Category Archives: Renaissance Painting

Monday Verses: Michelangelo Buonarotti – Sulla morte di Cecchino Bracci (1545)

David Hockney, In Memoriam Cecchino Bracci

In 1544, a handsome 15-year-old boy named Cecchino (Francesco) Bracci died, leaving his uncle Luigi del Riccio shattered. At the time Luigi was a close friend and counsellor to Michelangelo Buonarotti, whom he kindly asked to execute a tomb for Cecchino and compose an epitaph.

I was reading a book by Sigmund Freud recently, and the Austrian narrated a story of how a young scientist asked him to review his work. Freud agreed; however, he couldn’t force himself to do it; eventually, he accepted that he didn’t actually want to do the review, and excused himself from the task.

Believe it or not, in 1540s in Italy Michelangelo was in the exact Freud’s position. He barely knew the boy, and it turned out that, in spite of his famous beauty, Cecchino never sat for a portrait. The only source of knowledge and inspiration was supposed to be Cecchino’s uncle, Luigi.

Michelangelo’s autograph of the epitaphs

A kind soul as it seems, Michelangelo took to the job. Luigi sent generous hampers to feed a rather indifferent Muse, which gifts the artist sometimes acknowledged in the draft epitaphs and sketches he’d sent back to del Riccio. Indeed, the texts we have demonstrate the hard times Michelangelo could have when the subject failed to ignite his poetic flame. Even the words stumble, and the lack of acquaintance with the boy fully manifests itself. Several months and almost fifty epitaphs later, Michelangelo pulled out from the job. And yet, in 1545 he’d sent Luigi a beautiful sonnet. It is a short study of the poet labour’s lost, with a beautiful ending that actually re-interprets one of the draft epitaphs, pointing out to the fact that it is a lover who preserves the image of the beloved. In spite of what we know of the Renaissance homoerotism, and Michelangelo’s in particular, I insist that Love here needs to be understood as a pure affection, not a hint at any sexual interest.

The tomb (image: Wikipedia)

The tomb was eventually made by another artist and can be seen at the church dell’Aracoeli in Rome. In 1962, David Hockney painted In Memoriam Cecchino Bracchi. This post also includes the sketches by Michelangelo that were eventually used as the basis for the tomb. The final epitaph was composed in Latin.

Drafts (image: Michelangelo.ru)
Drafts (image: Michelangelo.ru)

The Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky also translated two of the epitaphs on the death of Cecchino. I guess the interest in this series of epitaphs lies in several facts. The genre of an epitaph is unique in itself, and when a famous artist-cum-poet composes the whopping 42 quatrains, it does attract attention. Cecchino’s death devastated “the whole of Rome”, according to his uncle, although the age at which the boy died was likely the main reason. And even though Michelangelo’s pen and Muse refused to work together, he nonetheless appears to have been excited at the opportunity to explore one of the favourite themes of the early Baroque poetry, namely vanitas and preference given to the other life.

I didn’t try to translate the epitaphs. Yet back in 2008, when I discovered the 1545 sonnet, it captivated me so that I had to translate it. I must admit, I fully experienced Michelangelo’s own hardships, it was the first time I was translating from Italian, and as always before my task was to try and preserve the original rhythm and melody in the Russian translation. I was, however, satisfied with the result. It is included below, together with the English translation by John Addington Symonds.

In 2013 my Russian translation was awarded the First Diploma in the “Poetry” nomination in Music in Translation competition.

Michelangelo Buonarotti – Sulla morte di Cecchino Bracci

A pena prima aperti gli vidd’io
i suo begli occhi in questa fragil vita,
che, chiusi el dì dell’ultima partita,
gli aperse in cielo a contemplare Dio.
Conosco e piango, e non fu l’error mio,
col cor sì tardi a lor beltà gradita,
ma di morte anzi tempo, ond’è sparita
a voi non già, m’al mie ’rdente desio.
Dunche, Luigi, a far l’unica forma
di Cecchin, di ch’i’ parlo, in pietra viva etterna,
or ch’è già terra qui tra noi,
se l’un nell’altro amante si trasforma,
po’ che sanz’essa l’arte non v’arriva,
convien che per far lui ritragga voi.

