Filippo Lippi, Annuciation, 1435
I feel like painting involves a lot of trust. That every time you look at a piece of art you take a leap of faith, most times this jump is strictly metaphorically, but on that rare occasion a painting will touch on a such a level that your physical body will react. Whether through a single tear shed or a look of jaw-dropping awe.

Unfortunately, Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation painted in 1435 is not that painting. Though I argue that Renaissance art takes a bit more faith than modern. I believe this stems not only from the context, but the viewer herself. To truly comprehend a Renaissance painting one needs more than rudimentary knowledge of color and composition. We need something more to understand.

I feel that’s why Renaissance art often seems so tedious. You can’t look at a piece of art from the 15th century and automatically assume that Mary’s hand placement indicates that she feels conturbatio or disquiet. Let alone how do you know the woman in blue is the mother of Christ, the virgin?

I am not a person of the 15th century, so how do I see a painting like one? And what does it mean when I shift my own perspective to fit someone else's? As I step in my Quattrocento shoes I understand that due to strict contracts set up by patrons of the Church and prominent families like the Medicis in Florence that automatically the artist must play be someone else’s rules.

Despite contracts assigning what percentage of Ultramarine blue must be used on Mary’s gown or the general composition of the painting itself, artists still held some control. Lippi when painting his Annunciation knew that in some way or another he had to tell the story of the angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that the son of God lived within her. Now from here according to Michael Baxandall in his book, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, Lippi had five choices in choosing how to display Mary: "Conturbatio-disquiet, cogitatio-reflection, interrogatio-inquiry, humiliatio-submission, or meritatio-merit" (Baxandall 51).

For his painting, Lippi ultimately chooses conturbatio or disquiet, the viewer can determine this by either eliminating all others or evaluating Mary’s posture in addition to her facial expressions. She bows her hand, clutching her abdomen in awe, twisting her hands around her garments knowing that she is now responsible for bringing the son of God into the world. Her face, with her half-opened eyelids peering down hints at the curiosity, excitement and fear that her pregnancy brings.

Although Lippi attributes Mary with human emotion, he must include a reference to flowers, white lilies, and paint the angel Gabriel with wings and kneeling towards Mary in order for his painting to qualify as an Annunciation. The indicators of the Gabriel’s kneeling, his wings, Mary in blue, the white lilies all allow the general public of the 15th century to identify with the painting.

With his requirements out of the way, Lippi may now paint freely. He separates Mary and the angel Gabriel with a column, giving the impression that Gabriel exists only as an apparition in Mary’s mind. She receives his words from the songbird that spouts the latin from it’s beak. Mary exists on slightly higher ground than Gabriel, demonstrating that although it appears they occupy the same space in reality they do not. Gabriel's side of the room, allows the light to flow freely with airy blues tones covering the walls and window drapery. As for Mary’s side, the only light exists in a circle around her body indicating the divine connection that exists within her moment with Gabriel. The rest of her room falls dark with earthy tones occupying the space around her. Within her room, red acts as the only other color, a representation of charity, it seems fighting that it stems from garments around her heart.

Lippi creates a sense of depth through his open spaces in the background of the painting. The book and rose on the bookshelf behind Mary hint at her beauty-the rose and her devotion- the bible. Although not particularly ornate, I adore Lippi’s Annunciation for the comfort I feel when I look at the connection between Gabriel and Mary. At the scariest moment of her life, Lippi reminds me that she is in the light and she will be okay.

Baxandall through his book helps one to understand that "something more" that Renaissance art requires. I used to grow frustrated by attempting to remember the significance of triangles and circles around paintings, the meaning of colors and hand gestures; but now I understand that although I might not initially get it. I don’t need to. That sometimes the most profound paintings are not only the beautiful ones, but the ones that force you to open up a book and understand that Mary is never as simple as you believed she was.

So I urge you to jump off that ledge and land in the world of 15th-century Italy, because I promise you will not be disappointed.
  • 6:33 PM

San Giobbe Altarpiece

Giovanni Bellini, San Giobbe Altarpiece, 1487

Bellini wanted to create a compound experience for those who entered the San Giobbe cathedral and viewed the San Giobbe Alterpiece. His painting had to convey the intimacy of the scene within the painting and resonate throughout the church and invoke feelings of reverence, comfort, and belonging, while also showing his talent as an artist with the perspective, composition, and faithfully telling the story of the painting.

Hand gestures are a critical part of the San Giobbe Alterpiece as a way of welcoming visitors into the cathedral. Mary gazes off into the distance in an almost divine, detached way while her torso faces the viewer with her upraised hand, palm facing forward, inviting them into the church. St. Francis' outstretched hand welcomes the beholder into the scene itself to view the baby Jesus and complete the circle of saints around enthroned Mary. Mary is the protector of the painting, meant to invoke comfort and strength, while St. Francis grounds the painting, inviting the viewer into the painting and calling forth a feeling of religious belonging and simple faith.

The two levels of devotion that Bellini uses are dulia and hyperdulia to invoke the religious meaning to those viewing it. Dulia, in Roman Catholic theology, is the reverence accorded to saints and angels. He shows dulia with the half crescent of saints, from left to right: St. Francis, John the Baptist, Job, St. Dominic, St. Sebastian, and Louis of Toulouse, as well as with the angels seated at the throne of Mary. Hyperdulia is reverence reserved for the Virgin alone. By having Mary in majesty with the angels at her feet and saints facing her in reverence, Bellini shows hyperdulia. Bellini uses dulia and hyperdulia, as the San Giobbe Altarpiece is the first to be seen when entering the cathedral, and he needs to include these themes when welcoming church-goers so they enter a religiously faithful and pious state of mind.

