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Classical Arts

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The early renaissance period in actually bridges the art work between the middle ages and the high renaissance period. The period is estimated to have occurred around 1400s. It marked the beginning of cultural advancements through classical arts and ideas borrowed from ancient Greece and Rome. Some of the notable painters during this era included Sandra Botticelli. It was during this period that the painters exhibited high level of artistic treasures and intelligence through the use of artistic principles such as representative expressions and rational deportments. The high renaissance on the other hand was a period between 1450 and 1500. It marked the climax of the Italian renaissance art work where the art painting reached its peak. The artists were also able to explore their technical competence, artistic imaginations and heroic compositions which have lived to date. This paper seeks to compare the artistic evolution between these two periods through the help of Sandro Botticelli, the Adoration of the Christ child, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston, c. 1500 and Giuliano Bugiardini, Madonna and child with St. John the Baptist, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston , 1510s paintings.

In both paintings, the artists used different color theme to bring out the intended perception to the viewer. The use of color separated humanity with building structures and animals. Likewise color theme helps the viewer to identify the background environment where the painting was done. The light and shadow expressions from Botticelli’s image show the transformation from traditional to modern building structures. All these were however improved in the high renaissance period as Leonardo tried to capture natural likeness of the images on his paintings. Other artists notably Rafael perfected on this in their art work particularly in the Rafael’s, Madonna of the Meadow, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1505-06.  In the two paintings, the artists used individual figures to convey their intended message to the viewer. For instance Botticelli used red and blue colors on the Virgin Mary’s garments. A gold lining is however used to bind the outer blue garment on her to show the value of the church. The red color however is used to signify the danger of crucifixion that was ahead of Christ. Botticelli also used pale white color on Joseph’s hair which signifies his age. He was quite older compared to Virgin Mary, and from his posture we get to understand his calm and humble character. He was also painted asleep maybe due to the dream revelations that he had in the past about his marriage and the safety of the baby Jesus. The baby Christ on the other hand was painted sleeping showing his innocence in everything that was going on.

The images of the three are more emphasized as they are the core pillars of Christianity. Images of Virgin Mary, together with baby Jesus riding on a donkey and led by Joseph was painted on the background, to show how the two journeyed to Egypt for the safety of the baby. Likewise on the left, there were images of the two shepherds whom were very ready to give Christ a lamp offering to show their loyalty to him. The rear three-dimensional construction pillar shows the transformation move into modern lifestyle.

On the other hand in the Bugiardini’s painting there were only three human compositions. Although Christ was placed on the left, he was elevated to a higher ground compared to John the Baptist. The elevation signifies the power and authority which Christ had over John the Baptist. Likewise, John the Baptist was painted kneeling in front of Christ an indicator of the kind of relationship the two sons had. And in order to give it a natural sense, bugiardini gave it well-designed geographical phenomena with mountains and natural vegetation. The presence of Virgin Mary in this painting signifies her important role in bridging between the old and the New Testament. Through her Christ came into being and the covenant of John the Baptist who was supposed to prepare people for the coming of Christ was accomplished.

The images in the Bugiardini’s painting likewise show a harmonious coexistence between John the Baptist and Christ. Similar attire on Virgin Mary has been used to bring out her intended mission in Christianity. But a more clearer and vivid environmental view was used to signify the beauty of the land. This indicates the deeper and well-articulated three-dimensional space and modeling technique which was adopted in the later stage. Christ is however placed on the left while John the Baptist is on the right. The two sons are the founders of the current church and Virgin Mary was the bridging gap between them. This is as opposed to the usual knowledge we have from Leonardo’s work.

The figures in the two paintings therefore seek to establish the key characters in the Christian faith. Every Christian appreciates the role played by the four individuals (Joseph, Virgin Mary, Christ and John the Baptist) in the revolution of the church. This painting can be closely compared to the Leonardo’s painting the Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin of the Rocks, National Gallery, London, 1495-1508 and the Rafael Sanzio, Madonna of the Goldfinch painting, Uffizi Gallery, 1483-1520. The four individuals assume greater values to the two paintings. Their images are also vivid in order to attract the visual contact of the viewer. There is however a significant improvement in the Burgiardini’s painting since clarity, light and shadows were used to bring out more realistic image unlike in the early renaissance period where the paintings had a complex and technical perspective. Additionally artists like Leonardo, Rafael and Michelangelo were able to exhibit classical simplicity and balance in their paintings by contorting human anatomy and the physical world.

There was an excellent use of the three-dimensional space in the two paintings, but the later captures the attention of the viewer more due to its in-depth use of light and image textures. In actual sense, there was a significant development of realistic linear perspective throughout the renaissance period. However, the continued study of artistic techniques such as light, shadow and color enabled the high renaissance painters to offer realistic artwork. Additionally, there was a continued desire towards natural beauty and that was the reason Bugiardini used a natural background in his painting.

The composition of the paintings revolved around the religious aspect as it was commissioned by the Catholic Church. In the Botticelli’s painting, there is Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus who are still remembered for their key role to Christianity. The background image of Mary riding on a donkey signifies the means of transport which was used during the renaissance period; the three were travelling across to Egypt for the safety of their son. The other two individuals on the painting background show the shepherds who were ready to offer a sacrificial lamb to the Christ. This was an elegant art work with a conventional theme of how adorable the child was to the parent and the society at large. The Virgin Mary was kneeling before Christ, a virtue which tells us more about his power over them.

The two images show the importance of Virgin Mary in the overall Christian belief and her key role as a mediator between believers and Christ. She is the focal point in the two paintings, a strategy that the painters used to show her importance. Joseph and John the Baptist who are also shown on the paintings were just facilitators as they cleared the way for the birth and coming of Christ. Joseph was however painted sleeping and holding his walking stick, an image that symbolizes his commonness. John the Baptist on the other hand was painted kneeling before Christ and holding a cross, a sign of his loyalty and faith towards Christ.

There is however a slight difference between what we believe and what Bugiardini’s painting on Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, 1510s depicted. In his painting, Christ is placed on the left hand while as the Christian faith believes that Christ is always on the right hand side of the father. However, the difference is then narrowed by his elevation to a higher ground than John the Baptist. Placing him on top of a rock gives him the power over his subjects among them John the Baptist. All this art work was done to give an in-depth meaning of how adorable the son Jesus Christ was to all believers.

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