Category Archives: #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer (reprise)

NaNoWriMo is drawing near the end–one week remains. During that week, many of us in the US will prepare Thanksgiving feasts for our families and still try to find time to write new words. Here at Casa del Jasperson, we will host a large family gathering, but I will get some writing done before they arrive.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the re-run of this article detailing my impressions of a wonderful painting, Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer. Much of my work deals with life in pre- and emerging industrial era societies, and paintings like this are critical to my understanding of how life was lived and enjoyed.


The above painting, Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer, is a perfect illustration of a day in the life of a Danish village as captured by the eye of an artist. One of the last paintings made before Gebauer’s death in 1831, it is considered a centerpiece work of the Danish Golden Age, a period of exceptional creative production in Denmark during the first half of the 19th century. Gebauer was heavily influenced by the works of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.

If you are writing fantasy, which is often set in rural late-renaissance-era environments, you can find all the details you need in the art of the past.

Artists painted details, not visible from a distance, but which combine to give the mood of the piece. They painted not only what they saw, but what they felt. They gave us a hint of how people really lived, laughed, and loved before the industrial revolution transformed the world into the modern, technologically driven place we see today.

In Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, Christian David Gebauer shows us villagers dressed for warmth, enjoying themselves on the ice. Others are working, bringing in sledges filled with hay. A hunter and and his dogs are returning, perhaps empty handed. A bag hangs at the hunter’s side but isn’t full. The ice-fishermen are having better luck.

A woodcutter admonishes a boy, perhaps his son, to stop fooling around. His machete hangs in his right hand, as he fights what he knows is a losing battle. It’s evening, the day has been long, and children who have worked all day just want to play and have fun.

The sky takes up fully half of the painting–the church and the people are small beneath it. Beneath the powerful sky, there is an air of busy enjoyment to the painting. The hilarity of those skaters unable to keep their balance is juxtaposed against the hard-working laborers and the cozy prosperity of horses pulling laden sleds.

The entire story of one winter’s evening in this village lives within this painting, all of it captured by an artist nearly two-hundred years ago.

Is there magic here? Maybe. Is there life and passion? Definitely. There is a story in this image. Certainly the details will emerge in my work in the form of setting and atmosphere.

Regardless of how I use it, this window opens onto a time I can now visualize more clearly, less blurred by my modern perspective.


Credits and Attributions:

#FineArtFriday: Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer by Connie J. Jasperson first appeared on Life in the Realm of Fantasy on 08 Dec. 2017.

Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, Christian David Gebauer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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#FineArtFriday: The Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (revisited)

Because it is November, and NaNoWriMo is in full swing,  we are going back to the archives for a Fine Art Friday rerun! This post first appeared on May 4, 2018. Anytime we can enjoy a good allegorical painting I’m happy. The artist, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, must have had an amazing sense of humor.


One of the best allegorical paintings of all time is The Netherlandish Proverbs (also known as The Dutch Proverbs) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, which was painted in 1559. A master at humor, allegory, and pointing out the follies of humanity, Brueghel the Elder is one of my favorite artists.

Quote from Wikipedia:

Critics have praised the composition for its ordered portrayal and integrated scene. There are approximately 112 identifiable proverbs and idioms in the scene, although Bruegel may have included others which cannot be determined because of the language change. Some of those incorporated in the painting are still in popular use, for instance “Swimming against the tide”, “Banging one’s head against a brick wall” and “Armed to the teeth”. Many more have faded from use, which makes analysis of the painting harder. “Having one’s roof tiled with tarts”, for example, which meant to have an abundance of everything and was an image Bruegel would later feature in his painting of the idyllic Land of Cockaigne (1567).

The Blue Cloak, the piece’s original title, features in the centre of the piece and is being placed on a man by his wife, indicating that she is cuckolding him. Other proverbs indicate human foolishness. A man fills in a pond after his calf has died. Just above the central figure of the blue-cloaked man another man carries daylight in a basket. Some of the figures seem to represent more than one figure of speech (whether this was Bruegel’s intention or not is unknown), such as the man shearing a sheep in the centre bottom left of the picture. He is sitting next to a man shearing a pig, so represents the expression “One shears sheep and one shears pigs”, meaning that one has the advantage over the other, but may also represent the advice “Shear them but don’t skin them”, meaning make the most of available assets.

