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Faun with Infant Bacchus

Faun with Infant Bacchus


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Bacchus and Infant Faun

This is part of a late 19th century sculpture by Frederick MacMonnies, on exhibition at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

There is something exuberant about Bacchus' expression that I like. The faun does not seem happy to be in Bacchus' clutches. That should bother me.

(Subsequent note: This is actually Bacchante and the infant Faun. In response to comments, I re-checked the label next to the statue, which I had also photographed. I had wondered why Bacchus seemed so feminine . . . )

18 comments:

Wow thanks so much for taking me there with you in this exhibition, I love art and it's so interesting!
Léia

Interesting sculpture and good expression on the faces.

Thanks for sharing this. I would never had known it existed otherwise!
Quite the faces!

Exuberant is a good way to describe it! I like that little glimpse inside the museum.

I think the faun is anticipating that it will be fed grapes.

Babies + wine typically do not mix. No wonder the poor thing looks so unhappy! :)

Jack, I just saw a live shot of the snow in Hartford. What a mess y'all have. All we ended up with, I think but don't know for sure since I have not been outside yet, is rain at my elevation. Jeff Rosen just said you have 15 inches already. He's outside the state capitol building. Two to four inches an hour! I do hope you and yours are OK.

I'm kind of shocked at Bacchus myself! Didn't imagine such a lovely lady.

Lovely sculpture! I am glad you include the long view - I had thought it was a huge piece. Nice one.

j'aime cette sculpture, elle a une tête amusante

As a fellow "culture vulture," I would also enjoy a spin around that art display!

If you haven't posted the bottom shot I would have never guessed (this) Bacchus is so small. :-) Great composition on top.

The top photo makes it look so huge. It's a beautiful sculpture. Nice shot.

I thought Bacchus was a male figure. I guess my classical education is somewhat lacking.

She is not Bacchus, but one of his followers, this is a 'Bacchante and Infant Faun'.

I often neglect to read labels. And that can lead to mistakes. But, hey, at my age, who cares? :-)

Nice photos. Bacchus or Bacchante - I like.

And I'm glad you found something to do in the cold and snow!

I was supposed to golf this morning, but at 10 am it was still only about 30 degrees with a north wind. I canceled!

We have a sculpture that looks like this in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library, but without the baby. Must be the same artist.


A Bacchanal

I. Introduction
The usual depiction of a bacchanal with “wine, women and song” is a physical manifestation of a profound context of worship which has influenced visual, performing arts and literature through the ages. Bacchanalia is a subject worthy of representation in art, but often misinterpreted from our contemporary viewpoint. Luca Giordano’s painting is more clearly understood by exploring the subject of Bacchanalia and its Cult of Dionysus. This requires us to examine Dionysian mythological origins, bacchanal iconography, history, the reality of its spiritual importance and religious practice. It is my expectation that a broad comprehensive approach will give an appreciation of the bacchanal theme and provide specific information to be used in interpreting Luca Giordano’s painting. I hope Luca Giordano’s wonderful Bacchanal will be understood and most of all enjoyed.

II. Terminology
Bacchus and Dionysus are interchangeable names of the same deity. Bakchos was his common Greek name and his followers were called Bacchoi. The Roman adaptation was Bacchus. Dionysus also derived from Greek was a term for “son of Zeus.” The Cult of Dionysus and the rites of his mysteries were practiced in both public festivals and in more secretive bacchanals.


III. Mythological Origins of Dionysus
Dionysus’ birth was very strange even for a mythological deity. He was conceived in a sexual relationship between Zeus and the mortal, Semele, daughter of Cadmus, King of the Greek city of Thebes. Zeus made a passionate but irrevocable vow to grant her any wish. Hera, the vindictive wife of Zeus, used his vow as an opportunity to destroy her. She tricked Semele into wishing to behold her lover, Zeus, unaware that mortals could never be allowed to see him. When Zeus appeared in a thunderbolt, Semele was instantly consumed by fire and sent into Hades. At the moment of her destruction, Zeus took her undeveloped child, Dionysus, and placed him on his thigh to complete his gestation. After he was born (again) Zeus gave the infant Dionysus to Hermes to hide from Hera’s wrath. Hermes placed Dionysus into the nurturing care of the gentle Nymphs of Mt. Nysa. It was said that later in gratitude Zeus placed the Nymphs in the sky as the star group Hyades and when they appear near the horizon, they bring gentle rains that nourish grapes. Dionysus invented cultivation of grapes and wine. He was tutored by an aged satyr, Silenus, who remained his closest companion. Dionysus traveled the world spreading viticulture and viniculture and the mysteries of his worship.

IV. Mythological Tales of Dionysus
There were tales of his travels that illustrated his benevolent nature. In one story he went on a dangerous journey into the underworld and led his mother, Semele, out of Hades (raised her from the dead) so she could dwell in Mt. Olympus.

In another episode, Ariadne, daughter of the Minoan King who helped Theseus escape the labyrinth, was abandoned by him when she fell asleep on the Island of Naxos. Dionysus found the desolate Ariadne and feeling compassion, feel in love and rescued her. Dionysus and Ariadne were popular romantic subjects for artists. Note the ormolu clock of “Sleeping Ariadne” in Ca d’Zan.

During Dionysus’ travels when people rejected his worship he could be a god of cruel retribution. The story of Pentheus in Euripides’ play, Bacchae, related the most horrific punishment in all Greek mythology. Dionysus returned to the city of his birth, but his cousin, Pentheus King of Thebes, refused to believe he was a deity and son of his aunt Semele. After mocking Dionysus and attempting several times to imprison him, he finally incurred Dionysus’ anger. Pentheus’ mother Agave and other Theban women became Maenads under Dionysus’ spell and roamed the forest as crazed wild women. When Pentheus pursued them, the Maenads thinking he was a mountain lion, rushed in and tore him limb from limb. When Dionysus restored their sanity, the sobered Agave discovered she had dismembered her own son. These tales illustrated that the dual nature of Dionysus was characteristic of wine – it could be both beneficial and detrimental.


V. The Bacchanal Retinue
Dionysus traveled with a very unique entourage of Bacchanalia creatures and associates – quite a cast of characters.

Silenus - the oldest of Satyrs was Dionysus’ debauched mentor and most frequent companion. He was usually depicted as bearded, drunken, sometimes with either goat or horse ears, hooves and tail. Although prophesy was attributed to him, most often he was perpetually stupefied with wine, unable to distinguish truth from falsehood.

Pan – was a pastoral deity who made flocks fertile so appropriately he had horns, legs and ears of a goat. Although he was physically unattractive, he had amorous tendency to seduce nymphs. He could be mischievous and sometimes ill tempered often frightening unwary forest travelers. He was known for playing his reed pan flute and for blowing into a conch shell. When he blew the conch shell the sound emitted created so much anxiety and agitation that our word panic is derived from Pan.

A surprising reference to Pan was told by Spanish writer, Rodrigo Caros in a book in 1634. In his history of Seville he described how Bacchus founded Cadiz and ruled until his companion, Pan, took over as regent. The region therefore became known as Pania which later became Hispania. It was said that Philip IV considered himself as a successor to Bacchus.

Maenads or Bacchantes – were the most fearsome in the bacchanal retinue. They were mortal wild- haired women followers who roamed mountains and forests adorned in ivy and animal skins waving the thyrsos (reed tipped with pine cone). While under Dionysus’ influence, they danced and worked into an ecstatic frenzy capable of tearing apart animals with their bare hands - definitely someone to avoid meeting on such an occasion.

