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 What is Art?

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 16:41

Hmm ... I take your meaning P, but Mr Skullcap seems just a bit too old for me ... especially when the Prodigal lad himself seems barely out of his teens. And just in terms of composition the figure I'd ringed remains coldly aloof, the highest head in the painting, standing stiffly erect, literally head and shoulders above everyone else, regarding the scene with no obvious emotion, or rather his emotions are perhaps tightly surpressed behind a bland controlled visage ... that in a scene where everyone else, even the street cats, seem to have something to say (and as Temp so aptly put it - they all look as they are about to burst into song).

Also have you noticed how my favoured candidate for the slighted brother, looks quite a lot like ... well, to me he looks quite like the reconstruction of King Richard III, no?

Another mediaeval man much maligned and most mightily miffed!
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 21 Feb 2013, 12:36

As a crossover from Priscilla's graffiti thread, is the work of Banksy graffiti or art?

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 21 Feb 2013, 15:39

I'm not that keen to be honest. He's got an exhibit in the Walker Art Gallery - Cardinal Sin - a bust of a Prince of the Church with its face "pixelated" with bathroom tiles. Comment on the priest/child abuse scandals. It's all a bit obvious and crude - sort of stuff a clever art student churns out. As the chap from the Guardian says, context and situation are the important things with Banksy. Cardinal Sin would have worked better had he left it somewhere in the Vatican.

Here's what the Sun says (thought it would make a change from links to the Guardian):

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4001060/Banksy-artwork-of-Cardinal-Sin.html



But here's the Guardian anyway.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2011/dec/16/banksy-cardinal-sin-walker-gallery
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 05 Mar 2013, 13:21

New York's Museum of Modern Art has included video games in it's collection;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21661690
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 10 Jul 2013, 08:33

I've just stumbled on this while I was looking for info on a BBC programme that's coming soon (I think the programme is called "For the Love of Art").

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21377626

Nobel prize winner and "renowned neuropsychiatrist"", Eric Kandel, seems to be suggesting that art can act as a kind of drug; being moved by a work of art is all about dopamine in the brain and the effect is similar to falling in love! It's an interesting idea, but I must admit Klimt's Judith does very little for my dopamine levels. I did, though, sort of "fall in love" with Holbein's portrait of Philipp Melanchthon - a picture which I only came across yesterday. It's the eyes that do something for my neurotransmitters; to me the man looks intelligent, humorous and kind. Lord, how weird is this - falling for a Protestant reformer who died in 1560? It is odd: pictures of Luther and Tyndale  don't have the same effect (definitely not Luther) on me, although I find both men very interesting. Holbein's Thomas Wyatt does though... Smile 

Holbein knew all about Henry VIII's dopamine levels; he was certainly able to paint a miniature of Anne of Cleves that the king fell for.



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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 10 Jul 2013, 08:54

Here is another Holbein portrait that sent Henry VIII's dopamine levels sky high: it's Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan. Her face is lovely - remarkably serene and composed for a sixteen-year-old girl. The sheen of the black satin and the rich fur of her robe contrasts so beautifully with the aquamarine background - clever old Holbein.

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 10 Jul 2013, 16:36

It's Matt Lucas. You don't fool me!
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 10 Jul 2013, 17:15



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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 10 Oct 2013, 17:11

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 11 Oct 2013, 17:59

My message yesterday was too emotional and personal - hence its deletion.

But my interest in Andreas Mantegna remains - this early Renaissance artist who, it seems, depicted the infant Christ in possibly three of his pictures as being a Down's Syndrome child. Surely this is remarkable and possibly unique in the history of Western art?

In 1982, Dr. Brian Stratford, a specialist in developmental disabilities at the University of Nottingham, suggested in the journal Maternal and Child Health that the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna used a little boy with Down syndrome as the model for his Christ child. Stratford made a “clear characteristic diagnosis” of the baby based on his distinctive facial features and the shape of his hands and toes. The curator at the MFA dismissed this theory, attributing the work to an unknown, less technically astute follower of Mantegna, and calling the resemblance to a child with Down syndrome accidental. In the meantime, however, Stratford heard from a history professor in Rome. The Gonzaga family of Mantua, Mantegna’s sponsor, had a boy with an unidentified “sickness,” she said, and one of the artist’s own fourteen children shared this condition — a not insignificant factor in Ludovico Gonzaga’s choice of Andrea Mantegna as his court painter.

This is the picture we looked at in our Art Study group yesterday: Mantegna's The Presentation of Christ at the Temple. As I said in my deleted post, it is actually the face of Mary that fascinates me: such an sensitive study of intense love combined with pain and fear.



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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 11 Oct 2013, 18:08

EDIT: Ah! You put it back as I was writing this - thanks! Anyway, here's what I was about to say while it was gone ...

