Monday, January 31, 2005

A Touch of Class, Part II

Art appreciation is breaking out all over the internet as a result of my first attempt to class up our clientele here at Nihilist in Golf Pants. The Warrior Monk has expanded upon our initial discussion to examine the Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele. I admit that I usually prefer less abstract work, but the Warrior Monk did open my eyes to a genre that I perhaps under appreciate.

For this episode, let’s go back to the beginning, or at least the re-birth. Scholars often trace the beginning of the renaissance to the 14th century when the poet Petrarch is said to have climbed a tall hill for no other reason than to be inspired by the view. Renaissance painting didn’t reach its peak until the early 16th century with the likes of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. Most everyone is familiar with Da Vinci and Michelangelo, so let’s take a look at the often overshadowed Raphael and Titian.

Raphael’s studio in Rome was one of the most active in that vibrant city due to Raphael’s talent, charisma, good nature, and knack for landing Vatican commissions. His studio continued on successfully even after his death in 1520 at age 37, making it sometimes difficult for experts to determine whether a painting was by Raphael or another of his studio. We can, however, be reasonably sure that Raphael painted "La Fornarina" himself. La Fornarina was painted the year of Raphael’s death in 1820 and is on display at the Galleria Barberini, Rome. (As an aside, to see that gossip mongering is not a recent phenomenon, see this painting by Ingres).

At about the time Raphael was in his heyday in Rome, there was emerging perhaps an even greater genius in Venice: Titian (pronounced Tish-in, Beavis). Although Venice didn’t have the commission opportunities that were available in Rome, Titian had almost the entire scene to himself. His technical aptitude has rarely, if ever, been surpassed as can be seen in these Venus paintings: "Venus of Urbino" from the Uffizi in Florence, "Venus with a Mirror", from the National Gallery of Art, and "Venus Anadyomene" from the excellent Titian collection at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

(Click here for my first episode of A Touch of Class.)


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