colors, materials, and irregular shapes; however, the hallmark of Baroque art is that it depicts the most climactic point in a story.  The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, created between 1645-1652, is housed inside of the Cornaro Chapel, and is heralded as "one of Bernini's most brilliant and suggestive sculptural and architectural compositions" (The New York Times, 42).  In terms of its form, the sculpture is made of different materials and puts a spin on classicism. The iconography of The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is very Baroque because it depicts the most dramatic point in the saint's life and caters to the notion that God equals light.  In terms of context, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is one of Gianlorenzo Bernini's most controversial and beautiful works of art. Gianlorenzo Bernini's stunning masterpiece, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, epitomizes the high drama of 17th century Baroque art.    The form of The Ecstasy of St. Theresa typifies Baroque art because the sculpture is made of different materials and the artist uses classicism irregularly.  Gianlorenzo Bernini uses several different materials to create an awe-inspiring focal point within the Cornaro Chapel.  The wall that houses The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is laden with colored marble.  Like many other works of Baroque sculpture, this piece is "set within an elaborate architectural setting, and seems to be spilling out of its assigned niche or floating upward toward heaven" (The Columbia Encyclopedia).  The Saint and angel are cut from the same mass of solid marble, yet Gianlorenzo Bernini is able to replicate different textures and colors.  The angel's drapery clings to the body, giving it a silk-like quality; however, St. Theresa appears to be clothed in a woolen robe.  Gianlorenzo Bernini also puts a spin on classicism by using irregular shapes and non-traditional architecture. Framing the sculpture are double columns, which serve as adornment rather than architectural support.  The pediment above, typically flat, protrudes and indents, and is supported by marble pilasters.  Gianlorenzo Bernini uses different materials and irregular classicism to create the epitome of Baroque art.

The iconography of The Ecstasy of St. Theresa embodies the Baroque style of art because the sculpture depicts the most dramatic point in the saint's life and caters to the notion that God equals light.  In her autobiography, St. Theresa describes a dream where an angel appears before her in a halo of light.  The angel takes a fiery arrow and stabs her repeatedly in the breast, filling her with the love of God.  "To quote St. Theresa herself, "The pain was so great that I screamed aloud, but simultaneously I felt such infinite sweetness that I wished the pain to last eternally." This was interpreted at the time and ever since as a spiritual transport sexually expressed" (The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer).  Gianlorenzo Bernini portrays St. Theresa's dream in this sculpture at the moment when her body has been consumed with the love of God, the climax of her life.  "Wrapped in swirling draperies, her passionate gaze directed to heaven, [Gianlorenzo] Bernini's Saint epitomizes the age of the Baroque" (Christian Science Monitor, 12).  The Ecstasy of St. Theresa also feeds into the notion that God equals light.  Gianlorenzo Bernini capitalized on this notion that God and light were one in the same by placing the angel and the saint on a billowy cloud with bronze beams of light cascading down behind them.  These beams of light reveal that God, himself, has pierced the heart of St. Theresa.  "The sculptor's floating image of St. Teresa and the angel places the saint midway between earthly and heavenly existence" (Wilkins, 383).  To give these heavenly beams a more dramatic impact, Gianlorenzo Bernini placed a hidden skylight above the sculpture. Gianlorenzo Bernini depicts the most dramatic point in St. Theresa's life and caters to the notion that God equals light to create the quintessence of Baroque art. (For more details of the sculpture and it's environment click here.)
The context of The Ecstasy of St. Theresa exemplifies Baroque art because it is considered to be Gianlorenzo Bernini's most controversial and beautiful sculptures.  The Baroque movement "was encouraged by the Catholic Church, the most important patron of the arts at that time, as a return to tradition and spirituality" (; however, Gianlorenzo Bernini depicts St. Theresa in the state of spiritual and sexual ecstasy.  Her neck is flung back, eyes are closed, mouth partially open, telling of her elation. Although only her face, hands, and bare feet are visible, the bends and folds of her garment reveal a passionate body beneath in her moment of climax. Never before had a Saint been depicted in the state of sexual ecstasy, yet St. Theresa's autobiography allowed Gianlorenzo Bernini to create such a controversial piece of work.  Looking now at the other figure in this sculpture, the angel's face is thought, by many, to be the most beautiful face ever created.  The face is perfectly symmetrical; each feature is perfectly positioned.  The eyes are aligned, the nose has a perfect slant, and the lips are just the right fullness.  Gianlorenzo Bernini balances perfect beauty and sexual ecstasy to achieve the spirit of Baroque art.
Created between 1645-1652, Gianlorenzo Bernini's The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is one of the most talked about sculptures in history.  "The religious sculptures he did from the 1640s on were perhaps the last flourish of great Christian art" (Economist, 87).  In terms of its form, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is made of different materials and puts a spin on classicism. The iconography of The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is very Baroque because it depicts the most dramatic point in the saint's life and caters to the notion that God equals light.  In terms of context, the sculpture is one of Gianlorenzo Bernini's most controversial and beautiful works of art. Gianlorenzo Bernini's stunning masterpiece, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, epitomizes the high drama of 17th century Baroque art.
 Works Cited:
"Artists by Movement: The Baroque Era."
Baroque, in art and architecture. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.
Economist. 09/06/98, Vol. 349 Issue 8087, p87, 2/3p, 1bw.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript.  "FURY OF CREATION" April 30, 1998.
The New York Times. April 26, 1998, Sunday, Late Edition - Final, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Art, Section 2; Page 42; Column 3.
Wilkins, Ann Thomas.  "Bernini and Ovid: Expanding the Concept of Metamorphosis."  International Journal of the Classical Tradition Winter2000,     Vol. 6, Issue 3, p383, 26p, 4bw.