You can find all of the wonderful proverbs on the painting’s page on Wikipedia, along with the thumbnail that depicts the proverb.

My favorite proverbs in this wonderful allegory?

Horse droppings are not figs. It meant we should not be fooled by appearances.

He who eats fire, craps sparks. It meant we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome if we attempt a dangerous venture.

Now THAT is wisdom!


Credits and Attributions:

The Netherlandish Proverbs (Also known as The Dutch Proverbs) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder 1559 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “Netherlandish Proverbs,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Netherlandish_Proverbs&oldid=829168138  (accessed May 3, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy by Ilya Repin 1891

Artist: Ilya Repin  (1844–1930)

Date: 1891

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions Height: 64 cm (25.1 ″); Width: 90 cm (35.4 ″)

About the Subject of this painting, via Wikipedia:

Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828,[3] (Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy) Leo Tolstoy is best known for the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877),[8] often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction.[3] He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, ChildhoodBoyhood, and Youth (1852–1856), and Sevastopol Sketches (1855), based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. Tolstoy’s fiction includes dozens of short stories and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), Family Happiness (1859), and Hadji Murad (1912). He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Repin was born in Chuguyev, in Kharkov Governorate, Russian Empire (now Chuhuiv in UkraineKharkiv Region) into a family of “military settlers”.[2] His father traded horses and his grandmother ran an inn. He entered military school to study surveying. Soon after the surveying course was cancelled, his father helped Repin to become an apprentice with Ivan Bunakov, a local icon painter, where he restored old icons and painted portraits of local notables through commissions. In 1863 he went to St. Petersburg Art Academy to study painting but had to enter Ivan Kramskoi preparatory school first. He met fellow artist Ivan Kramskoi and the critic Vladimir Stasov during the 1860s, and his wife, Vera Shevtsova in 1872 (they remained married for ten years). In 1874–1876 he showed at the Salon in Paris and at the exhibitions of the Itinerants’ Society in Saint Petersburg. He was awarded the title of academician in 1876.

In 1880 Repin travelled to Zaporizhia to gather material for the 1891 Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks. His Religious Procession in Kursk Province was exhibited in 1883, and Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan in 1885. In 1892 he published the Letters on Art collection of essays. He taught at the Higher Art School attached to the Academy of Arts from 1894. In 1898 he purchased an estate, Penaty (the Penates), in Kuokkala, Finland (now Repino, Saint Petersburg).

In 1901 he was awarded the Legion of Honour. In 1911 he traveled with his common-law wife Natalia Nordman to the World Exhibition in Italy, where his painting 17 October 1905 and his portraits were displayed in their own separate room. In 1916 Repin worked on his book of reminiscences, Far and Near, with the assistance of Korney Chukovsky. He welcomed the February Revolution of 1917, but was rather skeptical towards the October Revolution. Soviet authorities asked him a number of times to come back, he remained in Finland for the rest of his life. Celebrations were held in 1924 in Kuokkala to mark Repin’s 80th birthday, followed by an exhibition of his works in Moscow. In 1925 a jubilee exhibition of his works was held in the Russian Museum in Leningrad. Repin died in 1930 and was buried at the Penates.


Credits and Attributions:

Leo Tolstoy by Ilya Repin PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Leo Tolstoy02.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Leo_Tolstoy02.jpg&oldid=369738785 (accessed November 8, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Ilya Repin,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ilya_Repin&oldid=922774203 (accessed November 8, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin, 1870

Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin  (1844–1930)

  • Date: 1870
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 131.5 cm (51.7 ″); Width: 281 cm (110.6 ″)
  • Current location: Ж-4056 (Russian Museum)
  • Inscriptions: Signature and date: И. Репин / 1870-73

What I love about this painting:

A burlak was a person who hauled barges and other vessels upstream from the 17th to 20th centuries in the Russian Empire. Most burlaks were landless or poor peasants.