John Addington Symonds – English Translation

Scarce had I seen for the first time his eyes,
Which to your living eyes were life and light,
When, closed at last in death’s injurious night,
He opened them on God in Paradise.
I know it, and I weep — too late made wise:
Yet was the fault not mine; for death’s fell spite
Robbed my desire of that supreme delight
Which in your better memory never dies.
Therefore, Luigi, if the task be mine
To make unique Cecchino smile in stone
For ever, now that earth hath made him dim,
If the beloved within the lover shine,
Since art without him cannot work alone,
You must I carve to tell the world of him.

Julia Shuvalova – Russian Translation

Я только раз взглянул в глаза того,
В чьем взоре ты черпал и жизнь, и свет,
Как в вечном сне он их сомкнул, чтоб впредь
Смотреть в раю на Бога самого.

Как глуп я был! И плачу оттого!
Но, право же, моей вины в том нет.
А ты хранишь вовеки счастья след,
Хотя бы Смерть и унесла его.

Луиджи, просишь ты: пусть сохранит
От тлена несравненную улыбку
Чеккино мой прославленный резец.

Но любящий любимого творит,
И, раз уж Муз дела идут не шибко,
Тебя мне должно взять за образец.

October 2008

На русском 

В июне 1544 г. в Риме умер юный Франческо (Чеккино) Браччи, племянник поэта Луиджи дель Риччо. Луиджи, хорошо знакомый с Микеланджело, обратился к поэту-художнику с просьбой создать надгробие для мраморного памятника Чеккино, а также написать текст эпитафии. Микеланджело согласился. До нас, действительно, дошли четыре эпитафии. Однако ни одна из них не украсила надгробие Чеккино, да и сам памятник, в конце концов, был успешно создан другим мастером.

Причина, по которой Микеланджело уклонился от исполнения договора, вероятнее всего изложена им самим в приведенном сонете. Вопреки тому, что можно прочесть в популярных статьях о глубине отношений Микеланджело и Чеккино, степень близости была невелика, что и подчеркивает первая строка сонета. Несмотря на то что Чеккино славился своей красотой, ни один художник, похоже, не соизволил запечатлеть его при жизни. Переводы нескольких набросков эпитафий, сделанные А. М. Эфросом, демонстрируют бесплодные усилия пера Микеланджело, которое дель Риччо изо всех сил старался подпитать – в прямом смысле этого слова:

Здесь рок послал безвременный мне сон,
Но я не мертв, хоть и опущен в землю:
Я жив в тебе, чьим сетованьям внемлю,
За то, что в друге друг отображен.

– Не хотел посылать вам это, потому что скверно вышло,
но форели и трюфели одолели бы и само небо. Вверяю себя вам.

К благой судьбе я смертью приведен:
Бог не желал меня увидеть старым,
И так как рок не властен большим даром,
Все, кроме смерти, было б мне в урон.

– Теперь, когда обещание пятнадцати надписей выполнено,
я больше уже не повинен вам ими, разве что придут
они из рая, где он пребывает.

Рисовать эскиз надгробия оказалось еще тяжелее: “Посылаю вам с запиской дыни, рисунка же пока нет, но я изготовлю его непременно со всем искусством, на какое способен”. И однако же искусства было мало:

Чеккино – в жизни, ныне – я у Бога,
Мирской на миг, небесный навсегда;
Счастливая вела меня звезда:
Где стольким в смерть, мне в жизнь была дорога.

– Так как поэзия этой ночью молчала, посылаю вам
четыре надписи, за три пряника скряги и вверяю себя
вам.

Андрей Вознесенский также перевел две из этих эпитафий:

Я счастлив, что я умер молодым.
Земные муки – хуже, чем могила.
Навеки смерть меня освободила
и сделалась бессмертием моим.

Я умер, подчинившись естеству.
Но тыщи дум в моей душе вмещались.
Одна на них погасла – что за малость?!
Я в тысячах оставшихся живу.
 

