Portrait of Man with a Medal

7:00 AM

Portrait of a Man with a Medal, 1474, Botticelli 
BY REID GUEMMER

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.

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