These men are shown working, painted with brutal truth. They are beyond exhausted. Their skin is darkened and weathered from years of work in the unremitting sun, except for the young man in the middle. One day he will be like the older men, hardened to the misery and enduring his lot in life.

Each face is filled with emotion, with a story of their own. Who knows what tragedies brought them to agree to this terrible existence, this seasonal slavery of physically towing boat upriver?

For the women and men who towed the barges, winter was even worse, because once the river froze over these burlaki were unemployed. Their life was a constant circle of starvation and hellish labor under the harshest conditions.

About this Painting (via Wikipedia)

Barge Haulers on the Volga or Burlaki (Russian: Burlaki na Volge, Бурлаки на Волге) is an 1870–73 oil-on-canvas painting by artist Ilya Repin. It depicts 11 men physically dragging a barge on the banks of the Volga River. They are at the point of collapse from exhaustion, oppressed by heavy, hot weather.[1][2]

The work is a condemnation of profit from inhumane labor.[3] Although they are presented as stoical and accepting, the men are defeated; only one stands out: in the center of both the row and canvas, a brightly colored youth fights against his leather binds and takes on a heroic pose.

Repin conceived the painting during his travels through Russia as a young man and depicts actual characters he encountered. It drew international praise for its realistic portrayal of the hardships of working men, and launched his career.[4] Soon after its completion, the painting was purchased by Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and exhibited widely throughout Europe as a landmark of Russian realist painting. Barge Haulers on the Volga has been described as “perhaps the most famous painting of the Peredvizhniki movement [for]….its unflinching portrayal of backbreaking labor”.[5]

The characters are based on actual people Repin came to know while preparing for the work. He had had difficulty finding subjects to pose for him, even for a fee, because of a folklorish belief that a subject’s soul would leave his possession once his image was put down on paper.[8] The subjects include a former soldier, a former priest, and a painter.[9] Although he depicted eleven men, women also performed the work and there were normally many more people in a barge-hauling gang; Repin selected these figures as representative of a broad swathe of the working classes of Russian society. That some had once held relatively high social positions dismayed the young artist, who had initially planned to produce a far more superficial work contrasting exuberant day-trippers (which he himself had been) with the careworn burlaks. Repin found a particular empathy with Kanin, the defrocked priest, who is portrayed as the lead hauler and looks outwards towards the viewer.[10] The artist wrote,

“There was something eastern about it, the face of a Scyth…and what eyes! What depth of vision!…And his brow, so large and wise…He seemed to me a colossal mystery, and for that reason I loved him. Kanin, with a rag around his head, his head in patches made by himself and then worn out, appeared none the less as a man of dignity; he was like a saint.”[11]


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Barge Haulers on the Volga,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Barge_Haulers_on_the_Volga&oldid=918607811 (accessed November 1, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588)

The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli  (1524–1588)

Date: 16th century

Medium: oil

Collection: Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

What I love about this painting:

The Last Supper, a 7×2-meter oil-on-canvas, preserved in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, is the only signed work by Plautilla Nelli known to survive. Her signature, in the upper left corner, reads S. Plavtil – La Ora Te Pro Pictora (Sister Plavtil, Pray for the Paintress).

I love the intimacy of this composition. Jesus hold bread in his left hand as he comforts Saint John.

According to Karen Chernick for her article of October 17, 2019 in Atlas Obscura:

Nelli didn’t paint her “Last Supper” background to look like the dining hall it was designed for, a trick other artists used to make the scene relatable. Instead, she showed Jesus and his apostles dining on the same food that Santa Caterina’s Domincan nuns ate: a whole roasted lamb, bread, wine, heads of lettuce, and fresh fava beans—the last two dishes unprecedented in any depiction of Christ’s last meal. The fava beans were a wink to local cuisine, a Florentine specialty normally eaten by peasants (and nuns).