I'm sorry you deleted your post, Temp. It was a very good example of the earlier point in this thread regarding how we often fail to appreciate the intentional ambiguity in art, thinking erroneously that even the most cryptic depiction has one "true" interpretation. The artist is assumed to have one message to convey when in fact his intention might have been the opposite - to produce an image that could with justification be interpreted completely differently by each person who saw it, none "more correct" than the other. These open interpretations should not be confused with a compositional theme - most paintings had one of those since most commissioners demanded one and the sale of a work depended on it. However once that theme had been satisfied according to whatever conventions pertained then the artist had free reign to broaden the appeal of the work through assimilation of as many conjectural points of interest he dared include.

One theme that lent itself brilliantly to the application of this skill was the "mystic marriage" - a recurring trend in Christian theology dating back to Valentinian Gnosticism in the 2nd century and which enjoyed a revival in the early part of the 17th century. Artists lucky enough to be around at the time suddenly found themselves acquiring commissions which opened a plethora of opportunities for open interpretation.



St Catherine of Alexandria features in many of these. In Sassoferatto's image above the baby Jesus is slipping a ring on her finger. His is a painting grounded in a "Madonna and child" convention yet you can immediately see two great departures from the norm here - the almost censurious expression on Mary's face, as well as the rather obvious pregnancy. These were not there by accident. Sassoferatto was illegitimate and had suffered for it too. He had much to say on the subject, and about the church which had made life so difficult for him. Jesus, the hubby, unlike his mother appears a little more benign - even if one of the attendant angels is so obviously aghast and withholding the crown. This is a complex interchange of emotions open to hundreds of combinational interpretations.

But some artists, liberated from the Madonna theme, could take the theme even further.



Have a look at this "mystic marriage" and see can you guess what might have been running through the various minds of its viewers, let alone the artist. This time round Jesus is in his post-passion manifestation and the marriage (not apparently to Catherine of Alexandria this time, but her intended identity is now alas unknown) is going altogether more swimmingly on the passion front too. That's a Kinghts Hospitallers' flag you can see, which in itself was at the time a huge nudge by the artist to interpret the scene a particular way. The depiction of the reactions he has painted however are a nudge in another direction entirely. All together it's a recipe for wildly differing interpretations bordering on the extreme, and that is exactly what happened during its initial period of exhibition.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 11 Oct 2013, 18:25

As ever, you give us much to think about, nordmann.

As I put in my original post, it was Simeon's words to Mary that I could not get out of my head yesterday (especially when I thought of my friend): "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also."
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sat 12 Oct 2013, 10:54

The "mystic marriage" in religious art is something I have never really thought about, but it is clearly an important subject. It is not one I am very comfortable with, especially when - as in this picture - there are two brides (Catherine of Alexandria and Catherine of Siena) - a double ceremony. It is by the fifteenth century artist, Ambrogio Bergognone.



This is another early one - by Michelino da Besozza (c 1420): I am baffled by what appears to be a little piglet in the bottom right hand corner.



EDIT: Saint Catherine of Siena seems to have suffered from what we would today identify as anorexia nervosa. Her rigorous fasting - a constant, determined refusal of food - was well known, and was presumably seen as an indication of her holiness, something to be applauded. I wonder if there are paintings which show her as emaciated? A painfully thin body would be covered by the voluminous robes of the religieuse, but I have nowhere seen this saint depicted as having the gaunt features and the sunken, haunted eyes of the anorectic. Yet John the Baptist in the da Besozza painting above is clearly a hungry man. His ribs are visible and he looks old - all obvious signs of malnutrition.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 13 Oct 2013, 15:07

Catherine of Siena's head is preserved as a relic. She's definitely looking a tad emaciated now.

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 13 Oct 2013, 15:41

Thank you, nordmann.

What a bizarre business it all is.

You have to look the saints in the face; say how the facts of their lives revolt and frighten you, but when you have got over being satirical and atheistical, and saying how silly it all is, the only productive way is the one the psychologist Pierre Janet recommended, early in the 20th century: first, you must respect the beliefs that underlie the phenomena.

Much as I respect Hilary Mantel, I have to admit I'm finding it very difficult to look Saint Catherine in the face.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 10:16

Bizarre is the word alright. Under Valentinian Gnosticism Christ had a female counterpart Sophia who had corresponding superpowers, sometimes as Christ's mother and sometimes as his sister. One of the handy things about having her however was that the "bridal chamber" was open to men as well as women and the mystic marriage applied therefore to both sexes. All very sexy stuff I imagine, especially if several marriages were going on at once.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 11:21

@nordmann wrote:
Bizarre is the word alright. Under Valentinian Gnosticism Christ had a female counterpart Sophia who had corresponding superpowers, sometimes as Christ's mother and sometimes as his sister. One of the handy things about having her however was that the "bridal chamber" was open to men as well as women and the mystic marriage applied therefore to both sexes. All very sexy stuff I imagine, especially if several marriages were going on at once.

