Pallas and the Centaur

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Botticelli, Pallas and the Centaur, 1485
By NATALIE BEYER

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.

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