“Pray for the Paintress,” is a thought I will keep in my heart.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Plautilla Nelli’s Last Supper is a first in the history of art rendered by a woman. Painted in the 1560’s, Last Supper was under restoration for four years.[11] The work went on exhibit in October 2019.[12] No female artist had ever painted this subject before Nelli. Florence has the richest tradition of paintings with the theme of last supper in the world. Nelli’s Last Supper, her most significant work because of its size and subject, is a seven-meter long, oil on canvas. After restoration her Last Supper will be exhibited at the Santa Maria Novella Museum in Florence across from Alessandro Allori’s painting with the same theme, also painted in the sixteenth century.

About the Artist (via Wikipedia)

Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588) was a self-taught nun-artist and the first-known female Renaissance painter of Florence. She was a nun of the Dominican convent of St. Catherine of Siena located in Piazza San Marco, Florence, and was heavily influenced by the teachings of Savonarola and by the artwork of Fra Bartolomeo.

Pulisena Margherita Nelli was born into a wealthy family in the San Felice area of Florence. Her father, Piero di Luca Nelli, was a successful fabric merchant and her ancestors originated from the Tuscan valley area of Mugello, as did the Medici dynasty. There is a modern-day street in Florence, Via del Canto de’ Nelli, in the San Lorenzo district, named for her family, and the New Sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo is the original site of her family homes.[1]

She became a nun at the age of fourteen, taking on the name Suor Plautilla, at the convent of Santa Caterina di Cafaggio; she would later be prioress on three occasions. The facility was managed by the Dominican friars of San Marco, led by Savonarola. About half of all educated girls in that era were placed into convents to avoid the cost of raising a dowry. Savonarola’s preachings promoted devotional painting and drawing by religious women to avoid sloth, thus the convent became a center for nun-artists. Her sister, also a nun, Costanza, (Suor Petronilla) wrote a life of Savonarola.


Credits and Attributions:

Quote from “A Nun’s 450-Year-Old ‘Last Supper’ Makes Its Museum Debut in Florence” by Karen Chernick © 2019 Atlas Obscura. All rights reserved. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/first-last-supper-woman-painter-florence

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Plautilla Nelli – The Last Supper.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Plautilla_Nelli_-_The_Last_Supper.jpg&oldid=371023591 (accessed October 24, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Plautilla Nelli,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plautilla_Nelli&oldid=922398829 (accessed October 24, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Painter’s Honeymoon by Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton ca. 1864

Artist: Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton: The Painter’s Honeymoon

Title: The Painter’s Honeymoon

Date: 1864

Medium: painting

Dimensions: 83.8 × 76.8 cm (32.9 × 30.2 ″)

What I like about this painting:

This is a real departure from Leighton’s usual precise nudes. There is a great deal of emotion and closeness depicted here. The folds of the wife’s skirt are shown with his usual vivid sharpness, as are the hands of both the painter and his wife. Their hands are portrayed as gentle and tender—and yet they are clearly defined, as they are the medium through which the painter expresses himself.

Their faces are not as distinct, as if they are still in the romantic haze of their new life together.

According to Wikipedia:

The Painter’s Honeymoon was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1866 – it appears that Leighton deliberately prevented it from being shown publicly in the years following its completion. As Leighton was renowned for his lack of confidence and shyness, many of his contemporaries believed he felt he had betrayed too much of his own emotion to feel comfortable exhibiting the picture.


Credits and Attributions:

The Painter’s Honeymoon by Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton [Public domain]

Wikipedia contributors, “The Painter’s Honeymoon,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Painter%27s_Honeymoon&oldid=902492011 (accessed October 18, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Portrait of a Lady by the workshop of Sandro Botticelli ca. 1480

  • Artist: Workshop of Sandro Botticelli  (1445–1510)
  • Title: Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Nymph)
  • Genre: portrait
  • Date: circa 1480
  • Medium: tempera on wood
  • Dimensions: Height: 82 cm (32.2 ″); Width: 54 cm (21.2 ″)

About Portrait of a young woman, possibly Simonetta Vespucci, 1484:

The Roman engraved gem on her necklace was owned by Lorenzo de’ Medici. It is suggested that in Quatrocento paintings, hair and water are related. Certainly, the waves of her hair seem to suggest water.

