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Renaissance Art

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Renaissance Art
American InterContinental University

Abstract Following the Middle Ages, Europe saw a great revival in the interest of classical learning and in the interest of ancient Greece and Rome. From this came the discovery of new technologies, new continents through exploration, and the emergence of the arts of philosophy, literature, and art. From this time came some of the most world renowned pieces of art, many of which are still on display today, with two such pieces being “The Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan Van Eyck and “Giorgione” by Giorgio da Castelfranco.

Renaissance Art From roughly 1400 to 1600 Europe experienced a rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman culture and with this rediscovery came wealth, both in the monetary fashion and in the art sense. With increasing trade, the discovery of new continents, and new inventions such as the printing press, there was also an increase in the arts. This increase brought about some of the most well known literature, philosophy, and art that is still studied and admired today. Although there are more well known names in the field of art such as DaVinci and Michelangelo there were many more that still have their art on display today such as Jan Van Eyck and Giorgio da Castelfranco. Giorgio da Castelfranco created a painted entitled “Judith” in the year 1504 and is one of many portraits that depicts the scene of Judith of Holofernes from the Biblical legend of Judith. The tale states that the widow Judith makes herself appealing to an army general, Holofernes, and in the end beheads him with his own sword while he lies inebriated in his bed. With the death of their leader, the Assyrians are overwhelmed and split which leads many to believe that the Judith’s actions saved Israel. This piece by Castelfranco is a two dimensional, representational piece that is an oil on canvas painting and displays soft qualities in most of the image. Near the bottom of her dress the more vibrant and deep shades of red stand out against the more down to earth greens and browns of the scenery. The heroin’s bare foot is that of a pale pink color and is resting atop the decapitated head of the general, which is gray in color emphasizing the dying body part. This grey color of the general’s head is meant to devalue it as part of the background and focus the onlooker’s attentions more to Judith with her dress stained red, holding a sword, as the heroin. The landscape behind the courtyard in which Judith stands is soft and almost appears subdued and not as bright bringing the focal point back to that of Judith. The sword at Judith’s side is also very detailed with sharp, straight lines perhaps meant to bring attention to the act that had just been committed. The fact that Judith seems calm, as does the courtyard around her, seems to bring to focus the idea that perhaps beheading an army general was not as severe as one would think since it, once again, probably saved Israel in the view of many. “The Arnolfini Portrait” created by Jan Van Eyck in 1434 is yet another piece that came about as the result of the Renaissance. This particular piece is an oil painting done on a small wooden panel and is a two dimensional portrait of what appears to be a newlywed couple. In it there is great detail to the clothing, fixtures, and furniture and all of this is done to possibly give the portrayal of quality and wealth. The woman’s dress is painted green in color which, at the time, was a symbol of fertility and was often worn at weddings. The woman is also holding an outstretched hand to her husband and is holding her skirt suggestively in front of her stomach which may indicate that she is willing to bear children (Frank, 2011). It also looks like she may already be pregnant with the way the dress protrudes in front of her. All of this while the husband in the portrait holds his right hand slightly up perhaps in a manner of authority. The interesting thing about this portrait is that Jan Van Eyck has placed himself in the portrait as a reflection in the mirror and there is such detail in the portrait that even the rear reflection of the couple can be seen in the mirror as well. The small dog near the bottom of the portrait has more subdued lines and colors so as not to distract away from the couple or the furnishings. Both paintings, “Judith” and “The Arnolfini Portrait”, bring the focus to the people in the portraits rather than to the surrounds that they are in and both are representational pieces, although representing two entirely different things. One painting portrays the end of life and the other portrays what will be the beginning of two lives spent together. While “Judith” portrays the story of beauty and victory of an enemy there are still soft and feminine lines to the painting. The head that is at the bottom of the painting is subdued in a grey color as to not take away from the heroin Judith. Even though it is a painting of murder and of a time of unrest, Judith is standing triumphant, sword in hand, and is the focal point of the painting. “The Arnolfini Portrait” on the other hand is telling a story of a couple about to embark on their life together and suggests that there is already a child on the way or will be soon. Unlike “Judith”, this painting did pay some detail to the surroundings of the couple in order to convey a sense of wealth with the chandelier and other furnishings, which are all in keeping with this era. The focus of the painting is still on the couple however as their colors, especially that of the dress on the woman, are much more vibrant than those of the other items in the painting. The Renaissance, once again, was an awakening for Europe to the ideals and achievements of both the Greek and the Romans. This relearning and expansion of new technologies and explorations also brought about a renewed interest in the arts. Some of the most famous, well known, and still studied today works of literature, music, and art were created during this time period and each serve as a window to the past for everyone to admire and learn from.
References
Renaissance Art. (n.d.). Retrieved on April 11, 2013 from http://www.history.com/topics/renaissance-art
Frank, P. (2011). Prebles’ Artforms: An Introduction to the Visual Arts (10th ed.). Upper

Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Later Renaissance Art. (2010). Retrieved on April 11, 2013 from http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/r/renaissance.later.html
Da Castelfranco, G. (c. 1504). Judith. [Painting]. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Retrieved on April 11, 2013 from http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/03/hm3_3_1c.html
Van Eyck, J. (c. 1434). The Arnolfini Portrait. [Painting]. National Gallery, London. Retrieved on April 11, 2013 from http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van- eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait

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