Bellini uses the theological code for his color choices as a way of differing his saints and giving significance to the painting. The theological code, as argued by St. Antoninus, is that black represents humility, white represents purity, red represents charity, and yellow-gold represents dignity. He uses black and brown for St. Dominic and St. Francis respectively to show the faith and humbleness of the saints. He places them on opposite sides of Mary to maintain the symmetrical composition. Bellini uses the same technique for Job and St. Sebastian. Both are clothed in white, Job shown with a white beard, and St. Sebastian, clean-shaven and youthful, to keep the balance while their differences in age and body position give variety to the painting. By using yellow-gold to accent different parts of the building behind and above the throne, Bellini adds a grandeur to the painting.

Perspective within the San Giobbe Altarpiece gives an importance to the figures in the painting while also showing the depth of area within the painting. Bellini uses perspective on the painting when placing Mary on the throne in comparison to the room around her, giving her a place of importance with the light falling on her face. However, the saints in the foreground are too large next to the throne and in comparison to the pillars framing the painting. Bellini could have done this on purpose to emphasize the importance of the saints and make them more life-size next to the people viewing the painting. Through shadowing and placement of Mary, Bellini adds expanse and depth by using the pillars to hold the saints in place and provide a comparison to the shadows and space behind the throne. 
  • 7:00 AM

Adoration of the Magi

Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, 1423

I stand in the dim light of the church, watching the dancing glow of candles flicker on the altarpiece in front of me as I pray. Reds, blues, and golds burst into life and seem to move with the shifting light. To me it seems glorious and decadent, a symbol of the majesty of the Lord. My knees are growing weary pressed against the hard ground of the Santa Trinità church. Outside the sun is beginning to set, and I can hear the final bustles of the day slowly winding to a halt in the streets before the people of the night emerge. Florence is moving outside as fast as it ever has before but here it is silent. Here I am at peace with God. 

In my church, I have stared at the altarpiece for hours upon hours in the couple of years since it has been here accompanying the sermons of our priest. He speaks with vigor and devotion and his stories come to life on the walls of this church, but none so like the scene of adoration at the altar. So detailed in vibrant color, I can never manage to tear my eyes from its glory. I look at the waves of those so devoted to a child, hardly born, the son of my God. They exalt and adore Christ, demonstrating the dedication I have learned to live by. This image of my Lord accompanies and invigorates my prayer. As I surrender to God further and further, Jesus begins breathes stronger and stronger in front of me.

The silence is at once broken as the doors in the back were thrown open into the church and with the rush of voices, reeking of self-importance, echoed in the structure. I took a deep breath and glanced back over my shoulder. Palla Strozzi, the unbelievably wealthy patron of the church, wearing rich colored garments and waving his arms in demonstration. He wore a proud, boastful expression under his well-groomed beard. He seemed to be addressing the man to his right who appeared equally important in manor and dress. The man to his left was much younger, with curly hair, holding himself proudly stood back a bit from the other two. Strozzi seemed to be showing him off.

I caught a portion of their conversation as he practically shouted into the otherwise quiet church, "You will see how magnificent it is. Young Gentile has a real talent and as you know, only the best for me!"

I watch the trio make their way farther into the nave leaving me unnoticed as they approached the altarpiece. Strozzi asks him to explain his work to the other gentleman, and Gentile swiftly agrees sweeping up towards his work. 

He begins to speak once they are close with passion and I understand he must be the artist, "All around the central work I've included images telling the story surrounding the birth of Christ, all biblically accurate. At these circles at the top here we see the Annunciation in the phase of acceptance, to best express the love of Christ. The middle image at the top is Christ himself at adulthood. The central image shows the adoration of Christ by the three Magi from the east. For the I chose to show lines of people to teach reverence and the vibrant gold to communicate the glory and wealth of God. To emphasize the virgin, she is the only one wearing her color of blue and she holds her hand over her chest to show her reverence. The charity of the wise men comes through the red in their robes. Many wear black as well to symbolize their humility in the presence of the Christ child. Jesus himself wears the white of purity with his hand outstretched in a gesture of blessing. The contrast invigorates even the simplest the onlooker to bask in a passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, it's one of my greatest works."

Although I do not quite understand the conclusions he comes to for his art, I like what he has to say. I enjoy understanding the deliberation. The two older men go back and forth in pride and praise for the work speaking mostly of its value and what another such work would cost. Having finished my prayer, I stand to exit, tired of their bantering. I make my way, still unnoticed, back down the aisle of the chapel. As I reach the door, I steal a glance back and catch a glimpse of the altarpiece between the forms of the rich men. I ignore them to focus on the small representation of my beloved Christ in front of me before emerging back onto the streets of Florence.
  • 7:00 AM

Portrait of Man with a Medal

Portrait of a Man with a Medal, 1474, Botticelli 

Once in awhile, our art history does this activity: we are given a few minutes to choose a painting from one of the various books in Mr. Luce's room, and then we draw it.

Few of us are actually artistically talented, but we do try. When the few minutes pass and a the timer sounds, we return to conversation with our distorted and unproportionate figures. Mr. Luce then asks- “After drawing this painting, what did you learn?”My first thought it always something along the lines of, “Wow, how did I manage to screw this painting up that bad?"

But finishing with a gorgeous product isn’t the end goal. It’s learning about the art through the process of creating it. I think most people realize good art is hard to make, although when you actually try to implement the techniques used by the artist the complexity of the work truly comes to light.

In reality there’s no way that I’d never come close to imitating the techniques of these great artists. Although we recently finished a book in class titled: Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style, that gave me a sliver of hope.

