The Tapestry Weavers

Diego Velazquez, The Tapestry Weavers,1657
In The Tapestry Weavers, Diego Velazquez painted a painting so complex and esoteric that it took almost three centuries for anyone to even guess at its true meaning. Painted for Don Pedro de Arce, who hunted for the king, the work appears on its surface to be a simple depiction of weavers in a factory somewhere in Spain. For many years, art historians took it at its face value and failed to appreciate the painting’s true nature.

However, in the mid-20th century, some scholars began to connect the dots between the scene depicted by Velazquez and the story described by Ovid of the contest between Arachne and Athena. Arachne was a young girl in the eastern Mediterranean who could weave better than any mortal she came across. She was so adept that she arrogantly challenged Athena to a weaving contest. Athena accepted. However, the brash youth proved better than the goddess had anticipated, and it soon became clear that Arachne was the better weaver. Here, Arachne made her fatal mistake. Athena was furious, begging Ariadne to give her an excuse for cruelty. Arachne obliged by weaving into the tapestry images of Zeus’ infidelities to Athena’s mother, Hera. In her rage, Athena turned Arachne into a spider. The end.

Velazquez subtly depicts this scene in his painting. The contest appears in the foreground—the weavers furiously attack their looms. In the background, Athena metes out Arachne’s punishment in front of a tapestry of Zeus attacking Europe. Arachne’s half-blurred form recoils from Athena’s outstretched hand, fearful of the goddess’s wrath. Somehow this scene in the rear went unnoticed for 300 years. Somehow scores of art historians mistook what is now recognized as one of Velazquez’s more accomplished paintings for a mundane depiction of weavers.

  • 7:00 AM

Lamb of God

Francisco de Zurbaran, The Lamb of God, 1640
The Lamb of God, Francisco de Zurbarán, illustrates a painting of God’s sacrifice.Throughout biblical history, a lamb’s sacrifice reflects human’s sin and the trespasses against God. In the modern day, a lamb signifies one's commitment to others and the self-sacrifices they accomplish.  In reverse, the chicken associates with a coward. Biologically, a chicken delivers part of one’s-self (egg) and ignores the difficult situations.  Being a chicken in society represents neglecting peace, love, and the caring for others because of his/her potential outcome. 

“The Lamb of God” refers to Jesus. During the time of Passover, a lamb becomes the sacrificing grace.  Two thousand years ago, a new type of lamb became the sacrifice.  With thorns, scars, and blood coving His body, Jesus’s death on the cross delivered us peace, love, and care. Zurburan reminds society of the forgiveness of sins and the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ. 
  • 7:00 AM

View of Toledo

El Greco, View of Toledo, 1597
Wind. Wicked wind.

Like one of those summer days, you suddenly feel the cold ice cream in your mouth as the wind carries away the sweat on your back, looking out through your sunglasses, the capricious clouds chasing each other and blocking the sun; and you know it's time to head back.

El Greco captures the ominous moment as a storm approaches on the horizon. The swaying bushes, the shades of grass on the hill, and most of all, the spinning sky, all imply the presence of wind, which, I believe, is what gives me the goosebumps.

Comparing the actual view of the city and El Greco's depiction, it shows that he changes the location of the cathedral to next to the Alcazar palace, and omits some of the buildings. Through the deliberated arrangement of the city's characteristic features, El Greco makes the composition more effective and evocative. It always amuses me how a landscape painting, a natural view that once captured by brushes, could speak for the artist, his mood and his state of mind. Hidden behind the bushes, camouflaged by colors, some strong feeling is right below the canvas, waiting to be discovered. In this case, it's a feeling of awe and ominousness.

The people in this painting are too small to be seen upon the first glance. Their images are vague, and their actions are empty. It is almost as if they have no agency... and much less individuality. However, in a paradoxical way, their negligible presence seems to show the substantial fact of human impotence. In the face of nature, or perhaps, of God, as insinuated by the cathedral, man is powerless, hopeless, and at worst, unaware. But who am I to judge. It could be a blessing not to realize our minuteness and mortality, as John Milton put it, "And fear of death deliver to the winds."

All in all, El Greco to me is little ahead of his time - in his message and his way of delivering. But isn't that the measure of a master, in bringing all of us around his work hundreds of years later?

