The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of life. The century opened with the discovery of a new continent


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The picture is likely to be that mentioned in Vasari's 'Life of Bronzino' of 1568: He made a picture of singular beauty, which was sent to King Francis in France; in which was a nude Venus with Cupid kissing her, and on one side Pleasure and Play with other Loves; and on the other, Fraud, Jealousy, and other passions of love.

  • The picture is likely to be that mentioned in Vasari's 'Life of Bronzino' of 1568: He made a picture of singular beauty, which was sent to King Francis in France; in which was a nude Venus with Cupid kissing her, and on one side Pleasure and Play with other Loves; and on the other, Fraud, Jealousy, and other passions of love.

  • Venus and Cupid are identifiable by their attributes, as is the old man with wings and an hourglass who must be Time (not mentioned by Vasari). The identity of the other figures, and the meaning of the picture remain uncertain.

  • The howling figure on the left has been variously interpreted as Jealousy, Despair and the effects of syphilis; the boy scattering roses and stepping on a thorn as Jest, Folly and Pleasure; the hybrid creature with the face of a girl, as Pleasure and Fraud; and the figure in the top left corner as Fraud and Oblivion.



The esteemed Croatian illuminator Giulio Clovio (1498-1578) took a reported nine years to produce the Farnese Hours, a book of devotional prayers for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589). In this manuscript, the artist ingeniously juxtaposed works from the New and Old Testaments. As seen in his Adoration of the Shepherds and Fall of Man (1546), each successive page reveals the artist's Mannerist style.

  • The esteemed Croatian illuminator Giulio Clovio (1498-1578) took a reported nine years to produce the Farnese Hours, a book of devotional prayers for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589). In this manuscript, the artist ingeniously juxtaposed works from the New and Old Testaments. As seen in his Adoration of the Shepherds and Fall of Man (1546), each successive page reveals the artist's Mannerist style.







Praised by her contemporaries as the foremost woman painter of her day, Anguissola executed more self-portraits than any other artist in the period between Dürer and Rembrandt. This miniature displays the artist's meticulous technique and a Renaissance taste for puzzles: the interwoven letters at the center of the medallion form a monogram or phrase that has been satisfactorily explained. Around the rim, the medallion is inscribed in Latin: "The maiden Sofonisba Anguissola, depicted by her own hand, from a mirror, at Cremona."

  • Praised by her contemporaries as the foremost woman painter of her day, Anguissola executed more self-portraits than any other artist in the period between Dürer and Rembrandt. This miniature displays the artist's meticulous technique and a Renaissance taste for puzzles: the interwoven letters at the center of the medallion form a monogram or phrase that has been satisfactorily explained. Around the rim, the medallion is inscribed in Latin: "The maiden Sofonisba Anguissola, depicted by her own hand, from a mirror, at Cremona."





Florentine Mannerist artist Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1572) wrote one of the most engaging memoirs ever written, claiming descent back 1500 years to a captain under the command of Julius Caesar in the 1st c B.C. Cellini is described by others as boisterous, licentious, sensual, a murdering braggart.

  • Florentine Mannerist artist Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1572) wrote one of the most engaging memoirs ever written, claiming descent back 1500 years to a captain under the command of Julius Caesar in the 1st c B.C. Cellini is described by others as boisterous, licentious, sensual, a murdering braggart.

  • The two figures are seated leaning back with their legs interlaced. Typical of Mannerist art, the center of the composition is completely empty, and the figures are posed in strained, unbalanced postures. Neptune places his hand on a ship which held salt for the table, while Ceres rests her hand on a temple which held pepper. The rest of this Mannerist composition is luxuriantly decorated with various flora, fauna, and sea life.

  • Important guests at the king's table would have been seated closest to the Saltcellar.





The Flemish-born Giovanni da Bologna , better known by his abbreviated name Giambologna, worked in the late 16th Century and created desirable objects found in courtly art collections in Europe. The Medici used the works as diplomatic gifts. Among his famous female figures include the Venus Urania. From all sides, the diverse moving figure, whose composition is calculated to the last detail, is shown to be intriguing from different views. The original Venus Urania is now in the Art History Museum in Vienna.

  • The Flemish-born Giovanni da Bologna , better known by his abbreviated name Giambologna, worked in the late 16th Century and created desirable objects found in courtly art collections in Europe. The Medici used the works as diplomatic gifts. Among his famous female figures include the Venus Urania. From all sides, the diverse moving figure, whose composition is calculated to the last detail, is shown to be intriguing from different views. The original Venus Urania is now in the Art History Museum in Vienna.



Born in Bologna in 1552, Lavinia Fontana was the daughter of cosmopolitan fresco artist and teacher Prospero Fontana, who established his reputation in Rome and joined Giorgio Vasari in adorning Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. Unlike most female artists of the period, Lavinia received encouragement at home, where her father taught her to paint. She came under the influence of one of her father's pupils, Ludovico Carracci, founder of Bologna's academy. Beyond other women seeking careers in art, she flourished in an open-minded city that claimed painter Caterina dei Vigri as patron saint and which had welcomed women to its university since its opening in 1158.



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