Проведя не один месяц в творческих муках, Микеланджело отклонил заказ дель Риччо. Но в 1545 г. написал для него вышеприведенный сонет. При отсутствии каких-либо изображений юноши, Луиджи, как любящий дядя и воспитатель, для которого смерть Чеккино явилась тяжелым ударом, мог бы единственным “источником” вдохновения для художника. На это и намекает Микеланджело, с присущими его веку изяществом и легким юмором предлагая изваять самого дель Риччо, дабы сохранить в веках память о Чеккино. Одновременно в этом сонете сходятся многие темы, поднятые Микеланджело в черновых вариантах эпитафий, в частности, в этих строках: “Я жив в тебе, чьим сетованьям внемлю, за то, что в друге друг отображен”.

История жизни и смерти Чеккино Браччи, о которой известно ровно столько, сколько можно извлечь из этих коротких посланий Микеланджело, послужила источником вдохновения для английского художника Дэвида Хокни (In Memoriam Cecchino Bracci, 1962).

В 2013 г. за перевод этого сонета я получила диплом I степени в номинации “Поэзия” на международном конкурсе перевода “Музыка перевода”.

The Original Paolo Veronese Pieta Found In Tashkent

While some Russians openly express disdain for workers from Uzbekistan, the capital of the CIS state has now got an impressive claim to fame. A painting Pieta (The Mourning of Christ) at the Tashkent Art Museum that has long been considered by someone unknown is declared to have been painted by Paolo Veronese, a celebrated master of the late Italian Renaissance. The one currently shown by RIA Novosti website does indeed resemble Veronese’s manner and lighting:

Paolo Veronese, La Pieta (RIA Novosti)

The painting that used to hang on the third floor of the art museum was brought to Tashkent by the Grand Duke Nikolas Constantinovich (1850-1918). His diary mentions that this was an original painting, most likely brought from one of his journeys to Europe in 1860-70s. However, it was only the restoration works that led to revisiting the diaries, conducting analyses and eventually declaring that Tashkent State Fine Arts Museum happens to own the painting by the great Italian.

The leader of the restoration project Dilshod Azizov said that more “important announcements” were to made at a later stage.

The initial announcement came earlier in November, and the Radio Liberty correspondents and art historians from the West were not quite sure the canvas could indeed belong to Veronese, although they did not doubt its Venetian origins.

The Grand Duke Nikolas was an eccentric member of the Russian imperial family, and Tashkent museum holds another testimony of the love for Italian art on the part of this Romanov. During one of his voyages to Europe with his beloved Fanny Lear, a divorcée from America, he visited the villa Borghese where he saw a nude sculpture of Polina Borghese, Napoleon’s sister, by Antonio Canova. The Grand Duke was so impressed that he commissioned a similar sculpture to an Italian master Tommaso Solari, but obviously with Fanny’s face instead of Polina’s. The exact copy was later sent to St. Petersburg where it stood in a park for a number of years. When the Grand Duke was already in exile, forever separated from his beloved American, his mother found the sculpture during a walk in the park and decided to send it to Tashkent.

So the exact copy of Canova’s sculpture commemorating an American woman who, inadvertently perhaps, led the Grand Duke to ruin, can now be seen in full glory at Tashkent State Fine Arts Museum. But a Western or Russian traveller need not to go so far to see it: a smaller copy is displayed at the Yussupov Palace in St. Petersburg.

Tommaso Solari, a copy after Antonio Canova,
Tashkent State Fine Arts Museum (Wikipedia)

Venus Anadyomene in Painting and Arthur Rimbaud’s Sonnet

Titian
When we consider the impact that the Symbolists had had on how the following generations of artists treated beauty, the best example may well be Arthur Rimbaud’s sonnet, Venus Anadyomene. A contemporary of Degas and the Impressionists, Rimbaud, like painters, saw his Venus as a “real” woman, enravelling to us her terrifying beauty, complete with bad hair and cellulite. Rimbaud rampantly went against the custom image, showing the birth of Venus from behind. As Somerset Maugham would say in Cakes and Ale: or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard in 1930, it was unforgivable to write about women as if they had no anus at all – and Rimbaud in 1870 certainly held the same viewpoint.
Sandro Botticelli
So, while you read Vénus Anadyomène by Rimbaud in several languages, you may also compare various representations of the birth of Venus in painting, starting as early as a fresco in Pompeii. Rimbaud’s poem is also in sharp contrast with a melodic long poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that again studies Venus as it emerges from the water, facing us.
William Bougereau
Arthur Rimbaud – Vénus Anadyomène (1870)