  • 7:00 AM

Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher, Jusepe de Ribera, 1637
My heart’s bleeding, but at the same time my feet are taking me to new places that I cannot wait to arrive at. Melancholy and joyful anticipation have me in their grip. They pass me off every other minute. I do not know how to deal with it. My fingers will automatically seek consolation in playing with the chain around my neck. I imagine my Grandfather doing the same thing as he readied himself to storm a beach in the Pacific. He was the one who gave me this chain, which holds my St. Christopher’s Medal in place.

My family has fallen away from many of the Catholic traditions, but I will never leave behind the medal around my neck. My Grandfather gave it to me on my first communion. And after he died, I was trusted with his own from the war.

“Alex, you don’t go to church. You don’t celebrate Lent. And you don’t read the Bible. Why stick with the medal?”

Well, have you ever heard of St. Christopher? He carried the weight and light of the world on his shoulder. This task may seem impossible for one man to perform, or at least the Church thought so. That’s why they revoked his canonization. St. Christopher was determined to be based off fictitious legends that were spread in Greece to popularize Christianity. So knowing this story never happened, do you want to hear it?

Christopher, a literal giant among men, served God by carrying people across a river that was too dangerous to cross alone. One day, a child came to Christopher. He wanted to be taken across the river, but with this child came the weight of the world. Ribera captures the scene well. Darkness closes in around saint in an almost Caravaggio-esque manner, especially in the bottom of the painting. Notice then how Christopher’s body acts as a shield between the child and the darkness at the bottom of the painting. Light floods in from the top right corner, drawing attention towards the child and the globe that he holds. Though, that ray of light is not the primary light source in the painting. The child radiates his own light for he is Christ. Once Christopher put the child on his back and set off into the river, the saint felt the burden of the child grow until it equaled the literal weight of the world. Christopher strained under this weight and almost failed, but in the end his faith allowed him to successfully reach the other side with the child still on his back. Once the child descended, he aged into the figure of Christ himself who said, “You had on your shoulders not only the whole world, but Him who made it.”

So why do I continue to put my faith and find comfort in this fictitious tale? Well look at Ribera’s Saint Christopher. He presents the story of man protecting God no matter the cost. Notice the vein popping in Christopher’s bicep and his bending under Christ’s weight. The force of the light ray also sends Christopher down, but he will not fall. He continues with his task and completes it. His perseverance tells of humanity’s will and what one can do with it if only they have a little faith. So I must have faith that where I am going will be right and that this pain in my heart will only be temporary. As long as I carry this light I have developed in the last four years upon my shoulders, it will be all right. I imagine my Grandfather thinking similar thoughts while waiting on a boat and hearing the sounds of approaching war. God can protect you, you can protect Him, and we both have the power to protect and be ourselves.

My faith in Christopher’s story and the values I glean from it come hand in hand, but a foolish few need proof in order to find merit in this story. I now introduce St. Menas, an Egyptian saint who had been martyred in Antioch. Historical documents tell of the Roman conscription of an enormous North African named Menas. Menas’ military service brought him to Antioch where he learned of Christianity. Thus, Menas became a Christian among Roman soldiers, so the saint left the military in order to be a hermit and preach. In his hermitage, Menas helped travelers cross a violent river. Eventually, the Romans caught up to him, resulting in Menas’ martyrdom. The local Christian groups in the area, not knowing Menas’ true name, took to calling him the bearer of Christ, or Christopher. These Christians then sent his body home to Egypt where the locals recognized him as Menas. The Catholic Church celebrates Menas’s feast day on November 11th.

  • 7:00 AM

Apollo and Daphne

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1624

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne illustrates a typical Greek god falling head over heels for a nymph. He shows his love for her by attempting to kidnap the forest creature, who of course does not return his affections. The beautiful nymph fled from him, running every bit as fast as she could. However, Apollo had divine intervention on his side. Eros, the god of love who had first infected Apollo with mad desire, helped him with his chase and allowed him to catch up to his love. Just at the moment when he finally caught her, Daphne desperately begged the gods to save her. Her wish was granted. They turned her into a tree.

