Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Visual and moral range of the Nineteenth Century

Adolphe-Gustave Binet
Construction of the Eiffel Tower 
1888
drawing, watercolor
Morgan Library, New York

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Young women of Sparta
ca. 1868-70
oil on canvas
Brooklyn Museum

Gustave Courbet
The Wave
ca. 1870
oil on canvas
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Thomas Wilmer Dewing
Hymen
ca. 1884-86
oil on panel
Cincinnati Art Museum

William Holman Hunt
A Porter to the Hogarth Club
1858
drawing
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Max Klinger
Woman in diaphanous garment
ca. 1875-80
drawing
British Museum

Edwin Landseer
Portrait of Mr. Van Amburgh as he appeared with his animals at the London theatres
1846-47
 oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art

"It was not worth while trying to impress a man of that sort.  If the world had been full of such men, life would have probably appeared to Jukes an unentertaining and unprofitable business.  He was not alone in his opinion.  The sea itself, as if sharing Mr. Jukes's good-natured forbearance, had never put itself out to startle the silent man, who seldom looked up, and wandered innocently over the waters with the only visible purpose of getting food, raiment, and house-room for three people ashore.  Dirty weather he had known, of course.  He had been made wet, uncomfortable, tired in the usual way, felt at the time and presently forgotten.  So that upon the whole he had been justified in reporting fine weather at home.  But he had never been given a glimpse of immeasurable strength and of immoderate wrath, the wrath that passes exhausted but never appeased – the wrath and fury of the passionate sea.  He knew it existed, as we know that crime and abominations exist; he had heard of it as a peaceable citizen in a town hears of battles, famines, and floods, and yet knows nothing of what these things mean – though, indeed, he may have been mixed up in a street row, have gone without his dinner once, or been soaked to the skin in a shower.  Captain MacWhirr had sailed over the surface of the oceans as some men go skimming over the years of existence to sink gently into a placid grave, ignorant of life to the last, without ever having been made to see all it may contain of perfidy, of violence, and of terror.  There are on sea and land such men thus fortunate – or thus disdained by destiny or by the sea." 

– from Typhoon by Joseph Conrad

Frederic Leighton
Study of a woman's head for the painting 'A noble lady of Venice'
ca. 1865
drawing
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Albert Joseph Moore
Canaries
ca. 1875-80
oil on canvas
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Edward Poynter
Study of two heads
1874
drawing
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
Three Spartan boys practising archery
1812
oil on canvas
Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
Via Sacra, Rome
1814
oil on canvas
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
Interior of the Church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, Rome
1815
oil on canvas
Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
Colosseum, Rome
1815-16
oil on canvas
Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen

"The old man warned us in his gentle and inflexible way that it was part of our duty to save for the underwriters as much as we could of the ship's gear.  Accordingly we went to work aft, while she blazed forward to give us plenty of light.  We lugged out a lot of rubbish.  What didn't we save?  An old barometer fixed with an absurd quantity of screws nearly cost me my life: a sudden rush of smoke came upon me, and I just got away in time.  There were various stores, bolts of canvas, coils of rope; the poop looked like a marine bazaar, and the boats were lumbered to the gunwales.  One would have thought the old man wanted to take as much as he could of his first command with him.  He was very, very quiet, but off his balance evidently.  Would you believe it?  He wanted to take a length of old stream-cable and a kedge-anchor with him in the long boat.  We said, "Ay, ay, sir," deferentially, and on the quiet let the things slip overboard.  The heavy medicine-chest went that way, two bags of green coffee, tins of paint – fancy, paint! – a whole lot of things.  Then I was ordered with two hands into the boats to make a stowage and get them ready against the time it would be proper for us to leave the ship."    

– from Youth by Joseph Conrad

Monday, August 21, 2017

European visions of Classical stories in monochrome

Anonymous French artist, Fontainebleau School
Pan cuts the reed Syrinx was transformed into
ca. 1550
drawing
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Let the cliff clothed in greenery of the Dryads keep silence, and the fountains that fall from the rock, and the confused bleating of the ewes newly lambed; for Pan himself plays on his sweet-toned pipe, running his plain lips over the joined reeds, and around with their fresh feet they have started the dance, the Nymphs, Hydriads, and Hamadryads.

– Epigram from Book 9 of the Greek Anthology, translated by W.R. Paton (1916-18)

Anonymous French artist, Fontainebleau School
Procris and Cephalus
ca. 1550-1600
drawing
Morgan Library, New York

Antoine-Francois Callet
Jupiter and Ceres
ca. 1777
drawing
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Giovanni Battista Gaulli
Mercury leading Geography
before 1709
drawing
Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas

Giovanni Ghisolfi
Jupiter enthroned in clouds
before 1683
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

ON THE GRAVE OF ONE SLAIN BY ROBBERS

Zeus, Protector of strangers, let them who slew me meet with the same fate, but may they who laid me in earth live and prosper.  