Comme d’un cercueil vert en ferblanc, une tête

De femme à cheveux bruns fortement pommadés
D’une vieille baignoire émerge, lente et bête,
Avec des déficits assez mal ravaudés;
Puis le col gras et gris, les larges omoplates
Qui saillent ; le dos court qui rentre et qui ressort;
Puis les rondeurs des reins semblent prendre l’essor;

La graisse sous la peau paraît en feuilles plates;

L’échine est un peu rouge, et le tout sent un goût
Horrible étrangement ; on remarque surtout
Des singularités qu’il faut voir à la loupe…

Les reins portent deux mots gravés : Clara Venus;
– Et tout ce corps remue et tend sa large croupe
Belle hideusement d’un ulcère à l’anus.
German translation by Eric Boerner
Theodore Chasseriau
Wie aus ‘nem Weißblechsarg erscheint ein Frauenkopf,
Die braunen Haare dick pomadisiert,
Aus alter Badewanne, träge, dumpf, es tropft,
Die Defizite sind nur mäßig renoviert.
Dann – feist und grau – der Hals, weit klaffen Schulterblätter,
Der kurze Rücken hebt sich, beugt sich wieder vor;

Dann schwingen Lendenwülste sich wie zum Flug empor;
Das Fett unter der Haut erscheint wie flachgeplättet;

Das Rückgrat ist leicht rot, vom Ganzen schwelt ein Duft

Befremdend fürchterlich; doch man bemerkt mit Lust
Die Einzelheiten dort, die nur die Lupe findet …

 

Und CLARA VENUS ist den Lenden eingraviert;
– Der ganze Leib bewegt sich, spannt den breiten Hintern

Und scheußlich schön erscheint am After ein Geschwür.

 

A fresco in Pompeii
Russian translation by Mikhail Kudinov

Из ржавой ванны, как из гроба жестяного,
Неторопливо появляется сперва
Вся напомаженная густо и ни слова
Не говорящая дурная голова.

И шея жирная за нею вслед, лопатки
Торчащие, затем короткая спина,
Ввысь устремившаяся бедер крутизна
И сало, чьи пласты образовали складки.

Чуть красноват хребет. Ужасную печать

На всем увидишь ты; начнешь и замечать
То, что под лупою лишь видеть можно ясно:

«Венера» выколото тушью на крестце…

Все тело движется, являя круп в конце,

Где язва ануса чудовищно прекрасна.

Brazilian Portuguese Translation by Ivo Barosso (source)

Antonio Lombardi
Qual de um verde caixão de zinco, uma cabeça
Morena de mulher, cabelos emplastados,
Surge de uma banheira antiga, vaga e avessa,
Com déficits que estão a custo retocados.

Brota após grossa e gorda a nuca, as omoplatas
Anchas; o dorso curto ora sobe ora desce;
Depois a redondez do lombo é que aparece;
A banha sob a carne espraia em placas chatas;

A espinha é um tanto rósea, e o todo tem um ar
Horrendo estranhamente; há, no mais, que notar
Pormenores que são de examinar-se à lupa…

Nas nádegas gravou dois nomes: Clara Vênus;
— E o corpo inteiro agita e estende a ampla garupa
Com a bela hediondez de uma úlcera no ânus.

