Archive for the 16th cent Category

Hidden Within Plain Sight?

Posted in 16th cent, Blessed Virgin Mary, LACMA, Leonardo, Vasari on December 7, 2011 by babylonbaroque

In reading this mornings NY Times, I was once again confronted with the ethical squeamishness of the ongoing search for the missing Leonardo fresco, the Battle of Anghiari. I love Leonardo as much as the next fellow, but I have always worried about the fate of my beloved Giorio Vasari’s fresco that is indeed with us, allegedly covering  The Battle of Anghiari. Whether or not Leonardo’s fresco is still behind the Vasari seems to me unclear; there has been extensive, seemingly thorough research into the whereabouts of the glamorous lost Leonardo, as this August 26th 2011 NYT article details but I have reservations. I am admittedly a dilettantish art enthusiast, but Leonardo’s desire to experiment is well known- we need look no further then the Last Supper, what painterly concoction had Leonardo  experimented with that would lead to the Vasari  commission? One need to read Vasari’s account of Leonardo to see what a huge crush he had on the man and his talents; he would not willy-nilly deface a great Leonardo. I’m fearful we will lose a Vasari for a crumbled ghost of a Leonardo.

I may be biased, Vasari has become a great inspiration to me, he is a meat-and -potatoes sort of painter, gifted but not stellar, best known for chronicling the luminaries of his culture. As an artist struggling with his inadequacies I can relate. In no way am I able to claim even a hint of Vasari’s skill and accomplishment; yet his facing head on the brilliance of Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo is admirable and worthy of emulation.

Today’s article pointed out that given Leonardo’s (well deserved ) celebrity, the Vasari could easily be compromised for a publicity stunt. Alesandro Mottola Molfino (God, I wish I had a name like that), president of Italia Nostra, a conservancy dedicated to preserving Italy’s cultural heritage, said it best: ” We’ve grown weary of using art history as an event or a marketing opportunity”. I frankly could not agree more, how have our museums so thoroughly debased themselves with blockbuster shows aimed solely at pleasing  the gift-shop-hungry hoards? Why must art be viewed as stunt or performance? I am often disheartened at the empty halls of LACMA, where I have the galleries of 15th and 16th century paintings to myself while the tedious Tim Burton exhibition is teeming with lighthearted revelers.

 I must stop, I’m ranting once again.

That said in my lonely meanderings I recently stumbled upon a Vasari at LACMA, I was unaware that we had one in Los Angeles. It is rather typical, large and attractive , perhaps hastily painted in his workshop-the Virgin’s club foot attests to a certain lack of quality control. But even with its terribly minor flaws it tickled my eye, far more satisfying then the mid-century kitsch being celebrated in the Resnick Pavillion below. Given the upcoming season, the feast day of our Savior’s birth, I thought it a fitting image for this post.

Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)

Holy Family with Saint Francis in a Landscape

1542

oil on canvas 

LACMA

Click to enlarge, the details are worth the effort.

As I mentioned in my previous post I will be packing up my studio, preparing for a move to San Diego- my mother-in -law is unwell, I must tend to her. But my concern for this matter trumped my mundane duties, plus I really hate packing.

But I must, so Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, joyous winter celebrations to all.

See you most likely in 2012.

Until that time, take care,

BabylonBaroque

An Unfortunate Encounter with Fate

Posted in 16th cent, Montezuma II on November 8, 2011 by babylonbaroque

In my reading of Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s rather exhilarating Conquest of New Spain, I discovered that today, at least according to his account, the Spaniards first entered what is now Mexico City.

According to his blustery account:

“So, with luck on our side, we boldly entered the city of Tenochtitlan or Mexico on 8 November in the year of our Lord 1519.”

My love affair with Mesoamerican art and culture is in its infancy, I am not at all equipped to pontificate; but what I am capable of is sharing the numerous images, Spanish and native that are proving to be visually irresistible. The following is a small sampling to commemorate this fateful day 492 years ago.

