Art History Hottie: The Exasperated Dancer

Image result for parnassus by mantegna
Andrea Mantegna, Parnassus, 1497

I am glad to know that the classic love triangle produced at least one person who voiced the couple's ridiculousness as far back as the Renaissance.

The lady in the blue dress at the center of the dance circle is definitely an art history hottie. While Hephaestus mourns the loss of his marriage to Aphrodite in the background, the new couple (Ares and Aphrodite) stand regally above rings of dancers.  The lady in blue at the back of the circle looks like this is the hundredth time she has been called to dance at a godly union.  She goes through the steps, flutters her skirt like the rest of the women, but would rather be anywhere else.  She herself is beautiful.  She has long flowing hair, smooth skin, and a rich blue dress.  Everyone around her is dressed in the same fashion, but they are enjoying the music and almost showing off.  Attractiveness comes from within and the lady in the back exudes authentic exasperation.  She is so done with the celebration as if to say "do I seriously have to dance for this?"

Her expression captures my feelings on romantic comedy TV shows so well that I can't help but have respect and admiration for her.  She is a total hottie, and her individual personality really shines through in the painting.

  • 7:00 AM

Art History Hotties: Portrait of Pier Maria Rossi di San Secondo

Parmigianino, Portrait of Pier Maria Rossi di San Secondo, 1535-1539

By Bhux

The hottie on the left is the primary painting of focus. While Mrs. Maria Rossi di San Secondo looks great, she's not packing heat like her hubby. While researching information on the portrait to the left, I discovered it was made as a pair to the piece on the right. The husband and wife, surrounded by their sons, lovingly gaze into each others eyes for all eternity. How cute, I naively thought as I prepared to move on and write about Pier's attractiveness. Suddenly, it clicked. I became Ace Ventura looking for the stolen Miami Dolphins bottle-nose dolphin, Snowflake, as I put the puzzle together by researching every lead extensively. This was not some innocent family portrait. Only when pasting both pictures into a Google Doc, sizing each painting equally, and using my Window 7's Snipping Tool, did the truth finally reveal itself to me. Pier's children ignorantly play around his wife's dress...except one. Following poor little Federico's line of vision, I discover he is transfixed on his father's... mid-section. But what exactly is going on with man's best friend in this painting? Knowing I couldn't leave my classmates as curious as I was, I dug deeper into Pier's mysterious bulge.

After having to delete my browser history multiple times, I finally learn that Pier is wearing a codpiece, a pouch that attaches to the crotch to extenuate pocket rockets. This was fashionable in 16th century Italy, and, sadly not as scandalous as I was hoping. Codpieces reached their peak in fashion during the spread of syphilis in the early 16th century because infected men had more room for bandages with it attached. Men also wore it as a sign of power and dominance. Men vied to have the most impressive codpiece. It even doubled as a coin purse for all your loose florins. However, what Pier used it for, only little Federico will ever know. Federico's shock, confusion, and curiosity will forever be captured in this seemingly innocent family portrait. 

  • 7:00 AM

Art History Hotties: Gabrielle d'Estrée and One of Her Sisters

Unknown, Gabrielle d'Estrée and One of Her Sisters, 1594

The two girls-gone-wild in the painting are Gabrielle d'Estrée, on the right, and one of her sisters, Madame de Balagny. Gabrielle, or Gaby, was one of the Henry IV's favorite consorts. The painting itself was created to showcase her new pregnancy with his illegitimate son. 

Both women have flawless ivory skin, delicate facial features, brows on fleek, voluminous perms, and, of course, surprisingly perky breasts. Gaby's sister brings attention to her sister's pregnancy as she gently pinches her nipple, signifying fertility. Another symbol of her upcoming pregnancy resides in the background of the painting as an unnamed woman sews a fashionable layette for the baby boy. These shirtless hotties are also wearing the newest trends in jewelry. They've got gorgeous pearl drop earrings paired with a ring held between two perfectly manicured fingers. Gabrielle and her sister's jewelry ensemble complements their bare chests to present an aesthetic of modern simplicity and powerful sexuality as they stare directly at the viewer, daring you to say something.  All in all, these titillating girls are the total package. 

