Archive for the Vasari 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


oil on canvas 


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,


Perseus and Andromedus

Posted in Annibale Carracci, Babylon Beefcake, Gay, Perseus & Andromeda/us, Vasari on July 24, 2011 by babylonbaroque

As today is my birthday (49th), I thought I might be allowed a bit of self indulgence. This blog of course explores my interest, but I rarely feel it is suitable  or appropriate to publish images of my own work, today will be an exception. I will , as usual include images created by far greater masters then this humble author;  to provide examples of inspiration, and sadly reveal the weakness of my own compositions. With this in mind , please view my attempts as the scribbles of an enthusiastic amateur.

Since boyhood Greek mythology has captured my imagination, the tale of valiant Perseus rescuing fair Andromeda a particular favorite. Psychologically I haven’t a clue as to why this myth resonated so viscerally;  am I Andromeda? am I Perseus?

I imagine I am a hybrid of both.

I recently stumbled upon an example of the myth by Giorio  Vasari, this painting rekindled my delight in the tale and inspired me to attempt my own version. I desired to portray the story as closely as Vasari had, but to switch the lovely  maidenAndromeda with an equally lovely boy, Andromedus -if I mangled the Latin, pardon me, my last Latin class was in 1980.

Giorgio Vasari

Perseus and Andromeda


Oil on slate

Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

What I find of particular interest is that in this painting , part of a decorative scheme depicting the elements, this being water, Vasari is not only imaging the voluptuous moment of valiant rescue, but also depicting the moment in which coral is first created. Popular legend imagined coral to be the result of the spilt blood of the gorgon Medusa.

I love that, I have a bit of coral around my neck, I am tickled that it is a relic of  the fearsome Medusa.

My composition sketch is more modest, and I fear perhaps more “gay”, I probably should examine why that is bothersome to me. Vasari very clearly relished depicting the seductive Nereids in their aquatic Sapphic play. Why should I hesitate to depict vulnerable male pulchritude?

by the author

Perseus and Andromedus 

preparatory drawing for oil painting, 30 by 40 inches


graphite on paper

Ovid describes Andromeda , bound and helpless, as frozen like a “marble statue”; I wanted to capture that  sense with  my youth, resigned to his fate. This is the moment prior to his salvation  Perseus approaching from behind, Vasari depicts the scene post rescue, the monster quite slain.


detail of the Vasari.

I  admire how Vasari managed to balance his sensual delight in the figures and still create a  poetic composition. what I fear is my composition will take on the lascivious qualities of illustrators such as Boris Vallejo.

work by Boris Vallejo

I hope that with a thoughtful palette, I will be able to avoid the excesses so often depicted in what is categorized  as gay art. I hope this isn’t some bit of repressed internal homophobia, but in actuality an attempt to fuse sensuality with beauty. The Humanist painters were so successful at that.

As usual I will conclude with some really marvelous examples of this fusion of beauty, physical and soulful. They of course provide inspiration and intimidate the hell out of me. I must carry on nonetheless.

Annibale Carracci

Perseus and Andromeda



Farnese Gallery, Rome

click to enlarge

Annibale’s brother, Domenichino ,might have been responsible for the depiction of Andromeda’s wailing parents Cepheus and Cassiopeia.

I particularly love the sea monster. I chose to depict my own Leviathan dragon- like, but I may change that as the painting progresses.

Another marvelous example is painted on lapis lazuli, such opulence!

Cavalier d’Arpina, also known as Giuseppe Casani

Perseus Rescuing Andromeda


oil on lapis lazuli

 St. Louis Art Museum

The next image, from Pompeii, is perhaps a bit closer to the source of the tale.

Wall painting,

Pompeii, Casa Dei Dioscuri

The following example, though more chaste, is perhaps a more charming depiction of the rescue. 

anonymous 15th century illumination

The following 18th century example really capture the fleshiness of the tale, a visual delight.

Charles André van Loo

Perseus and Andromeda


oil on canvas


Again, enchanted by the Sea Monster, I really will have to re-work my version.

Anton Raphael Mengs

Perseus and Andromeda


oil on canvas


This smoking hot Perseus is soon to be replaced in the 19th century by images almost as chaste as the 15th century illumination.

Our loss.

Alas the artist’s skill level is probably more in line with my own.

Illustration of the tale by Gustav Benjamin Schwab ( 1792-1850).

Schwab’s depiction of Perseus is lifted  almost directly from Carracci’s imagining of Mercury in the Farnese panel Paris and Mercury, although as mentioned without the nasty bits.

Annibale Carracci

Paris and Mercury

A more poetic image from a Frenchman is perhaps to be expected.

 Charles Edouard de Beaumont (1812-1888)


19th century illustration

I will begin the painting shortly,  it is a daunting task,  but one that I look forward to. I will periodically keep my readers abreast on its progress.