Bernini sculpts the exact moment of transformation. Apollo, who shows relatively little emotion, has made his catch. Daphne flees upward and to the right in abject terror. The nymph does not yet realize that her wish has been granted. She seems to float just above the ground, already removed from the world. A wall of bark erupts from the ground and envelops Daphne, separating her from Apollo. Leaves, sculpted by an assistant, sprout from her outstretched fingertips. Her hair floats behind her. To me, that is one of the best parts of the work. The hair is detailed and beautifully sculpted. It no longer looks like it is made from marble. Bernini’s skill with stone allows him to take heavy, lifeless marble and turn it into lifelike, dynamic hair. Bernini’s ability to mold marble creates movement and allows this statue to come to life. This commission, along with the two others he created almost simultaneously, vaulted him to the highest level of Roman society.

  • 9:39 AM

Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni

Bernini, Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, 1674

One of his last sculptures and large pieces of art, Bernini started work on Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni at age 71. The work was commissioned by Carinal Albertoni, who had Bernini sculpt a relative of his on her deathbed. Ludavica died in 1533 from a fever. In Bernini's piece she lies looking up towards the cherubs gazing down on her. A painting of the holy family sits above her. The framework and cherubs, done by Bernini as he collaborated with the painter, illustrates the holiness awaiting Ludavica's spirit.

Her deathbed at the bottom of this magnificent piece shows the real mortal pains of death on Earth matched with the spiritual ecstasy of rising to heaven. We see the look of pleasure on her face and with her body language as Bernini gives her the emotion of longing to be without suffering.

This emotion we see in the earlier, defiant works of Bernini, most specifically St. Teresa in Ecstasy, but there are some differences and more maturity that I notice in this later piece. First of all, what I believe is most important, unlike the St. Teresa staged platformed and farther away in the Cornaro Chapel, The Ludovica is not blocked up, and the viewer and walk right up to it and feel her death and the emotion of the scene in full. Second, this sculpture radiates with femininity and sexuality of spiritual exultation, making the earlier piece 'forcefully masculine' and less intimate.

The flow of the marble from the bed to her clothing shows the growth and "almost magical powers" Bernini has acquired over the years - his drapery and detail unify the work.  Down the the detail work on the pillow, Bernini strikes again, even in his 70s, to create a phenomenal piece of art.
  • 7:00 AM

Sant Andrea al Quirinale

Bernini, Sant Andrea al Quirinale, 1658-1678

In 1658, Bernini received the commission from the Jesuit of the church of Sant Andrea. Although the Jesuit told Bernini that he should build it within the limited area, he managed to turn the small church into a building that resonates monumentality and delicacy.

Reflecting the roof above, the concentric stairs spill out onto the street like ripples. They create a strong sense of movement, making it a pronounced Bernini work at the first look. Walking up the stairs and  into the chamber, the oval shaped hall, which opens more broadly to the left and right, and draws viewers' eyes immediately upon the altar. In the central painting Martyrdom of St Andrew, St Andrea, the brother of St Peter, is being crucified onto an X-shaped cross. Along  glinting beams of lights, the painting seems to be lifted by a host of sculpted angels. Bernini employed an light source above the painting (which is supposedly invisible to the congregation), and just like what he did with St Teresa in Ecstasy and in St Peter's:  he made the natural lights and artificially carved lights appear in one.

The painting itself is framed in the same marble that used in the surroundings, thus creating a unity of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Speaking of material, Bernini mainly used a sort of dark salmon marble in the lower level of the chamber, which resembles the color of flesh, and thus an earthly color. However, once we roll our eyes up to the ceiling, we could only see white and gold, the colors of haven. 

Several lines lead to the center of the dome, where a holy dove rests. The stained glass windows above the dove allow only yellow light to come through, so that even in a cloudy day, it can still create a sense of the glow of the holy spirit. Also, Bernini placed a circle of cherubs looking down upon us, and like those of Mantegna's, they remind us that we are being observed just like we are observing them. Moreover, by placing figures in midway between, Bernini made it appear that the earthly and spiritual space are connected through that little window.

And the statue of St Andrea himself above the altar, breaking through the pediment, so he could embrace paradise. The great contradiction between his relief at his ascension to heaven that showed in the statue and his suffering that appeared in the painting seems to send a message that death is comforting. God's time is the best time. And again, it reassures the existence of an after life by capturing the moment of eternity. Just like John Milton said, "Eternity: a moment standing still forever."

