Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

So the last one was a Cezanne. Truth be told, I’m a bit suprised nobody got it. Oh well, onto fresh material-I was inspired by Tyler Green’s links to post this guy.

Some comments on the iconography of the Strozzi Altarpiece

July 26, 2011

While digging up  a painting for my last post on Trecento painting, I noticed some interesting peculiarities in the iconography of  Orcagna’s Strozzi Altarpiece. Since these peculiarities are apparently well-noted by scholars, it seems germane to offer a few notes.

In the interest of clearing up certain immediate questions, the flanking figures are indentifable as SS. (from left to right) Michael, Catherine, Mary, John the Baptist, Lawrence, and Paul. These do not really demand much comment, as they were probably picked based on connections to the patron(excepting John The Baptist and Mary, who we will get to). Catherine, Lawrence, and Paul in paticular tend to recur quite a bit in 14th century work. The two most striking elements of the iconography are the Mary-Jesus-John group(called a Deesis; the most famous one is a mosaic in Hagia Sophia) and the handing of the keys and the book to Thomas Aquinas and Peter, respectively. The Deesis group is somewhat noteworht because it’s a fairly archaic motif that tends to be more Byzantine than Western. Most scholars would consider this motif symptomatic of the conservative trend in mid-14th Century painting*, but even here it’s a little startling that this was chosen.

The other notable element of the Iconography is Jesus handing a book to Thomas Aquinas and keys to Peter. Now the key is the main attribute of Peter in Italian Gothic art(and I think Byzantine art), on the logic that he holds the keys to heaven and hell, and to place him and Thomas Aquinas on the same level and in the same relation to Jesus implies that the work of Thomas Aquinas is as necessary and important as the work of Peter (who the papacy claimed their legitmacy from). Given that the the church(S. Maria Novella) and the patron were both Dominicans and that Thomas Aquinas was one of the more famous Dominicans, it is only reasonable that a work for this location would toot the Dominican’s horn quite strongly.

On a side note, since nobody’s picking up on the current identification challenge I’m extending it a day.

*Millard Meiss had a rather famous theory that Florentine painting later in the 14th due to the disaster of the Black Death. Other scholars have argued against this by pointing out that the shift had started even before the Black Death; it’s worth noting in Meiss’s defense that all sorts of things had been going wrong before then(the Great Famine of 1315-17, the Bardi and Peruzzi banks collapsing, etc). In general, the 14th century was rather cruddy.

New ID!

July 25, 2011

Sorry to keep you in the lurch; the last one was Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love. And now for another modern-this time, with two paintings for you delectation!

Back to italy!

July 23, 2011

Here’s a painting by the guy whose most famous work apparently riffs on Giorgione. It has been suggested that this was painted for a wedding-chest.

And now for something a tad newer.

July 22, 2011

First off, congrats to Alberti’s Window for identifying Wenesday’s challenge as a Watteau. This one’s Les Plasirs Du Bal from Dulwich Picture Gallery. Congrats also to analemma2345 for identifying today’s challenge as the leaf depicting The Court of Gumayars originally from the famed Houghton Shahnama(or Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp), one of the most famous manuscripts of Ferdowsi’s poem and probably the most famous manuscript painted in the Savafid dynasty.
Here’s today’s identification:

Today’s identification

July 21, 2011

Moving eastward now. Note: Since there isn’t a defined author, I’m asking just for period and preferably century of compostion. Bonus points if you can tell me the manuscript(both names accepted); triple bonus points if you can tell me the scene. Answer will be up in 24 hours barring unexpected circumstances/


Guess the artist

July 20, 2011

Last one, which was spoilt(alas!) was Fra Fillipo Lippi’s [i] Portrait of a Lady With a Man at The Casement[/i]. Here’s today’s challege, by a noted early exponent of Artistic Consumption. This should be a little easier since such challenges should be gettable, people using opens as an excuse to dump impossible questions notwithstanding.

Answer will be posted in about 22 hours.

Italian polypytchs

July 20, 2011

This isn’t about a specific work so much as an overview of something that people tend to be confused about when looking at early Italian painting. Most of the small gold-ground paintings you might see in a gallery would not have been seen independently, but as part of a larger altarpiece or ensemble.  The following painting is notable as one of the few intact large altarpieces:

Andrea Orcagna, Strozzi Altarpice. Strozzi Chapel, Santa Maria Novella.

As you can see, this work consists of a central figure(most earlier works have  Madonna as the central panel, altough a variety of themes exists, flanked by rows of saints(often these are separate panels, with one or two saints to a panel) indentifable by their attributes and sometimes labels on the frame on top of a predella depicting a sort of comic-strip series of narrative scenes.  This altarpiece is also in its original location; the Web Gallery of Art has some photos of it in the chapel for which it was painted. Of course, this was not the only format 14th century panel painting could take(there were also small folding altarpieces intended for travel,a suprising number of which are intact  like Nardo Da Cione’s in the National Gallery Washington), but it was one of the more popular formats and many of the paintings you will see in galleries come from polypytchs like this one.

Guess the painting round 1

July 19, 2011

Note: Don’t try and look at the name of the jpeg.


July 13, 2011

I was thinking of starting an “identify the painting” or “identify the artist contest on a semi-regular basis. Would any of the few readers of this blog enjoy such a thing?