 

Amaury-Duval
English translation by Wallace Fowlie
As from a green zinc coffin, a woman’s
Head with brown hair heavily pomaded
Emerges slowly and stupidly from an old bathtub,
With bald patches rather badly hidden;

Then the fat gray neck, broad shoulder-blades
Sticking out; a short back which curves in and bulges;

Then the roundness of the buttocks seems to take off;

The fat under the skin appears in slabs:

The spine is a bit red; and the whole thing has a smell

Strangely horrible; you notice especially
Odd details you’d have to see with a magnifying glass…

 The buttocks bear two engraved words: CLARA VENUS;
—And that whole body moves and extends its broad rump
Hideously beautiful with an ulcer on the anus.
J. A. D. Ingres
Out of what seems a coffin made of tin
A head protrudes; a woman’s, dark with grease –
Out of a bathtub! – slowly; then a fat face
With ill-concealed defects upon the skin.
Then streaked and grey, a neck; a shoulder-blade,
A back – irregular, with indentations –
Then round loins emerge, and slowly rise;
The fat beneath the skin seems made of lead;

The spine is somewhat reddish; then, a smell,
Strangely horrible; we notice above all

Some microscopic blemishes in front…

Horribly beautiful! A title: Clara Venus;
Then the huge bulk heaves, and with a grunt
She bends and shows the ulcer on her anus.

The First Day of Spring (and a Short Report of My Travels)

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera (1482)

My congratulations to all of you on the occasion of the first day of spring! Today, in fact, was a wonderful day: I learnt that two of my former colleagues have got engaged at the end of January. I am very, very happy for both of them, it’s wonderful news, and a great way to start the season often associated with Love. Sandro Botticelli knew this well when he painted his famous Primavera that apparently served as a wedding gift.

Manchester from my hotel
 North Wales from the Great Orme

Last week I briefly went to the UK. After a full year in Russia I thought I would be treated to something new, but no, things don’t change THAT quickly. Fair enough, there’s scaffolding on St. Ann’s church, and a new building has sprung at the corner of Tib St, but the rest was more of less the same (except that many shops in Stockport have been closing due to recession). I visited Leeds and Llandudno and had the most relaxing time, even though I had to do a lot. Unfortunately, once again I didn’t get the chance to visit Manchester Jewish Museum, but I nipped in and picked up a visitor guide and a fridge magnet, and had a brief conversation with Sarah about Russia, its history and people. I need this “inner” information for one of the stories I’m working on, so I’ll now have to get by with the Russian sources.

Otherwise, everything is going great, especially since I climbed the Great Orme in Llandudno. The pictures you see were taken at the summit.

After conquering the Great Orme…

 

Religious Paintings by Francois Boucher

Although better known for his sensuous paintings, François Boucher shows a more serious side of his genius, when tackling religious themes in his paintings. Among several completed canvasses and a few sketches some study the popular story of the flight into Egypt and Nativity, while others illustrate stories from both Old and New Testament.

1. Old Testament.

Hagar and Ishmael in the Desert. Boucher illustrates the ‘second’ expulsion of Hagar from the house of Abraham, when she went into the desert with Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

Genesis 21: 14-21 tells the story:

15 And the water in the bottle was spent, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow-shot; for she said: ‘Let me not look upon the death of the child.’ And she sat over against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept.
17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her: ‘What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast by thy hand; for I will make him a great nation.’
19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
20 And God was with the lad, and he grew; and he dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
As it often happened in paintings since the Renaissance, Hagar has contemporary headwear, that makes her resemble a 17th c. shepherdess. A Cupid-like Ishmael is lying next to her, and in the foreground there is an empty jug and a small sac with what seem like arrows. There is another sketch on the same topic, more robust, tempestuous, and dramatic.
Joseph Presenting His Father and Brothers to Pharaoh. In this 1723 painting Boucher managed to stay away from the temptation to dress his characters in contemporary clothes, and we see the particular line being illustrated, namely the presention of Joseph’s father. Dr Shimon Kuper has an interesting analysis of this story in the paper for the Bar-Ilan University’s weekly Torah reading.

Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?” “Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.”  They also said to him, “We have come to live here awhile, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh,  Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?”  And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.”  Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence. (Genesis 47: 1-10).

2. New Testament
The Dream of St. Joseph. All three dreams of St. Joseph were recorded in Gospel of Matthew and refer, in one way or another, to Nativity. In this painting Boucher illustrated the first dream:
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”(Matthew 1: 20-21).