Satyrs, Sileni, fauns, centaurs – were forest participants in the Bacchanal. Satyrs were sensuous creatures usually part man part goat (hooves, horns, ears, tail) who danced, played music and certainly knew how to party. Ancient Greek and Romans depicted them as ugly with beards, snub noses and bulging foreheads. Sileni were similar to satyrs, but were older and often had either horse or goat legs horns, ears, and tail. Fauns were gentler, handsome young males with discrete horns and goat ears, tail and usually human legs. They were the most attractive of the group and popular in sculpture. Centaurs sometimes in Bacchanalia were creatures with the head and torso of a man and body of a horse and were sexually aggressive.

Nymphs – were beautiful maiden-creatures who in habited, the sea, rivers, woods, trees, meadows and mountains as followers of various deities. In Bacchanalia they were sensual, scantily clad or nude usually “partying” with satyrs and fauns.

Putti – boy- babies were used as an art form to display by their actions life forces, emotions, sensations - the spirit expressed in a scene. They were frequently part of a Bacchanal, usually very busy and active. A putto sometimes hid behind an ugly mask of Silenus playing boogeyman trying to scare other putti. Such a putto is a called a Larvate and represented empty fright, silly unfounded fears or tension caused by a disguised putto trying pretend to be fearsome. Other charming, devotional putti dutifully tend grape vines and make wine. Satyr-putti cavort in wild abandon, playing instruments, dancing and often drinking in excess displaying the physical effects of wine illustrating its mental alteration.

Dionysus – in his earliest rendering in Greece was a bearded Zeus-like figure, but soon evolved into an attractive long-haired Apollo-like man. In Euripides’ tragedy Bacchae, the story of Pentheus, Dionysus was described as “foreign and woman-like.” Over the centuries artists’ renditions have been varied: an infant, handsome lover of Ariadne, effeminate and even fat full
of the good life. He usually appeared good-natured, perhaps grinning and enjoying the celebration. In ancient times he was shown offering wine, but never drinking it. His head was crowned with ivy (immortal symbol) or grape leaves and often wore leopard or lion skins.

VI. Bacchanalia Iconography
Besides his unusual retinue, Bacchus had special attributes and symbols.

The Dithyramb was poetry in choral song and dance praising Dionysus and essential in the ritual. Maenads sang and danced and satyrs played musical instruments (tambourine, pipes, clappers) thereby enhancing the intoxication of the wine. Loud music provided passion in the reverie and created the spirit of wild abandon.

The thyrsos was the iconic fertility symbol of the Cult of Dionysus heralding the Bacchic celebration. It was carried by either Bacchus or Maenads. The thyrsos was a staff tipped with a pine cone and sometimes wrapped in ivy or grape leaves.

Goats were Dionysus’ sacrificial animal. They are present in most bacchanal scenes usually being restrained by the horns or ridden by satyr-putti trying to protect the tender grape leaves from being eaten. Roman poet, Virgil said, “Beware of the rough-toothed goat.” Goat skins were used to hold wine.

Snakes sometimes in Bacchic celebrations were possibly from Minoan tradition as symbols of rebirth and rejuvenation because snakes shed their skins. In ancient periods in this context they were not symbols of evil.

Masks relevant to Greek theater were important attributes of Dionysus. (see History…).

Leopard skins were worn by Dionysus and he traveled by chariot pulled by lions. Wild cats with their capricious behavior symbolized Dionysus’ irrational wild nature. Hunt animals as dogs referred to the story of Dionysus driving lions from Mt. Nysa.

VII. History of the Cult of Dionysus and Bacchanal
The origin of the Cult of Dionysus is unknown. Fertility worship was prevalent in early Bronze Age Mediterranean area. Scholars postulate that some Bacchic elements may have their source in cultures of Asia Minor (Phrygian, Lydian) and in the Minoan civilization of Crete. It has been substantiated that by 1250 BCE, Dionysus was accepted as a god and rituals were part of Mycenaean religion.

However, Dionysus achieved greatest prominence in Classical Greece and festivals and bacchanals were ubiquitous throughout the Greek World. In 500 – 400 BCE, the Great Dionysia was the foremost celebration of civic pride in Athens and was so important that the entire population was encouraged to attend including women, who in Greek society were usually cloistered in their homes. The Great Dionysia was a competition between poet-playwrights creating the great tragedies Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Greek theater began with the Dithyramb, poetry of praise sung by a chorus that evolved into character speaking parts. The competitive prize was a sacrificial goat. The word tragedy in Greek meant “goat song.” It is ironic that today Bacchanalia has a connotation of orgy and immorality, but for Athenians it was an important venue for civic lessons in morality. Aristotle pointed out that its ritual function was to purge spectators of their emotions of pity and fear through their vicarious participation in the drama. It is interesting that Dionysus, not Apollo, was the inspiration for Greek Drama. Apollo represented the rational and civilized side of man’s nature. Dionysus was the embodiment of man’s irrational, passionate side that unleashed the creative spirit. He suffered greatly when the vine was pruned just as the tragic hero/heroine suffers trying to overcome obstacles in their moral struggles.

In the Roman Era the Dionysian Cult may have arrived in Italy through southern Etruria between 400 – 200 BCE. Roman writer, Livy, in his history of Rome (29BCE) related that the Senate in the Roman Republic in 186 BCE banned the bacchanal because of immorality. This led to persecution of the Bacchoi (members) which forced the Cult to go underground, later to reemerge even stronger. Most scholars believe the charges leveled against them were mostly false or exaggerated. The unsanctioned Cult had been gaining in popularity especially among the underclass of society and was considered suspect by the Senate because it wasn’t under their complete control. This was a period after the Second Punic War when ethnic fear could be evoked of anything “foreign.” The ancient Italic deity of fertility and agriculture was Liber Pater. Liberalia was an ancient festival which celebrated young men’s “rite of passage” by removing their bulla (lucky charm) and exchanging their toga of childhood for the white toga of adulthood. Gradually in Latium, Liber became assimilated with Bacchus. In the early Christian Era, Eastern Roman Emperor, Theodosius II (401 – 450CE) by law ended the bacchanal and all Dionysian worship

VIII. Bacchanalia Celebration in Greco- Roman World – “Wine, Women and Song”
The actual ritual practice of the bacchanal in the Greco-Roman world varied by region and cannot be described with singular complete certainty because the mysteries were not written down and were known only to the Bacchoi. However some Bacchic characteristics were known and universal. It was celebrated at night, outside in a wooded location lit by torches and led by Bacchantes (priestesses) and Bacchants (priests). The thyrsos (reed and pine cone) was carried by the celebrants. Women were essential members of the Bacchoi in the role of Maenads or Bacchantes. Sometimes they practiced animal sacrifice but it is doubtful Maenads tore animals apart in wild frenzy. Music was another necessary element of the rite and it was used in the
dithyramb praises of Dionysus in song and dance. Loud rhythmic sounds intensified the euphoria. Wine liberally drunk gave Bacchoi the exultant power of feeling divine. Wine meant that the god was not only outside them, but when consumed he was within them too. Sexual involvement may have been a component of the activity but it was not a necessary inclusion in
the ceremony. The reverie of “wine, women and song” was important because it represented Dionysus’ wild spiritual release and freedom. The Bacchanal was practiced by people of all social classes, but it was especially popular with the disadvantaged because it didn’t require expensive votives, women could participate and worshippers did not need a temple.

IX. Theology of Bacchanalia
Worship in the Bacchanal had obvious pleasurable orgy-like aspects, but it was the Cult’s theology that made Dionysus such an important god in ancient societies. Dionysus, a fertility deity, was life and rebirth. He was the vine painfully and severely pruned, left as bare stock to emerge alive again in joyful resurrection. He had rescued his mother from death. He was assurance that death didn’t end all. He was the expectation that the soul lived on forever. A poignant reference to this was in a letter written by the Greek writer, Plutarch, 80 CE, to his wife after news of the death of his little daughter:

“About that which you have heard, dear heart, that the soul once departed from the body
vanishes and feels nothing, I know that you give no belief to such assertions because of
those sacred and faithful promises given in the mysteries of Bacchus which we who are
of that religious brotherhood know. We hold it firmly for an undoubted truth that our soul
is incorruptible and immortal. We are to think (of the dead) that they pass into a better
place and a happier condition. Let us behave ourselves accordingly, outwardly ordering
our lives, while within all should be purer, wiser, incorruptible.”
(Mythology, Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, Edith Hamilton)

X. Biography of Luca Giordano
Luca Giordano was born in Naples in 1634 and died there in 1705. He was the son of the painter Antonio Giordano (1597-1683). Luca was one of the most celebrated draughtsman and painter of the Neapolitan baroque whose oeuvre included religious, mythological paintings and many fresco cycles in palaces and churches. He painted in Naples, Rome, Venice, Florence and later in Spain. Early in life he was influenced by Ribera and his work in Naples reflected Neapolitan taste in art. In Rome he studied the work of da Cortona, Preti and Rubens. He created his own style bringing exuberant color and light into his work. Rubens’ paintings made a lasting impression on him as shown in the treatment of faces in his figures. In admiration of him, Giordano painted Rubens Painting an Allegory of Peace. He was a respected fresco artist and
painted altar pieces in Venice and vaults and a dome in Florence. He painted Bacchanals and other mythological subjects including A Triumph of Bacchus (untraced) for Cosimo III de Medici. It was said in Florence he used two styles – baroque in religious subjects and an elegant classicism in secular decorative work. He was in great demand as a decorative artist and was called twice by Philip IV of Spain, but both times he cited pressing affairs at home. When Giordano was sixty years old, Charles II was able to use leverage to bring him to Spain. His son’s political appointment would only be renewed if Luca Giordano agreed to paint for Charles II in Spain. His commitment of nearly ten years in Spain eventually advantaged other family members. He frescoed the many vaults at the Escorial, scenes in monasteries, churches and the sacristy ceiling of the Toledo Cathedral. His speed of execution and huge output earned him the nickname “Luca Fa Presto.” His legendry speed and capacity to improve was amusingly expressed by the Prior of the Escorial who wrote Charles II the following:

“ Today your Giordano has painted ten, eleven, twelve figures three times life
size, plus the Powers, Dominions, Angels, Seraphim and Cherubim that go
with them and all the clouds that support them. The two theologians he has
at his side to instruct him in the mysteries are less ready with their answers
than he is with his questions, for their tongues are too slow for the speed of
his brush. (Grove, Dictionary of Art).

After his death he was considered a versatile painter who imitated other styles. However, Francesco Solimena, his pupil-friend, understood and appreciated Giordano’s creativity and absorbed his painting style.

XI. Other Bacchic Art in the Ringling Museum
The Ringling Museum has other Bacchic works of art. Portrait of a young Aristocrat, SN 380, by Jean-Marc Nattier (1730) in Gallery 15 is an amusing depiction of a chubby male aristocrat playing the court role of Bacchus. In his right hand he holds a Thyrsos and in the left a cup of wine. He is draped in leopard skin with a live leopard by his side.

Many Ringling Chiurazzi “cast bronzes” are part of “the cast of Characters” in Bacchanalia. The Elder and Younger Furietti Centaurs (from Hadrian’s Villa) greet you at the entrance of the Art Building. Four others are placed tantalizingly on the loggia. The Satyr with Young Bacchus, Drunken Faun and Sleeping Faun reside on the North Loggia. Dionysus with Grapes and Goat, known as “Rosso Antico” in the book, Taste and the Antique, is standing in the beginning of the South Loggia.

XII. Background on Ringling Museum’s A Bacchanal by Luca Giordano

“A Bacchanal Fete” SN 161 was purchased by John Ringling as a Luca Giordano painting in December 1929 from the Collection of Jean Desvignes, Paris, sold at the American Art Association NYC. Suida in 1949 designated it as one of six Giordano’s (SN 156,157, 158, 159 160, 161) and Susannah and the Elders SN 162 as “Studio of Giordano” although originally attributed to Titian. Tomory in 1976 referred to “A Bacchanal” SN 161 and Susannah and the Elders SN 162 as a copies “after Giordano.” He agreed with four of Suida’s Giordano’s, but Jacob and Raphael at the Well SN 158 he attributed to Francesco Solimena. Tomory stated that A Bacchanal had conservation in 1947-49: major losses on left side and center on lower left of canvas. It was stated that A Bacchanal, had elements from both Ribera and Giordano, but was possibly painted by a studio assistant or an independent Neopolitan.

In the present registrar A Bacchanal is attributed to Luca Giordano. The Ringling Museum has five paintings by him:
SN 156 Adoration of Shepherds
SN 157 The Flight into Egypt
SN 159 Allegory of Faith and Charity
SN 160 Mars and Venus with Cupid
SN 161 A Bacchanal
Jacob and Rachel at the Well SN 158 is attributed to Francesco Solimena and Susannah and the Elders SN 162 as “in the style of Giordano.”

Recently Michelle Scalera did a ten month restoration of the Bacchanal painting. It had water damage in the lower portion during long term storage. She found a J signature mark on the canvas. Luca Giordano sometimes signed his works as “Jordanus.

XIII. Discussion of A Bacchanal, by Luca Giordano
Luca Giordano’s painting has many traditional bacchic features and is infused with humor. Its composition has curious contrasting aspects. In the central area of the canvas, gentle Nymphs of Nysia serenely recline in classical poise observing young Bacchus’ misbehavior. Infant Bacchus, raised onto the shoulder of a satyr, is pouring a cup of wine onto the head of a satyr-putti below him. It is reminiscent of a toddler sitting in a high chair overturning a cup of milk just to watch the liquid pouring out. The calm Nymphs don’t seem very upset by his naughty behavior, although they may be whispering to each other,” Look at what he is doing now.”
Their placidity is in contrast to the wild activity all around them. Satyr-putti are obviously very inebriated and their grotesque faces are distorted in sloppy drunken expressions with wine oozing from their mouths. Silenus may be a bearded sleeping figure in the background and a similar figure appears in bacchanals by other artists. Other satyr-putti are handling the goats,
holding them back by their horns and riding them. Musical instruments are played by dancing satyr-putti creating the all important Bacchic din. A little pan-putti in the center lower edge, is blowing a conch shell. This is in reference to Pan’s panic, but in this situation the shell blown by a little putti is a lesser panic or disturbance. This symbolizes frenetic spirit in the scene. Dogs appear among the throngs as Bacchic symbols of hunting and wild nature. The foliage is thick and darker than in an idyllic pastoral scene. All this wild nosy “rave” below is contrasted by gossamer-winged putti fluttering above faithfully tending the grapes.

XIV. Bacchic Theme by Other Artists
Luca Giordano and many of the great artists of the 1400s – 1700s had their own creative expressions of the Bacchic theme. Therefore paintings, engravings and sculptures of this subject were represented in so many different ways. Michelangelo sculpted both a young Bacchus and a drunken Bacchus and drew a Children’s Bacchanal. Titian’s The Andrians - Bacchanal) (fig.1) and Bacchus and Ariadne (fig.2) painted for Alfonso d’ Este were described as joyful having delicacy and good taste.


Le Faun and L'Enjôleur (1707-08)

These two panels are a rare example of Jean-Antoine Watteau's early career as a decorative painter, and they are all that remain of a series of eight commissioned by the Marquis de Nointel. The other six panels, now lost, are known from engravings, and share similar light-hearted or sensual subjects (e.g. harvesting grapes, drinking, dancing, and other assorted follies) suggesting that the series may have decorated the dining room or breakfast room of Nointel's home.

L'Enjôleur (the cajoler) shows an elegant young woman and a swain standing upon a platform, the curved and cut edges of which alternately advance and recede to accord with elements of the composition. The figures are surrounded by an intricate, yet airy configuration of garlands, ribbons, arabesques, and various foliate motifs, the whole crowned with a basket of flowers. Below the platform dangles a biniou, a traditional Breton bagpipe.

In Le Faune, Watteau placed a pedestalled statue of Bacchus, flanked by a curious ram and a gilded ewer, upon an elegant semi-circular console. This console is supported by delicate volutes and surmounted by slender, nearly invisible foliate columns, creating an overall impression of suspension and weightlessness. The whole group is framed by a three-arched trellis topped on the first and third arches with flower baskets. Below the console, two large birds perch on palmettes.

Influenced by the work of his earlier master Claude Audran III (who possibly also recommended Watteau to the Marquis), the panels illustrate how Watteau embraced the exoticism and inventiveness of Rococo taste. Drawing from his teachers' styles and techniques, Watteau painted his symmetrical vignettes on white grounds, which set off the elegant play of line. While his mature work featured sparkling satins, bosky shadows, and complex tonalities, Watteau's decorative designs focused on line, rhythm, balance and correspondence of motifs, all of which he painted here in muted gold, pink, cornflower blue, and sage green.

The Scale of Love (1715-18)

In Watteau's romantic allegory, a young man theatrically dressed in soft pink silks plays a guitar in a wooded glade. He sits at the base of a pillar with a carved head on top (possibly "blind" Homer), his right leg extended and braced as he leans downwards to where young woman sits on the grass, dressed in iridescent silks with her hair powdered. She twists strongly towards him, so much so that we barely see her face, but she appears to have eyes only for the musician. She holds open a book of sheet music, but the guitarist does not read it. Instead his downcast eyes appear focused on something not visible. The couple's poses, and the way they respectively hold the guitar and the sheet music create a strong central diagonal that both unites them as the main subject and separates them by a sense of physical tension. Moreover, though they are oblivious to anyone else, the couple is not alone. The sculpted bust, turned slightly to the right, draws the eye to secondary figures in the middle ground and the far background, all of whom are engaged in their own pursuits and paying no attention to the main couple.

Dreamlike, idealised and wholly romantic, Watteau's allegories of courtly love are nevertheless free from the sentimentality and prettiness generally associated with the Rococo. Their sense of mystery and reticence derives partly from Watteau's technique, which employed pale yellow or off-white grounds, flickering brushwork, and several layers of thin glaze. The naturalism of his theatrical figures and their landscaped idylls is due to the fact that he made countless sketches from life (at least two of which for the seated girl are in The British Museum). Indeed, The Comte de Caylus recorded in his Vie d'Antoine Watteau (1748) that the artist was happiest only when working "in the rooms I had in different quartiers of Paris, which were used only for sittings with models, for painting and drawing. In these places . I can state that Watteau, so sombre, melancholy, so shy and critical anywhere else, was here simply the Watteau of the paintings: in other words, the artist they make you imagine - delightful, tender and perhaps a bit of a shepherd.''

Studies of a Woman Playing a Guitar, or Holding a Musical Score (c.1717)

Watteau's silvery sketches depict three studies of the same model. Viewed from left to right, she is first seen seated in a wooden chair, playing a guitar. The twist of her upper body is emphasised by the sharp turn of her head, and as she looks over her shoulder, her eyes cast down. He then repeats this pose from a slightly different angle. Finally, he depicts her seated, slightly in the background, holding a musical score and looking off to her right, as if distracted or expectant. The model is dressed throughout in a jacket with rolled tails and a fluted ruff, and each pose suggests that she is listening to music rather than playing an instrument, or singing.

Watteau was a prolific and gifted draughtsman, perhaps the greatest of his generation, and some of his friends claimed that he actually preferred drawing to painting. He filled albums and sketchbooks with landscapes, copies after old masters, and above all, life studies like the present drawing, where he would circle his models and study their pose from various angles. While two of these studies reappear in paintings, Watteau rarely made drawings specifically as studies for paintings. And though he is reputed to have made anywhere between two and four thousand drawings, slightly fewer than seven hundred now survive.

Watteau worked primarily in red chalk, or aux trois crayons, a technique employing red, black and white chalks to often stunning chromatic effect. Unusually, in this drawing, he favoured black chalk, with only touches of red. More interesting still is his use of graphite, which adds a satiny sheen to the girl's costume. Graphite appears in French drawings by 1714, but its origins are obscure so Watteau's use of it here does not indicate a date, per se. Moreover, since he neither signed nor dated his drawings, and often reused them, one cannot date a study based solely on its reappearance in a specific painting. However, curator Margaret Morgan Grasselli suggested a date of 1717-18, based on technical similarities, and an evident resemblance between this model and the woman who posed for one of the studies of the second version of his master work Pilgrimage to the Island of Cythera (1717).


Bacchanal: A Faun Teased by Children

Few artists encompass the vitality and dynamism of the Baroque era as does Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680.) The great sculptor, architect, and painter produced more than 60 great works of art in his life time, at a rate of one per year. Bernini, like his famous predecessor Michelangelo, was a devout Roman Catholic. He embraced the Council of Trent’s recommendation that art “should be clearly and unambiguously persuasive in order to ‘teach, delight and move’ the faithful.” At first glance, the sculpture, A Faun Teased by Children, appears to be rather an embrace of paganism, or at least a gifted presentation of a mythological tale. But with a closer look, we can see that this sculpture shows the dawning of a man who would create works of spirituality and classical myth with equal aplomb.

Bacchanal: A Faun Teased by Children, is a marble sculpture created in Italy by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1616-1617, as apprentice to his father, Pietro, who assisted in the sculpture. The piece measures 52 1/8 in. x 29 in. x 18 7/8 inches, and weighs 529 lbs. The scene depicted is a bacchanal, an oftentimes drunken or riotous celebration of the Roman God, Bacchus. The central element of the piece is a tree stump of some sort, upon which stretches a great length of vine with ripe clusters of grapes. At the bottom of the tree are several small animals, including a lion and some sort of lizard. The main figure is that of a young man, supposedly a faun, complete with pointed ears and tail, though no goat’s legs are present. He is in a vertical position with much of his weight upon the tree, back arching at the playful assault of two of the three small children in the scene. These babies, perhaps one or two years of age, romp between the branches of the tree and climb upon it. Two children are leaning into the face of the faun, their faces not concealing their joy, teasing him with the grapes, uninhibited in “a celebration of wildness and pleasure.”

Bernini’s sculpture shows his tendency toward the diagonal, his great use of space to depict movement and emotion, with limbs and branches spreading in all direction, and the incredible detail in musculature and facial expression. But is this scene a classic Bacchanal, where wine is imbibed with abandon, and every proclivity is indulged? Certainly all the figures are naked, which is almost a prerequisite for the wildness of Bacchanalia, but there is no sexuality on display here. The children cavort with the playfulness of innocence, while the faun is simply taken by their frolic. Bernini displays here what the Metropolitan Museum of Art refers to as “a lifelong interest in the rendering of emotional and spiritual exaltation.” One source proposes that the position of the faun’s head and his open mouth “probably reminded Italians of the day of the Catholic Sacrament of Communion,” and that the reference to wine in the form of grapes combines to suggest that “the pleasures of the drink are intense but innocent, a sacrament without sin.”

I can only echo these sentiments and add that this sculpture, one of Bernini’s earliest, has nevertheless become one of my favorites. I simply adore the expression of innocent joy on the face of the child on the left at the top of the vine, and the matching of three extended legs of that same child, the faun, and the baby at the bottom is so carefully balanced by the outstretched arm of the faun. I have a background in photography, and the balance of a fine-art photograph is one of the elements most saught after by photographic artists. Bernini’s composition of this sculpture is simply magnificent. Every element is somewhere balanced by another. Bernini portrays something that the Council of Trent tried to touch upon, that the expression of art can be a great witness to faith, as can the great Myths of mankind and the witness of the world around us. Bernini unites all of these into a single portrait of “life, and life more abundant,” mixing providence with innocence, strength with joy, the worlds of plant and animal with that of man and man’s imagination. An exaltation of creation and sustaining spirit, the delight of man, and the majesty of God.


Inspired by Europe

Like most architects at that time, Mr. McKim turned to Europe for inspiration. Thus the new Boston Public Library was partly inspired by Labrouste’s Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, and Alberti’s Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, Italy. This classical revival structure, built from 1888 to 1895, heralded the American Renaissance in architecture of the late nineteenth century. It was conceived and created as a “palace for the people” with lavish marble interiors ornamented with sculpture and murals. At its heart is the courtyard.

This beautiful central space was based on the design of the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. It combines gardens surrounded by a cloistered walkway, a fountain, and a notorious statue.

The arcaded gallery that allows you to view the courtyard from three sides encloses a small plaza, within a perimeter hedge, that’s planted with grass and flowers. In the middle is a small plaza around a square fountain basin in which a circle of water jets plays around a granite plinth. Atop this is a statue of “Dancing Bacchante and Infant Faun” by Frederick William MacMonnies.


Michelangelo, the sculptor. Part I.

In past essays we have repeatedly mentioned the name of a genius who projected his spirit throughout the art of an entire century: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564), whom always protesting that he was nothing more than a sculptor, took upon his shoulders the architectural works of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and also protesting that he wasn’t a painter either, he decorated the Sistine Chapel with monumental frescoes. No artist could ever follow him in those giant endeavors. Michelangelo didn’t have successors, nobody would paint or sculpt like him but his work was enduring. He created a school in which the maestro taught no one, but from whom everyone learned nevertheless.

Michaela[n]gelus Bonarotus Florentin[us] Facieba[t]” (‘Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, was making this’), that’s how his signature appears in the only work he signed (the Pietà, 1498-1499). Michelangelo, a lonely and strange character, was born in the Republic of Florence, and hence, was a pure Florentine by heart and spirit. We have seen before how between Giotto and Michelangelo there were two centuries of soft artistic Tuscan beauty, with noble and exquisite creations. It seemed that no person could break that charm. Masaccio, the only artist who saw in his country the real beauty of things, died when he had barely started his career. Suddenly a titan appeared amid the idyllic artistic environment of Florence: what was a soft adagio became a stormy finale.

Today we cannot have any conjectures about the character and genius of Michelangelo. We know his personality and actions, we have his letters: the ones he wrote and the ones he received. Nothing illustrates so much about his life that this correspondence which fully shows us his spirit. Tough of character, difficult to deal with, his dearest friends and relatives had to be very careful around him try to not to irritate him. Fate paura ognuno, insino al Papa (‘You scare everyone, even the Pope himself’) wrote his closest friend, Sebastiano del Piombo. It was useless for Michelangelo to protest and to try to excuse himself in reply: his letters denounced him. Sometimes he filled his father and brothers with caresses, and other times, embittered by his own pain, he answered them sharply, as if dismissing them forever.

Alone, accompanied by no one, he made his way, the long road of his troubled life. He was like a Beethoven who, in addition to his own miseries and artistic fatigues, was loaded with the whole of other people’s errors, like as he had to purge the sins of a whole century. What fault did Michelangelo have that Bramante left the old St. Peter’s in ruins, without having drawn up the definitive plan for the new Vatican church? Why should he be the victim of Popes’ vanity, always inconstant in their desires but nevertheless attentive to the very idea of ​​exploiting his genius, of making him work tirelessly, to procure immortality for themselves through his magnificent works? Michelangelo couldn’t attend to so many commissions, and finally he took the habit to leave them unfinished. How many times his great spirit failed, especially during the difficult days of the direction of the architectural works of St. Peter… “Se si potessi morire di vergogna e di dolore, io non sarei piú vivo” (‘If I could die of shame and pain, I would no longer be alive’), he said, full of despair, in one of his letters. This is what makes Michelangelo so particularly esteemed today he was a misanthrope, but his pains, his torments, had as their origin his own consciousness of duty.

Art became for him like a heavy burden, a terrible faculty that compelled him with humanity. Thus, Michelangelo went through life in exasperation, sometimes insulting people, as the anecdote tells when one day he met Leonardo in the street and blamed him for his mistakes in a totally inconvenient way. Leonardo and Michelangelo were too great to understand each other.

Biographical data about Michelangelo isn’t scarce, but it happens with these great geniuses that we always want to know more about them and their lives. The main elements of judgment we have are his works, sculptures and paintings, for the most part still preserved. His correspondence, collected by his nephew who turned his house into a sanctuary dedicated to his remembrance, and his verses because Michelangelo, especially in his last years, let himself go by a poetic spirit. Only two biographies of him were written by his contemporaries: the one Vasari included in his book, and another, fundamental, written by Ascanio Condivi, from which Vasari copied many paragraphs almost verbatim. Condivi’s biography was published during Michelangelo’s life the great artist seems to have corrected the text, or at least he knew it, before it was published.

Condivi was also a simple, dignified spirit, unable to hide or exaggerate facts. The son of a wealthy rural landowner, in his youth Condivi went to Rome where he tried to start a career as an artist under the advice of Michelangelo. The death of his father forced him to return to his lands to attend to the family’s patrimony, and then, with nostalgia for his truncated vocation, Condivi wrote his teacher’s biography, linking it with the memories of the conversations he had held with him while in Rome. Vasari, as we have said, took advantage of Condivi’s book all the other biographers of Michelangelo will have to go and look after that first reference. It can be said that Condivi’s biography on Michelangelo is the only one first-hand.

Another less important contemporary book through which we can learn something new about Michelangelo’s thoughts, is the one published by a discreet Portuguese nobleman named Francisco de Holanda, who had gone to Rome on behalf of King John III of Portugal and that due to his condition as a foreign diplomat was admitted to the intimacy of the art colloquia held by Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo. With all these information, letters, biographies and poetry, plus archival documents, today it’s easy to reconstruct Michelangelo’s life without major errors.

Condivi described him as a man of medium height, broad of shoulders, although light in his movements, his eyes clear and cerulean, his nose crushed by a blow he received when he was 17 (it seems that this deformation was due to a blow from a then fellow pupil, the sculptor Pietro Torrigiano, while both were apprentices of Bertoldo di Giovanni, a struck that was given in the heat of an argument). Michelangelo’s father, Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, was Castilian from Chiusi, in Casentino, and his mother was Francesca di Neri del Miniato di Siena. Michelangelo was born in Caprese, today known as Caprese Michelangelo a commune in the Province of Arezzo in Tuscany. Several months after Michelangelo’s birth, the family returned to Florence, where he was raised.

Michelangelo’s mother went to a period of a prolonged illness, and after her death in 1481, when he was six years old, Michelangelo was placed to live in the town of Settignano under the care of a nanny and her husband, a stonecutter. In Settignano, Michelangelo’s father owned a marble quarry and a small farm, and was there that he gained his love and appreciation for marble. Still a young boy, Michelangelo was sent to Florence to study grammar under the humanist Francesco da Urbino, but from the beginning he showed no interest in this field, and preferred to copy paintings from churches and seek the company of other painters. At the age of 13, in 1488, Michelangelo was placed as an apprentice in the workshop of Ghirlandaio, where at the age of 14 he was already being paid as an artist. In 1489, Lorenzo de’ Medici asked Ghirlandaio to send to him his two best pupils, and the master then sent Michelangelo and Francesco Granacci. Michelangelo’s true school was the Garden of the Medici, then called “The Platonic Academy”, where he was between 1490 and 1492. In this humanist academy founded by the Medici, Michelangelo’s work and thought were influenced by many of the most prominent philosophers and writers of the day. There, he was also able to study the ancient marbles and artifacts the Medici had collected.

Head of a Faun, marble, by Michelangelo, ca. 1489 (lost in 1944). A young Michelangelo, by then a teenager, sculpted this Head of a Faun based on an ancient model of an old, bearded faun-like face. Michelangelo added some features that were missing in the antique model, like its particular nose and “the open mouth as of a man laughing”. Lorenzo il Magnifico praised this work and upon seeing it became convinced of the talents of the young boy and decided to fund Michelangelo’s artistic education in his Academy. This early work by Michelangelo was first displayed at the Uffizi Gallery and later transferred to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in 1865, after which it was stolen during World War II. The picture above is a plaster cast of the original. Madonna of the Stairs, marble, by Michelangelo, ca. 1491, 56 x 40 cm (Casa Buonarroti, Florence). This is the earliest extant known work by Michelangelo. The waxy, translucent slab, like alabaster, is reminiscent of Desiderio da Settignano. Carved in the technique of “rilievo schiacciato“, this marble relief reveals the influence of ancient Greek “stelai“. The Madonna’s face is in classical profile and she sits on a square block, Michelangelo’s hallmark. He chose not to show the Child’s face but placed him in an odd position, either nursing or sleeping and encased in drapery, suggesting protection. In the background, four youths at the top of a stair handle a long cloth, identified with either the one used to lower Christ from the cross or a shroud. This relief also shows influences of Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna. Battle of the Centaurs, marble, by Michelangelo, ca. 1492, 84,5 x 90,5 cm (Casa Buonarroti, Florence). The Battle of the Centaurs is, chronologically, the second extant piece carved by Michelangelo, who was 17 at the time, and the last work he created while under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici, who died shortly after its completion. It was carved in white Carrara marble for Lorenzo de’ Medici and left unfinished at his death. This relief reflects Michelangelo’s study of late Roman sarcophagi, the Pisan sculptors, Bertoldo di Giovanni and Pollaiuolo. It depicts the mythic battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs. This was a popular subject of art in ancient Greece, and the subject was suggested to Michelangelo by the classical scholar and poet Poliziano. This relief is remarkable for breaking with the then current practice of working on a discrete plane to work multidimensionally in multiple plains and to carve the figures dynamically. Michelangelo regarded this piece as the best of his early works, and a visual reminder of why he should have focused his efforts exclusively on sculpture, and he kept it for the rest of his life. The relief consists of a mass of nude figures, writhing in combat, placed underneath a roughed out strip in which the artist’s chisel marks remain visible.

Lorenzo himself used to go to this garden to talk with his protégé artists. Soon Michelangelo caught the attention of his patron by sculpting a faun’s head (ca. 1489). Lorenzo, noticing the exceptional artistic talent of the boy who was only 15 years old at the time, called Michelangelo’s father to offer him some position in exchange for the child, who Lorenzo claimed for himself. Michelangelo’s father was then employed in the customs office and the boy spent two years in the Medici house, treated like a son. “Lorenzo de’ Medici,” says Condivi, “called him several times a day to show him jewels, medals and antique gem stones, in order to form his taste and good judgment”. At this time, young Michelangelo sculpted the relief of the Madonna of the Stairs (ca. 1491) and, at the suggestion of Poliziano, one of Lorenzo’s humanist friends, Michelangelo carved a relief with the Battle of the Centaurs (ca. 1492), a work that he had in high regard throughout his life, saying that it hurt him not to have dedicated himself exclusively to the art of sculpture. This carving reminded him of his youth, the few and beautiful days of his apprenticeship in the company of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Later, Michelangelo worked for a time with the sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni.

Crucifix, polychrome wood, by Michelangelo, 1492, 142 x 135 cm (Basilica di Santa Maria del Santo Spirito di Firenze, Florence). Michelangelo carved this crucifix in 1492 for the prior of the church. The way the head and legs are treated in contrapposto suggests a search for classical harmony. The work is especially notable for the fact that Christ is naked, as it was stated in the Gospels. The sign attached to the cross includes Jesus’ accusation inscribed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The wording translates “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews”. After the death of his patron Lorenzo de’ Medici, Michelangelo (then 17 years old) was a guest of the convent of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito (Florence). There he was able to make anatomical studies of the corpses coming from the convent’s hospital in exchange for this unique opportunity, he is said to have sculpted the wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Figures sculpted by Michelangelo for the Arca di San Domenico (Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna). Top left: partial view of the Arca di San Domenico, marble, 1494-1495, in 1494 Michelangelo was commissioned to sculpt a few remaining figures for this tomb, including St. Proclus, St. Petronius, and an angel holding a candelabra. Top right: Angel with Candlestick, marble, by Michelangelo, 1494-1495, 51,5 cm
height, to sculpt theses figures Michelangelo studied the sculptures made by Jacopo della Quercia nearly 60 years before for the main portal of the Basilica of San Petronio also in Bologna. Bottom left: St. Proclus, marble, by Michelangelo, 1494, 59 cm height, this statue echoes Masaccio and Donatello. It is believed that this figure was probably begun by Niccolò dell’ Arca and completed by Michelangelo. Bottom right: St. Petronius, marble, by Michelangelo, 1494, 64 cm height, this statue echoes Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia. St. Petronius, the patron saint of Bologna, holds a model of the town in his hands. Deep carving creates the locks of his beard, the eye sockets are rather deep, and the arches of the eyebrows throw a strong shadow. Despite a clear standing motif, the shadows thrown by the garments give such an effect of life that it appears as if the saint is about to stride off.

Shortly after Lorenzo’s death is when Michelangelo’s own life really began, with his storms and pains. Fearing the revolution that would drive the Medici out of Florence, Michelangelo returned to his father’s house. In the following months he carved a polychrome wooden Crucifix (1493), as a gift to the prior of the Florentine church of Santo Spirito, which had allowed him to do some anatomical studies of the corpses from the church’s hospital. This would be the first of several opportunities in which Michelangelo studied anatomy by dissecting cadavers. He returned to Florence at the request of the Medici who, in 1493, were expelled from Florence as the result of the rise of Savonarola. Michelangelo then marched to Venice and then to Bologna in 1494 before the end of the political upheaval. While in Bologna, he was commissioned to carve an angel and other small figures (1494-1495) to complete the decoration for the funerary monument of Saint Dominic.

Bacchus, marble, by Michelangelo, 1496-1497, 203 cm height (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence). In the summer of 1496, when Michelangelo was 22, Cardinal Raffaele Riario summoned Michelangelo to Rome and commissioned the figure of Bacchus, who wanted a statue to complement his own collection of antiquities in his garden. The Cardinal rejected the statue as he deemed it too sinful, a symbol of sexual desire, and sold it in 1497 to Jacopo Galli, Riario’s banker and a friend to Michelangelo. It was later placed in Galli’s garden among a group of antique fragments. Together with the Pietà the Bacchus is one of only two surviving sculptures from Michelangelo’s first period in Rome. This statue, his first work while in Rome, is untypical of Michelangelo, in the sense that it was designed to be a garden statue to be viewed in the round most of Michelangelo’s surviving works were conceived for architectural settings with restricted viewpoints. The body of this drunken and staggering god gives the viewer an impression of both youthfulness and of femininity. Bacchus is depicted with rolling eyes, his mouth is gaped open, his body almost teetering off the rocky outcrop on which he stands. He is standing in a traditional pose, but due to his drunkenness he is leaning backwards. In his left hand the god holds with indifference a lion’s skin, the symbol of death, and a bunch of grapes, the symbol of life, from which a satyr is feeding. Bacchus’ right hand containing the cup was replaced, the vine shoots had worn, and his penis had been removed. The inspiration for the work appears to be the description in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History of a lost bronze sculpture by Praxiteles, depicting “Bacchus, Drunkenness and a satyr”.

Bacchus, marble, by Michelangelo, 1496-1497, 203 cm height (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence). In this sculpture, Michelangelo included several iconographic symbols related to the ancient cult of Bacchus. Bacchus wears a wreath of ivy leaves, as that plant was sacred to the god. Bacchus wears these vines and grape leaves on his head as he was identified as the inventor of wine. He also looks at the goblet of wine that he holds in his right hand. In his left hand he holds a lion’s skin surrounded by grapes that in turn are being eaten by the satyr.

Returning for a short time to Florence after the political turmoil towards the end of 1495, Michelangelo soon left for the first time for Rome at the request of Cardinal Rafaelle Riario, who knew Michelangelo’s work after he purchased a statue of a Sleeping Cupid that was fixed by the artist to make it look like an ancient marble at the suggestion of his patron Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici. Riario was so impressed by the quality of this sculpture that he invited Michelangelo to Rome. Michelangelo arrived in Rome on 25 June 1496 at the age of 21. On 4 July of the same year, he began working on a personal commission for Cardinal Riario: an over-life-size statue of the Roman wine god Bacchus (1496-1497). In November 1497, the French ambassador to the Holy See, Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, commissioned Michelangelo to carve the marble group of the Pietà (1498-1499), he was 24 at the time of its completion. The sculpture is today placed in a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. This work is of extraordinary beauty. Michelangelo, acknowledging his work, carved his name on the sash running across Mary’s chest, the only work he signed. One day speaking to Condivi about the youth of the Virgin of his Pietà, Michelangelo said the following words, which he stated verbatim: “The Mother had to be young, younger than the Son, to prove herself eternally Virgin while the Son, incorporated into our human nature, had to appear like any other man in his mortal remains”.

Pietà, Carrara marble*, by Michelangelo, 1498-1499, 174 cm height x 195 cm width at the base (St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City). Throughout his life, Michelangelo executed a number of works on the theme of the Pietá, this being the first. The sculpture was commissioned in 1497 by the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, who was the French ambassador in Rome, for his own tomb. It was begun the following year and was finished by 1499. The sculpture was made for the cardinal’s funeral monument located in the Chapel of Santa Petronilla near the south transept of St. Peter’s, this chapel was later demolished by Bramante during his rebuilding of the basilica, and the sculpture was later moved to its current location in the first chapel on the north side after the entrance of the basilica, in the 18th century. The Pietà represents the beginning of Michelangelo’s maturity as a sculptor and has been praised as a work of unprecedented elegance. In this group, Michelangelo sculpting technique shows even greater textural richness, which strongly contrasts with the unpolished textures of the rock and tree stump in which the group is placed. The structure of the sculptural group is pyramidal, the vertex coinciding with Mary’s head. The statue widens progressively down the drapery of Mary’s dress, to the base, the rock of Golgotha. The figures are quite out of proportion, owing to the difficulty of depicting a fully-grown man cradled full-length in a woman’s lap. Michelangelo’s depiction of the draperies is masterful: the tight, damp fold loincloth of Christ, the folds and complex crinkles of Mary’s robes and the controlled but generous sweep of the shroud, which both cradles and displays Christ’s corpse. The Virgin shows no grief her features are composed and the gesture of her left hand draws the viewer’s attention to her dead son. Pietà (detail), Carrara marble, by Michelangelo, 1498-1499, (St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City). Michelangelo signed the sculpture on the ribbon across Mary’s chest: MICHAELAGELVS.BONAROTVS.FLORENTIN.FACIEBAT. It was the only work he ever signed. Vasari reported the anecdote that Michelangelo later regretted his outburst of pride and swore never to sign another work of his hands. In contrast to the traditional Pietà depicted from artists north of the Alps, where the portrayal of pain had always been connected with the idea of redemption, 23 year old Michelangelo presents us with an image of the Madonna holding Christ’s body never attempted before. Her face is youthful, yet beyond time her head leans only slightly over the lifeless body of her son lying in her lap. Mary’s youth symbolizes her incorruptible purity, as Michelangelo himself said to his biographer and fellow sculptor Ascanio Condivi. Pietà (detail), Carrara marble, by Michelangelo, 1498-1499, (St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City). Christ’s face, in opposition to earlier representations of the same theme, does not reveal signs of the Passion.

The entire sculpture is admirably composed within its marble silhouette. Michelangelo boasted that there’s no concept or idea that a good artist cannot circumscribe in a block of stone. With this statement he defined himself as a sculptor, and in a letter to Varchi (who gave Michelangelo’s funeral prayer), written in his old age, he still defended sculpture against those who assumed it was less noble than painting: “even though, as you say, if things that have the same purpose are the same thing, painting and sculpture will also be identical”. This gave us an idea of ​​how Michelangelo and his friends talked and discussed about art during their colloquia.

In 1499 Michelangelo returned to Florence after the execution of Savonarola and was commissioned by the consuls of the Guild of Wool Merchants to complete an unfinished project begun 40 years earlier by Agostino di Duccio: a colossal statue in Carrara marble representing David as a symbol of Florentine freedom. This was planned to be placed on the gable of the Cathedral.

David, Carrara marble, by Michelangelo, 1501-1504, 434 cm height (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence). In 1501 Michelangelo was commissioned to create the David by the Arte della Lana (Guild of Wool Merchants), who were responsible for the upkeep and the decoration of the Florence Cathedral. For this purpose, he was given a block of marble which Agostino di Duccio had already attempted to work with 40 years before, perhaps with the same subject in mind. Once the statue was completed, a committee of the highest ranking citizens and artists decided that it had to be placed in the main square of the town, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Town Hall. It was the first time since antiquity that a large statue of a nude was to be exhibited in a public place. “Strength” and “Wrath” were the two most important virtues, characteristic of the ancient patron of the city of Florence, Hercules. Both these qualities, passionate strength and wrath, were embodied in the statue of David. In the figure of David, the entire emotional charge is carried by the articulation and twist of the body and limbs against the head. Stripped of all attributes but the minimal sling, this David carries no sword, and not even the head of Goliath distracts from his stark nudity. The figure’s authority seems to stem from the swing of the thorax, within which is a dramatic play of intercostal and abdominal muscles, stretched on the left, compressed on the right. The Florentines identified their city either with Hercules or with David, the hero of the Old Testament. David, Carrara marble, by Michelangelo, 1501-1504, 434 cm height (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence). In this masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, Michelangelo departed from the traditional way of representing David, like in the older bronze statues by Donatello and Verrocchio. He didn’t present us with the winner, the giant’s head at his feet and the powerful sword in his hand, but portrayed the youth in the phase immediately preceding the battle. Michelangelo also placed David in the most perfect “contraposto“, as in the beautiful ancient Greek representations of nude male heroes. The right-hand side of the statue is smooth and composed while the left-side, from the outstretched foot all the way up to the disheveled hair, is openly active and dynamic. The statue was unveiled outside the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of civic government in Florence, in the Piazza della Signoria, on 8 September 1504. Because of the nature of the figure it represented, David soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the independent city-state of the Republic of Florence.

How Michelangelo circumscribed his compositions within a block of marble can be appreciated in his sculptural groups, where the figures seem to huddle within the block, giving it shape instead of taking it from it, and especially in the difficult problems of composition posed by the circular shape of tondos or medallions. For the commission of this David, Michelangelo faced a gigantic problem of this kind when he was asked to make the most out of the large abandoned block of marble, which had been half destroyed by the attempts of Duccio. In response, Michelangelo made David (1501-1504) come out of that stone, a work considered as the apotheosis of his earlier works. He spent more than two years carving this sculpture. Seeing the finished sculpture and admired by Michelangelo’s technical skill, a team of consultants including Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi, Pietro Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi, Antonio and Giuliano da Sangallo, Andrea della Robbia, Cosimo Rosselli, Davide Ghirlandaio, Piero di Cosimo, Andrea Sansovino and Francesco Granacci, were summoned to decide upon its placement. On May 14, 1504, the statue was transferred from Michelangelo’s workshop, located behind the cathedral, to its original definite location, at the entrance to the Palazzo della Signoria, now the Palazzo Vecchio. It remained there until 1873 when, for preservation purposes, David was moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia where it remains to this day, while in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, it was replaced by a copy.

David (detail), Carrara marble, by Michelangelo, 1501-1504 (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence). David’s oblique gaze and determined frown embody the ‘terribilità‘ characteristic of all Michelangelo’s work. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were intended to be fixed towards Rome. The proportions of the statue are atypical of Michelangelo’s work the figure has an unusually large head and hands (particularly apparent in the right hand). These proportions may be due to the fact that the statue was originally intended to be placed on the cathedral roofline, where the important parts of the sculpture may have been accentuated in order to be visible from below. David (detail), Carrara marble, by Michelangelo, 1501-1504 (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence). Michelangelo emphasized the right hand of David by sculpting it highly particularized: large, veined, suggesting latent power in a figure apparently at rest.

Carrara marble: A type of white or blue-grey marble popular for use in sculpture and building decoration. It is quarried in the city of Carrara in the province of Massa and Carrara, Tuscany, in Italy.


Bacchus and Ariadne

The princess Ariadne fell asleep on a beach after being abandoned by the hero Theseus. Bacchus, the god of wine, found her and fell instantly in love with her. In Dalou’s sculpture, the god is shown waking Ariadne with a tender kiss, as a faun mischievously tries to squeeze between them and steal attention by offering grapes. The theme derives from a classical myth, and the elements of the narrative reveal themselves as we walk around the sculpture.

Medium Marble
Dimensions 32 1/4 × 21 × 21 1/8 in. (81.9 × 53.3 × 53.7 cm)
Object Number 1996.3
Acquisition Acquired by the Clark, 1996
Status On View

Image Caption

Jules Dalou, Bacchus and Ariadne, 1894, Marble. Acquired by the Clark, 1996. The Clark Art Institute, 1996.3.


Satanic Schisms

As the Church of Satan grew in size, internal rifts developed, leading some members split off to start their own branches.

One expelled church member, Wayne West, formed the First Occultic Church of Man in 1971. Newsletter editor Michael Aquino left to form the Temple of Set in 1975, and plenty others followed. As proof of Satanism’s growth, the U.S. Army included the faith in its manual for chaplains “Religious Requirements and Practices” beginning in 1978.

The next decade brought in newer denominations like the Luciferian Children of Satan, founded by Marco Dimitri in Italy in 1982. Dimitri was convicted of child abuse but was later cleared.

Later Satanic groups include the Order of the Left-Hand Path, a New Zealand group founded in1990 that mixed Satanism with Nietzschean philosophy, and the Satanic Reds. The Satanic Reds formed in 1997 in New York, and combined Satanism with socialism and Lovecraftian concepts𠅊 subgenre of horror fiction.


Bacchante and Infant Faun : Tradition, Controversy, and Legacy

In just three years, between 1893 and 1896, Frederick William MacMonnies’s Bacchante and Infant Faun evolved from a clay sketch in the artist’s Paris studio to the most controversial sculpture in the United States. Perceptions of the sculpture, which depicts an over life-size dancing woman who gleefully holds an infant in one arm and grapes aloft in the other, still range from provocative to innocuous. This Bulletin provides a close examination of Bacchante and Infant Faun, a work most frequently associated with the scandal that led to its acquisition: the public uproar over the impropriety of the figure’s nudity and her apparent inebriation spurred its original owner, architect Charles McKim, to withdraw it as a gift to the Boston Public Library and give it to The Met instead. While earlier studies focused almost exclusively on the controversy, this Bulletin takes a fresh look at one of the icons of the American Wing, from its origins in the artist's Beaux-Arts training to its place in the rich tradition of the bacchante as a subject of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art.


Watch the video: Fantasia Pastoral Symphony Movt. 3 (July 2022).


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