Ronald Lightbown, author of Botticelli: Life and Works claims it is  a creation of Botticelli’s workshop and was likely neither drawn nor painted exclusively by Botticelli himself. He also reminds us that the model’s identity can’t be confirmed; that Botticell’s workshop most likely executed fancy portraits of idealized beauties, rather than real ladies.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (c. 1445[1] – May 17, 1510), known as Sandro Botticelli (/ˌbɒtɪˈtʃɛli/, Italian: [ˈsandro bottiˈtʃɛlli]), was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. He belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici, a movement that Giorgio Vasari would characterize less than a hundred years later in his Vita of Botticelli as a “golden age“. Botticelli’s posthumous reputation suffered until the late 19th century; since then, his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Sandro Botticelli,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sandro_Botticelli&oldid=916319613 (accessed October 4, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt ca. 1627

  • By Rembrandt  (1606–1669)
  • Title: The Parable of the Rich Fool
  • Genre: religious art
  • Date: 1627  Monogram and date bottom left: RH. 1627.
  • Medium: oil on oak panel
  • Dimensions: Height: 31.9 cm (12.5 ″); Width: 42.5 cm (16.7 ″)

 

Rembrandt’s early career focused on religious paintings, which were well received by influential patrons. Today’s featured painting, The Parable of the Rich Fool, is one of his early works, from the time when he shared a studio with Jan Lievens.

 

About this parable, via Wikipedia:

The rich farmer in this parable is portrayed negatively, as an example of greed.  By replacing his existing barn, he avoids using agricultural land for storage purposes, thus maximizing his income, as well as allowing him to wait for a price increase before selling. St. Augustine comments that the farmer was “planning to fill his soul with excessive and unnecessary feasting and was proudly disregarding all those empty bellies of the poor. He did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns.”


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Parable of the Rich Fool,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Parable_of_the_Rich_Fool&oldid=912095443

(accessed September 27, 2019).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt – The Parable of the Rich Fool.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt_-_The_Parable_of_the_Rich_Fool.jpg&oldid=354111849

(accessed September 27, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Landscape with the Parable of the Sower by Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1552

Artist: Pieter Bruegel the Elder  (1526/1530–1569)

Title: Landscape with the Parable of the Sower

Genre: religious art

Date: 1552

Medium: oil on panel

Dimensions: Height: 74 cm (29.1 ″); Width: 102 cm (40.1 ″)

What I love about this painting:

Pieter Brugel the Elder was one of my first influences in the world of art appreciation. What always strikes me about his work is the innocent joy he infused in his art. This particular painting has a delicate, almost watercolor feel to it.

In this piece, the color of the river is the unique shade of blue that appears in his other works.

The parable he illustrates (via Wikipedia):

In the (Biblical) story, a sower sows seed and does so indiscriminately. Some seed falls on the path (wayside) with no soil, some on rocky ground with little soil, and some on soil which contained thorns. In these cases the seed is taken away or fails to produce a crop, but when it falls on good soil it grows, yielding thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.

Jesus then (only in the presence of his disciples) explains that the seed represents the Gospel (the sower being anyone who proclaims it), and the various soils represent people’s responses to it (the first three representing rejection while the last represents acceptance).

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Pieter Bruegel (also Brueghel or Breughelthe Elder (/ˈbrɔɪɡəl/, also US: /ˈbruːɡəl, ˈbrɜːɡəl/, Dutch: [ˈpitər ˈbrøːɣəl] c. 1525–1530 – 9 September 1569) was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter and printmaker from Brabant, known for his landscapes and peasant scenes (so-called genre painting); he was a pioneer in making both types of subject the focus in large paintings.