Crikey. Shocked 

I believe Rome thoroughly disapproved of Valentinus - still does, in fact: this is the entry for him from that worthy organ, The Advent:

Valentinus, the best known and most influential of the Gnostic heretics, was born according to Epiphanius (Haer., XXXI) on the coast of Egypt. He was trained in Hellenistic science in Alexandria. Like many other heretical teachers he went to Rome the better, perhaps to disseminate his views. He arrived there during the pontificate of Hyginus and remained until the pontificate of Anicetus. During a sojourn of perhaps fifteen years, though he had in the beginning allied himself with the orthodox community in Rome, he was guilty of attempting to establish his heretical system. His errors led to his excommunication, after which he repaired to Cyprus where he resumed his activities as a teacher and where he died probably about 160 or 161. Valentinus professed to have derived his ideas from Theodas or Theudas, a disciple of St. Paul, but his system is obviously an attempt to amalgamate Greek and Oriental speculations of the most fantastic kind with Christian ideas. He was especially indebted to Plato. From him was derived the parallel between the ideal world (the pleroma) and the lower world of phenomena (the kenoma). Valentinus drew freely on some books of the New Testament, but used a strange system of interpretation by which the sacred authors were made responsible for his own cosmological and pantheistic views. In working out his system he was thoroughly dominated by dualistic fancies.

Irenaeus (the one who forged things?) found the Valentinians immensely irritating, I believe. I quite like Valentinus - anyone who, as Tertullian claimed, "turned to heresy in a fit of pique" (because they didn't make him a bishop), can't be all bad. But I honestly get very confused with all these early Church Fathers and quite what they believed.

It must be admitted that, the more one reads about all this stuff, the more one has to conclude that most - if not all - of these people were complete nutters, completely lacking in anything remotely like a sense of humour. That said, I do have a soft spot for dear old Saint Jerome whose sexual fantasies actually seem to have been quite normal. Apparently - during his spell meditating and things in the desert - he was plagued by recurring dreams of the dancing girls in Rome - a bit like our Archbishop of Canterbury confessing to having ungodly thoughts about the girls on Strictly Come Dancing. More worrying though, perhaps, was Jerome's thing about Roman matrons wearing leather shoes - the "creaking" of the leather apparently excited him in all the wrong ways Shocked . One can only imagine the effect a Roman Kristina Rihanoff (in a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels) would have had on this saint. The entire history of Western Christianity might have been different and Jerome could have been a much happier man.




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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 12:50

For the more intellectual of our posters, who would never dream of watching Strictly Come Dancing and who therefore have no idea who Kristina Rihanoff is, this is she (shown here in one of her more sedate poses). She is actually a superb dancer.

I think Saint Jerome would approve - especially the shoes. Smile 

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 13:57

This thread delved into "exotica/erotica" in post-renaissance art already and it is a wonder that we didn't explore the mystical marriage phenomenon more closely while doing so. In this example we're back to the Alexandrian Catherine again and this time baby Jesus is patently angling for a snog (while his mother checks his undercarriage).



The artist, Paulo Veronese, liked to live on the edge when it came to what he put into his paintings, having the misfortune to have been most active just when the Inquisition was also at it most active too. In fact, bearing this in mind, one can only hold the utmost respect for his audaciousness. I make no apology for reproducing the entire transcript of Veronese's case when he was summonsed to an Inquisition grilling regarding his Last Supper and the fact that he had - according to the Inquisitors - gone way overboard on the superfluous decoration front. He got off light this time, being told to remove the offending dog/jester/stupid Germans/bleeding nose etc at his own expense. How he got the snogging Jesus past them however is not (unfortunately) recorded. The transcript reads like a Monty Python sketch (indeed it inspired one featuring the pope and Michelangelo), and one can almost sense Veronese swallowing hard so as not to laugh out loud when he's told to put Mary Magdalene in instead of the dog.