St. John the Baptist and the Easter lamb. One has to forgive Boucher a doze of mannerism in presenting the young St. John. Of course, he looks like one of those cherubic figures in Boucher’s bucolic paintings. On the other hand, one cannot help comparing – rather successfully! – this image of St. John as a child with an earlier one by Parmigianino that depicts Jesus in a very “cherubic” style. As a result, Boucher appears to be continuing with the Renaissance mannerist tradition, rather than merely repeating his own habit of painting putti.

Nativity. Boucher gets very intimate here, positioning the scene in its entirety in the foreground and drawing everyone in to the newborn Jesus. Not only the angels, but animals are watching too. The light goes from left corner (the figure of baby Jesus) to the top of the sketch. The scene transmits adoration and awe at the miracle of life. There is a completed 1758 painting of this scene, reversing Mary with the cradle, letting St. John the Baptist in, and omitting St. Joseph.

The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Magi. Apparently, The Adoration of the Shepherds (1750, left) is also known under the name The Light of the World, which is the phrase Jesus used to describe himself and which was most famously applied by William Holman Hunt to his painting depicting Jesus with a lantern. The Adoration of the Magi (right) came down as a pretty rough sketch; it’s hard to say who’s who about the Magi, although most likely we see Gaspar kneeling, Balthasar next to him, and Melchior is giving the gift to Jesus.
 
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Here Boucher illustrated the third dream of St. Joseph he received after King Herod died. Jesus and St. John the Baptist are seen playing together in the foreground, St. John wearing the animal skin, and the figure of Jesus glowing with gentle light. Mary is reading, and a small lamb is resting peacefully next to her.

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2: 19-20).

Baby Jesus and the Infant St. John the Baptist. As above with the baby St. John, here we see both Jesus and St. John as unusually serious putti: St. John and angels attentively listen and contemplate the word of Jesus. In the foreground, half-hidden in the clouds, lies the staff with the banner with the Latin inscription, Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the God’s Lamb).

An Apostle preaching, with figures in the background. Boucher didn’t include any detail in this sketch that could help identify the apostle by name. What is peculiar, is that the 18th c. slowly began to draw attention to the poor, and so the apostle appears barefeet, with greasy hair, in tatters, surrounded by poor folk of different ages.

Read this post on Poverty in Art.

St. Peter attempting to walk on water. The painting depicts the moment of St. Peter getting out of the boat to walk towards Jesus. Once again we see Boucher “faithfully” illustrating Matthew’s Gospel. Although the story of Jesus’s walking on water is told in Mark 6:45-52 and John 6: 16-21, neither of these mention the episode of St. Peter’s attempt to walk towards Christ. Arguably, this is one of the most “biblical” paintings by Boucher in this series of religious canvasses: the spiritual union of the figures in the foreground is palpable, and only small angelic faces remind us of the Rococo period.

Peter, sitting in the boat, shouts out into the darkness: “‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’  So, He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him” (Matthew 14:28-31).

And here’s what François Boucher said once about a woman and about the Titans of Renaissance.

Images are courtesy of FrancoisBoucher.org and Olga’s Gallery.

Leonardo’s Self-Portrait on Display at Turin until January 2012

Image: ArtDaily.org

While Caravaggio is visiting Moscow, those who wish to travel to Italy may consider going to Turin. The exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy explores the development and impact of Leonardo’s gift. “Leonardo. The Genuis. The Myth” runs at the Palace of Venaria from November 17, 2011 until January 29, 2012.

The contemporary section of the exhibition that explores the fates of Leonardo in modern art opens with Marcel Duchamp’s parody on Mona Lisa and continues in the interpretation of Last Supper by Andy Warhol. Leonardo’s studies in physiognomy also inspired Lavater, and influenced Goya, Daumier, and Grosz.

On display is also Leonardo’s most famous self-portrait, with a long wavy beard.

 

Italy Through the Russian Eyes: The Bay of Naples

Alexander Ivanov, The Bay of Naples near Castellmare (1846)

 

Alexander Ivanov, On the Shore of the Bay of Naples (1850s)

The Bay of Naples has traditionally been a favourite with painters. Peter Breugel the Elder’s view was rather “flat”, but in the 19th c. artists showed the Bay from many angles and in many weathers. The Russian painters particularly liked it, especially Alexander Ivanov. The Bay of Naples, as seen in Ivanov’s works, is an epitome of serenity and the heat of Southern Italy, even when Vesuvius lurks in the background. Another artist of Armenian origin, who became a well-known Russian marine painter, Ivan Aivazovsky, shows this area in the moonlight, when it acquires a purely Romanticist feel.