Baxandall approaches Italian Renaissance art in a way I had never experienced. Like most people, I considered art to be just art. It's wonderful and aesthetically pleasing, but Baxandall argues for more calling it an experience. I hadn’t thought about it this way, but it makes more and more sense as the idea processes. It is something we can evolve and improve on. Three factors improve the experience of art, and experiencing an enhanced beauty relies on three particulars: more intense light, clearer color, and better proportion. If the book had taught me nothing but this I believe I’d be able to grasp the shifting period eye that is to come in the modern day.

Botticelli, a master of the Renaissance, explored all of these aspects as he progressed as an artist. In the midst of his career he painted Portrait of a Man with a Medal. For a man with a skill set as amazing as Botticelli's, a portrait is basic. Although not fully meeting the expectations of Baxandall with this piece, it is an example of the artists technological advancements as he works toward modernizing the medium.
  • 7:00 AM

Coronation of the Virgin

Filippo Lippi, Coronation of the Virgin, 1466-69

In Italy during the 15th century, religious paintings were created for three main reasons. They were used to help people that were illiterate so they would be able to understand scripture without having to learn to read. Another reason is so that everyone would have the same image in their head about the readings. And lastly they were made to evoke more emotions than the readings.

Lippi used a lot of deep blue and gold which shows that this was made for someone in the upper class. The gold sun in the background forces the focal point to be on Mary's face. Mary and God are placed in a triangular shape with a rainbow like circle framing them. The angels on the left and right side seem to be the crowd happily watching God give Mary a crown. The hand that is at the top of the painting could have given the crown from heaven to God so it could be given to Mary.

God is placed on a pedestal above Mary which shows His power. Mary is kneeling in front of God while holding her hands in prayer position depicting honor and respect. Mary's head is bowed while God bestows a crow upon her head like he is rewarding her. They seem to be floating in the sky because there are clouds below them and the sun right behind them which could mean that Mary is godlike.
Filippo Lippi created this piece to help people understand the importance of the coronation of Mary.

  • 7:00 AM

Triptych with Saint Anthony, Abbot Roch, and Catherine of Alexandria

Filippino Lippi, Triptych with Saint Anthony, Abbot Roch, and Catherine of Alexandria, 15th Century

The first thing I noticed about this painting was the attractive leg that Abbot Roch presents to us. Along with the pleasant leg action he is wearing very fashionable clothing and high knee boots. I like the golden outline of this painting, and I think that the colors contrast well. The bright colors of the clothing contrast and go well with the nude background. I find it interesting that the subjects in this painting have different halos. Another thing is that I am not entirely sure on if the background of each section is together or if each section has its' own separate background I know and understand that this piece is a triptych meaning that these are separate paintings most likely hinged together to be used as an alter piece. Another interesting factor I took into consideration when looking at this painting was that there is not much blue. 

In Art History we just recently completed a book by Michael Baxandall called Painting & Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy. In the book, there is a section that Baxandall explains the representation of colors throughout fifteenth-century paintings. I won't list all of his suggestions because that would be nsipid and tedious, but I'll just point out a few correlations between his ideas and this painting. 

One thing that caught my eye was that Alberti's elemental code insist that green is a depiction of water. I found that absurd because I was still reading the book with a twenty-first century eye instead of a period eye as Baxandall suggest, but this Lippi painting proves Baxandall correct in the sense that the color green can be used for water. I also think that there is some meaning behind the broken golden wheel that is at the feet of Catherine of Alexandria because although her red dress signifies charity the yellow-gold wheel represents dignity something that she could have possibly have lost and no longer possess. 
  • 6:08 PM

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

Masaccio, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1425

When first viewing Masaccio’s fresco, most people, present and past, would immediately recognize the subjects as Adam and Eve. Expulsion from the Garden of Eden is the first part of a cycle done by Masaccio in 1425 for the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, Italy. Only two of Masaccio’s masterpieces have survived to the current day, a fresco of the Trinity and the series of frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, although damaged greatly from fire in 1771. Masaccio was praised during his lifetime for his unconventional artistic style; he is remembered for his skills in depicting the natural human form, as seen in Expulsion from the Garden of Eden
The form and movement Adam and Eve are painted with was unprecedented at the time. Painting such sacred characters with such humanistic characteristics was uncommon and unconventional. Masaccio developed his technique to become a master
Imitatore della natura- or imitator of nature. Immediately, the eye is drawn to the pain-stricken faces of Adam and Eve. Adam, aware of his irreversible sin, hides his face in shame while Eve expresses her grief by the pressing of her breast with her hand. The nudity would not have been controversial at the time and widely accepted, although fig leaves were added to cover the genitals nearly three centuries later. The leaves were later removed in the 1980s when the painting underwent a full restoration. Masaccio’s famous use of rilievo, or relief, is also apparent in Adam and Eve’s form. Masaccio uses highlights and shadows to give the bodies depth and dimension. Masaccio creates lifelike movement with contrapposto, which creates movement and fluidity in their forward movement by placing most of their weight on one foot so their shoulders and torso twist from their axis. However it should be noted that while advanced for the time, the dimensions of Adam and Eve’s bodies are disproportionate. Adam’s arms are improperly small and Eve’s left arm is unusually long. Despite the flaws, Masaccio’s depiction of Adam and Eve’s departure beautifully captures the sinners’ despair and movement.

Besides Adam and Eve, there are several additional elements worthy of note. The angel in red, ironically representing charity, banishes the couple from the garden. The sword in the angel’s hand, in addition to the rays of light emitting from the structure on the left, were originally shiny with oxidized silver, but have since turned black. The structure on the left is more symbolic than realistic. There is no mention of a structure at the exit of Eden in the bible. However, it allowed Masaccio to experiment with perspective and architectural dimension. Additionally, Adam and Eve are nude, despite the bible saying that they had clothed themselves. Despite the discrepancies between the bible and the fresco, the image would still immediately recognized by patrons of the church. While Expulsion from the Garden of Eden shows to a largely illiterate viewership a pivotal story of the Christian faith, the image conveys the same emotion and narrative centuries later.