"This day, July eighteenth, 1573. Called to the Holy Office before the sacred tribunal, Paolo Galliari Veronese residing in the parish of Saint Samuel, and being asked as to his name and surname replied as above.
Being asked as to his profession:
Answer. I paint and make figures.
Question. Do you know the reasons why you have been called here?
A. No.
Q. Can you imagine what those reasons may be?
A. I can well imagine.
Q. Say what you think about them.
A. I fancy that it concerns what was said to me by the reverend fathers, or rather by the prior of the monastery of San Giovanni e Paolo, whose name I did not know, but who informed me that he had been here, and that your Most Illustrious Lordships had ordered him to cause to be placed in the picture a Magdalen instead of the dog; and I answered him that very readily I would do all that was needful for my reputation and for the honor of the picture; but that I did not understand what this figure of the Magdalen could be doing here; and this for many reasons, which I will tell, when occasion is granted me to speak.
Q. What is the picture to which you have been referring?
A. It is the picture which represents the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His disciples in the house of Simon.
Q. Where is this picture?
A. In the refectory of the monks of San Giovanni e Paolo.
Q. Is it painted in fresco or on wood or on canvas?
A. It is on canvas.
Q. How many feet does it measure in height?
A. It may measure seventeen feet.
Q. And in breadth?
A. About thirty-nine.
Q. How many have you represented? And what is each one doing?
A. First there is the innkeeper, Simon; then, under him, a carving squire whom I supposed to have come there for his pleasure, to see how the service of the table is managed. There are many other figures which I cannot remember, however, as it is a long time since I painted that picture.
Q. How you painted other Last Suppers besides that one?
A. Yes.
Q. How many have you painted? Where are they?
A. I painted one at Verona for the reverend monks of San Lazzaro; it is in their refectory. Another is in the refectory of the reverend brothers of San Giorgio here in Venice.
Q. But that one is not a Last Supper, and is not even called the Supper of Our Lord.
A. I painted another in the refectory of San Sebastiano in Venice, another at Padua for the Fathers of the Maddalena. I do not remember to have made any others.
Q. In this Supper which you painted for San Giovanni e Paolo, what signifies the figure of him whose nose is bleeding?
A. He is a servant who has a nose-bleed from some accident.
Q. What signify those armed men dressed in the fashion of Germany, with halberds in their hands?
A. It is necessary here that I should say a score of words.
Q. Say them.
A. We painters use the same license as poets and madmen, and I represented those halberdiers, the one drinking, the other eating at the foot of the stairs, but both ready to do their duty, because it seemed to me suitable and possible that the master of the house, who as I have been told was rich and magnificent, would have such servants.
Q. And the one who is dressed as a jester with a parrot on his wrist, why did you put him into the picture?
A. He is there as an ornament, as it is usual to insert such figures.
Q. Who are the persons at the table of Our Lord?
A. The twelve apostles.
Q. What is Saint Peter doing, who is the first?
A. He is carving the lamb in order to pass it to the other part of the table.
Q. What is he doing who comes next?
A. He holds a plate to see what Saint Peter will give him.
Q. Tell us what the third is doing.
A. He is picking his teeth with a fork.
Q. And who are really the persons whom you admit to have been present at this Supper?
A. I believe that there was only Christ and His Apostles; but when I have some space left over in a picture I adorn it with figures of my own invention.
Q. Did some person order you to paint Germans, buffoons, and other similar figures in this picture?
A. No, but I was commissioned to adorn it as I thought proper; now it is very large and can contain many figures.
Q. Should not the ornaments which you were accustomed to paint in pictures be suitable and in direct relation to the subject, or are they left to your fancy, quite without discretion or reason?
A. I paint my pictures with all the considerations which are natural to my intelligence, and according as my intelligence understands them.
Q. Does it seem suitable to you, in the Last Supper of our Lord, to represent buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs, and other such absurdities?
A. Certainly not.
Q. Then why have you done it?
A. I did it on the supposition that those people were outside the room in which the Supper was taking place.
Q. Do you not know that in Germany and other countries infested by heresy, it is habitual, by means of pictures full of absurdities, to vilify and turn to ridicule the things of the Holy Catholic Church, in order to teach false doctrine to ignorant people who have no common sense?
A. I agree that it is wrong, but I repeat what I have said, that it is my duty to follow the examples given me by my masters.
Q. Well, what did your masters paint? Things of this kind, perhaps?
A. In Rome, in the Pope's Chapel, Michelangelo has represented Our Lord, His Mother, St. John, St. Peter, and the celestial court; and he has represented all these personages nude, including the Virgin Mary, and in various attitudes not inspired by the most profound religious feeling.
Q. Do you not understand that in representing the Last Judgment, in which it is a mistake to suppose that clothes are worn, there was no reason for painting any? But in these figures what is there that is not inspired by the Holy Spirit? There are neither buffoons, dogs, weapons, nor other absurdities. Do you think, therefore, according to this or that view, that you did well in so painting your picture, and will you try to prove that it is a good and decent thing?
A. No, my most Illustrious Sirs; I do not pretend to prove it, but I had not thought that I was doing wrong; I had never taken so many things into consideration. I had been far from imaging such a great disorder, all the more as I had placed these buffoons outside the room in which Our Lord was sitting.
These things having been said, the judges pronounced that the aforesaid Paolo should be obliged to correct his picture within the space of three months from the date of the reprimand, according to the judgments and decision of the Sacred Court, and altogether at the expense of the said Paolo.
'Et ita decreverunt omni melius modo.' (And so they decided everything for the best!)"
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 14:25

It should be noted that Veronese never did paint over the dogs, german soldiers and buffoons ... he just renamed the painting "Christ at the Feast in the House of Levi", which was a far less sensitive subject than the Last Supper. And so the dog remains to this day, patiently waiting for a bit of the lamb that St Peter (now presumably renamed Signor Levi) was doling out:



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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 14:32

Yeah, my kind of artist alright!

And just to show that his snogging Jesus wasn't a one-off, here's another painting by Veronese of the Alexandrian woman getting married to BJ. This time he even has the tackle out and judging by the grip he's taken he means business!

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 14:40

A brave man indeed: getting on the wrong side of the Inquisition in 1573 was rather more dangerous than getting up the noses of Muggeridge and Co. in 1979.

I had no idea about Veronese. So that is where the idea for this came from?

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 14:48

The Louvre's largest painting is a Veronese (subtle this guy ain't!) entitled "The Wedding Feast at Cana". This was originally painted for the Benedictines so, rather amusingly, no one in the picture is talking, despite the fact they're all having a right old beano anyway (maybe sign language was in vogue?).

