Response to Michelangelo's unfinished works is unlike that to all other artists'. Early commentators, even while registering their unfinished status as problematic, found them perfect. Later they were called his finest works, without qualifications. How is this reconcilable with their not being what was planned by the artist, whose talent presumably let him articulate his statements? Here attention is drawn to several poems of Michelangelo's where unfinished sculpture is a motif. Thus, even if undesirable, this was approached by him as a conscious object of contemplation with meaning.
Recent cleaning of Leonardo's Last Super in the Dominican refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, accentuates an amorphous discoloration near the right wrist of Judas. The discoloration is the residue of what replicas of the painting show as a saltcellar Judas accidentally overturns,spilling its contents onto the table. My paper poses and responds to three questions. When and why was the saltcellar reduced to ghost-like status? Did Leonardo originate the idea of including the utensil in a Last Supper? What idea does the object convey in a Last Supper context?
In the early years of photography (1839-ca 1860), it was not evident that works of art should be the photographer's model: the process opened up the potential of a virtually unlimited range of imagery, but many practitioners chose fine art as a model because of its elevated status This paper examines the relation of the first photographers of landscape and architecture to the tradition of the Picturesque and aims to provide fresh grounds for assessing the reception of photography in the first years of its existence The Picturesque aesthetic, developed in Britain in the eighteenth century and exemplified in the work of the foremost painters, draftsmen and poets, sought to apply the principles of classical seventeenth-century landscape painting not only to pictures but also to the reception of actual landscapes and to the creation of landscape gardens. It was grounded in a patriotic ideology that equated the undeveloped landscape with the nation and was accompanied by a huge increase in touring and in a travel literature that supported and encouraged tourism. Illustrations in travel books propagated a widespread familiarity with Picturesque principles, which also were articulated by theorists and guidebook authors. Prior to the 1850s, (when technical advances prompted practitioners to move beyond the limits of traditional imagery), photographers, seeking to define what could be done with the medium, found inspiration in the subjects and compositions of earlier Picturesque imagery.
Inspired by scholarship on historic memory and sacred topography, the article proposes a new interpretation of the decorative program of the Camposanto in Pisa. Enclosing earth brought from Mount Calvary during the crusades, the Camposanto was conceived not only as a cemetery but as a reliquary church and place of pilgrimage. Its frescoes recreated the experience of pilgrimage by evoking the sacred sites of the Holy Land, inaccessible from Pisa due to naval losses and the crusades. A coda to the article publishes a drawing for Benozzo Gozzoli's Punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiron, tentatively ascribing it to Andrea Boscoli and reconstructing the lost fresco.
The way in which Raphael signed his paintings signified much more than a declaration of authorship. Of course, the choice of words is meaningful in itself, but even more than the wording, Raphael exploited the placement of his signature within the composition to express his piety, his professional ambition, and his sense of accomplishment. In particular, those signatures written on the garments of various personages are significant precisely because a name written on a figure in that way is usually taken to identify that person, not the maker of the image. Taken together, the inscriptions almost constitute an autobiography, culminating with Raphael's last signature, on the armband of La Fornarina.
A yellow circular badge, or Jewish signum, was painted by Michelangelo on the left shoulder of Aminadab, an ancestor of Christ located prominently in the lunette above the papal throne. Although previously overlooked, the badge has profound importance. This essay explores the implications of this sign as a quintessential indicator of demeaned status in a society that demarcated Jews by imposing degrading dress codes, legislated their role as moneylenders, and subjected them to humiliating public spectacles. Michelangelo's inclusion of the badge opens new lines of inquiry about iconographic themes in the chapel, his representations of Old Testament personages, and his own attitudes toward the Jewish community. The conflicting discourses discussed in this essay underscore the complexity and deep-seated ambivalence of the role of Jews in Christian theology and society.