Here I am, gently giving Gaby a twist during my excursion at the Louvre.
During my vacation in Paris, I was lucky enough to visit the Louvre. I was astounded by all of the glorious paintings and glowing statues as I traveled through six of the nine wings of the museum. Finally, exhausted after walking up an extra two flights of stairs, we stumbled through a wing that was totally empty and still in renovation and came upon this painting. The image was innovative and powerful compared to all of the ladies we had seen covered up or with their backs turned in an effort to preserve their modesty. Gabrielle d'Estrée and One of Her Sisters was the pièce de résistance to culminate our trip.

  • 7:00 AM

Art History Hotties: Man with a Glove

Titian, Man with a Glove, 1520 

Username: @theladiesADORNOme 

Name: Girolamo Adorno

How do you gender identify? Male

24 years young


Have you been married previously? Only to my wealth.

Do you have kids? Creator of many, father of none.

Are you active? I would not consider myself athletically-abled, but I love leisurely walks on breezy April mornings. Additionally, I would argue that playing my lute exercises my fingers.

Hobbies? I am an avid lover of gardening. Typically I watch as my servants do the actual labor, but vicariously I still find it exhausting. Additionally, I enjoy sitting in front of my mirror and combing my mustache (I have been growing it for 10 years, and am always impressed with my progress). I also bought a telescope last month and have taken up astronomy. So far I have seen three stars.

Distinctive features? Killer jawline, piercing blue eyes, attached earlobes, banging bangs.
What do you look for in a woman? Pure, fluorescent-white skin; maternal instincts; proficient cook.

Additional comments:
I want someone to share my massive wealth with. As you can see by my velvet robe, I dress nicely and will ensure that my bride does, too. I never remove my pendant, but I would happily place it around her neck. My family started noticing my loneliness of recently. Even in my profile picture, it's evident I am in search of something, or someone, to fill the hole in my heart. I want to take her on walks, make my servant grow flowers in the garden for her, and shower her with love.

  • 7:00 AM

Art History Hotties: Self-portrait With Two Pupils

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Self-portrait With Two Pupils, 1785

In 1785, in order to prove that you are the next big deal, you have to have three things. One: be classy but sassy. Two: have back up girls to fix your makeup. Three: Big dresses that accentuate your gorgeous curves. It's not easy being a total hottie during this period, it takes a lifetime of effort and dedication to achieve this goal. Not to brag, but Botticelli tagged me on Women Crush Wednesday!

My powdered face, with loads of hot pink blush will bring out the innocence in me. These dresses, which cost a fortune, will show everyone my class and elegance. Of course I need assistants so that's why I hired these girls who are less attractive than I am; they will become quite useful to me when we go out to get our portraits done.

  • 7:00 AM

The Banquet in the Pine Forest

Sandro Botticelli, The Banquet in the Pine Forest, 1483

Initially, I fell in love with the openness and taste of warmth I get from this painting. But, similar to when you are finding a book or a perhaps a mate, we must not judge this painting by what appeals to the eye, rather we must explore the inner beauty. One must be informed that this painting does not stand alone, it is a part of a series called, The Story of Nastagio degli OnestiThe four paintings show four scenes from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. The four panels of this story are all centrally located around the theme of love, but have many different themes at work, such as degradation of women, which is certainly present within this story.

Nastagio is the man in the red pants standing near the woman, who is not only being attacked by vicious dogs, but also chased by a knight on a horse with a drawn sword. This one painting could unquestionably stand alone, but it does not. It's the the third of four panels. In the first panel Nastagio is seen taking a stroll in despair because the lady he loves rejected him and won't marry him. On his stroll he notices a naked woman being pursued by dogs and also the man on his horse.  He picks up a branch to attempt to help or possibly save the woman. In the second panel we see that the woman has fallen in the forefront, but you can see the knight cutting open her back and in the corner you can see the dogs feasting on what would be her guts, most likely her heart. Nastagio, still at the scene, is very confused as to why the knight feels the need to torture this damsel. The knight informs him that he was deeply in love with this woman, and she spitefully rejected and ignored him. Fed up with rejection, the knight used the same sword to commit suicide. Soon after the woman died, too, and as punishment for her enjoyment in his suffering and his sin of suicide they both must repeat this act periodically. Where he chases her, catches her, cuts out her heart, and feeds it to the hounds. The usual. This is shown in the background of panel two.

When Nastagio learns the reasoning behind the knight's actions he gets an idea. Nastagio decides to invite a lady who has rejected him and her family to a picnic in the forest where this very deed occurs. As you can see here in this painting the woman is once again being pursued by demented hounds followed by the knight. The audience now frozen, forks down, waits for an explanation. The knight then describes his story to the family members, and next thing you know the lady (I believe she is the one dressed in white at the head of the table) Nastagio wants is crawling into his arms assuring him that of course she'll marry him for she could not possibly be given and within such fate. The fourth panel is the wedding. 