Annibale Carracci The Farnese ceiling- 1597-1601 
depicting the Loves of the Gods, ceiling frescoes in the Gallery, 
Palazzo Farnese, Rome.
Venus and Anchises  (detail)
Annibale Carracci
Farnese Gallery Form: The gallery of the palace is sixty-six feet long and twenty-one feet wide.  The vaulted ceilings reach thirty-two feet in height.  Its dual function was to hold receptions and display statues which were part of the Farnese collection. (now held in Naples)
Iconography:  Overtly the ceiling deals with humanistic and neoclassical scenes.  Since the Cardinal Farnese commissioned the ceiling to celebrate the wedding of his brother, the pagan theme, love of the gods at first seems appropriate, however, the scenes are often profane, hedonistic, and erotic and therefore almost a rather odd choice of subject material for a cardinal.  All scenes are taken from classical mythology and strongly illustrate the power of love.  None of the scenes are linked to form a continuous narrative though they all echo and respond to each other in their form and idea. 
Context:  Annibale, his brother Agostino, and their cousin Lodovico were Bolognese artists who designated their studio in a teaching academy.  Their aim was to combine the best elements of all the previous masters and start a classical revival.  Annibale was the major artist among the three--his fame resting on the decorations of the gallery of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome. 
In a way, the Carracci family was making the equivalent of today's interior design companies or even a film production company.  One of the things they were attempting to do was to find and create a bigger market for their work and so, you will see that over all the Carracci worked with a variety of styles, palettes and themes.
Venus and Anchises
Form:  The color is strong and clear. Surrounding the couple are illusionistic stone statues resembling classical Atlas figures.  These trompe l’oeil figures and busts surrounding the painting are known as “terms.”   They are both classical architectural ornaments. 
Iconography: Whenever you see someone's leg thrown over another's, there is an implication of sexuality.  In his book, The Sexuality of Christ, Leo Steinberg refers to this as the “slung leg theory.”  The union of Venus and Anchises resulted in the birth of Aeneas, the founder of Rome.  This is indicated on the footstool containing a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid.
Part of the iconography of these images is a reference to both the tradition of studying classic or "antique" works as a guide to making better art and the ceiling overall is a "tongue in cheek" reference to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  However, in this case, the subject matter of the ceiling and scenes are not biblical and since they are so "sexy" in nature, they are also less than classic or platonic.
Context:  Virgil modeled his book, the Aeneid on Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad.  The Aenied’s protagonist is Aeneas.  Like Homer’s Achilles, Aeneas was born of a mortal man (Anchises) and goddess (Venus).  Their union is featured in this fresco.  It is believed that Aeneas was the founder of Rome and that Julius Caesar and Augustus are his descendants. 
written by Annette Abbott edited by Kenney Mencher 