As Howard Hibbard points out, Bernini shapes a complete, religious experience in the form of a church. The architecture itself is like a sermon. No wonder that his son recalled Bernini, in his later life, would spend hours sitting in this church, appreciating what he had achieved.

  • 7:00 AM

The Louvre Projects

Bernini, Project for the Louvre façade,  1664

Bernini began his first Louvre project in 1664. Ultimately, this and two consecutive plans for the French palace failed. Specifically, the plans were for the East Wing of the Louvre. Bernini's first design featured a bold concave façade with a projecting entrance that bulged in the opposite direction, simultaneously welcoming and imposing. The plans, bursting with bold, handsome Roman characteristics, would've been entirely out of place in the Paris, whose architecture subscribed to more elegant and subdued beauty. Considering Bernini's overall dissatisfaction with the state of the artistic world in France, his attempt to inject his preferred style comes not as a surprise.

After the rejection of his first design, Bernini submitted another, basically the same design with the convex portion scooped out, leaving the indented half-circle to operate on its own as an entrance. The second design was rejected for similar reason: a Roman building just wouldn't do for the newest Parisian landmark.

Bernini's third and final design drew heavily from the design for the Palazzo Chigi-Odescalchi, the façade of which was originally created by Bernini, but has since been redesigned several times. The Palazzo Chigi-Odescalchi, however, is also Roman, with a powerful, broad façade and grounded, blockish stories. This third design failed to pass, and Bernini left Paris's architecture uninfluenced.

  • 7:00 AM

Costanza Bonarelli

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Costanza Bonarelli, 1637

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a true artist, a man who would take solid marble and grant it life. His sculptures were as if the subject had truly existed before looking into Medusa's face. While he had already achieved a sense of magic through his other busts for Pope Urban and the Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Costanza Boneralli, was a work of its own genre. It was revolutionary for its time as Bernini continued to push the parameters for what the definition of busts was known at the time. While the Borghese bust had already stepped away from the traditionally formal expression, the Costanza was a work of passion. Simon Shama, Professor of Art History at Columbia University, said it was as if Bernini was "reliving his caresses, through his chisel." Just by observing the piece you sense the intimacy. The way her shirt half reveals her breast drives the sense of passion that went into this work. Bernini and Costanza were lovers.

This specific bust holds a four thousand year old soap opera series of events. Costanza was actually the wife to one of Bernini's assistants, but she and Bernini were engaging in an affair. Costanza was also messing around his Bernini's brother. Bernini was known to have "a low boiling point," so when he found all of this out... he wasn't too pleased. He got in a fight with his brother and sent a servant to Costanza's home, who promptly slashes her face, permanently disfiguring her. Bernini who had "cut stone to create beauty, had cut flesh to destroy it." This resulted in the Pope stepping in. The servant and Costanza were sent to prison, Bernini's brother was banished, and Bernini was sentenced to marry one of the most beautiful women in Rome.

What makes this piece so revolutionary is that this was not commissioned, Bernini was not attempting to please anyone. This also means that the work is completely done by himself, which should mean plentyt for someone who would divide the work amongst his assistants. There's been a great debate over what is actually Bernini's part within his work. The bust was entirely from his own visions and expression, something we rarely see up to this point. That's what sets this apart from Bernini's other stunning masterpieces.

  • 7:00 AM

Bust of Louis XIV

Bernini, Bust of Louis XIV, 1665

One of the most striking examples of Bernini's talent and discipline is the bust of Louis XIV. Taken from his home Italy and brought to France, Bernini's first impressions of French art was less than flattering, "It was not money that made art, but brains.".Louis XIV was not a man of grandiose stature, he was very much a fellow suffering and sick. Despite his appearance, commissioned in June of 1665, the bust grants a new view of imperialism and majesty.

Carefully drawn on paper, Bernini said the best moment to capture the liveliness and caricature of the subject was right as they finished speaking or laughing. Once complete he would construct the bozetti, small clay figures that resembled the figure as a whole. With over 40 clay models, not a single one was used, Bernini saw this as copying, no longer an art. The bust of Louis XIV was simply put, achieving a form beyond the natural.

