The Transfiguration

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The Transfiguration by Bellini, ca. 1460
By HARPER TRUOG
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.

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