Showing posts with label 1593. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1593. Show all posts

11 July 2018

Giuseppe Arcimboldo – painter

Portraits were considered unique in the history of art

Giuseppe Arcimboldo's portrait, in fruit and  vegetables, of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II
Giuseppe Arcimboldo's portrait, in fruit and
vegetables, of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II
The artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who created imaginative portrait heads made up entirely of objects such as fruit, vegetables, flowers and fish, died on this day in 1593 in Milan.

Unique at the time, Arcimboldo’s work was greatly admired in the 20th century by artists such as Salvador Dali and his fellow Surrealist painters.

Giuseppe’s father, Biagio Arcimboldo, was also an artist and Giuseppe followed in his footsteps designing stained glass and frescoes for churches.

Arcimboldo (sometimes also known as Arcimboldi) at first painted entirely in the style of the time. His beautiful fresco of the Tree of Jesse can still be seen in the Duomo of Monza.

But in 1562 he abruptly changed his style after moving to Prague to become court painter to the erudite King Rudolph II.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo's self-portrait, now
in the National Gallery in Prague
He began to create human heads, which could be considered as portraits, made up of pieces of fruit and vegetable and other objects, which were chosen for the meaning attributed to the image.

Arcimboldo also painted settings for the court theatre in Prague and he became an expert in illusionist trickery. His paintings contained allegorical meanings, puns and jokes that were appreciated by his contemporaries, but were lost upon later audiences.

His eccentric vision is epitomised in his portraits of Summer and Winter in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

In his painting of The Librarian, painted in about 1566, he was criticising wealthy people who collected books just to own them rather than to read them.

By using everyday objects such as the curtains that created individual study rooms in a library and the animal tails that were used as dusters, it was both a portrait and a still life painting at the same time. It is now in a museum in Stockholm.

Given the Renaissance fascination with puzzles, riddles and the bizarre, it is thought Arcimboldo was catering to the tastes of his time.

Arcimboldo's 1566 painting, The Librarian
Arcimboldo's 1566 painting, The Librarian
His portrait of Rudolph II was taken from the King’s castle in Prague by an invading Swedish army in 1648 and, along with other pieces of Arcimboldo’s work, is now in Sweden. Some of his work has since been completely lost, but Arcimboldo’s remaining paintings in Italy can be found in galleries in Cremona, Brescia and Florence.

The artist came back to live in Milan after retiring from working at the royal court and leaving Prague. He died in his home city in 1593.

It was not until 1885 that an art critic published a monograph on Arcimboldo’s role as a portrait painter.

With the arrival of surrealism in the 20th century, many articles and books were published referring to his work.

Arcimboldo-style fruit people have appeared in books, films and video games subsequently. There is a series of audiobooks with a portrait of William Shakespeare made out of books, similar to Arcimboldo’s Librarian, being used as the logo for the front cover.

Arcimboldo designed stained glass windows for the Milan Duomo
Travel tip:

Milan, where Giuseppe Arcimboldo was born and died, is the capital city of Lombardy. Arcimboldo worked on the Duomo with his father when he was a young man, designing pictures for the stained glass windows, including the one depicting Santa Caterina d’Alessandria. Construction of the Duomo, in Piazza Duomo in the centre of Milan, began in 1386, but the building took almost six centuries to complete. It is the largest church in Italy and the third largest church in the world.

The Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo in Brescia
The Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo in Brescia
Travel tip:

Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s painting of Spring, painted in 1580, can be seen in the collection of the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo in Brescia in Lombardy. The gallery in Piazza Moretto in the centre of the town has paintings by many other artists from the region, dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

More reading:

Giorgio de Chirico, Surrealist artist who founded the scuola metafisica

Simonetta Vespucci, the Renaissance beauty every artist wanted to paint

The Futurist art of Luigi Russolo

Also on this day:

1934: The death of fashion designer Giorgio Armani

1576: The death by strangulation of Medici wife Eleonora di Garzia di Toledo


8 July 2018

Artemisia Gentileschi – painter

Brilliant artist who survived torture by thumbscrews 

Artemisia Gentileschi: a self-portrait as a lute player painted in around 1615-17
Artemisia Gentileschi: a self-portrait as a lute player
painted in around 1615-17
Artemisia Gentileschi, who followed in the footsteps of the Baroque painter Caravaggio by painting biblical scenes with dramatic realism, was born on this day in 1593 in Rome.

As a young woman she was raped by an artist friend of her father who had been entrusted with teaching her, and when he was brought to trial by her father she was forced to give evidence under torture.

This event shaped her life and she poured out her horrific experiences into brutal paintings, such as her two versions of Judith Slaying Holofernes.

Gentileschi was notable for pictures of strong and suffering women from myths, allegories, and the Bible. Some of her best known themes are Susanna and the Elders, Judith Slaying Holofernes, the most famous of which, painted between 1614 and 1620, is in the Uffizi in Florence, and Judith and Her Maidservant. 

She had an ability to produce convincing depictions of the female figure, anywhere between nude and fully clothed, that few male painters could match.

Judith Slaying Holfernes (1614-20), which can be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Judith Slaying Holfernes (1614-20), which can
be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
It was many years before Gentileschi’s genius was fully appreciated, but a newly discovered self portrait depicting herself as St Catherine of Siena has just been bought by the National Gallery in London for £3.6 million, a record amount for her work.

Her artist father, Orazio Gentileschi, was an admirer of the painter Caravaggio. He taught his daughter to paint in his interpretation of Caravaggio’s style.

After her father’s friend, the landscape painter Agostino Tassi, raped her, he was brought to trial in 1612 and she had to give evidence while being subjected to a thumbscrew-like torture ‘to make sure her evidence was honest’.

After the trial Gentileschi moved to Florence, married a Florentine and became the first woman to join Florence’s Academy of Design.

Unlike other women artists of the time she specialised in history painting. She painted an Allegory of Inclination for the series of frescoes honouring the life of Michelangelo in Casa Buonarroti.

Gentileschi's painting San Gennaro nell'Anfiteatro
Gentileschi's painting San Gennaro
She moved to Naples, where she painted many important religious paintings for churches, such as San Gennaro nell’Anfiteatro di Pozzuoli (Saint Januarius in the Amphitheatre of Pozzuoli).

Later, she went to London where she worked alongside her father for King Charles I on ceiling paintings for the Queen’s House in Greenwich. She also painted many portraits and eventually became more famous than her father.

It is believed that Artemisia Gentileschi died in Naples during a devastating epidemic of plague that swept the city in 1656.

The bust of Michelangelo at Casa Buonarroti
The bust of Michelangelo
at Casa Buonarroti
Travel tip:

Casa Buonarroti, which Artemisia Gentileschi helped decorate, is now a museum in Via Ghibellina in Florence in a building Michelangelo left to his nephew, Leonardo Buonarroti. The house was converted into a museum dedicated to the artist by his great nephew, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger. It houses Michelangelo’s early sculptures and a library with some of Michelangelo’s letters and drawings.

The interior of the Anfiteatro di Pozzuoli
The interior of the Anfiteatro di Pozzuoli
Travel tip:

Pozzuoli’s Flavian Amphitheatre (Anfiteatro di Pozzuoli) was the third largest Roman amphitheatre in Italy, holding up to 50,000 spectators. Only the Colosseum in Rome and the Capuan Amphitheatre are larger. It was built during the reign of Vespasian by the same architects who previously constructed the Colosseum. Although most of the superstructure has been destroyed in an area subject to frequent seismic activity, the underground interior is still largely intact and well worth a visit. The amphitheatre is in the centre of the town, about 20km (12 miles) west of Naples, close to the Pozzuoli’s Metro station.

More reading:

The mysterious death of Caravaggio

The brilliance of Michelangelo

The rival who broke Michelangelo's nose in a fight

Also on this day:

1822: The death of the poet Shelley in a storm at sea

1918: Ernest Hemingway wounded working for Red Cross in Italy