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Posts Tagged ‘Vasari

“The medieval principles led up to Raphael, and the modern principles lead down from him”*…

Raphael, “The Madonna of the Pinks” (“La Madonna dei Garofani”) (c. 1506-7)

On the occasion of a major National Gallery show in London, Michael Glover on Raphael…

… he was born a mere man, a citizen of Urbino in the Marche, the son of a court painter, who was orphaned very young and raised by an uncle who also happened to be a priest. Perhaps the reverence is due to his talents, which were superabundant, and moved in so many directions at once. He was a painter, printmaker, architect, designer, sculptor, and much else. His industriousness, and the consistent quality of his output, were superhuman. That is undeniable.

Raphael painted relatively few portraits… during his short lifetime, and even fewer in which he could be said to have painted them in order to please himself, because he was always so much in demand by immensely rich and powerful male patrons for the kinds of things that they wanted him to do. They wanted him to beautify public (and private) spaces, all the greater to reflect their own power and importance — beneath the ever-watchful eye of the Christian God, their chief sponsor, in whose revered name they splashed all this cash. 

Raphael was the very well remunerated servant of these rich masters, and this was entirely a matter of choice. He was boundlessly ambitious and intimidatingly energetic (he was already running a studio by the age of 17), charming, good-looking (though not to an excessive degree), diplomatic, and utterly opportunistic. Michelangelo loathed him because, though much younger, Raphael seemed to sweep all before him. What a break for the irascible, prickly Michelangelo that his young rival died, quite unexpectedly, of a fever, when he did, leaving him unchallenged for decades!

And Raphael, the name, the work, the style, has resonated and resonated across the centuries…

On the Renaissance painter described by Vasari, his first biographer, as the universal artist: “Raphael Between Heaven and Earth,” in @hyperallergic.

Raphael paints wisdom, Handel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespeare writes it, Wren builds it, Columbus sails it, Luther preaches it, Washington arms it, Watt mechanizes it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Ruskin

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As we appreciate art, we might recall that it was on this date in 1890 that Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver; he died two days later. A post-impressionist painter, he was not commercially successful in his lifetime and, struggling with severe depression and poverty, committed suicide at the age of 37. But he subsequently became, with Raphael, one of the most famous and influential figures in Western art history.

Self-Portrait, 1887

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 27, 2022 at 1:00 am

“As long as art lives never shall I accept that men are truly dead”*…

From a self-portrait by Giorgio Vasari [source]

An appreciation of Giorgio Vasari’s seminal The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, the beginning of art history as we know it

I found Giorgio Vasari through Burckhardt and Barzun. The latter writes: “Vasari, impelled by the unexampled artistic outburst of his time, divided his energies between his profession of painter and builder in Florence and biographer of the modern masters in the three great arts of design. His huge collection of Lives, which is a delight to read as well as a unique source of cultural history, was an amazing performance in an age that lacked organized means of research. […] Throughout, Vasari makes sure that his reader will appreciate the enhanced human powers shown in the works that he calls ‘good painting’ in parallel with ‘good letters’.”

Vasari was mainly a painter, but also worked as an architect. He was not the greatest artist in the world, but he had a knack for ingratiating himself with the rich and powerful, so his career was quite successful. Besides painting, he also cared a lot about conservation: both the physical preservation of works and the conceptual preservation of the fame and biographies of artists. He gave a kind of immortality to many lost paintings and sculptures by describing them to us in his book.

His Lives are a collection of more than 180 biographies of Italian artists, starting with Cimabue (1240-1302) and reaching a climax with Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). They’re an invaluable resource, as there is very little information available about these people other than his book; his biography of Botticelli is 8 pages long, yet on Botticelli’s wikipedia page, Vasari is mentioned 36 times…

Giorgio Vasari was one of the earliest philosophers of progress. Petrarch (1304-1374) invented the idea of the dark ages in order to explain the deficiencies of his own time relative to the ancients, and dreamt of a better future:

My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms. But for you perhaps, if as I hope and wish you will live long after me, there will follow a better age. This sleep of forgetfulness will not last forever. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance.

To this scheme of ancient glory and medieval darkness, Vasari added a third—modern—age and gave it a name: rinascita. And within his rinascita, Vasari described an upward trajectory starting with Cimabue, and ending in a golden age beginning with eccentric Leonardo and crazed sex maniac Raphael, only to give way to the perfect Michelangelo in the end. It is a trajectory driven by the modern conception of the artist as an individual auteur, rather than a faceless craftsman.

The most benign Ruler of Heaven in His clemency turned His eyes to the earth, and, having perceived the infinite vanity of all those labours, the ardent studies without any fruit, and the presumptuous self-sufficiency of men, which is even further removed from truth than is darkness from light, and desiring to deliver us from such great errors, became minded to send down to earth a spirit with universal ability in every art and every profession.

This golden age was certainly no utopia, as 16th century Italy was ravaged by political turbulence, frequent plague, and incessant war. Many of the artists mentioned were at some point taken hostage by invading armies; Vasari himself had to rescue a part of Michelangelo’s David when it was broken off in the battle to expel the Medici from Florence.

And yet Vasari saw greatness in his time, and the entire book is structured around a narrative of artistic progress. He documented the spread of new technologies and techniques (such as the spread of oil painting, imported from the Low Countries), which—as an artist—he had an intimate understanding of.

This story of progress is paralleled with the rediscovery (and, ultimately, surpassing) of the ancients. It would take until the 17th century for the querelle des Anciens et des Modernes to really take off in France, but in Florence Vasari had already seen enough to decide the question in favor of his contemporaries—the essence of the Enlightenment is already present in 1550…

Art history, cultural history, tech history, the history of ideas– a review of Vasari’s The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by @AlvaroDeMenard.