In fact, speaking of sign language, have a look at the guests and see who you can spot. Then maybe you can see why sign language would have come in handy. Veronese and his mate Titian were there. Rather surprisingly Mary Tudor also dropped in. But even more surprisingly Suleiman the Magnificent has managed to cadge an invite! Good job the wine didn't run out ...

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 14:55

Hey, Cardinal Pole's there, too!

I wish Veronese had shown Suleiman in his usual outrageous headgear though - perhaps he did and they made him paint it out.


EDIT: Sorry, it was Titian who did Suleiman in an enormous turban, not Veronese.

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 15:04

@Temperance wrote:

This is another early one [Mystic Marriage of St Catherine] - by Michelino da Besozza (c 1420): I am baffled by what appears to be a little piglet in the bottom right hand corner.


It is indeed a piglet. The figure above it is St Anthony the Great, whose symbol is a pig ... he apparently worked as a swineherd before he took himself off to live as a hermit in the desert (he was another one who suffered from dreams about beguiling women).

Here's St Anthony again writing out his shopping list, and with accompanying pig in a painting by Piero di Cosimo (c. 1480):



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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 15:17

Thanks, MM!

Charles V is apparently in there somewhere, but I can't find him. Am looking for the slab of cheese chin.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 15:55

I'm afraid all them beards look very much alike, but is this Charles V, painted in profile perhaps to mask the Habsburg jaw ... and sitting next to Les Dawson?



Or is that Reginald Pole who's also supposed to be there somewhere?
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 16:15

Don't think it's him, MM. This is very frustrating: there must be a site somewhere that identifies all the famous folk in this picture, but annoyingly I can't find it.

Free drinks all night in the bar for anyone who comes up with one.

It's a sort of 16th century Where's Wally (or Charles V, or Francis I or  Titian or Cardinal Pole - they're all in there apparently) puzzle, isn't it?

EDIT: I thought I'd spotted Cardinal P. at the front, but you could be right.

Nordmann, of course, will leave us all to stew... Twisted Evil
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 14 Oct 2013, 17:00

Going back to the dog in Veronese's "Last Supper", renamed "The Feast in the House of Levi" after the debacle with the Inquisition ... 



.... the dog is depicted meeting the gaze of the figure, seated at left in the above detail, who appears to be somewhat ill at ease. There's a second dog standing next to the same figure's chair. In the painting's original guise as "The Last Supper", this figure is of course Judas and the dog is then actually a key component as it is symbolic of (Judas') greed, or possibly the presence of Satan himself. Several late renaissance "Last Suppers" also have a dog close to Judas, as here in Paul Rubens painting (c 1632) where the dog is under Judas' chair:



Or here in Jacopo Bassano da Ponte's "Last Supper" (detail) - circa 1546:



EDIT 

Temp, in Veronese's "The Wedding Feast at Cana", Titian is supposed to be one of the musicians at front - the one in the red robe - while his fellow musician in white is apparently Veronese himself. But other than that I too am struggling to find out who's who.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 15 Oct 2013, 08:18

Temp wrote:
Nordmann, of course, will leave us all to stew...
Nordmann was too busy getting stewed himself.

The bad news is that the identity of all the figures was lost when Napoleon's troops sacked the monastery in 1797 during the assault that finally ended the independent republic of Venice. The painting, along with just about anything that could be transported and which once belonged to the Venetian nobility, was rolled up and thrown on a cart to be transported to Paris. In the feeding frenzy whereby looted European treasures were "adopted" by Napoleon's favourites this painting was overlooked - probably its immense size put off potential new owners - so in the end it was listed under the terms of the Treaty of Campo Formio as a nationally owned work and donated to the fledgling national collection then being assembled in the old royal palace. In 1803 it was viewed by the old Benedictine abbot of the San Giorgio Maggiore monastery. He was dying and wanted to see it one last time. It was from him that the Louvre learnt the identity of some of the figures, at least in as far as the monks had interpreted the painting.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 15 Oct 2013, 08:20

@Meles meles wrote:
Going back to the dog in Veronese's "Last Supper", renamed "The Feast in the House of Levi" after the debacle with the Inquisition ... 



.... the dog is depicted meeting the gaze of the figure, seated at left in the above detail, who appears to be somewhat ill at ease. There's a second dog standing next to the same figure's chair. In the painting's original guise as "The Last Supper", this figure is of course Judas and the dog is then actually a key component as it is symbolic of (Judas') greed, or possibly the presence of Satan himself. Several late renaissance "Last Suppers" also have a dog close to Judas, as here in Paul Rubens painting (c 1632) where the dog is under Judas' chair:



Or here in Jacopo Bassano da Ponte's "Last Supper" (detail) - circa 1546:



That's really interesting, MM - I had no idea about the dog as a symbol for Satan. I suppose it could be a reference to Psalm 22:20  - "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog." (KJV) (What an odd choice of word "darling" is. I wonder what the original Hebrew word was in the psalm; must have been different from that which is usually translated as "beloved".)