Though the removal of the heart in panel two is intriguing and tempting, I chose this painting because although it is the third panel it sort of wraps everything up. It is also the most positive - considering Nastagio gets the lady. Sadly this also makes me think of how women have, are and always will be seen as possessions. I speak from a societal standpoint not from a literal one. I even feel as if the fact that the damsel is nude is to make her lesser than all else around her. It's as if women don't have the right to say no if a male shall pursue her. Although progress has been made from 1483 to now. In a way it hasn't. I mean obviously Mrs. Evil Damsel Lady is out of dress code, and she is singled out because of that. Why couldn't she be clothed or why couldn't some of the others have been unclothed? Perhaps like Adam and Eve her nakedness is a form of punishment. I just find this series of paintings quite interesting because Bottecelli was commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent to paint them as a wedding gift for his godson.

  • 7:00 AM

Cestello Annunciation

Sandro Botticelli, Cestello Annunciation, 1489

Oh, the drama! I suppose I would be just as distraught if someone told me I had been impregnated as a virgin.

It's said that painting is the highest form of art, therefore it is no wonder scenes taken from the bible are such a common subject matter. This was especially popular during the Renaissance.
Known for his biblical artwork, Botticelli spent the most part of his career as a painter retelling religious events through painting. Religion was so heavily documented that in some fashion it functions as a (potentially biased) version of history. One is typically unable to understand the present without knowledge of the past, so in some context these artistically documented stories are essential to the progression of society.

Costello Annunciation is Botticelli's depiction of the angel Gabriel breaking the news to Mary, who if you haven't heard is a virgin, that she's having a baby. In my opinion, the scene looks like it belongs in a soap opera or telenovela. Don't get me wrong, the technique and paintings itself is beautiful, but the expressions worn by the two characters only provide a certain depth to what they were actually feeling. It is a painting and therefore is staged, but Mary's face lacks the elements necessary to portray raw emotion.

I have always like Botticelli, but was typically only drawn to his more whimsical paintings. The exception though was Cestello Annunciation. What made me fall in love was the perspective. Despite the two characters clearly being the subject matter, Botticelli manages to draw the audience to all aspects of the painting by using a technique called "Brunelleschi's perspective." From the drapery of Gabriel's robe to the lush fields and castles, his attention to detail and the composition make this painting. Through the window you can see the kingdom's outskirts, reminding us that although religion may play a large part in the world, it isn't everything. The world is great because humans are, not only because God is.

  • 7:00 AM

Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni

Andrea del Verrocchio, Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, 1480-1488

Would you one day desire to be immortalized by an epic statue conveying your triumphant excellence? Well, tough luck. Bartolomeo Colleoni, however, was far more fortunate. Andrea del Verrocchio, an Italian artist, compressed Colleoni's dominance and strength into one powerful statue gazing over Venice. Verrocchio demonstrates immense skill in his fine details including the detailed pattern on the satchel and incredibly defined body of the horse. Why Colleoni? He reigned as the general of the Republic of Venice during the mid 15th century. Though the political state of the republic was generally peaceful, Colleoni feuded with Milan and seized rivaling towns and forts. After leaving behind money in 1475 following his death, the deceased general requested a statue to be erected in his honor, which was eventually completed by Verrocchio over a decade later. 

This statue stands out amongst others for its craftsmanship and the powerful presentation of Colleoni. His arm locks in a near battle position, mounting him in a sturdy combat position. Just imagine an army of Venetian soldiers trailing him as he marches. His face is worn and tired, symbolizing the his arduous life leading numerous military campaigns and spending a portion of his life in a prison in Milan. Though Colleoni was not a noble ruler, when I first saw this statue I thought of the quote by Machiavelli, "a prince must not mind incurring the charge of cruelty." The dominant, burly nature of it made me think of the cruel side of leaders. Respect is needed to be an effective leader.