– Epigram from Book 7 of the Greek Anthology, translated by W.R. Paton (1916-18)

Giovanni Ghisolfi
Jupiter battling the Giants
before 1683
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

workshop of Giulio Romano
Venus, Vulcan and Cupid
ca.  1540
drawing for fresco
Royal Collection, Windsor

Max Klinger
Apollo and Daphne
1879
etching, aquatint
British Museum

Max Klinger
Pyramus and Thisbe
1879
etching, aquatint
British Museum

Lucas van Leyden
Pallas Athena
ca. 1530
engraving
British Museum

Claude Mellan
Statue of Hercules from the Galleria Giustiniana, Rome
ca. 1631
engraving
British Museum

ON A STATUE OF HERACLES (CAST DOWN BY THE CHRISTIANS)

I marveled seeing at the cross-roads Jove's brazen son, once constantly invoked, now cast aside, and in wrath I said: "Averter of woes, offspring of three nights, thou, who never didst suffer defeat, art to-day laid low."  But at night the god stood by my bed smiling, and said: "Even though I am a god I have learned to serve the times."

 Epigram by Palladas of Alexandria (5th century AD) from Book 9 of the Greek Anthology, translated by W.R. Paton (1916-18)

Marco Marchetti
Design for wall decoration with Apollo, Muses, Astronomy, and Arms of the Grand Duke of Tuscany
before 1588
drawing
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Giacomo Piccini after Francesco Ruschi
Venus and Cupid
ca. 1640-70
engraving
British Museum

Jean Audran after Carlo Maratti
Galatea and Polyphemus
ca. 1700-1729
engraving
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Paintings not threatened by Savonarola's Bonfire of 1497

Cima da Conegliano
Madonna and Child in a landscape
ca. 1496
oil on panel
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Biagio d'Antonio
Christ carrying the Cross
1480s
oil on panel
Louvre, Paris

"Historians often think that, when they have mentioned Savonarola's burning of those paintings and statues which he considered incitements to sin, they have given his whole view on the arts.  But from passages in the Sermons it is clear that, though Savonarola feared the evil effects which might come from the wrong kind of art, he had the greatest faith in the good which could be done by the right kind."

Domenico Ghirlandaio
Trial by Fire - St Francis before the Sultan of Egypt
1485
fresco
Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence

Domenico Ghirlandaio
Angel appearing to Zacharias
1486-90
fresco
Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

"It is not surprising that Savonarola's views on art should be almost medieval.  The whole basis of his work and teaching was a protest against the worldly and capitalist Papacy of Alexander VI, and an attempt to restore something of the purity which he associated with medieval life and doctrine.  At the same time his preaching was directed towards the artisan classes and not to the feudal aristocracy, which, with the upper middle classes, opposed his efforts."

Luca Signorelli
Madonna and Child enthroned with Saints and Angels
1490s
oil and tempera on panel
Pinacoteca e Museo Civico, Volterra

Luca Signorelli
Pala di Sant' Onofrio
1484
oil on panel
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Perugia

"His conception of beauty is based on the assumption that the spiritual is superior to the material.  Perfect beauty resides in God, and below Him in varying degrees come the beauty of the saints, the soul of man, and the body.  Some of Savonarola's definitions are like those of St. Thomas.  Beauty lies in proportion, in the harmony of forms and colours.  Others are more Neoplatonic: the beauty of simple things consists in Light.  Since the forms of all created things proceed ultimately from God, beauty in the material world is a reflection of the divine.  Therefore Socrates was able to contemplate the divine beauty through the beauty of young men.  Savonarola does not entirely recommend this method, which is, he says, tempting God, but he quotes it as an example of how material beauty can be used for the perception of the divine."

Bartolomeo Vivarini
Death of the Virgin
1485
tempera on panel
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Filippino Lippi
Crucifixion of Peter, and Disputation with Simon Magus 
1481-82
fresco
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

Filippino Lippi
Madonna and Child with St Anthony of Padua and a Friar
ca. 1480
tempera on panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

"Savonarola's conception of beauty is, therefore, in agreement with medieval ideas.  His view of the function of the arts is no less so.  Painting is to be the Bible of the illiterate.  In one sermon Savonarola recommends his hearers to read the Scriptures, and adds: 'And you who cannot read, go to the paintings and contemplate the life of Christ and of His Saints.'  And elsewhere he says that 'figures represented in churches are the books of women and children.'