* Giorgio Vasari

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As we frame it up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that the first Cannes Film Festival opened.  It had originally been scheduled for September, 1939 as an “answer” to the Venice Film Fest, which had become a propaganda vehicle for Mussolini and Hitler; but the outbreak of World War II occasioned a delay.

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“I like ruins because what remains is not the total design, but the clarity of thought, the naked structure, the spirit of the thing”*…

 

Raphael

The Chigi Chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo, designed by Raphael

 

Poor Raphael! This year, the five-hundredth anniversary of his death, was to have been his year of glory. After major exhibitions of Michelangelo in 2018 and Leonardo da Vinci in 2019, the museum world was in the midst of celebrating the third member of the glorious trinity of High Renaissance art. Then fear of a new coronavirus forced museums everywhere to take down their banners, chase away visitors, and close their doors…

It’s a kind of tragic coincidence, or perhaps poetic injustice, that celebrations of Raphael’s achievement were interrupted by a deadly virus. It was a viral pneumonia ripping through the papal court that killed Raphael himself, aged thirty-seven, on April 6, 1520. The overworked and exhausted artist was carried off, biographers tell us, by a grandissima febbre. His greatest patron, the Medici pope Leo X, died suddenly of pneumonia a year and a half later, aged forty-six. The most fruitful partnership between artist and patron in High Renaissance Rome had lasted just over seven years. Among the casualties was Raphael’s career as an architect, cut off just as it was beginning to blossom…

Humanists since Petrarch had mourned the destruction of Rome’s ancient fabric and dreamt of restoring the city’s physical grandeur. Earlier pontiffs such as the humanist pope Nicholas V had begun to rebuild Rome in a more classical style. But it was Raphael, supported by Pope Leo and his humanist advisers, especially Baldesar Castiglione and Angelo Colocci, who undertook the serious work of surveying the ruins of Rome and attempting to reconstruct the appearance of the ancient city district by district, building by building. It was this quasi-philological project that fired the imaginations of Renaissance literati and led them to praise Raphael as the greatest architect of the age.

Yet Raphael’s Plan of Rome, with its reconstructions of major monuments—temples, baths, theaters, palaces, fora, and public buildings—was not simply a learned contribution to antiquarian studies. It was a practical project, designed to serve architects and patrons interested in building in the modern classical style, the Renaissance style. In his work as a painter Raphael was famous for collecting the designs of other artists throughout Italy and making their inventions and techniques his own. Michelangelo and his coterie sneered at him, with appalling injustice, as a mere magpie, stealing his best ideas from other artists. As an architect Raphael practiced the same kind of recombinant classicism, choosing elements from innumerable antique structures but reassembling them in harmonious, creative ways. He understood, as modern educational theory does not, that creativity is the child of knowledge…

James Hankins appreciates Raphael’s brief turn as an architect: “Raphael, interrupted.”

* Tadao Ando

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As we reappraise famous men, we might spare thought for a predecssor of Raphael’s, Lorenzo di Pietro; he died on this date in 1480.  Better known by his “work name,” Vecchietta, he was painter, sculptor, goldsmith, and architect of the (earlier) Renaissance.  He was born and did much of his work in Sienna– work prized highly enough in his times to earn him a spot in He is among the artists profiled in Vasari‘s Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects often known simply as The Lives).

220px-Vecchietta,_storie_dei_ss._lorenzo_e_stefano_martiri,_1431-39_ca.,_autoritratto_02

Self-portrait. Detail of a fresco in Collegata di Castiglione Olona

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 6, 2020 at 1:01 am

Abecedarian Ambition, Alliteratively Applied…

 Alaric Alexander Watts

In 1820, the journalist Alaric Watts published “The Siege of Belgrade” in the Literary Gazette of London; an an exercise in illustrating alliteration, it succeeds as a pretty fine example of abercedarian ambition as well…

AN Austrian army, awfully arrayed,

Boldly by battery besieged Belgrade.

Cossack commanders cannonading come,

Dealing destruction’s devastating doom.

Every endeavor engineers essay,

For fame, for fortune fighting – furious fray!

Generals ‘gainst generals grapple – gracious God!

How honors Heaven heroic hardihood!

Infuriate, indiscrminate in ill,

Kindred kill kinsmen, kinsmen kindred kill.

Labor low levels longest, lofiest lines;

Men march ‘mid mounds, ‘mid moles, ‘ mid murderous mines;

Now noxious, noisey numbers nothing, naught

Of outward obstacles, opposing ought;

Poor patriots, partly purchased, partly pressed,

Quite quaking, quickly “Quarter! Quarter!” quest.

Reason returns, religious right redounds,

Suwarrow stops such sanguinary sounds.

Truce to thee, Turkey! Triumph to thy train,

Unwise, unjust, unmerciful Ukraine!

Vanish vain victory! vanish, victory vain!

Why wish we warfare? Wherefore welcome were

Xerxes, Ximenes, Xanthus, Xavier?

Yield, yield, ye youths! ye yeomen, yield your yell!

Zeus’, Zarpater’s, Zoroaster’s zeal,

Attracting all, arms against acts appeal!

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As we rethink rhetoric, we might send artful birthday wishes to Giorgio Vasari; he was born on this date in 1511.  An accomplished architect (e.g., the Vasari Corridor in Florencewhich connects the Uffizi with the Palazzo Pitti) and painter (e.g., the self-portrait below), Vasari may be more rightly remembered for his extraordinary Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), dedicated to Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, and published in 1550… which made him the Herodotus of Art History.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 30, 2012 at 1:01 am

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