  • 7:00 AM

The Mystic Nativity

Mystic Nativity, Sandro Botticelli, 1500

Sandro Botticelli has been a favorite of mine since I first laid eyes on his work as a young child, gazing up at the beautiful copy of Primavera on my best friend's wall. His figures are as distinctive as Fragonard's trees in their soft glowing skin and gracefully clothed bodies. In The Mystic Nativity, we see new emphasis on nature similar to that of Primavera, but with a stronger message. The robes of several of the angels seem to flow into the elements of the earth around them through the use of the deep green color. The inclusion of the forest background, greenery in the hands of angels, and the natural landscape of the foreground shows the placement of heavenly value on the natural world. To include so much nature in in such an auspicious scene with such godly figures extends an auspicious and godly status to these earthly aspects in a way that has not existed in art before this time. Recently, we read a passage in class from Pico Della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man which says that human beings were put on Earth "to ponder the plan of so great a work, to love its beauty, and to wonder at its vastness." As art progresses, Botticelli lives out this purpose in the exploration of a holy natural earth in his work as well as the emphasis of the interaction between man and the angels. 

Botticelli's use of color in the verdant greens and rosy pinks gives this painting its graceful nature. Mary and Jesus are framed by their shelter first and then again on all sides in the figures of the angels and onlookers. In a ring at the top of the painting, angels rejoice in the heavenly realms, serving as a portal to the unthinkable, to God. In composition, this painting can be split in thirds horizontally, the bottom representing life on Earth, the top representing the existence of heaven, and Jesus in the middle as the bridge between God and man. In the lower third of the painting, we see images of angels embracing humans as further demonstration of this bond. In the realm of Jesus under God, all are equal and at peace. Olive branches appear in the hands of every angel in the painting. The sharp, twisting road to Jesus shows the difficulty and the specificity of following Jesus's "way." However, as the Bible promises to good Christians, Christ himself is waiting at the end.

In the bottom third of the composition. If you look closely, you'll notice four grotesque figures of the devil. My personal favorite happens to be the blue one in the bottom right, with curly horns like a ram and a disgusting warthog face. Each one of these satanic figures is crawling back beneath the earth to hell. In the presence of Jesus, they can no longer exist on the earthly plane. Botticelli tells us that through Jesus's education for the world, he rids us of sin. There is no idea more en vogue for the Renaissance than this idea of humans as chosen beings and transcendence through education and study. Mirandola claimed human beings to be, as pictured in this painting "the intermediar[ies] between creatures, the intimate of the gods, [and] the king of the lower beings." Our free will is what makes us human. We have choice to either "degenerate into lower forms of life" or "to be reborn into higher forms." Whether or not you happen to believe in God, the idea of free will, choice, and following a path of love or hate is the thread that binds every human being together. At first glance, this may resemble a simple nativity scene, however this message to humanity is what makes it "Mystic." Although this is a deeply religious work, any person could walk up to this painting and feel the message of optimistic life through peace and the utopian world so many of us strive for.
  • 7:00 AM

Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli, Adoration of the Magi, 1476


In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli talks about religion as a necessary tool to maintain order among the masses. Machiavelli says that princes should, in the eyes of his subjects, be saint-like. A prince must appear merciful, but is not physically able to be holy. A strong leader has the mindset of doing everything necessary to keep himself in power and his subjects under control; the ends justify the means. Religion is an excellent way of uniting a group of people and support from a church only strengthens that unity.

Sandro Botticelli painted the nativity scene with several members of the Medici family, a wealthy family in Florence. Cosimo de' Medici, the head of the family, is the man kneeling before Mary and touching baby Jesus' feet. Cosimo de' Medici is not a religious figure and was inserted into the painting to display his power. By posing him close to Mary and touching Jesus, people would have assumed that he had some sort of divine power or right. Many people in powerful positions use religion to justify their rule and to unite their subjects.

Machiavelli also discusses if it is better for a prince to be feared or loved. He says that one should strive for both, but if a choice must be made, then fear trumps love. Fear is more consistent than love in people's reactions to a price. The painting by Botticelli is a subtle reflection of that fear. If Cosimo de' Medici is so important that he is on the same level as Mary and Jesus, then what will the retribution be if someone insults them? He is supported by divine figures that represent holiness and whoever crosses him will suffer consequences.

By painting members of the Medici family into a religious setting, Botticelli has elevated their status.