But I wonder what Jesus of Nazareth himself would have made of all this? A simple message of love, tolerance and decency made complicated - and ridiculous - by the arguing intellectuals and the viciously corrupt of a Church founded using his name, but not understanding - or caring much about - the man's teaching? Men who somehow completely missed the point of it all in a way the artists did not (and that incudes our favourite very angry person, Caravaggio).

"Jesus wept" - has that verse ever been shown in Renaissance art (with or without parrots)?

EDIT: Crossed posts.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 15 Oct 2013, 08:41

Temp wrote:
"Jesus wept" - has that verse ever been shown in Renaissance art (with or without parrots)?

No, it's the preamble to the raising of Lazarus which of course has been depicted several thousand times. However the initial scene where Lazarus's relatives and Jesus have a mutual cry-in over the lad's demise and they slag him off about his failing magic powers in order to goad him into getting young Laz back from the dead doesn't apparently lend itself to artistic treatment.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 15 Oct 2013, 09:30

@nordmann wrote:
Temp wrote:
"Jesus wept" - has that verse ever been shown in Renaissance art (with or without parrots)?
No, it's the preamble to the raising of Lazarus which of course has been depicted several thousand times. However the initial scene where Lazarus's relatives and Jesus have a mutual cry-in over the lad's demise and they slag him off about his failing magic powers in order to goad him into getting young Laz back from the dead doesn't apparently lend itself to artistic treatment.


Are we meant to take the story of Lazarus literally, do you think? I suppose a lot of people do, which I find very odd. Perhaps the Johannine narrative about the raising of Lazarus was just the author's meditation on the parable of the other Lazarus in Luke - about people not getting the message and all? John's Gospel is a big favourite with the biblical fundamentalists, of course - ironic really as it offers them some very serious problems...

I actually think the weeping bit is more important than the raising bit. A pity it is not a part of the story which lends itself "to artistic treatment", as you put it. Instead we get rather silly pictures of poor Lazarus in his bandages emerging from the tomb looking understandaby stunned, if not utterly bewildered. I dread to think what Veronese would have done with this subject.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 15 Oct 2013, 09:36

I agree with you about the weeping being more important than the raising bit. In John this is where the story really starts. Raising Lazarus is the incident that brings Jesus originally to the attention of Caiaphus and, as we all know, it all goes downhill for him from there on. All the anti-semitism of the christian take on the narrative emerges at this point too - the inroduction of Caiaphus is an open invitation to start regarding the Jews - hitherto a backdrop to the story - as active agents of the hero's demise. While John doesn't labour the point the isolation of the phrase "Jesus wept" can be taken as an indication of the lad realising in advance (what with being omniscient and everything) exactly what's at stake.

A good dramatic moment in other words, and actually worthy of depiction in religious art one would have thought.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 15 Oct 2013, 09:39

Re. the dog … I think it’s all to do with the sop:

John 13
26 Jesus therefore answereth, He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him. So when he had dipped the sop, he taketh and giveth it to Judas, [the son] of Simon Iscariot.
27 And after the sop, then entered Satan into him. Jesus therefore saith unto him, What thou doest, do quickly.

The dog, as a symbol of greed, allows the artist to suggest the specific later event of Judas taking the sop and Satan entering into him, while depicting the general events of the supper. And as a symbol of greed it also refers to Judas’ betrayal for money.

When the taking of the sop is specifically depicted I think there is sometimes an actual little devil, or a symbol of evil - a dog, cat, serpent, owl - standing close by Judas. Note that in both Veronese's and Jacopo Bassano's Last Suppers, Judas has cats at his feet too.

Of course the dog can also be a symbol of fidelity …. So when Veronese renamed his painting, "The Feast in the House of Levi", he had no need to paint over the evil, greedy dog.


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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 15 Oct 2013, 09:53

The way Veronese and his colleagues were paid for their work plays a role too. Each human character in a painting carried a price, and if they were accurate depictions of real people they carried a big price. Animals however were freebies. If Veronese was commissioned to do a painting with a large number of humans (accurate likenesses being his speciality so therefore quite expensive commissions) he would, as a gesture of good faith, throw in a few animals too. He also threw in accurate depictions of his commissioners' houses.

No fool our Paulo.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 16 Oct 2013, 11:31

@nordmann wrote:
The way Veronese and his colleagues were paid for their work plays a role too. Each human character in a painting carried a price, and if they were accurate depictions of real people they carried a big price. Animals however were freebies. If Veronese was commissioned to do a painting with a large number of humans (accurate likenesses being his speciality so therefore quite expensive commissions) he would, as a gesture of good faith, throw in a few animals too. He also threw in accurate depictions of his commissioners' houses.

No fool our Paulo.


You make the creation of great art sound so - well, so like any other day job, nordmann. Which of course I suppose it was in many ways. Shakespeare more concerned about the box office receipts than the sublimity of his poetry and all that? But surely, surely, art - inspiration, genius, whatever you want to call it - has to be something more? I've been thinking a lot recently about the Peter Shaffer play/film Amadeus - MM mentioned it on another thread quite recently - about how God (sorry, I know it's a word you can't bear, but it's a useful term) uses the most unlikely of humans to convey the truth. It would seem that it is the sinners and the madmen who actually understand ; that it is they who are the real artists. Was it Henry Ford who said, "Jesus was a crackpot"? It was Oscar Wilde who said he was a great artist. I'm trying to think of a respectable, solid, church-going Puritan who was good at sublimity: there's Milton, I suppose, but he was of the devil's party without knowing it. How much of Milton's secret self actually came out in his Satan, I wonder - all that energy and manic zoom?  