Annibale Carracci, Self  Portrait 1597
Form:  This self portrait incorporates a low key or earth toned palette combined with a very close point of view.  Annibale demonstrates a good mastery of the human face as well as the depiction of light and shadow across it which is called chiaroscuro (the play of light and shadow or shading) to create realism in this work.  According to the Brittanica, chiaroscuro (from Italian chiaro, "light"; scuro, "dark"), which is technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects. Carracci also uses an intense spotlight on his face while the rest of the picture plane is murky surrounding him.  This is called tenebrism and it is a way of creating a focus on a particular element in a work and also gives the work a sense of heightened drama.
The painting also feels like an immediate kind of "snapshot" of Carracci.  Carracci seems to be looking directly at you but what he is really doing is looking directly into a mirror and painting directly from observation.  Since this is the case, Carracci was probably  painting without using any previous studies or drawings.  This is called ala prima-(in the first) which means painting directly from observation onto canvas.
Iconography and Context:  One of the skills that most painters needed to develop during the Renaissance period was the ability to paint portraits and accurate likenesses.  Often this skill was developed by painting with a the only model that one might have available which is one's self.  Obviously, since there are others in this image, Carracci could have had one of his assistants model for him so why then did he paint a self portrait?
The answer probably lies in the basic premise of the Renaissance man.  The humanistic and platonic idea of perfectibility gave rise to self reflection and observation.  A portrait then is not just about the immediate appearance but also it is a symbol of the person.  In this image we see that Carracci is studying himself and also demonstrating his ability to create a strong psychological likeness as well a physical likeness.


Carracci Annibale Flight to Egypt 1604 Oil on canvas Galleria Doria Pamphili, Rome 

Robert Campin (the Master of Flemalle) Merode Altarpiece c. 1425
The Merode Altarpiece shares many of the same qualities with Carracci's Flight to Egypt
How might Campin's work be a schema for it?
Form:  In contrast to the vivid colours of the frescoes of the Farnese Gallery, Carracci uses a low-key palette in his Flight into Egypt.  The earth tones of the landscape are employed to guide the viewer to gaze at the main characters at the front of the picture plane.  Carracci thought that Nature was an important element in painting and this is reflected most through his landscapes.  Many of the landscape scenes which he painted in Rome consisted of this classical landscape formula:  a vista of recessing diagonal lines containing castles, trees, winding rivers and hilltop towns.  Iconography:  This is a genre scene and a pastoral or arcadian setting of sorts. Carracci incorporates elements of the classic arcadian scene with the genre elements that are meant to get the viewer to feel as if they might be able to identify with the principle characters in the scene.  We only know that this is not a simple landscape scene after noticing the halos on the figures and reading the title.
After this then, we are expected to look for some sort of submerged symbolism.  The shepherd with his sheep in the middle of the picture plane represents Jesus, the Shepherd of humankind.    The gray clouds in the sky may indicate the “storm” taking place at that time. The peaceful boat, which delivered them to safety to the other side of the river, is symbolic of life.  White birds (doves?) are also indicative of either the Holy Spirit or of peace.
Context:  This painting refers to the biblical story from Matthew 2: 1-21.  After hearing that another “king” had been born in Bethlehem, Herod orders all male children under the age of two to be killed in order to ensure his continual reign.  An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and instructs him to leave Bethlehem immediately with Mary and Jesus and go to Egypt where they all will be safe. 
written by Annette Abbott adj, often cap (1589) 1: idyllically pastoral; esp: idyllically innocent, simple, or untroubled 2 a: of or relating to Arcadia or the Arcadians b: of or relating to Arcadian n (1590) 1 often not cap: a person who lives a simple quiet life 2: a native or inhabitant of Arcadia 3: the dialect of ancient Greek used in Arcadia According to the Brittanica,
Modern Greek ARKADHÍA, mountainous region of the central Peloponnesus of ancient Greece. The pastoral character of Arcadian life together with its isolation partially explains why it was represented as a paradise in Greek and Roman bucolic poetry and in the literature of the Renaissance. The region is not exactly coextensive with the present-day nomós (department) of Arkadhía, which extends on the east to the Gulf of Argolis. The capital of the nomos is Trípolis.