  • 7:00 AM

Baptism of Christ

Pierro Della Francesca, Baptism of Christ, 145


In Baptism of Christ, John holds a bowl over Christ's head, and a dove hovers overhead in the same plane. Pierro Della Francesca methodically placed these objects in the center of the painting, splitting it in halves. Additionally, he paints a tree to separate the angels from the baptism. Aside from the placement of the tree being aesthetically pleasing, Francesca aligned it there in order to incorporate the golden ratio. Many artists utilize the golden ratio because it achieves both beauty and harmony, as observed here. Beyond painting, Piero Della Francesca possessed a vast understanding of mathematics, and how to incorporate it into a painting to emphasize theme.The hovering dove and lift of John's foot mimics one of Euclid's propositions which incorporates a triangle and pentagon. The triangle may represent the Trinity, and the pentagon Christ's five wounds. Francesca uses different shapes to represent elements of the painting in deeper degrees. The circle represents the heavens, and the rectangle the earth. The dove sits on the intersection between heaven and earth, a direct representation of the holy spirit. Christ's cloth hits his waist precisely at the bottom of the arch, pulling him in with the heavens. The tree and and John stand in equal distance from Christ, dividing the canvas into thirds. Geometry not only adds to composition of the painting, but the underlying ideas. This abstraction of form adds to Piero Della Francesca's paintings' timeless beauty, and enables his works to hold recognition through the modern era.

Michael Baxandall wrote of Baptism of Christ in his book, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy. He focuses on relationships in this specific painting rather than the geometry. He discusses the interaction between the angels to the left, and how in their body language "we become active accessories to the event" and that the feeling of being involved in the event creates a "a compound experience" (76). We see the actual baptism of Christ clearly, while left in suspicion over the angels' conversation. Baxandall claims that "the clarity of one kind of access is enriched by the intimacy of the other, noting that although we are in the shadows of the angels' goings on, the mixture of the intimacy and clarity enrich the experience. Pierro Della Francesca enhances the viewer's understanding of the painting with inclusion of both geometry and meticulous rotations of the body.

  • 7:00 AM

The Transfiguration

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The Transfiguration by Bellini, ca. 1460
Each person in The Transfiguration is wearing a different color that represents different values, as described in Michael Baxandall's book Painting & Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy.  Jesus is at the top of the hill and in the middle, so he is the focal point of the painting.  He is wearing all white robes, which symbolizes purity.  The man standing to Jesus' left wears gold robes, which symbolize dignity.  His hands are in a prayer position and he is looking at the sky.  The man to the right of Jesus is wearing red robes, which symbolizes charity.  This man's hands are cupped and open towards Jesus as if giving him something.  The man to the left and below Jesus is wearing red robes over gold clothing, symbolizing that he has dignity and is charitable.  He is looking up at Jesus, and possible god, with amazement and disbelief.  The man laying down next to him wears white robes over brown clothes.  This man is obviously pure, but not to the extent as Jesus who wears all white clothing.  The man lying at the bottom is dressed in all black, which means he has the most humility.  He is the closest to the bottom of the painting, which leads me to believe that        he is the most humble.  He is looking up and seems to be in movement even though he is on the ground.

Painters in general are learning how to paint a body with movement.  No longer are people's limbs and spines stiff.  Now their clothes and muscles move.  In this painting, the three people on top of the hill are standing, but they are in slightly different poses.  Jesus has his weight shifted to one foot and the two men at his sides are leaning towards him.  The three men below Jesus are all lying on the ground, but none lie flat.  One man has his leg pulled close to him and his hand is in the middle of a gesture.  The one next to him looks like he is sleeping comfortably.  The man closest to the bottom of the painting has a hand extended and touching the ground as if in the process of standing up.  While everyone's robes cover most of their bodies, the folds painted in show subtle outlines of the frame underneath.

  • 7:00 AM

Pallas and the Centaur

Botticelli, Pallas and the Centaur, 1485

Using the "Period Eye," as described in Michael Baxandall's book, Painting & Experience In Fifteenth-Century Italy, art critics during the Renaissance gave meanings to the colors and movements figures portray in each artist's painting. In many Renaissance paintings, such as Botticelli's Pallas and the Centaur, artists would use a "symbolic serious of colours" (Baxandall 81). St. Antoninus used a theological code: white means purity, red means charity, yellow-gold means dignity, and black means humility. However, Alberti used an elemental code: red symbolizing fire, blue symbolizing air, green symbolizing water, and grey symbolizing earth.

As said by Baxandall, "everyone, in fact, processes the data from the eye with different equipment." What Baxandall was attempting to get across was that each and every person, when they look at a painting, will observe particular aspects differently. No one person will look at the same painting and feel the same way about it. With that being said, many people during the Renaissance used paintings to better understand the stories in the Bible because many people during this time were illiterate. However, when someone views a painting, even if they can read or not, remembers what they saw better than if they were to just read about it. That's true for almost all circumstances.

Botticelli's Pallas and the Centaur focuses on Pallas Athena holding a Halberd (a combined spear and battle ax) next to a centaur grasping a bow. When Botticelli was alive, he did commissions for the Medici Family in Florence, Italy. Looking deeper into the painting, one can see the three rings on Pallas' dress and the olive branches woven into her hair and around her arm, both indicating the Medici Family. Going back to Baxandall's "Period Eye," the colors of this painting, in my opinion, relates ]more to St. Antoninus' theological code because of the red ribbon around the centaur, Pallas' dress, and the yellow-gold Halberd that Pallas is holding. I agree more with St. Antoninus' theological code because the red ribbon around the centaur could represent charity, Pallas' white dress does make her appear more pure, and her yellow-gold Halberd makes Pallas even more dignified.
  • 7:00 AM

Lamentation Over the Dead Christ with Saints

Botticelli, Lamentation Over the Dead Christ with Saints, 1495

In Botticelli's final years of painting, his style underwent complete atrophy. Under the unmitigated influence of the quasi-preacher, Savonarola, Botticelli questioned the religious implications of his art. In direct contrast to the Medici Renaissance ideals, Savonarola condemned all "sinful" acts of participating in the sciences and arts. This, in effect, pulls Botticelli apart (you can see a direct correlation in his paintings through the years) and drives him to burn his paintings in the "bonfire of the vanities" and retire.

