sandro botticelli and other renaissance painters mined the ancient world for new subjects, such as
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Final Exam Part 2
Venus stands at the centre of the painting. The space between the branches of trees surrounding her head forms the shape of a halo. Her graceful pose and chaste clothes are rather more reminiscent of the Virgin Mary than of a goddess of sensual love. Classical antiquity ascribed two roles to Venus. On the one hand, certainly, she was the light-hearted, adulterous goddess, accompanied by her son Cupid, “who (painted near the Graces in this picture), blindly excited passion with his burning arrows. On the other, she was all harmony, proportion, balance. A civilizing influnce, she settled quarrels, eased social cohesion. She was the incarnation of eroticism – a creative rather than destructive force.
The vision of a Venus humanitas informed the ideal of womanhood in 15th-century Italy. In his treatise Il Libro del Cortegiano Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) wrote: “It is surely beyond dispute that there could be no contentment in a life without “women. Without them, life would be rough, lacking in tenderness, worse than the life of wild beasts. Can there be anybody who disputes this? Women drive from our hearts all evil, all baseness, all worry, misery, sadness. They inspire our minds to great things, rather than distracting us . ”
It goes without saying that Botticelli clothed his Venus in the robes of a married woman: she wears a bonnet and, draped over it, a veil. Hair was considered the weapon of the seductress; only young girls were permitted to let their hair hang loose.
The figures of the three Graces allow the artist to display the elaborate artistry with which the women of his time arranged their hair. To make their hair seem fuller, women would often use silk bands, false plaits and
other hairpieces. The most fashionable colour was a delicately tinted blonde, the product of strenuous bleaching and dyeing.
Under her dress and shawl, Venus wears a long chemise, of which the arms alone are visible. This was quite usual for a lady of Florence. However, it was unusual for a married woman to reveal her feet, or drape her shawl or cloak with such evident disregard for symmetry. Mercury’s toga, too, is deliberately asymmetrical. This was thought to be in the antique manner, and Florentines would have considered it a token of Classical mythology.
What was utterly contemporary, and utterly 15th century, however, was the ideal of beauty shown in Botticelli’s paintings: eyebrows drawn as gentle curves rather than a double arch, foreheads no longer high and shaved, as they had been during the Middle Ages, but linear and Greek and twice as broad as long. A rounded, slightly protruberant belly was now considered graceful. The beauty of the hand was accentuated by exhibiting it against the background of a dress or shawl – as does Venus in the painting.
While in Rome to assess the qualities of a potential bride for her son, Lorenzo the Magnificent’s mother, Lucrezia, mentions two characteristics that were highly treasured at the time: “She is tall and has a white skin.” Almost all of Botticelli’s women are large, indeed slightly elongated, if not unnaturally tall. And as for white skin, even country girls are said to have gone to some length in order to procure the ideal pallor, using tinctures, pastry packs, cosmetic pastes, and avoiding sunlight. If the three Graces dancing in the shadows in the present painting seem almost carved from alabaster, this cannot solely be attributed to idiosyncracy of style on the artist’s part, for their appearance is fully in keeping with contemporary notions of beauty.
The Florentine ideal of womanhood demanded not only beauty, but education. In wealthier families, women were taught the Classical subjects alongside their brothers; they were expected to hold their own in a discussion, and to please their husbands with intelligent conversation. Besides this, a woman had to know how to run a household, an ability which the practically-minded Florentines held in high esteem. She had to be thrifty, keep a clean house and give sound direction to the servants. Only the cash-books were out of bounds.
How the Nymph became a Goddess
(by Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen)
Byzantine: 5th Century A.C. to 1453
Byzantine art is the art of the Byzantine Empire, centered in Constantinople (now Istanbul). Byzantine art was completely focused on the needs of the Orthodox church, in the painting of icons and the decoration of churches with frescoes and mosaics. The Byzantine style basically ended with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, during the European Renaissance. However, its influence continued for a considerable time in Russia and elsewhere where the Orthodox church held sway.
Art Deco: 1920s to 1930s
Art Deco is an elegant style of decorative art, design and architecture which began as a Modernist reaction against the Art Nouveau style. It is characterized by the use of angular, symmetrical geometric forms. One of the classic Art Deco themes is that of 1930s-era skyscrapers such as New York’s Chrysler Building and Empire State Building. The former, designed by architect William Van Alen, is considered to be one of the world’s great Art Deco style buildings. The Art Deco look is related to the Precisionist art movement, which developed at about the same time. Well-known artists within the Art Deco movement included Tamara de Lempicka, fashion illustrator Erte, glass artist Rene Lalique and graphic designer Adolphe Mouron (known professionally Cassandre).
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The second yellow pigment imported from the East was called Indian yellowl8, and was made in only one small region of India near Monghyr.148 The pigment was made by feeding cows solely on a diet of mango leaves, which caused their urine to become bright yellow. The urine was collected and heated in order to precipitate the yellow colorant, which was then separated and formed into lumps ready for sale. Indian yellow was used mainly in watercolours and was a bright, very light fast pigment. Its use only declined when the Indian government later banned its manufacture on the grounds of animal cruelty.149