  • 7:00 AM

Crowning of the Elect

Luca Signorelli, Crowning of the Elect, 1499-1504
By Bhux

In Crowning of the Elect, Luca Signorelli depicts the stark contrast between heaven and earth by showing the savagery of the human condition and the perfection of heavenly beauty. In the painting, angels bestow select humans with a golden crown. The angels rejoice in the heavens and play music for the celebration. They dress elegantly with flowing fabrics, and they possess  golden, curly hair. Below, the humans toil in their most natural and primitive state: naked and vulnerable. Their nudity provides a sharp contrast to the angels elegance and perfection. They desperately want the glory of being crowned and joining God’s kingdom; but only a select few receive the honor. The humans gather like animals in a packed group and gape wide eyed above like carp during feeding time. Those who are chosen prepare for ascension into heaven.

“The region above the heavens He had adorned with Intelligences, the heavenly spheres He had quickened with eternal souls, and the excrementory and filthy parts of the lower world He had filled with a multitude of animals of every kind.” -Pico Della Mirandola

This quote by Pico Della Mirandola reflects the scene shown in Signorelli’s work. Signorelli depicts the heavens as an ideal of excellence and beauty that humans cannot achieve. God created the heavens to be perfect and without sin, while the earth would be full of suffering. God filled the earth with a “multitude of animals of every kind.” Mirandola is talking about not only the different species of animals on earth, but the different types of people as well. Humans are inherently sinful, but there are different levels of bad people can reside in. God filled the world with good and bad people, and some make it to heaven and some do not, as seen in Crowning of the Elect. Mirandola believes destiny can be determined by the individual, not God. He believes God lets us shape our own lives and in the end we will face judgement as God decides if we have earned a place in heaven. This belief plays out in Crowning of the Elect, as we see humans scrambling to get chosen to go to heaven. Some have lived pious lives and have earned a spot, while others are seemed too sinful to ascend.
  • 7:00 AM

Hercules and Antaeus

Antonio del Pollaiolo, Hercules and Antaeus, 1470s

"A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves." 
- Niccolo Machiavelli

Antonio del Pollaiolo's sculpture depicts the wresting match between Hercules and Antaeus, with Hercules lifting Antaeus, flailing and yelling, and crushing him to death in a bear hug. As a part of his Twelve Labors, Hercules had to defeat Antaeus and pin him to the ground. Antaeus, whose mother was Gaia, goddess of the earth, was invincible so long as he could maintain contact with the ground and draw strength from his mother. Hercules realized he could not defeat Antaeus by forcing him to the ground and instead lifted him into the air and crushed him to death.

In The Prince, Machiavelli gives political theory and advice about the different ways princes must act if they want to maintain power. 
Machiavelli argues that rulers must separate their ethics and religion from their politics. Princes should be, in a perfect world, virtuous. However, they must be willing to abandon his ideals if necessary. A prince may only seem to be merciful, honest, religious, and faithful, but he cannot have these virtues in actuality because he will have to act against them. The quote above speaks to the values princes must have: the values of beasts and men, strength and power, as well as craftiness and intelligence. The story of Hercules and Antaeus illustrates Machiavelli's point - rulers who rely only on strength or wit will be overthrown, while rulers who can use each will be successful in the end. 
  • 7:00 AM

The Resurrection

Piero della Francesca, The Resurrection, 1463-1465

"History: a subject which must not on any account be neglected by one who aspires true cultivation" - Leonardo Bruni

Piero della Francesca grew up in Sansepolcro, Tuscany. Sansepolcro means "Holy Sepulcher," alluding to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It is believed that Jesus was both buried and resurrected at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, so it is quite fitting that Francesca painted this painting of Jesus' resurrection in Francesca's hometown, which is named after the site at which the resurrection occurred. This painting was no coincidence. Francesca knew his history and created the perfect piece to be a symbol for his town. 

When looking at the painting and thinking about Bruni's quote, we must think about Jesus and his teachings. One of the main teachings of Jesus is to spread peace and love. This belief dates back to 4 BCE when he was born and continues to influence people well after his death around 30 ACE. Today, Christians study the history of Jesus' life and teachings. His beliefs from 2,000 years ago still influence people today. This shows how sometimes history is not neglected, but instead taught  thoroughly by people who aspire true cultivation by aspiring to be a "good Christian." 

When looking the painting itself, the composition is well balanced, with Jesus in the center of the painting and two guards falling on either side of the center line. Jesus' body splits the painting. On the left side everything is barren, especially when you look at the trees. On the contrary, the other side has full trees. For this painting we can think about more than one definition of cultivation. We already discussed cultivation as "the process of trying to acquire or develop a skill," but now we look at cultivation as "the action of cultivating land." Only the right side of this painting appears viable for planting crops. Not everything, even with the presence of Jesus, can be cultivated. Similarly, we can study and fill our finds with knowledge, but sometimes certain skills are hard to cultivate.