Juan Ortega

Emperor Montezuma II

Museo Nacional del Arte, Mexico

source

Juan Ortego

Hernan Cortes, la Malinche and Bartolome de Las Casas

Museo Nacional del Arte, Mexico

 source 

Malinche, her true name being Doña Marina,was according to historian Mary Ellen Miller (author of The Art of Mesoamerica: from Olmec to Aztec) translator to Cortés, being fluent in the Maya tongue and Nahuatl, the Aztec language. It is interesting to note that Malinche, according to Miller was the mistress of Cortés and acted in sync with him. The Aztecs upon seeing this powerful woman believed her to be a wrathful goddess (214) .

Tenochtitlan, Entrance of Hernan Cortés.

Hernan Cortés and La Malinche meet Moctezuma II,

November 8 1519

1500-1600 AD

 University of California, Berkely

Our own capital is decorated with this encounter, apparently Contantino Brumidi, chief decorative artist, went to Mexico to study artifacts. The great Calendar Stone being very visible. I love the westernized idols.

Cortéz and Montezuma at the  Mexican Temple 

United States Capital, source  

The Meeting of Cortés and Montezuma

second half of 17th century

Jose Maria Obregon

Discovery of Pulche

detail of Montezuma II

1869

 Museo Nacional del Arte, Mexico

 source 

What I find so thrilling about all of this is the contrasts, the lavish greens of quetzal feathers and jade, the dazzling turquoise which stands in sharp contrast to the red of spilt blood. Fascinating and appalling.

Feathered Headdress

Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna 

source

Believed to be Montezuma’s headdress sent as a souvenir to Charles V.

Turquoise Serpent 

British Museum, London 

I am eager to revisit LACMA, an new exhibition Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World opened on the 6th and will close January 29th 2012. 

Whatever your opinion may be concerning the Conquest of New Spain , we as Westerners were certainly enriched by this fresh and perplexing new source of inspiration.

With that I close.

Take care,

Babylon Baroque

The Consequence of Beauty

Posted in 16th cent, 17th century, Baroque, Nautilus Shells on October 25, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I consider myself relatively sensitive to God’s lesser creatures, I am essentially vegetarian (aside from the fish that I guiltily consume), I try to avoid leather, I am unaware of friends possessing garments made of fur, and of course dogs are a burning issue.

That said todays paper pointed out the atrocious exploitation of the nautilus. According to the article, millions have been slaughtered to satisfy our desire for the pretty shell. I stand amongst that crowd of greedy collectors, my own curiosity cabinet contains a few. I won’t purchase anymore, but I am appalled at my own insensitivity. I hadn’t really thought of the pretty shell as  having once belonged to this spectacular and ancient creature. I rather just accepted the shell as being something to collect and admire, my ignorance is disturbing. 

Source: Today’s New York Times

To celebrate this poor creature, I will, rather perversely highlight a few particularly lovely examples of how the creature’s sacrifice was made seemingly worthwhile, at least from an aesthetic perspective.

Nautilus Snail

1630

nautilus shell, silver gilt 

Wadsworth Athaneum

Cup

 1585

silver gilt, polished shell

Not a nautilus shell but quite beautiful AND someone’s home

Victoria & Albert Museum

Nautilus Cup

mid 17th cent.

nautilus shell, silver gilt

Wadsworth Athaneum

I don’t believe these courtly objects were the cause of the near demise of the nautilus; it is of course the gross exploitation that pumps out hideous baubles. As the biologist Peter D. Ward, as quoted in today’s New York times states, “A horrendous slaughter is going on out here.” We need to be mindful of that. I for one will be less glib, and less tempted to purchase shells, no matter how beautiful they may be.