Before his spiritual crisis, Botticelli was regarded as a master of his trade by those who recorded their opinions. "Sandro Botticelli, an excellent painter both on panel and on the wall. As Michael Baxandall says, "His things have a virile air and are done with the best method and complete proportion" (Baxandall 26). From the vague words of an agent of the Duke of Milan in 1490, he praises the energetic vibe of Botticelli's painting, and the "method" and the "complete proportion" of his works. Though this may not mean much to the twenty-first century reader, art critics in 1400s Florence did not have any concrete grounds for what constituted a "good" and "bad" painting.  Instead, they were faced with the difficult task of conveying the desirable attributes of art according to the community of the time. By this time Botticelli had created such magnum operas (for I think that narrowing it down to one would be unfair) as Primavera and The Birth of Venus, exhibits of his "golden years" in painting.

Two years before he tossed his personal collection of works to their fiery doom under Savonarola's direction, Botticelli painted the passion-infused Lamentation Over the Dead Christ with Saints. A vertical take on his more illustrious Lamentation over the Dead Christ, (without saints in the title) Botticelli disregards his previous realism approach to painting that he was so commended for. The neck of one of the Three Marys at Jesus' feet floats below her shoulders in a disturbing (Isolation dance move) fashion and Jesus' body appears scaled down in size and is being held up by his head and feet.

Despite the negligence of proportion and physical capabilities, the emotion and gesture depicted in this painted do more than redeem the aberrations. Botticelli expresses a pure grief and despair that I believe one can understand as a human without any familiarity with The Bible, Jesus' life, or Renaissance Art. Each face, shown or covered, tells a different story the provokes vivid sentiments in my mind in a captivating manner.

  • 7:00 AM

Virgin Annunciate

Antonello da Messina, Virgin Annunciate, 1476

My eyes are first drawn to the color of Mary's shawl. It is a color that even Crayola would have a hard time naming. The closest Pantone color is 7709 U (Uncoated). St. Antoninus and Alberti were onto something when they created different color codes, because a color is more than just the name slapped onto a crayon. Colors evoke indescribable feelings. Colors also change over time. In 1476, da Messina could have used the ever fashionable and desired ultramarine blue, but after years of wear, the color could have faded into the less saturated teal that we see today. 

Just as color fades, different prints of paintings can result in different colors. Colors have great impact on the interpretation and reception of a painting, so different prints are interpreted differently. 
Mary is covered in this mantle when the angel Gabriel came down to tell her that she would bare G-d's son. Many famous painters have been inspired this scene, all creating their own version of the annunciation, but da Messina's depiction appears more modern than those of Lippi and Botticelli. Rather than paint the angel, da Messina focuses on Mary alone. The dark background further helps put the focus on Mary. Da Messina frames her face with the mantle she is wearing and the color brings her expression into full view. 

The eyes are the window to the soul, and Mary's expression speaks volumes to the story. Mary is in disbelief when Gabriel tells her she will have a baby, let alone the child of G-d. Her eyes and soft face show her fear. Da Messina also uses body language as another way to convey Mary’s fear, disdain, and shock. Michael Baxandall discusses the importance of hand placement in paintings, including other versions of the annunciate. In some versions Mary holds her stomach with her hands, showing her comprehension of Gabriel’s message. In Virgin Annunciate, rather than feel her womb, Mary attempts to cover herself with her mantle. This piece of clothing acts as a layer of protection from Gabriel’s words, but she still can’t avoid the truth. To further convey Mary’s unhappiness, Mary reaches her right hand out. She may be pushing Gabriel away or trying to understand the situation. 

In terms of a religious presence in the painting, the portrait lacks the gold or rich blues that would have been used for such a work. There are no fantasy images or baby angels or G-d-like figures. We just see Mary, which takes away from the religious topic and allows more human feelings to be conveyed. Still, we feel like Mary is connected to religion. Her mantle looks like it might serve the purpose of an overcoat, but also as a religious shawl. The way she is engulfed by the cloth shows how she is immersed in religion. Her book looks like a book of devotions, similar to a book of ours, which was popular in the Middle Ages. Her devotion to studying and to G-d may have inspired her divine conception. 

Still, Mary's stomach is hidden from view. The topic of the painting is the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, but Mary's womb is covered by the desk or podium as which she is reading. So not only do we not see the angel Gabriel, but we also don't see her womb. The lack of religious influence in this depiction begs the question, "Who commissioned this painting and why?" Mary looks like an ordinary girl and the choice of a portrait of Mary alone eliminates divine depictions. Maybe this painting is actually a wedding gift and hints to the fertility of the bride or maybe it was commissioned by someone who doesn't believe in divine conception, which is why Mary appears to be pushing away the assumed angel that is not pictured. 