Regal, sophisticated and disciplined the bust is truly a gauge of a master's capability. Placed in a contrapasto position, the head of the divinely appointed leader looks off in one direction, while the flowing drapery travels in the opposite. The bust is one of a imperial leader rather than an intimate gathering with an audience. The Bust of Louis XIV was the basis for what is descried as the three liberties, a platonic theory that inward virtue must be outwardly expressed through an external form - beauty. Bernini saw the divinely guided monarch and knew that the world could not contain such a great man. Deeply moved, Bernini inscribed on the wide base of the bust  "Picciola Basa." This is the first clear example of the imperialistic style that would follow Bernini into the latter stages of his career.

  • 7:00 AM

Scala Regia

Bernini, Scala Regia, 1666
The Scala Regia, or "royal staircase," is part of the formal entrance to the Vatican and connects the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica. Commissioned to Bernini for restoration in 1663, it was actually built by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.

Bernini's restoration implemented dynamic methods of creating perspectives by force. By decreasing the colonnaded barrel in width as it moves up the stairs, the entire passageway seems longer - as if it stretches forever. These irregular, converging walls create the illusion of length for a surprisingly short space.

Bernini used many symbols and images to exalt the space, using grand figures to make such a small space something much bigger. On the arch of the stairs, Bernini used magnificent Baroque patterns and placed the coat of arms of Alexander VII flanked by angels.

At the bottom of the stairs, a statue of the emperor Constantine during his moment of conversion is displayed, giving the stairs their "royal" name. On the opposite portico of the stairs, Pope Clement IX installed a statue of Charlemagne as a pendant to Constantine.
  • 7:00 AM

Rape of Proserpina

Bernini, The Rape of Proserpina, 1621
“Texture of the skin, the flying ropes of hair, the tears of Persephone and above all the yielding flesh of the girl”, Howard Hibbard comments about Bernini’s 1621 masterpiece The Rape of Proserpina. The young girl pushes Pluto away, attempting to return to her home above the underworld. Her captor appears amused and dazed by the fact she wants to escape his hold.

The work embodies movement and motion unlike any scripture seen before. Bernini invents the idea of the interactive statue - a piece of artwork that interacts with its surroundings. The limbs of the subject puncture the surrounding air and invite the viewer to look closer. The twisting, turning bodies juxtaposed into a moment of extreme distress and playfulness at the same time. Although Pluto’s stature is overwhelming, Cerberus standing behind him and Proserpina on his hip balances the piece.

Rape of Proserpina detail
Most critics tend to agree on the artistic merit of the piece, but there are those critics who find faults with the statue. In the 18th and 19th century when Bernini’s reputation was faltering, many commented on the anatomical aspects saying, “Pluto's back is broken; his figure extravagant, without character, nobleness of expression, and its outline bad; the female one no better.” However, I have yet to encounter another statue as moving as Bernini’s.

There is a part of me that feels for Pluto, the hopeless romantic. He merely wants a companion other than his three-headed dog (no hate on Cerberus, though). The misunderstood giant grabbing out to hold onto the one he loves. Proserpina a scared young girl who only wants to return home where her own bed awaits her. I couldn’t agree more with Bernini’s son, Domenico, when he says,” an amazing contrast of tenderness and cruelty."

  • 2:56 PM

Cornaro Chapel

Bernini, Cornaro Chapel, 1647-1650

Cornaro Chapel remains the icing on cake of Saint Tersest in Ecstasy.  Bernini constructed the chapel’s interior to reflect his spiritual work.  Unlike other works, Bernini’s chapel delivered him spiritual strength.  Today Cornaro Chapel gives enlightenment to others that have faithful distress. 
The chapel originally became part of a Carmelite convent during the 1600s.  Now open to the public, Bernini’s artistic features enhances the audience appreciation.  The ceilings illustrate clouds of Heaven.  Hibbard pointed out “Bernini read of an actual fire on the stage, of a realistic sunrise, and of a stage flood seeming to threaten the audience” (Hibbard 135).  These precise details enhance the image of God’s power and love.  Hibbard praises the Cornaro Chapel and the strength with which it connects with Christian followers. 
  • 7:00 AM

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Bernini, 1645-52

Out of all the sculptures to display on the screen, this is not the one to show when the headmaster walks in.
The Ecstasy of St. Teresa is as suggestive as it is gorgeous. Viewed in a sexual and religious manner, the sculpture has defied the unsaid laws of 'Pope rule' at the time. Normally elegant and humble, the art work inside most chapels of the time were not as expressive as this one, with barely a thin line between naughty and zealously religious.

