The Visitation

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Pierdo di Cosimo, The Visitation, 1490
By MISSY ROSENTHAL

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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