Poor Salieri  in Amadeus - he set out so anxious to praise and glorify God, but he ended up hating Him - and his own mediocrity. Salieri had no gift for love at all - unlike Mozart (and the rest).

Salieri (addressing a crucifix): From now on we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able.




I get exactly the same feeling when I look at Caravaggio's Penitent Magdalene. There is such love and tenderness here - surely this is more than clever stuff - done to order - for a hefty fee?





PS This is an odd study:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/protestants-creative-catholics-jews_n_3695962.html
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 16 Oct 2013, 12:03

I'm not attempting to denigrate the achievement of the artists of the renaissance and immediate post-renaissance periods. However it would be very remiss not to take into account the sometimes very strict criteria within which they operated. In fact their achievement is often all the greater when judged in this light.

Titian, for example, was renowned as a young man not for his compositions or draftsmanship but for his ability to mix paint of proven durability. This might sound like an incidental biographical detail now but at the time it was considered a fundamental attribute of the man as a painter which explained to a huge extent his meteoric rise to prominence as a sought-after artist. For exactly the same reason (though in reverse) Da Vinci was derided by many contemporaries. His paint was crap.

The Guild of St Luke to which both belonged recorded several instances where Da Vinci paid hand over fist for paints mixed by others, including one must assume Titian, when struggling to make deadlines after self-imposed delays while he fluthered around experimenting with pigment concoctions that just didn't work. This encouraged a perception of Da Vinci as an unreliable commissionee, a fact that is reflected in the quantity, nature and price of his commissions when compared to contemporaries.

It's also worth noting that one qualification which prospective commissioners checked was the artist's certificate of apothecary. Titian was by profession not an artist but a chemist, as were several other painters of his generation. Da Vinci, lacking this certificate from the guild, was at a serious disadvantage. When we compare them with a focus on their genius and skills it is worth remembering that they compared themselves using quite different criteria in their own time.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 16 Oct 2013, 20:13

Sorry to doggedly keep going on about the canines at the last supper, but having made the comment that Judas sometimes has a devil or other symbol of ill omen with him as he takes the sop from Jesus, I just had to find an example. (That's the trouble with reading something online, not noting where you saw it, and so then having to trawl images on the net).

Several painters like here, Pieter Pourbus (1548), depict the devil entering the room as Judas gets up to leave (I assume it is Satan and not a particularly scrawny waitress with big feet, bad skin and pink leg-warmers beneath her skirt!):



..... but this one below (detail), by Roselli Casimo circa 1480, a fresco on the wall of the Sistine chapel, is exactly what I think the article I read meant, with a little devil perched on his shoulder as he takes the sop from Christ ... (plus a dog and cat but here they may be just to fill the foreground):



And I found this one by Jaume Huguet (c 1470) with a cat (often associated with the devil) and a crow (usually a symbol of impending death), ..... or is it a raven? In which case it would still be a symbol of ill-omen, but could also be an oblique reference to Christ's offer of food (the sop again), as in the story of Elijah in Kings 17:4. Either way, raven or crow, it is obviously a deliberate symbol rather than just a space-filling pet on the floor waiting for the left-overs.
It's all very confusing this renaissance symbolism!



But one does wonder how the disciples couldn't tell that the traitor was Judas all along. He's usually the only one without a halo, he's often all alone on the other side of the table to everyone else or at least on the end nearest the door, there's frequently a dog hidden under his chair and he's often just spilled the salt (always a bad sign!):



(Detail of Giacomo Raffaeli's copy of Da Vinci's 'Last Supper')
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 17 Oct 2013, 08:15

@Meles meles wrote:
Sorry to doggedly keep going on about the canines at the last supper...

...And I found this one by Jaume Huguet (c 1470) with a cat (often associated with the devil) and a crow (usually a symbol of impending death), ..... or is it a raven? In which case it would still be a symbol of ill-omen, but could also be an oblique reference to Christ's offer of food (the sop again), as in the story of Elijah in Kings 17:4. Either way, raven or crow, it is obviously a deliberate symbol rather than just a space-filling pet on the floor waiting for the left-overs.
It's all very confusing this renaissance symbolism!

You're not "going on about" all this at all, MM: it is confusing, as you say, but these symbols are really interesting. They are details I tend to carelessly overlook when I'm looking at pictures - great you are pointing them out to us. (Yes, Judas was a bit obvious, wasn't he, especially when he had a little red devil perched on his shoulder.)