And yet, it's the drastic difference in this sculpture that highlights the awesome beauty and Bernini's incredible talent. Teresa of Avila (not to be confused with Mother Teresa) was born in 1515 and lived during an era where Europe was in more turmoil than the norm. She wrote various books on her link with God and many excerpts are like the structure-- almost borderline sexual. Her descriptions of her connection with God doesn't need a mind to be in the gutter. In fact, it almost sounds like it comes out of a erotica novel.
"I saw an angel near me, on the left side, in bodily form... He was not tall, but shore, marveously beautiful, with a face which shone as though he were one of the highest of angels... I saw in his hands a long golden spear, and at the point of the iron where there seemed to be a little fire. This I thought that he thrust several times into my heart, and that it penetrated my entrails. When he drew out the spear he seemed to be drawing them with it, leaving me all on fire with a wondrous love for God. The pain was so great it caused me to utter several moans; and ye tso exceeding sweet is this greatest of pains that it is impossible to desire to be rid of it, or for the soul to be content with less than God."

May Fifty Shades of Grey cower in shame.

Because of the exceedingly great connection Teresa has with God and the angel, Bernini portrays the sculpture and her moment of ecstasy with utmost precision. As dramatic as the sculpture may seem, it bodes well with St. Teresa's supposed experience. With her mouth partially open, eyes rolled upwards, and body limp, Bernini is somehow able to portray movement within the stone structure. The drapes, so intricately chiseled are perfectly extravagant, curled lightly at the bottom of the masterpiece. But for once, Bernini uses a different technique with the structure. Normally, he allows the viewer to view his piece from only one point of view, one perspective, but with The Ecstasy of St. Teresa,  one cannot view just the sculpture alone. Around the piece, he sets the background. Underneath the work, lies a painted skeleton, as if St. Teresa has moved beyond the mortal world into an entirely different level. Above the work are both fake golden rays of "light" and natural light as well, peeping in from a window, bathing the sculpture in perhaps "Holy Light".

In total, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, not only displays a beautifully portrayed, holy moment, but also illustrates Bernini's almost cheeky acknowledgement of his own skill.
  • 7:00 AM

Habakkuk and the Angel

Bernini, Habakkuk and the Angel, 1655-61

"In those days, the Babylonians came to the king and said to him, Deliver us Daniel, who hath destroyed thee and thy house. And the King saw that they pressed upon him violently; and, being constrained by necessity he delivered Daniel to them; and they cast him into the den of lions, and he was there six days...Now there was in Judea a prophet called Habakkuk: and he had boiled pottage, and had broken bread in a bowl, and was going into the field to carry it to the reapers. And the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, Carry the dinner which thou hast into Babylon to Daniel, who is in the lions' den. And Habakkuk said, Lord, I never saw Babylon, nor do I know the den...And Daniel said, Thou hast remembered me, O God, and thou hast not forsaken them that love thee..." (Hibbard 187)

Bernini's sculpting skills surpass all other sculptors of his time. The attention to detail that Bernini has makes his work look realistic. The facial expressions portrayed on his sculpture's figures depict the actual emotion and makes the viewer feel what is happening in the scene Bernini has sculpted. In Habakkuk and the Angel, the story here is that the angel has been sent down to Habakkuk to persuade him to take food to Daniel. This apocryphal legend comes from the legend of Bel and the Dragon and is appended to the Book of Daniel in the Bible. The Angel has been sent to Habakkuk to help save Daniel. When Habakkuk stresses that he does not know the way to Babylon and does not know where Daniel is, the Angel leads him there by grabbing hold of his hair. When they arrive the Angel points to Daniel who is praying. 

Bernini sculpted Habakkuk and the Angel for the Chigi chapel. Habakkuk and the Angel are placed across from the sculpture of Daniel in the Lion's Den. This was done in order to further demonstrate this religious story. The Angel's finger in Habakkuk and the Angel is able to point over to the den where Daniel is being kept. Bernini knew exactly what he was doing by putting the two sculptures together this way. 

