Thursday, December 22, 2011

As far as giant's shoulders go, I like this one.

He is my ideal.

Of all the art shows in all the world, and we managed to end up in this one.

For those of you who don't know, Da Vinci is a flipping genius. At everything. And this show only focused on one aspect, his art, and at one time of his life, in Florence, and we still got a taste of everything because he incorporates it all into each other because he's a genius. Not to overuse the word. But his face shows up as the definition in the dictionary. Chuck Norris takes his hat off to Da Vinci. (Sorry. After the dictionary comment, I felt it was necessary to use another word-meme.)

Anyway, here's the story. The National Gallery decided to put on a Da Vinci exhibit. They got all of his paintings that were allowed to travel (the Mona Lisa and one other are stationary they-do-not-leave-home paintings, but there were 5 others) which meant, for the first time in their existence, the two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks, Da Vinci's two interpretations of one theme, Mary with John and the Christ Child in a rocky setting, were in the same place. Facing each other, even. As well as a contemporary full-size copy of the Last Supper, about as close as we'll ever get to see it in its full glory and not cracked and faded. Or much less faded. And all of these were from his time in Milan. They also had loads of sketches and so forth, and all of this was in one place. And we went there. Day 1 of the exhibit. I was giddy.

Some interesting things—

Da Vinci's idealized figure (female) seems to be a narrow ovular face, small chin, long thin nose, tall and wide forehead, small mouth and large eyes.  You can find it in Lady with the Ermine, Virgin of the Rocks, and so on.  

Lady with an Ermine--look at the ermine.  Why is it there?  It's a symbol of purity--white ermines were said to be caught by putting dirt in their path which they wouldn't touch because they wanted to keep their white coats pure.  Which I would have said is more vanity, but they said purity.  So he idealized the ermine, too--it's got dog paws and a bear's face, if you look at it.  Literally; not just looks like--he actually used dogs and bears as models for his ermine.

Last Supper:  In order --> direction:  Bartholomew, James the lesser, Andrew, Judas, Peter, John, Christ, Thomas, James the Greater, Philip, Matthew, Thaddeus, Simon.  Also note:  This is by heads.  There are a few who stick their heads behind others and get it out of order.  Like Peter.  Which makes sense because he drew Peter as a hot-headed person.  All of them were idealized men (which is different than the women) except for Judas who he wanted to portray as ugly--he'd done a lot of studies on beauty and ugliness.  Also, all of them portrayed the traditional characteristics of the apostle.  Peter, as stated, is hot-headed and impulsive.  Bartholomew is built like a warrior.  James isn't so much concerned as utterly outraged.  Philip is supposed to have a look of "pleading inquiry."  John's face and Christ's are extremely similar, in my opinion.  And Judas knocked over a salt cellar with his elbow.

My favorite quotes which they had posted/pasted/sketched on the walls (no, not backwards, but I probably could have read them anyway)

"That figure is most praiseworthy which best expresses through its actions the passions of its mind."  (See also:  Last Supper.)

"A true understanding of all the forms found in the works of the way to understand the maker of so many wonderful things and the way to love so great an inventor..."

"When you make a figure, think well about what it is and what you want it to do, and see that the work is in keeping with the figure's aim and character."

"If the poet says he can inflame men with love...the painter has the power to do the same, and to an even greater degree, in that he can place in front of the lover the true likeness of that which is beloved."

"A good painter is to paint two main things, namely man and the workings of man's mind.  The first is easy, the second is difficult, for it is to be represented by the gestures and movements of the limbs."  (Do you notice a theme here?)

And the poem by Bernaro Bellincioni will finish this post off for me.  Notice the Petrarchan sonnet structure which I'm sure rhymed in Italian.  (It's about Lady with an Ermine.)

     Who stirs your wrath?  Of whom are you envious, Nature?
Of Vinci, who has portrayed one of your stars;
     Cecilia, today so very beautiful is she
Whose lovely eyes make the sun seem dark shadow.

     The honour is yours, even if with his painting
It is he who makes her appear to listen and not speak
     Think only that the more alive and beautiful she remains--
The greater will be your glory--in every future age.

     Give thanks therefore to Ludovico
And to the talent and hand of Leonardo,
         Who wants to share her with those to come

     Everyone who sees her thus, though too late
To see her living, will say:  This suffices for us
         Now to understand what is nature and what is art.

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