Until take time, take care,

Babylon Baroque

Vanquishing Goliath

Posted in 16th cent, Castiglione, David, Donatello, Machiavelli, Medici, Pontormo on October 19, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I have as I have mentioned been preoccupied with course work, it has been a rigorous class. With mixed emotions, this class is ending Saturday, the upside being more time for “life”, this blog being part of that. The downside, I will truly miss the thoughtful conversation. That said, I am posting the intro to my paper Vanquishing Goliath, I have focused my research on Machiavelli’s The Prince and Castiglione’s The Courtier.

I argue my point concerning the superiority of Castiglione’s patrician approach versus Machiavelli’s pragmatic ruthlessness.

To illustrate the this point I open with Donatello’s David.

The following is a snippet:

In the courtyard of Medici’s palace stood a lithesome boy cast of bronze, the first free standing bronze of a male nude since antiquity. This depiction of David by Donatello created sometime between 1420 and 1440 was of such loveliness that Giorgio Vasari, author of The Lives of the Artists, describes it thusly “This statue is so natural in its vitality and delicacy that other artisans find it impossible to believe that the work is not moulded around a living body.” (152).

Donatello

David

ca.1440

bronze, life size

Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

This “delicate “ depiction of David, the very symbol of Florence and her might (Donatello had fashioned a previous depiction of the brave youth in marble,

David

1408-09 

and Michelangelo’s monumental representation is of course iconic)

stood triumphant in Cosimo’s courtyard,

heralding Medici majesty and humanist accomplishments. But Donatello’s vision of David is a peculiar one, this ephebe with laurelled chapeau and dainty boots,

sartorial accessories that only emphasize his nakedness, has a suggestive lilt to his hip that seems far more provocative then classical contrapposto. Is this louche boy really the most appropriate means of depicting fair Florence?

 To the fiery Savonarola surely this pretty boy would represent the debauched excesses of the Medici court.

Girolamo Savonarola

1452-1498

 To Niccolò Machiavelli, this very public display of magnificence was in sharp contrast to his dictate that a ruler must abstain from profligacy.

Niccolò Machiavelli

1469-1527

The Medici’s would fail time and again to heed his warning “…that when princes have given more thought to personal luxuries then to arms, they have lost their state.”  (Jacobus ed., 40); we are fortunate that his advice fell upon deaf ears.

Jacopo Pontormo

Portrait Cosimo il Vecchio de Medici

1518-19

oil on canvas

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

 Gilded laurels to this fine “prince”.

Thank you for the indulgence,

until next time, take care,

Babylon Baroque

The Cycle Continues, Vanitas, Aging and the Inevitable

Posted in 16th cent, Aubrey Beardsley, Death & the Maiden, Hans Baldung Grien, Me on August 15, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Perhaps it is merely a symptom of my summer holiday nearing to its close.

The Spouse and I spent several halcyon days in San Francisco , our daily anxieties pushed aside. But we have now returned to our regular concerns.

Upon this return,  I have been re-experiencing a bit of depression ; it might be a symptom of my own aging ( I recently turned one year shy of five decades). When I see myself in the mirror, it causes me pause. This reflection causes me to look more deeply at my situation. I attempt to avoid morbidity ( as natural an inclination as that may be for me) but one cannot escape the sand slipping through hourglass. This is a fact that I am becoming increasingly more aware of. The fortunate effect of this awareness  is that  I am now struggling with my own authenticity more aggressively. The notion of Vanitas, not merely personal admiration, but the silly distractions that seems to rear up time and again, is of pressing interest .

I am actively trying to recognize the temptation of such follies when they cross my daily path, with that in mind, my attention turns to Hans Baldung -Grien. I can think of few artists who explored the notion of Vanitas more thoroughly. I have taken impish delight in his menacing skeletal Deaths cavorting with oblivious Maidens for years; but  I am now  looking more closely. I have actually never seen a Baldung in the flesh (so to speak), only from illustrations; but even from such inferior sources I am aware of the richness of his understanding. This former apprentice of the great Dürer seems to have captured the universal struggles of Man: the conflict between  fragile beauty and pleasure and  the inflexible wall of eternity, our own  brief moment, and what we must do with it.