I was gaily bandying the word "sublimity" about yesterday; its use in the art world is apparently rather more exact than my application of the term. Excellent stuff here from the Tate site:

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/what-is-the-sublime-r1109449

I'm reading the Ben Quash essay, The De-sublimations of Christian Art (from the Tate site) at the moment: it's very interesting, but very difficult:

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/ben-quash-the-de-sublimations-of-christian-art-r1140522
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 17 Oct 2013, 08:42

Thanks to Edmund Burke's particular interpretation of Pseudo-Longinus's rambling thesis we are now obliged to define "sublime" in artistic terms as that which can compel and destroy us. Thankfully artists in the Renaissance period were not so shackled.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 17 Oct 2013, 09:10

@nordmann wrote:


Thanks to Edmund Burke's particular interpretation of Pseudo-Longinus's rambling thesis we are now obliged to define "sublime" in artistic terms as that which can compel and destroy us. Thankfully artists in the Renaissance period were not so shackled.  

I suppose not, but then I don't really understand what Burke meant. And I know nothing about the Pseudo-Longinus thesis.

Scholars have debated the term ‘sublime’ in the field of aesthetics for centuries. Many more artists, writers, poets and musicians have sought to evoke or respond to it. But what is the sublime? Is it a thing, a feeling, an event or a state of mind? The word, of Latin origin, means something that is ‘set or raised aloft, high up’. The sublime is further defined as having the quality of such greatness, magnitude or intensity, whether physical, metaphysical, moral, aesthetic or spiritual, that our ability to perceive or comprehend it is temporarily overwhelmed.

I go along with the above simple (?) definition. But my understanding and appreciation of art was once dismissed as "bourgeois" - a judgement I pretend to laugh about, but which, if I'm honest, still bugs after forty years. I'm wary of saying something really stupid about a subject I just enjoy. Oh dear, I sound like Monty Python's Pope: "I may not know much about art, but I know what I like". Smile


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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 17 Oct 2013, 10:08

Have you been listening to Grayson Perry's Reith lectures, no 1 'Democracy has poor taste'?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03969vt
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 17 Oct 2013, 13:54

Thank you for that link, ferval: sounds interesting and I'll listen to it later.

I started to read Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful (like you do) in the hope that I could say something intelligent to nordmann about it, but then the postman arrived with my Princes in the Tower book, so Burke's been abandoned (with some relief I must add).

http://www.bartleby.com/24/2/101.html
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 18 Oct 2013, 13:38

It's true that "what is art" is going to be subjective as has already been noted. I'm old-fashioned in that I like pictorial or sculptural art to be pleasing - I'm not a Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst fan but I do like Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Henry Moore although they are not representational.  That said, what I find pleasing another person might not - and a picture I dislike might be well executed, but not to my personal taste.  I hate "Les Grandes Baigneuses" and an acquaintance once became quite annoyed with me for saying so asking "Why not, because it's not like a photograph?"  My reasoning was more like "I do not like thee Doctor Fell, the reason why I cannot tell" - only substituting "Grandes Baigneuses" for "Doctor Fell". Some people take it as a personal affront if one dislikes a thing or person that they like.  Somebody told me I had "no soul" when I said I couldn't "get into" "Lord of the Rings" though I didn't mind the animated version, though that only told half the story.

As for Temperance reaching for the chocolate egg - we all deserve the occasional treat.  I found I had a tendency to high blood pressure nearly a decade ago and the doctor put chocolate on the forbidden list - basically if I like something it's on the forbidden list, though I have learned to snack on unsalted nuts and dried fruit if poss - can't bring myself to like dried apricots or prunes though (but now I'm getting off topic - prunes should probably be on the "Apple a day" thread).
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 18 Oct 2013, 15:06

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
 Somebody told me I had "no soul" when I said I couldn't "get into" "Lord of the Rings" though I didn't mind the animated version, though that only told half the story.
I only managed about 70 pages of the book before giving up. The Peter Jackson trilogy, on the other hand, I thought was terrific.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 18 Oct 2013, 17:38

I erroneously only read one page of this thread before making my earlier post.  Temperance, the fact I alluded to your choccy egg must have seemed very strange since that related to a post you made in April. 

Trike, I shall watch out for the Peter Jackson films on the "haunted fish-tank" or see if I can rent a DVD of them.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 18 Oct 2013, 17:44

I hated Lord of the Rings (book).

I was a bit confused about the chocolate egg reference, LiR. I think that was Easter 2012. How time flies.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 18 Oct 2013, 18:01

Sorry if I got you all discombobulated, Temperance. Although as somebody highlighted in another thread one can get Hallow-e'en variants of chocolate eggs, only with a bilious looking green centre rather than a yellow centre.  I'd better finish now as I'am getting off-topic, though the Hallow-e'en eggs do resemble some of the more weird examples of "modern art".
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 21 Oct 2013, 10:27

@LadyinRetirement wrote:

Trike, I shall watch out for the Peter Jackson films on the "haunted fish-tank" or see if I can rent a DVD of them.
They were on Film 4 not to long ago, LiR. Film 4 or Channel 4 usually shows them about once a year.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 21 Nov 2013, 22:50

Just came across this and even before I knew who had sketched it or who the subject was it hopped out at me.



This is sixteen year old Victoria, two years before her coronation and five years before her marriage. The artist is sixteen year old Victoria. Not bad.
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