Bernini's late style is apparent in this sculpture. Bernini's sculpture contained elongation of the body. In this sculpture both the Angel and Habakkuk are extended. The Angel's arm pointing towards Daniel seems to come out farther and lead the viewer to Daniel. Habakkuk's calf is also much larger than it might actually be, but it seems to make him more strong even though an Angel delicately leads him by the hair. Bernini also shows gesture expressively in his late work, where often emotional expression was simplified. However the expressions seen in his late work like this one still carried tremendous emotional power. The Angel's face looks simple while Habakkuk's does not. His emotion on his face almost seems to be one of fear, but it's quite the opposite. He is taken over by the presence of this angel leading him to Daniel. Bernini's work still has the great effect of his earlier pieces, and this sculpture is just as beautiful.

  • 7:00 AM

The Nightmare

Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781

"Last night I had her in bed with me—tossed my bedclothes hugger-mugger—wound my hot and tight-clasped hands about her—fused her body and soul together with my own—poured into her my spirit, breath and strength. Anyone who touches her now commits adultery and incest! She is mine, and I am hers. And have her I will.…" Fuseli might have spoken too soon in the quote from a letter to a friend. He, in fact, had not yet married Anna Landholdt, and this event took place after his proposal to her. The story continues that her family did not approve of Fuseli, and had her married to another man a week later

From his writing we can tell his possessive nature concerning Anna, and because of this some believe she is the back story to this piece. Looking at Fuseli's icon of horror, I see the evil in his work and the sexuality. The imp is set guarding his prey, and the dark horse (or 'mare' from 'nightmare') disturbingly observing the scene. The imp's position of protection leads me to believe that he is a representation of Fuseli according to the backstory, and refusing to let go of Anna as she lies not quite in a state of horror, but one of thrilling ecstasy. Fuseli would like to imagine her happiness with him and being his own, so inside her 'nightmare' she is displayed pleased with the actions bringing about the sexual aspect of Fuseli's vision. 

The woman's elongated figure and illuminated body brings out her emotions and makes Fuseli's composition appealing to look at and allows the viewer to enjoy and begin to understand the story. The light draping along her body and the bed contrasting the thick curtains makes the scene feel intimate, as if I am intruding on a private event.Then again, I also feel like the horse is interrupting as he takes away from the woman and imp, and adds more horror to the piece. All together Fuseli defined horror with The Nightmare when the piece was put out in 1782, and it would be a revolutionary piece in this way for artists.  

  • 7:00 AM

The Lady of Shallot

John Waterhouse, The Lady of Shallot, 1888
Bereavement, anguish, despondency, despair, misery, pain, sorrow. Waterhouse conveys all of these emotions with the simple upward tilt of her chin. If the Lady of Shallot was crumpled inwards, like all of us would be, the painting would seem meek and internal. Instead, and I can't point out one particular reason why, the outward and open emotion hits us harder. Sure, there's a narrative in this painting, but the raw emotion exhibited by the subject is enough for me.

I love this painting. I always have a niggling suspicion I've seen it before. I think the poem it's painted after ruins it. The gist of "The Lady of Shallot" by Tennyson is: love-struck teenager dies from breaking curse. Did I mention she fell head of heels in love with Sir Lancelot....after seeing him once? Don't even get me started on how much this character pushes back the women's movement.

But when I look at this painting, I don't see an agency-less female. I see an indescribable emotion being conveyed in the smallest details. And because of that, I can overlook its dubious literary origin.
  • 7:00 AM


Bernini, David, 1623-1624

Persevere. It’s the hardest part.

One of my oldest friends once told me his philosophy about life. The world doesn’t seem balanced, but it is. A good thing will come along that makes you happy. Then other good things follow. You all of a sudden have this feeling of superiority. This elated state prevents you from feeling bad about the less than thrilling parts of life. Nothing can bring you down until something actually does. The safety net breaks and you fall hard. Your peace shatters. One event or several that simultaneously occur will begin this downfall. As you drop to the floor, all the tiny things matter. They sting and bruise. And nothing can bring you back up again, until you let it. You find the strength to climb back up and find the good again. When you start climbing, the good comes. The cycle begins again. Good days pass followed by bad ones. Karma, fate, random happenstance; they all achieve balance in the end.