Baldung captured the gravitas and left room for a smile.

 Hans Baldung Grien

 b.1484/85

d1545

Death and the Maiden

1510

oil on limewood

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

I particularly admire the theThree Ages being depicted in one panel, her infant self toying innocently with the veil (of Life?), her lovely Maiden self deeply absorbed in her  own beauty, how can one blame her?, her middle- aged, sobered Crone  rushing froward to fend away Death.

I find myself more and more identifying with the sobered Crone.

Death and the Maiden

1518-20

oil on panel

 Öffentliche Kunstsammluna, Basel

Our fair Maiden seems to have lost the battle.

Three Ages of Man

1539

oil on panel

Museo del Prado

I find the landscape of particular interest, the owl such a curious figure.

One of my own paintings has been accepted in a juried show; in order to avoid further Vanitas it is worth noting that the show is in Glendale California at the Brand Library and Art Gallery.

Glendale is perhaps best remembered as the provincial  backwater that drove dear Veda to distraction (and murder?) in the marvelous Mildred Pierce.

That said I am of course pleased.

The painting is my own modest exploration of Vanitas, it is about two years old; at the time I was a bit intrigued with LA’s Low-Brow movement, that interest has passed, but the painting lingers, a testament to Vanitas on multiple levels. 

by the author

 Nod to Aubrey

2010

acrylic and canvas, gold leaf

 As the title suggests, the painting it is my own play on the great Aubrey Beardsley and his fascinating depictions of fetus. They have captured my imagination for years and I wished to explore the theme myself. It of course was natural/predictable to include a Death figure.

By the great A.B of course , marvelous, creepy fetus and an odd-ball assortment of fiends.

I will close with a few more images of Baldung, he not only depicted the Three Ages with much understanding, he tackled the Fall of Man time and again. What I found so interesting with the following image is that instead of poor beleaguered Eve being depicted as the Eternal Temptress once again, Adam seems to be the culprit to our Downfall. He is at the very least a lascivious accomplice. 

Adam and Eve

1531

oil on panel

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

I will close with one last image, a detail from another Adam and Eve (1524), because he is quite a fetching Adam.

I refuse to resist Vanitas completely!

Adam and Eve , detail of Adam

1524

oil on panel

Szépmûvészeti Museum, Budapest

I appreciate your indulgence i f I tended towards the maudlin.

Until next time, I wish you well,

Babylon Baroque

The Academy versus The Street, neo-Poussinistes versus neo-Caravaggisti

Posted in 16th cent, Andy Warhol, Babylon Beefcake, Caravaggio, Jacques Louis David, Nicholas Poussin on June 30, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I am fortunate to live in a vibrant neighbor, the Arts District of Los Angeles.

7th & Mateo St., Los Angeles

This neighborhood  may  well be  the center of Los Angeles’ Renaissance, for like 15th-16th century Florence, my neighborhood is rich with public work. On a recent jog through town I  confronted  a familiar face plastered upon a derelict wall, St Therese , lifted directly from Bernini’s masterpiece, translated from divine marble to street-worthy stencil.

I wasn’t sure what to think, I was pleased that this anonymous artist found her beautiful face as inspiring as I have ; but I am concerned that there is a lack of reverence that great art is due. We seem to live in a time and place where all imagry is up for grabs, to be clipped and pasted to suit the creator’s taste and imagination. My experience with fellow students, is a dis-regard for the source, what matters is the aesthetic appeal. This saddens and worries me, what is the relevance of great art when it is as desirable and as ephemeral as an image from advertising.

Damn you Mr. Warhol

I am concerned our cultural experience will become increasingly less rich and less rewarding. This isn’t a new argument of course, Nicholas Poussin famously complained that “Caravaggio had come into the world to destroy painting”. Poussin’s opposition to Caravaggio’s “street” art is understandable considering Poussin’s belief that “…the first requirement, which is the basis for all others, is that the subject should be great, such as battles, heroic actions and divine matters…”; Caravaggio’s saints with dirty feet would certainly have conflicted with Poussin’s directive to “disregard anything that is vulgar…” (source:Alain Merot Nicolas Poussin).