Overall, I like this painting because it is more complex than it appears at first glance. Like I mentioned above, the background is split my Jesus' body. Also, Jesus' is depicted as strong, not weak as the circumstances may have suggested. While he is standing tall, the guards are all on the ground asleep. I like the color of the guards outfits; the pop of color is refreshing in the desolate painting. Also, I agree with Bruni that history is an important subject to learn about, which is why I enjoy looking at paintings like this one, which teach me about subject matters I am not knowledgable on in a time period I have not studied in depth.    

  • 8:20 AM

Virgin of the Rocks

Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin of the Rocks, 1483

Frustrated by not being able to sketch anatomically-correct renditions of various dinosaurs from memory, like any dejected third grader would, I sought help from my mother. Fortunately, I went to the right person (not that I had many other options). As an art-grad, she wisely told me to simply "draw what I saw."

With a new-found purpose and motivation, I pulled out my encyclopedia of dinos, flipped straight to the velociraptor section, grabbed a few colored pencils, a sheet of paper, and drew with virtuoso-like confidence.  As I drew, I realized the vicious, feathered beast I was striving to replicate looked more and more like lop-sided meatloaf on legs. After this experience ended in tears, I thought that, like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's narrator in Le Petite Prince, I was not cut-out for the life of an artist anymore, and I retired my box of colored pencils.

Unlike my easily defeated juvenile-self, Leonardo made discoveries and set presidents in painting, anatomy, engineering, and mathematics in his studio in Vinci. He drew and painted from what he saw in nature, a method that is easily seen in Virgin of the Rocks. A part of his own philosophy, he thought the only way to accurately depict nature, was to first understand its intricacies and how it functioned. In his journal, he made sketches of such things as the muscles in a horse's legs and most famously, his Proportions of Man. This painting highlights Madonna, Child Jesus and John the Baptist, and an angel within a probable world. This scene resembles nothing like any painting made a quarter of a century before with its life-like depth and da Vinci's signature dreamy veil engrossing the painting.

A technique pointed out in his journal, da Vinci would find scale and proportion by looking at his subject "behind a sheet of glass." This instantly conquers the perhaps most daunting challenge a painter is faced: simulating three dimensions on a two-dimensional medium. I just recently tried my hand at drawing again using this approach in a drawing class. As a part of our first project, we took a picture of a still-life and turned it upside down. Seeing the confusion in the student's faces, our teacher explained to us one of da Vinci's conclusions-  when you just draw what you see, you draw proportionately.

  • 7:00 AM

Tribute Money

Masaccio, Tribute Money, 1427

Machiavelli said, "I state that all men, and especially princes who are placed at a greater height, are reputed for certain qualities which bring them either praise or blame."

Artists often portray Jesus Christ as an infallible godly figure superior to humans. However, Masaccio supports the notion of humanism. Humanists believe, according to Pico Della Mirandola, "There is nothing to be seen more wonderful than man." Masaccio shows this through the apostles questioning Jesus, and rejecting the typical dogma of Christianity that Christ is all powerful. Masaccio illustrates Machiavelli's concept of how kings are not exempt from human suspicion. The artist depicts Jesus in a more realistic light which appeals to the ultra religious as well as the more reformed.
This fresco, housed in the Brancacci Chapel, showcases the scrutiny that Jesus faced in the classic biblical story, when a tax collector confronts Christ. The Brancacci Family in Florence commissioned this obscure biblical parable to be painted in order to bring awareness to the church about the authority of secular society to imposed taxes. 

Masaccio paints in the same pallet as one of his influences, Giotto. However, Masaccio develops more complex two-dimensional elements in his piece. Masaccio uses perspective in the mountains and he creates symmetry in the painting with the balanced semi circle centering around Christ.  
In conclusion, Masaccio adds a new flare to the classic techniques of Giotto and Duccio by creating balance and more dimension, therefore, transitioning art from the Pre-Renaissance Era to the Renaissance. 
  • 7:00 AM


Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, 1482


Botticelli's Primavera celebrates the arrival of spring and it includes nine figures, all based on a mythological texta. It was commissioned by the Medici family for their wedding ceremony. Botticelli's use of color and composition orchestrates harmony and dreaminess. In the viewer's perspective the painting almost seems like a collage due to its detailed and flowing brush stokes. Botticelli sets the painting in a meadow and decorates its surroundings with various species of flowers and trees that symbolize fertility. The painting includes symbolism of love, which is represented by the orange trees and Cupid behind Venus. 