Until then,

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Slow going on the painting, but here is the progress thus far.

August 5th 2011

detail of August 5th’s progress

Blocking in, August 7th

August 11th

August 14th, I have continued to work on Perseus for much of the day.

Behold The Man; depictions of the Passion

Posted in Good Friday, Guido Reni, Il Sodoma, Pietro Perugino, Raphael, Vasari on April 21, 2011 by babylonbaroque

As my schedule did not allow my attending this evening’s  Mass of the Lord’s Supper, I am like any modern penitent, blogging as sacrifice.

I hope it counts.

For those uncomfortable with image of faith, particularly Christian, please bear with me, or wait until after Holy Week.

For those uncomfortable with discussion of faith I will attempt to keep the rhetoric to a minimum; the images are far more eloquent then anything I will ever say.

Man of Sorrows

illumination, unidentified

Christ at the Whipping Post


Francesco Vanni


Ecce Homo translates as “behold the man”, Pilate’s words to the gathered crowd.

See what we have wrought.

Ecce Homo


Guido Reni

The Man of Sorrows


Michele Giambono

Metropolitan Museum of Art

I have seen the word Misericoidia  bounced about, I did not know that it translated to mean The Man of Sorrows. This image by Giambono is indeed heart wrenching.

Difficult to not think of the Miserere.

Ecce Homo


J Petel

painted wood

Deposition from the Cross


Il Sodoma

Raphael’s mentor, Pietro Perugino  tried his hand at the Crucifixion, it is easy to see how the boy from Urbino was both  impressed and inspired.


Pietro Perugino

Giorgio Vasari tells us that Raphael was born on good Friday, 1483, he also died on Good Friday 37 years later. Vasari rather priggishly implies he whored himself to death.

No matter, his own Crucifixion is as lovely as you would imagine, the man was indeed touched by God.




National Gallery, London

Vasari also tells us that the great Raphael was born to the artist Giovanni de’ Santi, ” a painter of no great talent”. That is a bit harsh, he possesses talent, but his son is a difficult act to follow.

The following is by Papa, perhaps a bit old fashioned to Raphael’s eyes, but worthy of our attention nonetheless.

Christ Supported by Two Angels


Giovanni Santi

Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

The fly on his chest is a particularly good touch.

Raphael will go on to create a more luminous interpretation upon the theme.

The Blessing Christ



Through history Jews have born the ugly brunt, the Passion incited foul reactions; i remember as a child hearing anti-Semitic accusations, in the 70’s!

I’m sorry about that, deeply sorry.

That said the Passion is dear to me, in many ways more so then Easter itself. 

Ecce Homo


Antonio Ciseri

I have readied the house for the Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, the images are draped, as our the mirrors.


I will attend Mass tomorrow.

I will work on a drawing based upon the Vanni.

I will stay away from this damned keyboard.

Until then ,

Babylon Baroque

Sebastian and Lucrezia, the wonders of Dosso Dossi

Posted in 16th cent, Apollo, Borgias, Dosso Dossi, Feast of the Epiphany, Vasari on April 13, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Lucrezia Borgia and Saint Sebastian may seem odd studio mates, but in the hands of master Dosso Dossi they are given equal opportunity to blossom into full beauty.

Dosso Dossi, 1490-1542, trained as a youth in the Roman workshop of Raphael was a master colorist. His mysterious allegories wrought in oil dazzle the eye, as do his touching and often sensual images of blessed saints.

Saint Sebastian


If you have been following the  mini-series The Borgias as I have, you might be interested in what the real Lucrezia is to have looked like, at least as painted by Dosso Dossi. This painting known as the Portrait of a Youth is now the only confirmed image of the siren.

Portrait of a Youth


National Gallery of Victoria

(Lucrezia seems a bit hotter on Showtime.)

Cesare might also have posed for Dosso Dossi,

Portrait of a Man

(possibly Cesare Borgia)

Dosso Dossi had a lush sense of coloring, unexpected bursts of visual pleasure. The Epiphany theme is always ripe for splendor, Dosso Dossi adds extra sparkle to the gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Just look at that pink, that green, wondrous.

Adoration of the Magi


National Gallery


I first saw  the work of Dosso Dossi here in LA at the Getty Center.

Saint George


oil on panel

The J. Paul Getty Museum


From Sacred to Pagan,



In Dosso Dossi’s hand even the aged ascetic Saint Jerome seems hot.

Saint Jerome

undated-16th cent.


As I am now engaged in an excellent course examining  the Renaissance, and at last reading Vasari’s Lives of the Artists ,

you might be subjected to more and more work by Renaissance masters.

Have a pleasant week,

Babylon Baroque