While Mary's mantle draws me in, it is the lack of religion and the focus on the purity of Mary that keeps me engaged. 
  • 7:00 AM

The Visitation

Pierdo di Cosimo, The Visitation, 1490

Pierdo di Cosimo's The Visitation illustrates severals claims mentioned by art historian, Michael Baxandall. Cosimo depicts the Virgin Mary in classic blue clothing and Saint Elizabeth (mother of St. John the Baptist) in black dress. The black garb symbolizes humility according the Renaissance Theological Code. Saint Anthony Abbot to the right also portrayed in a black robe with yellow-gold on the edges, the yellow-gold border represents his dignity as well as his humility. Saint Nicholas illustrated in red and the golden spheres placed beside him showcases his charity relating to his assistance of poverty-stricken daughters of nobles.

In addition, audiences recognizing St. Nicholas would use a technique Baxandall refers to as the period eye. The period eye requires audiences to draw upon knowledge from homilies given to the public on a daily basis. Contemporary art focuses on more secular subjects, therefore in order to understand renaissance renderings one must research the theological intent behind the painting. Audiences in the 15th century used this period eye approach when identifying Saint Anthony Abbot by his cane, bell, and pig in the background. Additionally, images relating to the birth of Christ are hidden in the background of the painting, for instance on the left  the adoration of the shepherds is depicted. Cosimo's use of geometry stems from that devised from Leonardo Di Vinci, for example, the trapezoidal composition of the saints and the two mothers. Cosimo uses the rule of three by placing the subjects in the middle and the two walls in the backgrounds, which therefore, divides the painting.

In conclusion, The Visitation exhibits multiple qualities Michael Baxandall mentions including the theological color code, the period eye and the rule of three.

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Adoration of the Magi

Antonio Vivarini, Adoration of the Magi, 1445-47
The first impression of Adoration of the Magi by Antonio Vivarini, in one word was "Wow." The bright colors, movement of individuals was astonishing. However, after reading Michael Baxandall's "Period Eye" brought my views toward this painting became much more clear. 
During the 15th century in Italy, people were desperate to get their hands on a painting whether it was for their own pleasure, for honoring God, or their city. I guess commissioning artist was a popular trend at the time. As the time passes the requests became more complex. It was all about the artists skills not about the materials.

The painting Adoration of the Magi, seems chaotic and claustrophobic, but it shows the power and wealth of the commissioner.
Ultramarine blue and gold were popular colors and almost every commissioner requested these colors. Not only that, the colors all have their own astrological codes. Red means charity, gold means dignity and so on. The painting is pretty symmetrical and brings the attention to the center. Vivarini colored the corners dark so that the inner part of the painting is focused. The final detailing has been made with gold, and it catches the eyes quickly.
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Art History Hotties: The Baptism of Christ

The Baptism of Christ, The Limbourg Brothers


Jesus is a professional model.  He speaks in that Zoolander voice. He knows how to pose. He's the kind of hot that doesn't even have to look in the mirror. He doesn't have to comb his hair, but he did spend six hours the other day styling his beard. The two pointed look is really en vogue right now. He's bringing sexy all the way back to 15th century. No wonder Christianity caught on. Look at those abs. That muscle definition. The soft alabaster skin. The flowing hair. The sloping calves. The tiny white mini-skirt. What more could you want from the Lamb of God? If God created this Jesus in his image, then God must be smoking. Even the angels agree. They're blushing so hard their wings are turning color. That never happens. Even John the Baptist can't help but to stare. I mean look at those collarbones! It makes me consider the literal interpretation of a "divine glow." Holy men congregate in hordes behind him. They're not staring at his butt in that insanely short wrap. Of course not. They're definitely just here for the spiritual stuff. Definitely. This Jesus is making idolatry pretty tempting. Forget your "french girls," Leo, paint me like 15th century Jesus.

Well done, Limbourg brothers. From the trio that brought us a slew of over-the-top rich people festivals and a line of farmers using the chamber pot,  Paul, Jean, and Herman Limbourg now grace us with the presence of sexy Jesus, one of the most appealing forms of Jesus out there. Hey, if you can't get them interested in scripture, maybe you can entice some converts with this masterpiece. Unfortunately for the masses, these French masters were experts at illumination and in particular creating illustrations for customized books for the upper class. 

Often time religious works of this era were created to educate, stir emotion, and add a visual accompaniment to help better understand these stories as the life of the son of God. As a result, many frescoes in the early Renaissance featured nondescript, "ordinary" faces that reflect the type of people that would be seeing their works in an effort to connect the audience to the stories. The figure of Jesus, obviously, offered the least room for interpretation. He is always pictured with relatively dark hair that curls at the bottom and a full beard in an effort to ensure the accuracy of the image. Yet, looking at works like this one it would be hard to believe it wasn't at least slightly tailored to the audience. For one thing, these figures are all European, not Middle Eastern like Jesus would have been. The the incredibly white skin and the auburn hair for one suggest that the Jesus in this image is french like its onlookers. Furthermore the landscape of this work, from the sloping mountains, deciduous trees, and the Gothic castle behind them, is decidedly French. Between these connecting factors, the accuracy of the image presented, the vibrancy and the skill of the painting itself, and Jesus's glorious form, this illumination goes above and beyond its requirements and showcases the (smokin') work of true masters.
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Art History Hotties: The Triumph of Fame

Lorenzo Costa, The Triumph of Fame, 1490

Oh emo boys, my love for you is way stronger than it should ever be.  I don't know if its your cable knit sweaters, shaggy layered hair or your undying love for the smiths, but there's something oddly attractive about you.

When you're scoping Renaissance paintings for hotties, The Triumph of Fame is laking. But I managed to find this gem lost in the crowd, so typical of the average-me boy, dressed in the straight black. He's got style and swag, not to mention jaw-lines for days. Oh, but I forgot to mention the best part. This hottie you're looking at? He's an A-list artist too. Since he's shooting the viewer with a piercing look of despair, we can assume its Lorenzo Costa himself. Emo boys dig art, so this would make sense.

