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Posts Tagged ‘renaissance’

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Jan van Eyck. Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and his Wife. 1434. The National Gallery, London

June is the most popular month to marry, an excellent reason to take a look at one of the world’s most famous wedding paintings–although we ended up wondering if that, indeed, was what we were seeing.

At first glance, Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434) appears to be an exquisitely rendered but otherwise straightforward depiction of a wealthy merchant and his wife. But take a second look (or third or fourth), and a more intriguing image emerges. The room in which the Arnolfinis pose is laden with images that signal wealth, have religious implications, or are just plain… odd. (more…)

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Raphael, Stanza di Eliodoro (Expulsion of Heliodorus), 1511-12, Vatican. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; www.artres.com; scalarchives.com; (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Raphael, Stanza di Eliodoro (Expulsion of Heliodorus), 1511-12, Vatican. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; http://www.artres.com; scalarchives.com; (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

With the recent news that the Vatican’s Swiss Guard is releasing a book of recipes, I’m again hearing the myth, perpetuated by Dan Brown among others, that Michelangelo designed the uniforms of the Guard at the behest of his patron, Julius II.

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Left: Lorenzo Ghiberti | Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401-1402. Right: Filippo Brunelleschi | Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401-1402 | Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise Collection | these images were provided by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore

The competition for the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery at the turn of the fifteenth century was the city’s most prestigious public commission. Seven artists competed by submitting a bronze plaque on the “Sacrifice of Isaac,” to be judged by a committee of thirty-four native-born citizens of Florence. The competition quickly narrowed down to Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. After Ghiberti won, he unabashedly claimed, “To me was conceded the palm of victory by all the experts and by all my fellow competitors. Universally, they conceded to me the glory, without exception. Everyone felt I had surpassed the others in that time, without a single exception, after great consultation and examination by learned men.”

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De gustibus non est disputandum, but was Ghiberti’s entry so clearly superior? As historian Rona Goffen put it in her excellent book Renaissance Rivals, “The committee’s decision was surely influenced by the fact that Ghiberti’s panel weighed 7 kilos [approx. 15½ lbs] less than Brunelleschi’s, savings in bronze that signified considerable savings of money.” The photographs of the backs of the panels clearly show how Ghiberti saved those 7 kilos.

Left: Lorenzo Ghiberti | Sacrifice of Isaac; back of panel, 1401-1402. Right: Filippo Brunelleschi | Sacrifice of Isaac; back of panel, 1401-1402 | Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise Collection | these images were provided by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore

In 2008, ARTstor supported the comprehensive photographic documentation of the Gates of Paradise in their restored state in collaboration with the Museo dell’ Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. The photographic campaign by photographer Antonio Quattrone documented the newly cleaned bronze panels and frieze elements, as well as Ghiberti and Brunelleschi’s competition panels, now housed in the Museum del Bargello in Florence.

Check out the more than 800 glorious images of the doors, including details and side views, in the Digital Library http://library.artstor.org/library/collection/ghiberti. Feel free to weigh in (ahem) on whether you think Ghiberti’s entry won on esthetic issues alone.

–  Giovanni Garcia-Fenech

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