Los Angeles is in enthralled with this image of spontaneous street expression, MOCA is enjoying popular attendance with its blockbuster exhibition Art in the Streets. This enthusiasm for uninhibited (illegal ?) expression can be found elsewhere as well, Pasadena Museum of California Art has jumped on the “street” bandwagon with its current exhibition Street Cred: Graffiti Art from Concrete to Canvas ; recently there was an event downtown in which  skateboarding youth were quite literally given the streets, Wild in the Streets.

As I sit and type this I am aware of how curmudgeonly conservative I appear. I am conservative, but I do not believe that restricts my appreciation of public work with visual merit; my concern is that the traditions I most admire will be lost in a cloud of aerosol .

That said lets look at pretty pictures.

Nomadé

2011 (?)

paste-up

7th and Mateo, Los Angeles

source

Work by Nomadé is difficult to not admire and enjoy, I run by examples quite frequently, particularly around the corner from my home at 7th and Mateo. The work is pasted up and requires  regular maintenance, which often translate into another arresting (no pun intended) image.

Nomadé

2011

paste-up

7th & Mateo

source

This short clip is marvelous at demonstrating the creation,  as you will see, studio preparation is  an important part of the process.

More work by Nomadé can be found at this link.

Please follow the following prompts for more examples to be found in my neighborhood, work by JR, D*Face, Shepard Farey, etc., link and link, you will be in  for a visual treat.

But for all of that robust masculine expression created by Nomadé, I must of course confess an allegiance to that monarchist traitor, Jacques Louise David .

I prefer David’s beefcake to Nomadé’s.

Jacques-Louis David ( 1748-1825)

The Intervention of the Sabine Women

detail

1799

oil on canvas

Louvre

Can I be blamed for preferring the above to this,

Nomadé

I have been “crushing “on David’s noble soldiers since I was a boy, his paintings have continued to give me great joy. A joy  and satisfaction that I doubt a paste-up will be able to sustain.

Although “street” art often requires extensive preparation, this attention to detail  pales to the fifteen years David devoted to his monumental Leonidas at Thermopylae. David strove for  the “ideal beauty” the Academy and subject demanded.

Poussin may well have chided David for defying his decree that an artist must “…make every effort to avoid getting lost in minute detail, so as not to detract from the dignity of the story”, for David made many sketches reworking the composition time and again. The painting has been criticized as over-worked, but again, I am merely infatuated with the virile splendor and painterly virtuosity.

Leonides at Thermopylae

1814

oil on canvas

Louvre

Leonidas at Thermopylae

 detail

I have been in love with the soldier on Leonide’s left for decades, the timelessness of love and art.

For a higher quality image of the painting follow this Encyclopedia Britannica link .

The following are some of the examples of David’s attention to detail, both source links offer very interesting insight into David’s process, well worth a peek.

Leonides at Thermopylae

ca. 1814

black chalk, squared in black chalk

Metropolitan Museum of Art

ca. 1813

Louvre

I will end this Academic love fest with just two more images ,because I can never be satisfied with less.

I appreciate your indulgence.

Study after Michelangelo

1790

black chalk

Louvre

Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces

1824

Musée royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique

I appreciate the opportunity to rant, until next time, take care.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Today’s Favorite Painting

Posted in 16th cent, Babylon Beefcake, Bronzino on June 28, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Agnolo Bronzino

Portrait of Andrea Doria as Neptune

ca. 1532-33

oil on canvas

Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

This image of the aging condottiere Andrea Doria ( 1466-1560) gives this  particular aging old fool inspiration. Although Renaissance Italians  clearly worshipped youth, the majesty of this fully mature man is apparent. 

Off to Gold’s.

Take care,

Babylon Baroque