Dating back to the 1490s, I am going to go ahead and consider Costa as one of the founding and first documented emo boys, too.

So this is a shoutout to all my guys out there who only sport monotone looks, refuse to get their hair cut when their mom asks them to, and consider long-boarding a career. 
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Art History Hotties: A Personification of Geometry

Dosso Dossi, A Personification of Geometry, Unknown


For hotties round two, I present you with Dosso Dossi’s A Personification of Geometry, which will in fact throw you for a doozy. After studying the Personification for a while I can no longer think of concentric circles and scalene angles without imagining our brooding half-clothed friend. Upon looking at him for the first time, one can’t help but wonder about a future point of intersection. With his beefy arms and chiseled jawline, he can help you find the vertex of any of your mathematical equations. His torso ripples as he explains the difference between hexagons and pentagons. The protractor in hand trembles as he stumbles to equate the degrees around your own supple body. 

His veins go rigid as the conversation shifts to Platonic solids. He has to look away at the mention of linear perspective because he cannot contain his excitement. In his presence one falls into a world of axioms and manifolds, emerging enlightened to the study of curves. With his steady body and mind, he helps one to discover points of unparalleled symmetry. 

Our man of math with his posture invites us in to hear more about how the circumference of a circle relates to the radius and diameter. His cast away glance juxtaposed with his stern hand on his easel demonstrates the veracity for which he feels for the work of Euclid. 

Dosso Dossi captures the Renaissance man of our dreams. He may look a bit more brutish than we might of imagined, but we can’t all love Bernini types. Despite the criticism for Dossi's lack of talent and poor color choices, he manages to convey a mathematical rhythm with his figure that may a require a proof or two to ensure everything is working satisfactory. 

In a world often centered around athletes and actors, it’s refreshing to see a mathematician arousing some well-deserved attention. 

For all you singles out there forget hot-tempered artists, sculptors, adoring poets, and charming playwrights. Chose instead the man of math, he will never let you fall out of his geometric plane. 

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Art History Hotties: Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester

Steven van der Meulen, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, ca. 1563

For hundreds of years portraits have stood as symbols of status and wealth. Clearly Robert Dudley has the status, considering he was the Earl of Leicester, and the wealth is shown in his portrait. 

It's never just about looks of the person. The Earl, obviously not the most easy on the eyes, makes up for his looks with his wealth. First, the Earl has a dog, which symbolizes fidelity. Additionally, Dudley knows that dogs are chick magnets, so he is obviously showing off his pooch to attract girls. In terms of status and nobility, van der Meulen displays two of Dudley's crests to show just how significant his status is. He is an Earl! So if you don't care much about looks, you could marry an Earl and get everything else you could wish for. 

In terms of his natural looks, Dudley has a great jaw line. Besides his receding hair line, his eye brows are on fleek, and he is well groomed.

It's clear that he needs to showcase his status and downplay his looks, which is also why his outfit covers almost everything. In the portrait, Dudley sports that insane outfit you saw at Paris Fashion Week that nobody would ever wear out of the house. He is wearing a somewhat feminine outfit, a white, almost silver, with gold accents. The outfit accentuates his long neck and waist. His belt serves multiple purposes, so hewers this belt to show that not only are his clothes multifaceted, but so is he. He has a hanker-chief holder along with a holster for his dagger. On the other side of his belt he has another tool that could be some type of fancy fountain pen which he will use to write love letters to you or sign important documents, like the one in his left hand. Dudley also sports a hat with a feather from a rare goose. To finish the ensemble, Dudley wears a long necklace. The necklace of is gold of course, because he is trying to show his status and style. 

Of course attitude also matters. While it can be hard to convey somebody's attitude in just one portrait, Dudley does it well. The nice side eye look shows that he doesn't have time to be standing here all day; the Earl has things to do. Also, he is clearly sending a message with his right hand. Interpret that as you want. 

Even though his mom may have set up this portrait, if you are looking for a man with status, money, and power, Dudley is the man for you. Also, what is more hot than a man who is close to his mom, right?

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Lady Agnew of Lochnaw

John Singer Sargent, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892

Why, hello there. Your radiating beauty has seemed to form a gravitational field, pulling me in. My mistake, I will now depart your lustrous orbit. Oh, you desire I stay? Certainly. Let me remove my pelt coat. You like it? Well, it consists of imported koala fur, only the finest that satisfies my refined tastes. Your exquisite dress and perfect face has me blinded by rays of elegance emanating from you. My name? Dr. John C. H. Howard Davidson VI Esq.

May I ask you something? How might I acquire your numerical characters to further out communication later tonight, or "Hotline Bling," as the children might say. Haha, you think I am funny don't you? I did not choose the utterly perfect life I possess, with my sharp jaw lines and abdomens so defined it resembles an inside out waffle. Truly, everything fell into place naturally. But, I am missing something. See that mural above my solid gold fire place depicting my uncontrollably beautiful self? You should be there, next to me. Oh, don't blush. I can have you painted if you so desire. I doubt the artist could captivate you beauty. My eyes are still adapting to see such perfection, while my heart seems to be overly adapted.

Stare into my eyes. You will see the fire of a young lad ready to love you from sea to sea. Wait, the phone in my kitchen seems to be ringing. Un momento mi amor, as they say it in French.

The caller seemed to claim an identity so false I called him a "sack of rotten potatoes left in a river to die." Who did he say he was? Well, your "boyfriend." Do not worry, I shoed him off. Wait...wait. You have a boyfriend? You let me ramble and serenade you and immerse you in foreign languages? Get out of my party. Some Lady Agnew of Lochnaw you are. Playing with my emotions, you heartless demon sent from the gates of Hell to torment my love. Am I offending you? Good. Great actually. Hold on, what did you just say? Your boyfriend happens to be the chief of police? DO YOU THINK I CARE?!?! Arrest me. ARREST ME. ARREST MY LOVE. I LOVE YOU. I HATE YOU. AHHHHHHHHH. Sorry, sorry I will calm down. I just get worked up, haha. My apologies, I will not try to seduce a woman already in the romantic embrace of another man. Who is that over there? Your sister? You have a sister? Oh, well it was nice talking to you, please excuse me...

