The painting that captured my attention at first sight was the canvas painting of Venus and the Lute player. Tiziano Vecellio, better known as, Titian created this painting during 1560. The setting of Titian’s painting focuses on three figures, the Greek goddess Venus, her love child Cupid, and a Lute player, in a setting showing a room that has lavish curtains and overlooks a landscape. I was attracted to Titian’s Venus because of my admiration of the Goddess Venus in my previous studies of Greek mythology. Venus also known as Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty and sex. In this painting, Titian portrayed Venus as a sensual and angelic woman, who has the ability to capture the viewers’ attention with her intense expressions. The painting depicts a nude Venus seated on a coach in a sensual position. She is wearing a white pearl necklace and expensive earrings. In the painting one can only see the profile of her face, which has an intense and subdued expression. Behind Venus is her son Cupid, who has a smaller figure and is holding a crown made of flowers over Venus’ head. The lute player is an important figure in this portrait because he is seen looking at Venus and it appears that he is playing music with his instrument. Behind the figures there is a window that overlooks a landscape, which consists of green trees, grass, and mountains. According to the gallery label, the painting has been thought to “address the Neo-Platonic debate of seeing versus hearing as the primary means for perceiving beauty.” My interpretation of the general theme or purpose of this canvas painting is its portrayal of the love for beauty and music. I hindered upon this theme based on the idea that artists from this time period idealized the female body as that of beauty. According to the Metropolitan Museum, the figures of a nude Venus “highlight the seductive warmth of the female body rather than its ideal geometry.” Like many artists from the Italian Renaissance, Titian represented Venus nude in order to symbolize the female body, thereby, representing beauty. On the other hand, the lute player is an abstract figure that is assumed to signify the love or admiration of music.
Upon entering the MET I was overwhelmed by the grandiosity of the building, and the abundance of space that inhibits thousands upon thousands of beautiful and historical works of art. To say that I was overwhelmed might be a bit of an understatement. I knew that with my easily distracted nature and lack of awareness of my surroundings I could’ve easily gotten lost, and having dragged my poor mother along with me, I couldn’t let that happen. I asked a kind worker to direct me to the parts of the museum where I could find works of art that are byproducts of the 15th and 16th century Renaissance era as well as the 17th century Baroque era. With my backpack positioned in the front of me like a makeshift Juno costume (courtesy of the stern guard checking my ticket), I walked those beautiful and frightening flights of steps up to the second floor, and found myself stumbling upon a plethora of works of paintings from both of these integral eras of art history.
It was difficult to narrow down all of the works of art I saw to just one painting from each era. Nevertheless, the painting I’d like to hone in on that substantially highlights all the features and qualities that the art of the Renaissance embodied is Giovanni di Paolo’s Madonna and Child with Two Angels and a Donor. This artwork dating back to 1445 is a painting on what was most likely the center panel of an altarpiece. How we can tell this piece is of the Renaissance era is by the serenity it invokes alongside the idealization of the subjects. Madonna is cloaked in her usual blue robe to signify her virginity and purity and a golden halo surrounding the top of her head remains a marker of her holiness. However if the halo didn’t serve enough of a purpose to present her as a holy figure, the two angels floating beside her and the small donor at her feet all continue to attribute to this idealization of the Virgin. There is also a sense that we are in no specific moment in time here as there is no set scene. Instead it is embraced as a scene of eternity. We also find ourselves quite reserved and distant from this piece as it is very confined, the figures closed inside the blue pentagon surrounding them. This further accentuates that these figures are otherworldly, not belonging in our space and us not belonging in theirs. The highly saturated colors work to further remind us that this still is just a painting, not very naturalistic one, that works outside of our realms of the world. The emphasis of gold in the painting also adds to the idealization of these allegorical figures.
Georges de La Tour’s 1640 painting The Penitent Magdalen caught my immediate eye. If you did not know the title of this work of art, there’s no telling that this is a depiction of the allegorical figure Mary Magdalen. She sits at her vanity table, her long dark hair pin straight and trailing down her back. Her face is turned and we are given no clear facial features of the woman. The candle that is lit in front of her vanity mirror is reflecting on her dress, highlighting the white of her blouse and chest as well as her profile. All of this then draws our eyes down to her hands which are folded as if she is pensively in thought (or prayer), and sitting on her lap there lies a skull. Just by the use of light alone, we can observe this painting as one from the Baroque era. Unlike Giovanni di Paolo’s Madonna and Child with Two Angels and a Donor, The Penitent Magdalen is so clearly set in time and is most certainly does not intend to remove us from the world the artist is creating but rather welcoming us into it, relating us to it. While it’s depicting an allegorical figure, she is one that is amongst our world as well, and isn’t seen as an untouchable holy figure. The Baroque art era created figures deeply human and real and Mary Magdalen here is represented as just that. There is a mirror in front of her suggestive of vanity, as well as a skull in her lap symbolizing mortality. Both of these are common attributes to humans and are most certainly not idealized ones. The emotion that Mary Magdalen is portrayed with here is perhaps a remorseful one or a pleading one, but it is one that is certainly intense. We have caught Mary Magdalen in a specific moment in time, almost as if we intruded on a private moment of hers.
My experience at the MET museum was different than when I went to the Brooklyn Museum. The outside of the MET and was more striking. I was intrigued when I got there because of the size of it and the nice touch of the sprinklers outside. There was a lot of people there sitting on the famous steps and chit chatting. I was surprised by how packed it was on a Wednesday around 3 PM. I went with my cousin who also needed to go for one of her classes. They have a nice amount of cool exhibits, such as the jewelry exhibition, and galleries to check out from different eras.
The two artworks that stuck out to me were the Portrait of a Woman by: Giovanni di Franco from the 15th century (image on the top) & another by: Giovanni Battista Gaulli from the 17th century (image on the bottom). Generally, Baroque art is more dramatic and emotional than Renaissance art. The similarities between these two art pieces is that a woman is the center and focus and that’s why I chose it. I wanted to choose two artworks that had some sort of similarity. The first portrait of a woman has a more serious face, while the other has a little smirk, showing more emotion. The woman in the Baroque art piece has jewelry on her silk dress and she’s wearing earrings. On the other hand, the portrait of the woman in the renaissance art piece has a more plain dress on and isn’t wearing jewelry. Another thing to point out is that the woman in the Baroque artwork has more of a real-life skin tone, making it look like it’s a picture taken from a phone. The colors used in the Baroque art piece are more brighter compared to the Renaissance art piece. Overall, the main difference between the Renaissance and Baroque is that Baroque art has a more dramatic vibe to it and it is more striking at first glance.