Pieter Breugel the Elder, The Bay of Naples (1556)

 

Alexander Ivanov, Torre del Greco near Pompeii and Naples (1846)
Alexander Ivanov, View of Naples from the Road in Pozilippe

 

Ivan Aivazovsky, The Bay of Naples by Moonlight (1842)

Italy Through the Russian Eyes: Alexey Tyranov – A Portrait of an Italian Lady

Alexey Tyranov was born in 1801. Prior to going to the Academy of Arts in St Petersburg he worked alongside his brother as an icon painter. At the Academy he studied under Alexey Venetsianov, and from 1836 he studied under Karl Brullov.

A Portrait of an Italian Lady gently combines the Russian modesty and the sensuality of the Italian Renaissance, e.g. Titian’s Flora. The woman is pictured either before or after having a bath.

 

The Types of Cinematic Shots According to Mikhail Romm

As I was reading Mikhail Romm‘s book on directing in cinema, I came across a chapter on shots and framing, in which Romm illustrates different types of shots through the well-known paintings. I found the idea marvellous and thought I’d translate the passage, using the same illustrative method.

1. Long (or the most generic) shot. This means that in this shot we have either a very large room in its entirety, or such an expanse of landscape that it can be seen far and wide. A human figure in such shot will be barely noticeable. Say, for example, if it is a crowd of people storming the Winter Palace, then individual figures in such long shot will fuse into a moving mass.

Karl Brulloff – The Delphi Valley (1835)
Ilya Repin – Krestny Khod in Kursk Gubernia (1880-1883)

2. Generic shot. This is either a large room, but not as huge as before, or, if we are filming outside, a part of the street or a part of landscape, yet not as expansive. As you can see, there is no critical difference between the long shot and the generic one. When we say “the long shot” or “the most generic shot”, we merely want to highlight the scale of the view. As for a man, it will still be a small figure. The prominence will belong to either the architecture of the room, or to Nature, or a street.

Ivan Aivazovsky – On the Island of Rhodes (1861)

3. Middle shot. This is a part of the room, a part of the street, a Nature spot. If we are filming at the theatre, these will be two or three boxes, or a few rows of the stalls, or a part of stage. People are better seen in the middle shot. Architecture or Nature no longer dominate a person, and the person’s image is clearer. Say, if “The Religious Procession” by Ilya Repin is the long shot, then “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan”, also by him, is the middle shot.

Ilya Repin – Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan (1885)

4. The next shot, according to the scale of viewing, we may call the group shot. People dominate this shot, while the room or an outside space are less prominent. Repin’s painting “The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV” may be regarded as a group shot.

Ilya Repin – The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV

The next few shots do not require much explanation. In all these shots the person acquires more and more prominence, while the surroundings become less important. The latter is practically non-present in the close shots.

5. Knee-long shot. 

Henri Fantin-Latour – Charlotte Dubourg (1882)

6. Waist-long shot. 

Sir Joshua Reynolds – Mrs Abington (1771)

  7. Portrait shot (the head and a part of chest).

Pierre Paul Prudhon – Annunciation (detail) (1881)
8. Close-up (only head). 
Vincent van Gogh – A Peasant Woman (1885)

And, finally, the closest shot, scale-wise, is:

9. A detail. It can be an inanimate object (spectacles or a block of cigarettes shot to fill the entire screen), or animate, i.e. belonging to a human body (a fist, a person’s eyes).

Claude Monet – Still Life: A Piece of Beef (1864)

Christmas in Painting: Titian

Titian, The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1533, Galleria Palatina, Florence, Italy

A rather sombre interpretation of the subject of Adoration by Titian directs the viewer to the bottom right corner of the painting where the cloth and the baby Jesus emit light on the hands and face of Mary. Joseph is making a silencing gesture to the visitors, indicating that the newborn is asleep.