Why, hello there. You would not happen to be the sister of that woman resting comfortably in that chair yonder in that pink dress? Hmmm, you are so you say? Well, I could not help but be pulled in by the gravitation pull of beauty radiating from your divine presence...

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Art History Not-So-Hotties: Redeemer of Blessing

Sandro Botticelli, Redeemer of Blessing, 1500

Botticelli's Redeemer of Blessing showcases Jesus in not his best state, and for that reason he sits at the top of Art History not-so Hotties list. He sports a slightly open robe, unkempt facial hair and a slightly pale exterior. Recently-resurrected, crossed-eyed Jesus' expression mirrors that of a frat boy just awoken from a drunken daze who must muddle through a full day's classes. 

Botticelli painted this work during his late religious period. He painting reflects  Savonarola's (the radical dominican friar that took Italy's political scene by storm) influence on his work.  In addition Botticelli's religious period was influenced by a Northern European artist, Hans Memling, especially from his work Lamentation over Dead Christ. Botticelli and Memling's work both illustrate Jesus' lacerations.

Jesus' physical appearance looks unattractive to his audience in modern day. However, Botticelli does this in order to make biblical study more relatable to sinners. Another way Botticelli relates to the commoner is by appearing weak. Botticelli and Savonarola both emphasizes that everyone can become weak in the face temptation. Jesus' open robe over his heart symbolizes his sympathy and open heart for sinners who repent. 

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Art History Hotties: Oceanus

Giambologna, Oceanus, 1571

Here I have presented before you the great Oceanus. First can we just note that he is perfection from his perfect curly hair to his muscular feet. He will definitely be my ManCrushMonday next week. First I'll start by saying I am infatuated with his hair and the flawless structure if his face. Then, as we move down his body we notice very pleasant arm and pectoral muscles. And of course I would not trade those marvelous abs for anything. As we continue our journey down we see that Mr. Oceanus respects himself enough to keep his genitalia covered, but we also gratefully learn that he never skips leg day. If you ask me I think that it is quite important that Oceanus maintains a proportional body.

This beautiful sculpture was done by a man that went by the name of Giambologna, but whose real name is Jean Boulogne. Giambologna was a Flemish architect and sculptor honored for his extravagant work with bronze and marble. He was influenced my Michelangelo, but eventually developed his own Mannerist style putting for emphasis on refined surfaces, elegance, and beauty rather than emotion. Most of Giambologna's prolific years were spent in Italy where he was commissioned by the Medici's. The Medici's never allowed Giambologna to leave Florence in fear that the Austrian or Spanish Habsburgs would allure him into permanent employment.
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Art History Hotties: Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Catherine

Perugino, Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Cathrine, 1495

Perugino's Madonna looks like the Valedictorian of your grade who kept a steady 4.4 gpa, got a 32 on the ACT in 7th grade, was the Homecoming Queen, who you wish you were, and who you still think is a 10. Her mom attends Jazzercise every day (when Mary isn't dress-coded and needs her mom to get her jeans from home), and grabs Mary's arm at the grocery store to tell her to shut up because she's embarrassing her. Her favorite Snapchat filter is the deer - seeing her story is the highlight of your day. Her hands look soft and warm like a blanket fresh out of the laundry, and her hair looks as smooth as the over-priced tablecloth they pull out of the closet whenever their extended family from Cincinnati comes into town.

Madonna looks like you just told her that you forgot to bring cupcakes to advisory... even though she sent you an e-mail last night reminding you. Catherine and St. John the Baptist are fed up - this is the second week in a row. You are very embarrassed by this because you were planning to confess your feelings to her on the upcoming field trip (you were assigned the same group so this was your big chance to be alone with her). Yet, you still love the sensation of her acknowledging your existence.

Despite this incident (and no, you chickened out and missed your chance to profess your love to her), you still crush on Madonna everyday and cherish her note in your yearbook from last year telling you to "stay cool" just before you tuck yourself in at night.

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Art History Hotties: Vision of Ezekiel

Vision of Ezekiel, 1518 - Raphael
Raphael, Vision of Ezekiel, 1518

Flowing hair, chiseled abs, luscious beard - everything you could ever want in a guy. Descending from heaven with a throne made up of a pegasus, lion, eagle, and an ox. How dreamy is that? Does he also have children? Could he be a great father? I'd consider this aspect a plus in my book. This painting also reminds me of a man's Facebook profile picture. But, like all Facebook profiles, we all know deep down that this picture doesn't accurately represent who this man truly is. But you say to yourself, "Hey let's give him a try." After a dating a man like this, how could you downgrade anymore if you were to break up? He's the whole package.

This Vision of Ezekiel definitely lands under the topic of "Art History Hotties." His gleaming skin, his golden hair, his, as Dr. Roark says, "big, capable hands". Should I go on, because I most obviously could. Can you see the tiny figure standing in the beam of light shining in the bottom left corner? Well, that's the man who wishes he could be God coming down from heaven. But, sadly, he's not and probably never will be.

Painted in 1518, Raphael wanted to capture Ezekiel, a Hebrew prophet's vision of God. We can see that Raphael was attempting to possibly add the components of both Greek and Roman Gods. God, in this painting, does not look like like he typically would in a painting during this time. The abs give are the dead giveaway for this. Raphael also tried to accentuate God's features by making the background bleak and dark, as compared to God and his creatures colors and glow.

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