Introducing the nine mythological figures from left to right; Mercury who clears out the clouds so that spring may come; three Graces; Venus the goddess of love and beauty, Cupid the son of Venus, Flora, the goddess of flowers and blossoms; Chloris the nymph who is also known as Flora, and Zephyr, the god of wind. The painting and mythological figures represent sexual desires, marriage and childbearing.

The Renaissance was characterized by a rebirth of interest in the humanist culture a confirmation that human beings have the rights and responsibilities to shape their own lives as they please. "Our destiny is not determined by anything outside us. Rather, God has bestowed upon us a unique distinction." This quote by Giovanni Pico Mirandola also narrates the same message that the Gods have given the humans the chance to shape their own destiny. Even in Botticelli's Primavera, he displays the humanist culture.
  • 7:00 AM

Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro

Piero della Francesca, Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, 1472

First off, the man of this portrait has a Wicked-Witch-of-The-West nose and the woman is so white that she could be a ghost. However, a fun story attached to why they are facing inwards has to do with the Federico losing his right eye and breaking his nose in a tournament. So, the Duke and his wife decided that they should face different ways to mask his hideous misfortunes. Painted in front of a vast landscape of water and mountains, Federico, and his wife, Battista, wanted to show just how much power and wealth they had while also creating a piece that could be timeless. 

As Niccolo Machiavelli said, "lLove is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose." You may be thinking, how this quote could possibly apply to this painting? But I'm here to tell you that I found a way. When I first saw this paining, I thought that the man and woman were angry with each other. The Duke's face and the wife's overall unamused expression made me think that they did not want anything to do with each other. I felt as though the Duke was about to break things off with his wife.

Much like my art history education thus far, I came to conclusions far too quickly. Entering art history, I was going out of my comfort zone by taking the class and thought I would not enjoy it. However, I am glad that I took this risk and am excited to learn more about art. With Battista Sforza and Federico de Montefeltro, I judged their relationship instantly before really knowing their backstory.
  • 7:00 AM

Gates of Paradise

Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gates of Paradise, 1452 

Today the Gates of Paradise act as the East Doors at the Baptistry of San Giovanni in Florence, a position they have held since 1452. Although today the gates are not the same, technically, the replicas produced in the early 21st century are a carbon copy, except for the fact that Ghiberti’s hands never touched the doors.

It seems as though the Gates of Paradise are a tale in deception. Upon completing them, Ghiberti's simply referred to the doors as doors. Then Michelangelo bestowed the name Gates of Paradise upon them. Within the panels, Ghiberti’s tells the stories of the Creation all the way to reign of Solomon. His usage of fluid building heights and distinguished foregrounds demonstrates his mastery of linear perspective. The detail in which he applies to each panel shows his meticulous devotion to accuracy. Each panel on it’s own is incredible, yet together they represent more power than one could attain individually. 

The original panels now live in the Museo del' Opera del Duomo in Florence. With 28.6 km separating them from their first home. Although at 15 feet tall these doors would attract attention anywhere. 

So let’s stand at them. Look up into their gilded beauty and what do we see? Rabelais wrote about the idea of “Do What You Will.”I want to open the Gates of Paradise and embrace myself with all knowledge beyond them. Now this is strictly metaphoric, due to a not insignificant three-foot barrier surrounding the doors that prevents me from touching the handle. Though the thought of pursuing something instead of merely standing by it, that’s what counts. Standing up against the megaphone, in your own pursuit of knowledge. 

Our inability to open the Gates of Paradise demonstrates our nature to as Rabelais said, “always strive after things forbidden and covet what is denied us." The Renaissance marks a shift in our educational path with a devotion to inquiry and a genuine desire to learn. 