Maimonides (1138-1204) was the earliest medieval rabbi to raise the question of the appropriateness of art in a liturgical space, whether a synagogue or a home. His concern was that art might interfere with the attainment of spirituality during prayer (kavanah in Hebrew). Maimonides' discussion was cited by other rabbis asked t rule on the question of art. Their responsa allow an understanding of the types of art found medieval synagogues, and the conflicting attitudes of rabbis to their presence, some believing that art enhanced spirituality and others viewing it as a distraction.
By looking closely at a brief description of Pygmalion in Vasari's Lives and comparing it to Ovid's version of the myth, this essay suggests that Vasari's allusion is a subtle transformation of a classical poetic fable of artistic creation into a spiritual allegory grounded in Genesis.
Augustine Käsenbrot's Golden Bowl of 1508 in the Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden ranks among the most important artworks associated with the Early Renaissance in Central Europe. However, its sources, function and meaning have not been so far interpreted in due detail. As this study intends to demonstrate, the plaquette used as the bowl's bottom may have been acquired by Käsenbrot while he studied in Padua in early 1490s, and may be attributed to a late fifteenth-century sculptor active in Padua or in Veneto. This exquisite piece depicts Bacchus as a winged genius, thus obviously harking back to Pausanias' description of the god, for "wine lifts and eases the spirit in the same way as wings lift birds". Thus the bowl, due to its iconography and inscriptions, relates to Bacchic mysteries as revived by Renaissance humanists, and ultimately refers to Platonic (or Neo-Platonic) theories of inspiration as "divine madness". This corresponds with what Käsenbrot opined in his early, Paduan, Dialogus in defensionem poetices, as well as with activities of one of his Paduan Professors, Niccolo Leonico Tomeo - not to speak about writings of Augustine's humanist friends in Buda, Vienna and Olomouc.
Botticelli's Primavera has been studied by more eminent art historians than perhaps any other work of Renaissance art. The chronicle of these readings would make for a representative anthology of 20th-century art historical methodologies, and yet no consensus about the painting's "meaning" has emerged. In this article, the Primavera is discussed in the context of what we know and what we can surmise about the artist's own literary and intellectual culture and especially his lifelong engagement with Dante's Divina Commedia. The painting is studied as an attempt on the artist's part to translate into his own medium the thematics surrounding Dante's Earthly Paradise episode at the end of the Purgatorio. These thematics are explored in the context of Cristoforo Landino's 1481 commentary on Dante, with which Botticelli, who devoted many years to illustrating Landino's edition, was intimately familiar. Landino saw in Dante's Earthy Paradise episode an allegory of the soul's moral and spiritual pilgrimage from the vita voluptuosa through the vita activa to the vita contemplativa, a passage occurring, like Dante's pilgrimage as a whole, under the influence of Celestial Venus. The Primavera is discussed as a visual variation on the same theme, presented all'antica in a manner that resonates with Dante's classical allusions, especially as interpreted by Landino. In addition to reflecting Botticelli's own artistic and intellectual interests and aspirations, as well as those of his presumed patron, the Primavera echoes still with a rivalry that brought Botticelli into competition with such other close students of Dante as Leonardo and Michelangelo. This paragone awaits further study.
An archival discovery in 1975 and the subsequent studies of Michael Rohlmann (1996) have suggested- in my opinion convincingly - that Botticelli's Primavera was originally affixed to the wainscoting in the separate bedroom of Semiramide Appiani - the young wife of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco Medici - in the old Medici Palace in the Via Larga.It is proposed here, drawing on various aspects of the mythological and iconographic tradition line connected with the patroness of Semiramide Appiani's exceedingly rare forename, the mythical queen Semiramis (creator of the famous hanging gardens of Babylon) that Botticelli and patrons intended a symbolic equivocation of the figure of Venus with the young bride portrayed in the middle of the splendid garden of "Florentia" as a new Semiramis. Since the figure of Mercury served as a disguised portrait of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco the whole picture was conceived as a celebration of their wedding in July 1482 - a hypothesis supported also by the antithetical division of the composition in two parts, each of which conveys a different moral meaning.