Monday, April 11, 2011

Gothic: Virgin and Child and Angels

Virgin & Child & Angels c. 1170
Charles Cathedral , Chartres , France

Gothic Art developed out of Romanesque art, perhaps that’s what explains the similarities in style of the Gothic period. Just like in Romanesque art, the subject matter of art continued to strongly be religious but the difference is that the church wasn’t the only patron of the arts at that time, lay people also started to pay artist to produced religious art that they could be displayed in their houses for their private veneration. Media like painting and fresco started to be more used as well as stain glass. Another significant aspect of the Gothic style, is that human figures started to look more realistic, for example, though still slender bodies were used, the artist and sculptors tried to give the human figure a bit more individuality and emotion, in fact some of the sculptures  have a smile very similar to the archaic smile the early Greeks would portray on their works. Also, figures were put in a more open spaced instead of being secluded and squeezed together as many Romanesque artist did when painting figures in manuscripts or placing sculptures in niches.  One of the most popular religious themes in art of the time was the portrayal of the life of virgin Mary, in fact in the picture of the stained glass above, one can see that the use of the stain glass wasn’t just coincidental but it was selected for its qualities , for when the light goes through it, it illuminates the inside of the church and makes the pictures on the stained glass more bright giving it a heavenly feeling, I'm sure that would have astonished anyone at that time. Again we can see those artists are using selective media and even their environment to create a celestial feeling in the churches, a feeling of being closer to God. It is also interesting to notice that , symbolism used by the early Christians is being used in this work of art, the dove, was used to represent the spirit of God, and is used here again as if I was giving approval to the virtuous life of the virgin Mary , also, notice the size of the Virgin Mary and Christ child compared to the size of the angels and other personages portrayed in the image, they are bigger in size and take greater space than the other figures, the use of this wasn’t exclusive to the Gothic period, in fact portraying the most important figure at a greater scale than the rest to emphasize its importance dates all the way back to the Egyptians and Assyrians.Again we can see that man is really concerned in creating places of worship worthy of not only God but of his saints and Virgin Mary .

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Romanesque: The tympanum of the last judgement

The tympanum of the last judgment , 1107
Church of St. Foy, Conques, France.

Highly influenced by Roman and Byzantine art, Romanesque religious art continued to be art inspired on the lives of the saints and Biblical stories that would narrate the life of Christ. During the Romanesque period the used of high relief was brought back and was stronger and vastly used by artist and sculptors of that time. Stained glass, sculpture, ivory carving and illuminated manuscripts continued to used, other media evolved, like metal work and the use of enamel became very popular to use. Much of the metal work of the time was vastly decorated and had religious subject matter, which perhaps had the same intention that previous art styles and civilizations had sought to achieve when creating a religious piece or building, to create something so magnificent and in heavenly that would show the constant intentions of humans to satisfy God. One popular theme to be represented in relief during this time was "The last judgment", the period when Christ will seat on his throne with all his power to judge the people at the last days. Relief like this one would often be located above the main entrance to the cathedral or church, sometimes related images would be carved into the capitals our in the facade of the church. Oddly shaped figures, demons and dragons can also be seen in the art work above and though the figures represented lack depth, are abstract in nature and unrealistic in physical proportions and features, how abstract and different they are might have caused fear on the believers and might have served as a way to cause a deep impression on the person to see it  and make him ponder about his life and the time when he will have to face Christ. Many relieves like this one, were place with the intention to remind the believers to repent of their ways and be redeemed, the fact that this images was placed above the entrance, served, I believe, as way for the believers to practice for the judgment day, because  the imaged served as a reminder for them to repent before the judgment day and before they entered in to the presence of God, if this is the case then Church or cathedral, which was considered so sacred would be the represented as the presence of God and the relief above the entrance the redemption of the believer.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Early Medieval: Christ Enthroned from the book of Kells

Christ Enthroned from the Book of Kells, 800 A.D 
Trinitiy College Library , Dublin

It is interesting to notice how much Christian art flourished after it was legalized by Constantine in Rome and made the state religion by Justinian. Early Christians, because of the persecution they faced had only the chance to create their art in the catacombs that hold the bodies of the early Christians martyrs, but after its legalization, Christian art became one of the main influences of religion art in the art of the medieval times and beyond. In fact, most art from the Medieval, Romanesque and Gothic periods is religious in subject matter, and hardly any secular art existed during this time. Early Medieval art borrowed aspects from Byzantine and Early Christian art, the use of relief , mosaics and sculpture continued but other media such as stained glass , metal work and illuminated manuscripts were more used than the media mentioned before them.  The illuminated manuscript consisted of an illustrated text, mostly religious that also was decorated with vibrant and elaborate religious images. The colors used on the manuscripts often served as an attention grabber to the reader and the gold leaf accents on the text, served as a reminder to the reader that this book was special and sacred. Many of the monks that created these manuscripts had the belief that the use of gold in their images would exalt the text above others and would serve as a medium to praise Gold. The use of Gold wasn’t restricted to manuscript only but was also incorporated in mosaics of the period.  This technique of using gold was not exclusive to this time but also continued to be used until the early renaissance. In this manuscript page we can see that Christ is on his throne portrayed as a wise and righteous ruler, very different from early Christian Art, in which he would be portrayed as a young figure and the good shepherd, it is interesting to notice that  even the interpretation of what Christ was has evolved with the art styles, perhaps portraying a more serious and strong leader was necessary during this time in history , where people needed to be reminded he is watching us and that he has the power to judge our actions and the way we live our lives.