He was a formative influence on Dutch Golden Age painting and later painting in general in his innovative choices of subject matter, as one of the first generation of artists to grow up when religious subjects had ceased to be the natural subject matter of painting. He also painted no portraits, the other mainstay of Netherlandish art. After his training and travels to Italy, he returned in 1555 to settle in Antwerp, where he worked mainly as a prolific designer of prints for the leading publisher of the day. Only towards the end of the decade did he switch to make painting his main medium, and all his famous paintings come from the following period of little more than a decade before his early death, when he was probably in his early forties, and at the height of his powers.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Pieter Bruegel d. Ä. 030.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Pieter_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._030.jpg&oldid=356083009 (accessed September 20, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Pieter Bruegel the Elder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder&oldid=915292603 (accessed September 20, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Parable of the Sower,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Parable_of_the_Sower&oldid=907267798 (accessed September 20, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Chess Game, by Sofonisba Anguissola ca. 1555

Title: The Chess Game (Portrait of the artist’s sisters playing chess)

Artist: Sofonisba Anguissola

Date: 1555

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 72 cm (28.3 ″) Width: 97 cm (38.1 ″)

 

What I love about this painting:

The colors are vibrant,

Because it is a game of war and strategies for winning a war, chess has historically been considered a predominantly male game. That Anguissola’s sisters are playing it at so young an age is a testimony to the atmosphere of education surrounding the home.

Their features are modern in the way they are shown with a roundness that is unusual in early renaissance portraits, which were often so highly formal that they were visually flat. These girls could be my granddaughters.

Anguissola has captured the emotions and happiness of a family at play. Her sisters’ personalities are clearly shown. The older sister has taken a pawn, the younger fears she might lose the game to a more experienced player. The youngest is enjoying the game immensely, seeing the sister who sometimes bosses her around being handed her own medicine.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532 – 16 November 1625), also known as Sophonisba Angussola or Anguisciola, was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Cremona to a relatively poor noble family. She received a well-rounded education, that included the fine arts, and her apprenticeship with local painters set a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. As a young woman, Anguissola traveled to Rome where she was introduced to Michelangelo, who immediately recognized her talent, and to Milan, where she painted the Duke of Alba. The Spanish queen, Elizabeth of Valois, was a keen amateur painter and in 1559 Anguissola was recruited to go to Madrid as her tutor, with the rank of lady-in-waiting. She later became an official court painter to the king, Philip II, and adapted her style to the more formal requirements of official portraits for the Spanish court. After the queen’s death, Philip helped arrange an aristocratic marriage for her. She moved to Sicily, and later Pisa and Genoa, where she continued to practice as a leading portrait painter.

On 12 July 1624, Anguissola was visited by the young Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, who recorded sketches from his visit to her in his sketchbook.[25] Van Dyck, who believed her to be 96 years of age (she was actually about 92) noted that although “her eyesight was weakened”, Anguissola was still mentally alert.[24] Excerpts of the advice she gave him about painting survive from this visit,[26] and he was said to have claimed that their conversation taught him more about the “true principles” of painting than anything else in his life.[1][2] Van Dyck drew her portrait while visiting her.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Although Anguissola enjoyed significantly more encouragement and support than the average woman of her day, her social class did not allow her to transcend the constraints of her sex. Without the possibility of studying anatomy or drawing from life (it was considered unacceptable for a lady to view nudes), she could not undertake the complex multi-figure compositions required for large-scale religious or history paintings.

Instead, she experimented with new styles of portraiture, setting subjects informally. Self-portraits and family members were her most frequent subjects, as seen in such paintings as Self-Portrait (1554, Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna), Portrait of Amilcare, Minerva and Asdrubale Anguissola (c. 1557–1558, Nivaagaards Malerisambling, Niva, Denmark), and her most famous picture, The Chess Game (1555, Muzeum Narodowe, Poznań), which depicted her sisters Lucia, Minerva and Europa.

Painted when Sofonisba was 23 years old, The Chess Game is an intimate representation of an everyday family scene, combining elaborate formal clothing with very informal facial expressions, which was unusual for Italian art at this time. The Chess Game explored a new kind of genre painting which places her sitters in a domestic setting instead of the formal or allegorical settings that were popular at the time.[17] This painting has been regarded as a conversation piece, which is an informal portrait of a group engaging in lively conversation or some activity .


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:The Chess Game – Sofonisba Anguissola.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The_Chess_Game_-_Sofonisba_Anguissola.jpg&oldid=359367567 (accessed September 12, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Sofonisba Anguissola,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sofonisba_Anguissola&oldid=908120352 (accessed September 12, 2019).

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