Sandro Botticelli
Last Communion of St Jerome
1490s
tempera on panel
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Sandro Botticelli
Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist
(Bardi Altarpiece)
ca. 1484-85
oil on panel
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

"Though Savonarola was medieval in his outlook, he lived surrounded by the worldliness of the Renaissance, and he was therefore impelled, unlike the writers of the Middle Ages, to attack the sinful kinds of painting put into churches in his time.  Since painting is such a powerful weapon for good or evil by its effects on the spectator, all indecent or mundane pictures must be taken from churches.  Savonarola makes, however, an interesting addition to this demand.  He wishes all paintings to be removed which by their incompetence may arouse the laughter of those who see them.  'Indecent figures must first be taken away, and then no composition should be allowed which arouses laughter by its mediocrity.  In churches only the greatest artists should be allowed to paint, and they should only paint decent subjects.'  Savonarola was therefore far from being indifferent to artistic qualities, and the view expressed in this passage is in almost exact agreement with the opinion of Michelangelo reported by Hollanda."

– passages on Savonarola are by Anthony Blunt, from Artistic Theory in Italy, 1450-1600 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940)

Andrea del Verrocchio
Madonna and Child
before 1488
oil on panel
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Antoniazzo Romano
Madonna and Child with Donor
1480
tempera on panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Fra Bartolomeo
Madonna and Child (tondo)
1490s
oil on panel
private collection

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Drawings from Rome

Giovanni Francesco Penni
Madonna and Child in Glory with Saint
ca. 1514-20
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Domenico Campagnola
Temple of Vesta, Rome
ca. 1530-60
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Anonymous Roman artist after Michelangelo
Right arm, with head study
ca. 1550-1600
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Marco Marchetti
Roman General receiving tribute from Barbarians
before 1588
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

A QUINCE PRESERVED THROUGH THE WINTER, GIVEN TO A LADY

I'm a quince, saved over from last year, still fresh,
               my skin young, not spotted or wrinkled, downy as the new-born,
as though I were still among my leaves. Seldom
               does winter yield such gifts, but for you, my queen,
even the snows and frosts bear harvests like this.

 an epigram by Antiphilus of Byzantium, from the Palatine Anthology, translated by W.S. Merwin

Federico Zuccaro
Demons in grotesque attitudes
before 1609
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Andrea Sacchi
St Anthony of Padua raising man from the dead
ca. 1632-33
drawing for altarpiece
British Museum

ON THEODOROS

Someone is glad that I, Theodoros, am dead
Another will be glad when that someone is dead
We are all in arrears to death

 an epigram by Simonides (ca. 556-466 BC), translated by Peter Jay

Claude Lorrain
View of the Tiber at Rome
ca. 1635-40
wash drawing
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Anonymous Roman artist
Figure astride clouds, di sotto in su
ca. 1640-80
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

ACHILLES GIVES THE BODY OF HECTOR TO PRIAM

Then Achilles called the serving-women out:
"Bathe and anoint the body 
bear it aside first. Priam must not see his son."
He feared that, overwhelmed by the sight of Hector,
wild with grief, Priam might let his anger flare
and Achilles might fly into fresh rage himself,
cut the old man down and break the laws of Zeus.
So when the maids had bathed and anointed the body
sleek with olive oil and wrapped it round and round
in a braided battle-shirt and handsome battle-cape,
then Achilles lifted Hector up in his own arms
and laid him down on a bier, and comrades helped him
raise the bier and body on to the sturdy wagon . . .
Then with a groan he called his dear friend by name:
"Feel no anger at me, Patroclus, if you learn 
even in the House of Death – I let his father
have Prince Hector back."

 from the Iliad of Homer (book 24), translated by Robert Fagles

Giuseppe Belloni
Constantine the Great commissions Basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano
ca. 1656-76
drawing
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Giovanni Battista Gaulli
St Augustine's vision of the Trinity
before 1689
drawing for engraving
British Museum

Luigi Garzi
Minerva descending with her aegis to protect Arts and Sciences from Time
before 1721
drawing for ceiling fresco
British Museum

Jacob Frey after Carlo Maratti
Drawing Academy 
1728
engraving (after Carlo Maratti drawing)
Royal Collection, Windsor

Luigi Vanvitelli
Design for a marble throne for statue of St Peter at the Vatican
1754
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Jean-Baptiste Lallemand
Piazza del Popolo, Rome
ca. 1754
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum