Archive for the ‘Great Portraits’ Category

La Bella Portrait by Titian

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Titian or Tiziano Vecelli was born on August 27, 1576, an Italian painter who was renowned as one of the best painters in the Venetian School during the 16th century. He spent his early years in Pieve di Cadore in the Republic of Venice, in which his nickname “da Cadore” was derived.

Titian’s subject matter focused on landscapes, portraits, and mythological or religious themes. As an Italian painter, he relied heavily on the usage of color that gave a profound effect in the Italian Renaissance Art. This also contributed to a classical color technique employed by future painters of Western Art. During the course of Titian’s painting passion, his outlook on using painting techniques have changed but his excellence in manipulating colors remained intact. When he started doing more mature themes, his use of vivid and luminous colors was gone and transformed into darker and mixed hues.

One of Titian’s masterpieces was “La Bella: The Woman in a Blue Dress”. The La Bella portrait painting can be dated to have been made in the mid 1530’s. The portrait displays a woman dressed in blue gown, embellished with tantalizing gold embroidery with well defined garment design and perfected with dazzling jewelries of gold chain, rubies, and pearls. The painting shows off a graceful woman in a very magnificent dress fully clad with jewelries to accentuate her elegance and status symbol. Francesco Maria I della Rovere, a Duke in Urbino who was a mercenary leader in Florence and Venice, was the first owner of this portrait painting.

Titian used the usual color technique in vivid and luminous tints. The association of colors brilliantly emphasized the beautiful woman’s societal status and grace; a symbolical understanding on what a member of the Venetian family is. The painting exudes various speculations of the identity of the beautiful woman in the portrait. It was believed that she was the suspected lover of Titian but it remained to be a fabricated story. The portrait painting “Eleonora Gonzaga” was introduced after “La Bella” which resembled exactly the latter’s profile, though La Bella connoted a more demure personality and a sense of discreet sensuality.

Titian’s concept in “La Bella” painting delivered subtlety, charm, sensuality, and classic elegance. Titian remained to be a brilliant painter, unsurpassed through the years. His mastery in conveying message in his portraits was profoundly substantial to the extent that it greatly influenced the emotions of his audience. Titian is considered to be an icon in the Renaissance Art because of his brilliance in painting; the subjects of his works were perfectly cohesive to deliver a poetic image that emanated paragons of beauty.

His great technique in using colors and brushes were very brilliant and it never failed to convey an idealistic Italian Renaissance Art, a period which greatly influenced today’s Western Art. Titian’s meticulous painting idealism brought realism in his subjects and themes.

Author:  Shyxter

de La Tour’s The Fortune Teller painting

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Georges de La Tour was born March 14, 1593 in Vic-sur-Seille in Lorraine, France. There were no historical records that transcribe the earlier life of de La Tour not until he was twenty-four, which meant that a decade of his significant life was missed. George de La Tour married Diane le Nerf in 1617 and raised 10 children. He moved to Luneville where he spent the rest of his life. Some of the people who knew him describe him as “a basically unpleasant person – haughty, sharp-tongued, self-assured, unbearably self-sufficient, stingy, and violent beyond measure” but despite the negative notions against him, he was able to stand as a master painter with extreme ideas during the duration of his painting career. German art historian Hermann Voss rediscovered de La Tour’s painting thus his reign as one of the great painters of all time.

His painting The Fortune Teller is an oil-on-canvas painting made circa 1630. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York purchased it with a calligraphic signature on the top right shown as “G. de La Tour Fecit Luneuilla Lothar”, which means “Georges de La Tour made this”. Lorraine Luneville, an English historian, questioned the authenticity of the painting but later on was proven as de La Tour’s art paint. De La Tour is known for his chiaroscuro techniques with a hint of religious compositions in which the subjects are lighted up from a single source of light but the intricacies of costume were not brilliantly emphasized. The Fortune Teller painting portrays a wealthy young man who had his fortune foretold by an old fortune teller woman. The portrait also shows the old woman picking up the coin from the hand of the young man, as payment and at the same time a gesture which signifies a ritual. The other women present in the painting are gypsies who were considered as thieves during that era. It clearly shows the women in the background stealing some coins and personal possession from the wealthy young man.  The painting as a whole is considered to be a theatrical scene of deceit and theft.

The painting technique of Georges de la Tour is unique in the sense that it captures the depiction of a common theme the same with design and composition. De la Tour was known to be a follower of Caravaggio, thus influenced with the Caravaggesue style particularly using chiaroscuro and tenebristic techniques. De la Tour as a realist avoided naturalism; he rather simplified his subjects with marked contrast of light and shade and at the same time maximizing volume and severe lines with selective details. He specialized in the use of lighting and nocturnal scenes in a way that it defined the message of his painting without degrading the entirety of the theme.

George de la Tour’s style of making his paintings based on his moods gave a meditative or pensive quality that no other painter produced. He focused on how the painting would affect his viewer’s emotions rather than the literal elements of the whole piece. He illustrated his works through his varying moods. De La Tour’s history was not as substantial compared to the other great painters but despite the missing stories and milestones of his life, he was still a big influence to succeeding painters in history.

Author:  Shyxter

The Sacrifice of Isaac Painting

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter who skilfully broadened his influence in Italy and around the globe. Caravaggio is known for his painting technique called chiaroscuro in which it manipulates light and dark color to display a 3-D effect. Caravaggio doesn’t take stereotyping when working for his paintings but he goes beyond the ordinary, emphasizing the momentum of his theme.

Caravaggio earned his initial trainings in Milan where he focused in still-lives and later at 1952 he went to Rome and switched his painting subject to young boys and the street life. In 1595, Caravaggio’s painting persona caught the attention of Cardinal Francesco Del Monte who in the long run became his first patron. Since then Caravaggio’s portrait paintings involved subjects from the New Testament after his success of three paintings manifesting the life of St. Matthew that somehow emphasized calling, inspiration, and martyrdom.

Caravaggio was an Italian master who made the classical masterpiece Sacrifice of Isaac, which had two versions kept in Princeton, New Jersey and Uffizi, Florence. The Sacrifice of Isaac Painting may have two versions but the two still conveys one common message, Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac as his way of showing obedience to God’s command.  The painting version in Princeton exhibits the use of chiaroscuro or tenebrism in which Caravaggio transformed Western art touching the intricacies of emotions. In the Princeton version, Abraham and Isaac’s faces were partly covered in silhouettes but their emotions are visible, the display of the hands are strongly fluent, the angel displays his hand the way Abraham’s hand is placed on Isaac’s head, and the other hand of the Angel holding the knife preventing Abraham but it also shows Abraham’s willingness to listen to the Angel. The three subjects and the ram are very well emphasized without being overshadowed with the objects in the background which is perfectly free from any element that may distort the entire message of the painting.

The Uffizi version dwells in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and is believed to have been made in honor of Cardinal Maffeo Barberini whom Caravaggio painted a portrait named Portrait of Maffeo Barberini. The cardinal was already a fan of Caravaggio beforehand, thus, the making of this second portrait painting. Isaac in this painting was identified as Cecco Boneri who portrayed as the model and at the same time acted as the angel. In this painting, Isaac shows fear of death as his father Abraham was about to slit his throat and an angel appeared trying  to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and suggesting to sacrifice the sheep instead. The viewers of this version would describe it as emotionally strong as it stirs their apathetic state; the gestures of the painting give psychological effect as it displays an intense dramatic visual theme. The whole picture itself is serious and demanding in a way that is controversial as this depicts a story in the Old Testament. This portrait painting of Caravaggio manifests emotional strength that has drawn much attention from the viewers.

The Uffizi version of the portrait Sacrifice of Isaac greatly conveyed a biblical message from the Old Testament, the technique formula of Caravaggio was brilliant in a way that he did not cover his main object with the unnecessary, the great portraitist did not overshadow the entire composition with outcome but instead he dwelled on the intent and action of what the picture is trying to deliver.

Author:  Shyxter

Massacre of the Innocents Painting

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Sir Peter Paul Rubens is an exceptional Flemish Baroque painter who is famous for his extravagance of style. He was born in Siegen, German province of Westphalia however his parents are natives of Antwerp, Belgium. Although born in a different country, he was raised in his parents’ hometown and finished his education in a Jesuit school upon his mother’s insistence. He became a member of Antwerp Painters’ guild and began with his travels to Italy, Spain, Genoa and Rome. His father who is a lawyer died when he was still young and so Rubens’ life was greatly influenced by his schoolmaster’s and his mother’s sturdy religious character. His religious influence is greatly evidenced in his masterpieces and he became the leading influence of Catholic Counter-Reformation style in painting. He is famous for his colorful, mysterious, and extravagant style of painting and most especially for the passionate religious quality of his portraits.

One of his famous masterpieces is the controversial Massacre of the Innocents. This painting is an evidence of his deep religious passion and influence. It is based from a chapter in the bible. The painting is all about King Herod’s attempt to kill infant Jesus upon the knowledge that a great Jew king has been born. He was in a killing frenzy in an attempt to prevent infant Jesus from becoming a rival. Rubens perfectly and artistically portrayed the heinous religious crime.

The painting was controversial because it has two versions. The first version was created during 1611-1612 and was mistakenly attributed to one of his assistants Jan van den Hoecke for the longest time. It was only in 2001 when an expert judged it and declared the painting to be Rubens’. The second version was painted by Rubens towards the end of his life around the year 1636 and 1638 and is still hanging in the Alte PinakothekMunich collection until the present. These mishaps happened because Ruben trained his students to paint portraits exactly the way he does. Or he lets his students paint and he does the finishing touches of the portraits.

The painting has profound religiosity and is painted with emotion and passion that is why it stays in one’s mind. It is lavished with colors and intense style that enhances the dramatic sense of the painting. The painter used Italian Baroque style which shows that Rubens was greatly influenced by Caravaggio. One thing that made this painting famous is the rich combination of decorative style, the intense movement and sensuality of the characters in the painting and the dramatic combination of rich and intense colors used by the painter.

Another thing that made this painting so renowned is the style which is expertly executed by Rubens. The painting was painted using Chiaroscuro; it is a style using light and dark color contrast. Rubens expertly played with the colors and perfectly combined them and played with its contrast magnificently resulting to a great masterpiece of all time.

Up to this moment, Rubens continues to live among us through his undying works of art. The Massacre of the Innocents remains one of the best artwork and is evidence that once long ago a great portrait painter existed.

Author:    Shyxter

The Ambassadors Painting

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Hans Holbein the Younger, one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century, was an outstanding religious and portrait painter of the Renaissance. He was born in Augsburg, Germany in the winter of 1947/1948 and worked as a young artist in Basel. His work ranges from illustrating books, woodcuts, glass paintings, altarpieces and portraits. He became a court painter to Henry VIII although he had several sitters who are noblemen, merchants, archbishops and scholars. He was the first portrait painter who gained international fame. Named after his father Hans Holbein the older, he was named the Younger to distinguish him from his father who was an accomplished Late Gothic school painter. One of his masterpieces, The Ambassadors, which is famous for its controversial connotation, was the topic for debate between scholars and art experts.

The Ambassadors, considered as one of the most widely known portraits of the Renaissance period, is a double portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve. He made this artwork in 1533 which was the culmination period of his career as a portrait painter. During this “last period” of Holbein’s life, he focused mainly on the wealthy German merchants in London and the King and his court as his subjects. However, it was also during this period when he learned the technique of portrait miniatures. Holbein is known not only for the precision of his portraits’ appearance but he is also famous for embedding layers of paradox, allusion and symbolism into his portraits as evidenced in his ever puzzling masterpiece “The Ambassadors.”

Several points made this painting eminent over the years. Holbein flawlessly created the timeless masterpiece of symbolism and anamorphosis in this painting. The painting’s meaning and symbolism has been argued about over the centuries. About five centuries have passed but still the painting remains to be one of the most exceptional examples of anamorphism. Aside from its anamorphic art, the message and meaning depicted in this double portrait has been a continuing issue.

Over the years, scholars have been trying to figure out what the portrait conveys. Holbein has been very precise in integrating symbols and figures into this art that even scholars have no definite interpretation of the portrait’s emotion and message.

This portrait depicts two members of Henry VIII’s court who are expertly portrayed with objects that are related to their higher learning and worldliness. Holbein did not only mean to show the portrait of his subjects but he associated them with symbols that describe the characters of the two persons involved.

Scholars and experts in Renaissance art have different interpretations about the idea conveyed in the portrait. Some scholars see it as unification of the church and of capitalism. While others believe that the painting artistically shows the conflicts between religious and secular authorities. This conflict is represented by the two figures – de Dinteville who is a land owner and de Selve who is a bishop. The two subjects are surrounded by commonly accepted symbols of discord like the lute with a broken string and a hymnbook with Martin Luther’s translation in it. These symbols suggest conflict between the clergy and the scholars.

This masterpiece by Holbein has gained him the respect of other portrait painters. His splendid technical skills, wide-ranged knowledge on three-dimensional form and space, and precise eye for realistic detail are the skills that are exclusive to him. These attributes are what makes his paintings show true emotions and characters effortlessly.

Author:  Shyxter

The Birth of Venus Painting

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Sandro Botticelli, with a birth name of Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, was born on May 17, 1510 at Florence, Italy. But recounting the early life of this great portraitist is very insufficient as his historical accounts are few. However, Sandro Botticelli was known to have become an apprentice at the age of fourteen (14); his apprenticeship earned him a full education as compared to other Renaissance artists who were not able to finish school. He was also trained as a goldsmith by his brother, Antonio. In 1942, Botticelli became an apprentice painter to Fra Filippo Lippi, with his early works accredited to this master. Botticelli was influenced by the paintings of Masaccio, also a great painter of the Italian Renaissance, but Sandro learned making intricate details from his master painter, Fra Filippo Lippi. Since then, Botticelli travelled to Hungary for more painting endeavours; even an archbishop of Hungary, in the person of Vitéz János, came to love Botticelli’s painting.

Sandro Botticelli was indeed a master of Renaissance art. In 1486, he created a masterpiece painting entitled “The Birth of Venus”, which depicts the goddess Venus or Aphrodite in Greek Mythology. As seen on the painting, Venus emerges from the surface of the sea with a giant shell that added perfection to the picture. The Zephyr wind-gods lead Venus to the shore with roses showering down upon her, symbolizing spiritual passion. As Venus is surfacing on the shore, the Nymph hands her a purple cloak. This uniqueness and spirituality of this painting are the reasons why it is considered a genuine Renaissance masterpiece.

During this era when most paintings were influenced by Christian beliefs figures of women symbolize chastity, Botticelli came up with an idea to choose Venus as his main character in his painting; and he painted it nude. Because he had an influential friendship with the Medici family, then a strong political dynasty in Florence, this rather provocative painting was saved from any religious critic and indignation. But Botticelli’s other paint works were condemned and perished in flames because of their pagan themes.

Many of Botticelli’s paintings interpret a moving concept. His “The Birth of Venus” painting was influenced by a painting of another masterpiece painter named Apelles.  The title of Apelle’s painting was “Venus Anadyomene”, from the word “Anadyomene”, which means rising from the sea. The way Venus posed in Botticelli’s painting also resembled Venus di Medici, a marble statue of classical antiquity which he had an opportunity to study.

The Birth of Venus painting of Botticelli rejects the classical realism of Raphael or da Vinci. The figure of Venus foreshadows mannerism which is obviously depicted in the painting where Venus covers the sensitive part of her body. Venus is obviously a fantasy image as the painting shows an improbable pose of Venus, when done realistically Venus’ posing is likely to be anatomically impossible to do. Botticelli’s choice of character lacks in giving weight and volume that he rarely puts deep perspective in space per se.

Though the painting was a pigment of his imagination, it still gave curious ideas to his audiences as to how the painting was influenced or what manifestations it was trying to convey.  Despite the fictional ideas of “The Birth of Venus”, the painting surely presented a pleasurable sight to its viewers and certainly influenced the minds of the other great portrait painters in history as well.

Author:   Shyxter

The Last Supper Painting

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Only a great artist like Leonardo da Vinci could create a world-class and immortal painting like The Last Supper. This celebrated painter, with full birth name of Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, was born on April 15, 1452 in the town of Vinci, a region in Florence. He was born to unmarried parents; his father, Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, was a wealthy legal notary while his mother, Caterina, was a humble peasant. His name means that he is Leonardo, the son of Messer Peiro from the town of Vinci. The “ser” in Leonardo’s name implies that his father was a noble man.

Leonardo was a man of great talents. Aside from being one of, if not the greatest painter in history; he was also a scientist, writer, engineer, mathematician, and an inventor, among many other endowments that no ordinary man possessed even during this time. His insatiable curiosity and intensely creative imagination made him not just a renowned painter in history, but even one of the most widely gifted persons ever seen by mankind. Many consider him a genius, with his eclectic views and profound understanding of things. Leonardo was a true representation of a Renaissance artist. He was very instrumental to the evolution of the great Italian Renaissance, a remarkable time in history when creativity was at its best.

The Last Supper painting was one of the major highlights of Leonardo’s career in the world of portrait painting. He made it in response to his employer’s request, Duke Ludovico Sforza of Milan, whom he worked for in almost 18 years. This world renowned 15th century painting was rendered on a dry wall instead of on a wet surface, coated with layers of pitch, gesso, mastic, and tempera to hide the stone wall’s unevenness. However, this technique employed by Leonardo proved to be unsuitable because the painting deteriorated rapidly a few years after its completion.

This religious portrait illustrates the biblical scene of the last supper of Jesus Christ, when Jesus reveals the betrayal of one of His 12 Disciples. It distinctly portrays the diverse reactions of his apostles to the shocking news of betrayal. Three of the apostles shows a surprised reaction; they are Andrew, James (son of Alphaeus), and Bartholomew. Another group of three is that of John, Peter, and Judas Iscariot. Judas is the main character of this group, appearing to be reserved and dazed by the appalling detection of his evil plan. In the painting, Judas is the only one who placed his elbow on the table, this gesture represents his guiltiness. Peter looks really outraged and John seems as if he is going to faint.

Jesus is sitting at the center, with Mary Magdalene on his right side. His position with his arms laid on the table is shaped liked a triangle. There are also three windows behind Him.

Philip, Thomas, and James the Greater are also grouped into three, looking as stunned and upset just like the group of Simon, Matthew, and Jude Thaddeus.

The number 3 is notable in the painting; and this is Leonardo’s way of representing the Christian faith in the Holy Trinity. This unique arrangement in The Last Supper is one of the extraordinary features of the painting.

Leonardo positioned all the characters in The Last Supper to seat on one side of the table only so that their facial expressions can all be seen. It is also very evident that the angle of the room and lighting effects lure towards Jesus, the vanishing point of all the perspective lines in the painting.

Leonardo has incredibly presented this biblical story in such a natural and meaningful manner. The Last Supper painting is so life-like; and up to this time, no other biblical portrait has ever equalled its impeccable pattern.

Author:  Shyxter

Man in a Red Turban Portrait

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Man in a Red Turban Portrait

Jan van Eyck, also known as Johannes de Eyck, created this masterpiece which is known to be one of the greatest portrait paintings in the world. He was born in Maaseik, Belgium circa 1395, with no exact date of birth since only little was discovered about his younger years. Jan van Eyck was a Flemish artist who mastered oil painting during the period when such art was still a new discovery. Because he was a pioneer master of the art, Jan van Eyck was conventionally known to be the Father of Oil Painting. And with his very truthful paintings of the human form and mastery of the oil techniques, he was also considered as one of the best portraitists of Northern Europe in the 15th century. It is also believed that the artist Hubert van Eyck and the assumed artist Lambert van Eyck are his brothers.

The Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban was made by van Eyck in 1433 in an oil on wood panel. It is one of the best representations of Northern Renaissance of the 15th century, the era which marks the remarkable growth of fine arts from 1430-1580 in Flanders and Germany.

The portrait was believed to be a self-portrait, but there was no strong evidence to confirm such. However,  there is an engraving at the uppermost part of the frame showing a convincing  proof that the Man in a Red Turban Portrait is a self-portrait of Jan van Eyck. The writings have Greek letters that read “Als Ich Can” (as I/Eyck can), which is some kind of a spoof citation of the artist’s name. The focus of the man’s gaze in the portrait also implies who the character in the painting is. The caption at the bottom frame shows the artist’s name and date of completion, read as “Jan van Eyck made me on 21 October 1433”. It is significant to note that the writings on the portrait were made to look as though they have been carved rather than painted.

What makes the Man in a Red Turban Portrait so natural is its accurate visual effects and mirror-like gleam, a product of van Eyck’s expert skill in using slight layers of clear color pigments that make for the portrait’s full radiance. A clear example is the effects in the eyes of the man in the portrait. The subtle mixture of white, red, blue, and black colors somehow make the eyes of the man appear so alive. The two eyes of the man also show different focuses, with the right eye somewhat hazy while the left eye evidently defined and concentrated on a certain object. The appearance of the eyes is most probably an effect of van Eyck viewing himself through a mirror; because a person cannot see both eyes the same way when viewing oneself from a specific angle.

Jan van Eyck truly was a master oil painter as he was able to unspeakably show himself in the portrait, in such a way that the strokes of his brush seem to have been made invisible.

Author:  Shyxter

The Chandos Portrait

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

The Chandos portrait is believed by many to be one of the few depictions of the well-loved bard William Shakespeare, who lived from 1564–1616.  There is such compelling academic controversy surrounding the figure of Shakespeare, even to the point of some questioning whether he was the true author of the writing attributed to him.  The Chandos portrait is an image that has contributed to his iconography, perhaps from as early as 1623 when his First Folio was published.  The cover of the First Folio sports an engraved image that bears a striking resemblance to the Chandos portrait (which is so named because it was once owned by the 3rd Duke of Chandos).

Perhaps unfortunately, the painting had at one point been altered to make the subject appear, among other things, balder.  There was also a fake inscription added.  There are seven total portraits we are aware of today that are presumed to have been painted during Shakespeare’s lifetime.  The Chandos portrait was modified to fit better with these other representations and thus make it seem more like our composite perception of the man.

The portrait’s current owner, the National Portrait Gallery of London, received it in 1856.  Their most recent research concludes that it is a true likeness of Shakespeare, “probably.”  They attribute the pleasantly colored portrait of the sensitive eyed man to a painter named John Taylor.  The Portrait Gallery’s research about the identity of the subject involves studying elements such as whether the clothing depicted and the oil pigments used were appropriate to the time that Shakespeare lived.  The man portrayed wears a gold earring and a loose white collar with ties.  He also wears a full moustache and beard.  These fashion details often represent a poet, and they are apparent in the dress of other poets and literary figures of the time.

Given our awareness of how depictions of every person, not just famous bards, can vary across time and also according to lighting conditions, backgrounds, angles, clothing choices, etc., this oil painting is easy to regard as a precious historic relic.

Author: Julie Ann