How do we persevere through our hardships? My friend and I are still working on that. We’re two young adults who have no idea what we want from the world. Did you expect our philosophy to be flawless? In fact, we both recently had troubles persevering. Hell, maybe I should not have used the past tense in the preceding sentence. We, being young, get stuck on things.

As I rebuild past moments in my head and kick myself, I can look at Bernini’s David to get a good idea of what I should actually be doing. Bernini creates movement. He forges action out of motionless rock. Sitting alone in my room will not help. I must move. David and I both stand in the middle of a storm, but you cannot see a physical cloud hovering over us. Bernini did not sculpt the giant David must slay. Instead he focused on the hero’s internal struggle. David stands hunched over, readying his slingshot. This hunching brings the weight of the world down upon him. The strain can be seen on his face and in his physique, but does it look like this will stop David? No. His left foot pushes off the ground, canceling the downward force. He can hold himself up. He sucks in his lips. Nostrils flare. Eyebrows scrunch. David will not stop. He will move towards the giant. He will slay the giant.

Triumph comes to those who try. David moves against the problems facing him. My friend and I must do that. Rolling over and dying simply isn’t our style. And I refuse to let it become us. I feel secure in our philosophy. Good days will be good if you let them, and if you do not dwell on the preceding bad one.

  • 8:00 AM

Bust of Cardinal Scipione Borghese

Bernini, Bust of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, 1632

Statues cannot talk. Paintings cannot move. But while painters have access to multiple brushstrokes, color palates, and techniques, sculptors have one block, one color, and one chance. Sculpture cannot be salvaged. After his painting hiatus, Bernini took to revolutionizing sculptures. Instead of the stoic, one-tone depictions previously seen in busts, Bernini sculpts the Cardinal in action.

With a head tilted to the side, and a mouth just about to open, one can sense the impending action. The bust becomes conversational as Bernini involves the audience in the scene. Drapery on the robes of the Cardinal indicate motion, and propel his figure to the side. Though not correct, the folds in his garment represent a revolution in sculpture. Also worth noting is the subject’s regality. Bernini conveys confidence and self-assurance through sculpture, previously unseen.

  • 7:00 AM

Four Rivers Fountain

Bernini, Four Rivers Fountain, 1651

Bernini fell out of the church's favor at about the same time as Innocent X's ascension to the papacy in 1644. When a contest was held to design a fountain for the Piazza Navona, Bernini wasn't invited - but a friend snuck his design in for the Pope to see and Bernini ended up the winner. Innocent X wanted to incorporate into the design an Egyptian obelisk, originally taken from a pagan temple to Isis. Bernini's design elevated the obelisk over the main fountain with a hollow space below, so that viewers could look through and see the other side. The effect is of weightlessness and the towering stone pillar hovering in midair. A dove holding an olive branch perches at the very top, a symbol of the Holy Spirit and also of the Pope's family. Around the obelisk are four personified rivers in white travertine marble, each representing the four major continents as they were thought of at the time. Bernini himself was disappointed by the fountain's over-the-top theatrical aspects later in life, but it does stand as one of his greatest achievements.

The Ganges, representing Asia, holds an oar to show its navigability. For Europe, the Danube touches the Pope's personal coat of arms. (Those two are shown in the picture above; the Ganges is reclining facing the camera, and the Danube is turned away.) The Nile's head is covered, representing an ancient uncertainty about its source. Finally, for the Americas and the vast wealth they held, the Rio de la Platta sits on a pile of coins. None of these four were executed by Bernini himself; they are the work of his assistants under his direction. The elements traditionally attributed to Bernini personally are the underlying rock itself, the palm tree, the lion, and the horse. In contrast with the solidity of the obelisk overhead, the statues seem to move and flow, encouraging viewers to walk around the fountain to view the whole.

The obelisk stands as a connection between Earth and Heaven as well as a representation of the Church's domination of paganism, a former Egyptian relic standing in Rome under the dominion of the Pope. Continuing the propagandistic vein, the four major continents are unified in the shadow of this powerful symbol, a holy ray of light shining over the world. The Rio de la Platta shies away from the towering monument, while the Ganges and the Nile look off into the distance indifferently, showing the attitudes of their respective continents towards the church. The statue as a whole is a testament to Pope Innocent's power and dominion, and went a long way to bring Bernini back into his favor.

  • 8:00 AM