We cannot open the Gates of Paradise, but we can open the wooden door to enter our classroom. As long as we strive to open that door, instead of standing by, we exercise our inner Renaissance man, embarking on our own quests of knowledge. 
  • 7:00 AM

Portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni

Image result for giovanna tornabuoni by domenico ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni, 1488

"Proficiency in literary form, not accompanied by broad acquaintance with facts and truths, is a barren attainment" -Leonardo Bruni

Behind family, my grandpa Al believed most in the importance of education, and he set the attainment of a quality one as a priority for his family. Brought up by his aunt, in a less fortunate family, he learned young that he must work for the knowledge that would later bring him success. After graduating from the University of Missouri, Alvin Shapiro went on to Yale Law School, where he graduated number two in his class. He sent his four kids to private high schools, followed by attendance to some of the most prestigious colleges in the country. They all graduated from college, and some graduate school  but none left with debt. He lived a humble life, unconcerned with trivial matters. Despite having money, he did not see any vitality in materialistic goods, and spent money on direct and indirect education.

Grandpa Al evoked my love and appreciation of the arts. My fondest memories of him are attending the operas and symphonies together. My papa took his pop's morals and have applied them to my life. He works constantly in order to give me what his father gave him. Beyond the high education I receive in school, I strive to broaden my knowledge with cultural involvement. My papa also believes in the importance of travel, and wherever we go we make it a point to spend plenty of time in museums. At a young age, I did not understand the art necessarily, but I understood the cultural importance and how much you can learn from art. This past summer I traveled through Europe with my family, and spent an entire 11 hour day at the museums in Madrid. The line into the Prado Museum went on for hours, so instead I started with the lesser known Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a private collection.

The signs leading in and the brochure given to me upon entrance to the Thyssen-Bornemisza were decorated with the portrait, or profile, of Giovanna Tornabuoni, by Domenico Ghirlandaio. I had never seen this painting before, and wondered, out of all the paintings in the museum, why is this one so special?

Giovanna Tornabuoni was a member of one of the most influential families of the period. She married a man, also elevated in status, at age 18, gave birth to her first child in 1477, and in 1488, died delivering her second child. Death during labor was common for Florentine women during this period, and the women received a privileged status after death. Many paintings exist to this day depicting women who passed during childbirth, andGiovanna Tornabuoni among the most famous. Her husband and father commissioned Florentine artist, Domenico Ghirlandaio, to paint her shortly after death. Ghirlandaio presents her upright and well decorated, with the latin words "Art, if only you were able to portray character and soul, no painting on earth would be more beautiful" showing her high status, and strong disposition.

This painting not only exemplifies fifteenth century Florentine portraiture, but dives deeper into the role of women in fifteenth century life, and shows the importance of money and status. Obvious by her family's wealth and influence, Giovanna had an education. But as you look closer in the painting you wonder, was she truly educated to the standards of Leonardo Bruni, or do you need more than purely an education to acquire knowledge?
  • 7:00 AM

Descent Into Limbo

Giotto, Descent Into Limbo, 1320-1325

Welcome back ladies and gents, I feel it's only fitting that my first blog post of the year hints at the dismal themes that I so adore. Today we’ll chat about Giotto’s Descent into Limbo, but to fully understand the unfortunate circumstances of our descending friends let’s return back to my first blog post last year. Rothko’s Black, Black on Wine where I conversed about the ill fate of humankind as a little line stuck between fantasy and reality. 

How does this relate to Giotto? Well, limbo of course. The space between heaven and hell... fantasy and reality. Though separated by thousands of years Giotto and Rothko capture the human condition simultaneously. In his painting, Giotto references the Black Plague which ravaged the world during the 14th century, leaving some more devoted to God and others to more likely to participate in folly. Both ended in the death. 

Returning to the painting, look for a moment at the people in the opening of the tomb. Examine their faces, feel their fear and the looming uncertainty of what happens when Christ shuts the stone vault. Today, we often take emotion for guaranteed, shedding tears over a celebrity breakup or an opened-but not responded to Snapchat.While in the early 1300s when Giotto mostly likely painted Descent Into Limbo, emotion carried a slightly different weight. 

Giotto introduced many to emotional depth and human vulnerability through his creation of a stage around his figures. He grounds and surrounds his people with shading and mountainous structures. Unlike others of his time who primarily focused on the divine, Giotto plays with other masses, indicating that humans (or the divine) are not the only thing of importance. In fact the almost blurring effect of the those entering the cave hints at our own insignificance. 

Despite it’s age, Descent into Limbo withstands the test of time through Giotto’s usage of complex emotions and nods to naturalism. There’s a beautiful uncomfortableness that I feel when I look at the people of the painting. I wonder about their “sins” and perhaps if they payed their simony, that would one day fund the great cathedrals that their terrified faces would become immortalized in. 
  • 7:00 AM