chiaroscuro n, pl -ros [It, fr. chiaro clear, light + oscuro obscure, dark] (1686) 1: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color 2 a: the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art b: the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character) 3: a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also: a print made by this technique 4: the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface 5: the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow According to the Brittanica, 
Chiaroscuro (from Italian chiaro, "light"; scuro, "dark"),
technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects. Some evidence exists that ancient Greek and Roman artists used chiaroscuro effects, but in European painting the technique was first brought to its full potential by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century in such paintings as his "Adoration of the Magi" (1481; Uffizi, Florence). Thereafter, chiaroscuro became a primary technique for many painters, and by the late 17th century the term was routinely used to describe any painting, drawing, or print that depends for its effect on an extensive gradation of light and darkness.
 "chiaroscuro."  and  Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Inc.   November 19, 2002. 
genre n [F, fr. MF, kind, gender--more at gender] (1770) 1: a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content 2: kind, sort 3: painting that depicts scenes or events from everyday life usu. realistically n [Gk hedone pleasure; akin to Gk hedys sweet--more at sweet] (1856) 1: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life 2: a way of life based on or suggesting the principles of hedonism -- n -- adj -- adv
neo.clas.sic or adj (1877): of, relating to, or constituting a revival or adaptation of the classical esp. in literature, music, art, or architecture -- n -- n or adj adj [ME, fr. L pastoralis, fr. pastor herdsman] (15c) 1 a (1): of, relating to, or composed of shepherds or herdsmen (2): devoted to or based on livestock raising b: of or relating to the countryside: not urban c: portraying or expressive of the life of shepherds or country people esp. in an idealized and conventionalized manner <~ poetry> d: pleasingly peaceful and innocent: idyllic 2 a: of or relating to spiritual care or guidance esp. of a congregation b: of or relating to the pastor of a church -- adv -- n ²pastoral n (1584) 1 a: a literary work (as a poem or play) dealing with shepherds or rural life in a usu. artificial manner and typically drawing a contrast between the innocence and serenity of the simple life and the misery and corruption of city and esp. court life b: pastoral poetry or drama c: a rural picture or scene d: pastorale 1b 2: crosier 1 3: a letter of a pastor to his charge: as a: a letter addressed by a bishop to his diocese b: a letter of the house of bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church to be read in each parish
ten.e.brism n, often cap [L tenebrae darkness] (1954): a style of painting esp. associated with the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers in which most of the figures are engulfed in shadow but some are dramatically illuminated by a concentrated beam of light usu. from an identifiable source -- ten.e.brist n or adj, often cap
trompe l’oeil - (French: "deceive the eye"), in painting, the representation of an object with such verisimilitude as to deceive the viewer concerning the material reality of the object. This idea appealed to the ancient Greeks who were newly emancipated from the conventional stylizations of earlier art. Zeuxis, for example, reportedly painted such realistic grapes that birds tried to eat them. The technique was also popular with Roman muralists. Although trompe l’oeil never achieved the status of a major artistic aim, from the early Renaissance on, European painters occasionally fostered illusionism by painting false frames out of which the contents of a still life or portrait appeared to spill, or by creating window-like images suggesting actual openings in the wall or ceiling. (Brittanica)

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