Monday, October 8, 2012

Renaissance: a Fresh Take

          Hello Art Historians... To follow up on our journey into the Renaissance, here are three videos which complement our discussions in class. With each video I am giving you questions to highlight the area where we are deepening our investigation. Feel free to post your own questions or any "ah-ha moments" in the comments section so I can help clarify or contribute to your interests as they root.

First off, take a look at the video on Botticelli's Birth of Venus and think about how Botticelli was weaving ancient Greek themes with the Christian narrative. Keep in mind how we have focused on the way cultures represent Gender Roles, as well as how particular figures seem to reemerge throughout history. Recall the Prehistoric Venus of Willendorf, the Ancient Assyrian representation of Ishtar, or the Egyptian evolution seen in the contrasting sculptures of Hatshepsut and Nefertiti.

In particular here: Think about how Botticelli's Venus suggests some aspects of the Greek goddess Athena as well as a Christian interpretation of Mary Magdalene...

  Botticelli's Birth of Venus: Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1483-85, tempera on panel, 68 x 109 5/8" (172.5 x 278.5 cm), Uffizi, Florence Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker

          As you peek the next video, write down each Element of Art you hear described. Ask yourself: How did Masaccio use each of the Elements of Art we studied to convey the narrative? For instance, Masaccio uses light in a realistic manner to emphasize the human qualities of Christ and the apostles rather than their symbolic roles. How are the other elements -- Shape, Color, Space, Line, Time and Weight -- employed?

Brunelleschi & Ghiberti, The Sacrifice of Isaac: Brunelleschi & Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac, competition panels for the second set of bronze doors for the Florence Baptistery, 1401-2 Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris
_       Competition for patronage could be cut-throat during the 1500's. Winning a commission could make or break your studio. As you watch the video about the competition between Filippo Brunelleschi & Lorenzo Ghilberti in 1401 to win the Baptistery doors payroll, think back to our discussion in class.

          Several of you pointed out that in the depiction of the Sacrifice of Isaac one artist takes a darker point of view while the other composition appears more optimistic. This was a wonderful observation that is seldom spoken about. If you were one of the judges, how might the point of view have swayed your vote? Think about why you feel the way you do towards each piece. Why do you gravitate toward one composition over the other? Articulate the reasons you feel the way you do by pointing out the particular attributes of each piece that contribute to your reaction.

          Brunelleschi & Ghiberti, The Sacrifice of Isaac: competition panels for the doors for the Florence Baptistery, 1401-2 

The final video is about Brunelleschi's design of Florentine Dome atop Santa Maria del Fiore. The two historians give a solid portrayal of how Brunelleschi constructed the Dome but I want you to think about how the engineering feats echoed Brunelleschi's study of the ancients. In particular our man Vitruvius.

          Remember the Renaissance is a rebirth or resurgence of ancient sources. The artists, scholars and political leaders were not just looking to the past for surface visual inspiration but also as a complimentary source for attaching to larger meaning. Keeping this in mind, how does Brunnelleschi incorporate the Vitruvian ideas of firmitas, utilitas, venustas into his design? 

          Recall the name of the Florentine Cathedral in English: Saint Mary of the Flower. How does this dome, at the center of Florence, visually convey a floral motif?  Why was Vitruvius's ideas of humanity's relationship to nature such an important theme for Brunelleschi and other Renaissance Humanists including Leonardo da Vinci? Brunelleschi's Dome: Brunelleschi, Dome of the Cathedral of Florence, 1420-36 Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker

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