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Ognissanti Madonna (Madonna and Child Enthroned) – Juliana Harn

18 Apr

Juliana 1

Artist: Giotto di Bondone

Medium: Tempera on wood

Location: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Date: 1310

Dimensions: 325 x 204 cm

Giotto di Bondone  (better known as just “Giotto”) was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the 14th century. He is considered one of the first of many great artists who helped contribute to the Italian Renaissance. Giovanni Villani (a contemporary of Giotto) wrote that he was “the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the commune [of Florence] in virtue of his talent and excellence.”

Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna is especially famous because it is the only panel painting he created during his lifetime. Despite the fact that it is not officially documented as his, art scholars and leading historians have universally acknowledged the painting as his. It was commissioned by the church of the Ognissanti in Florence, which was built by a very small religious order known as the Humiliati. However, scholars are not sure if it was made for the main altar of the church (where it would have been viewed primarily by the brothers of the order) or for the choir screen (where it would have been more easily seen by an audience of parishioners).

By painting the Madonna with baby Jesus on her lap, Giotto stayed with a very religious and traditionally subject and style. Like many other panels of this time, saints and angels surround the Madonna at her feet. This particular representation of the Virgin is called a Maestà (which was very popular with both artists and churches). Giotto’s was different from his contemporaries, in that he did not paint in the style of other Byzantine artists. As popular biographer Giorgio Vasari said of him in the 16th century, “He made a decisive break with the…Byzantine style, and brought to life the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years.”

Giotto’s figures are more reminiscent of three-dimensional sculptures, like those seen in classical Roman art. The Madonna’s throne is very intricately decorated, and Giotto used a very specific colored marble to decorate the surface. The use of marble like this was a style that ended in the early Christian time period, which tells us that Giotto was knowledgeable of art of that time period as well.

Additionally, there were a number of specific artists whose styles heavily influenced the Ognissanti Madonna. The influence of Cimabue (who is traditionally acknowledged as Giotto’s teacher), is shown in the symmetrical composition of the panel. Cimabue portrayed the same subject in his 1280 Virgin and Child Enthroned, and both pieces share aspects of the Italo-Byzantine style, although Cimabue’s had fit more with the Byzantine style. Also, the two angels’ wings in Giotto and Cimabue’s pieces clearly resemble each other. Giotto learned from his teacher the importance of, and the concern for, volume and forms in space, as Ognissanti Madonna (and many of his other works) clearly shows.


Adoration of the Magi Medici – Kelcee Headlee

18 Apr



Artist: Botticelli

Medium: Tempera on panel

Date: c. 1475

Location: Uffizi Gallery: Florence

Dimensions: 111 X 134 cm

The Medici family was the equivalent to the Sopranos during the time of the Renaissance.  They had control over a large amount of money, played a role in government and commissioned many artists. With their wealth being so great, they could have any color paint imaginable because the Medici wanted the best they could get and have quality products and things that would last eternity. One of the artists that they would commission would be Sandro Botticelli. This picture now being held in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence was originally used in dedication of the Medici dynasty. To many people’s surprise Botticelli was not the actual last name of the artist. His last name was Filipepi. He was given the name Botticelli after his father who was a craftsman ad created barrels. With his father’s occupation, he would be called Botticelli, meaning little barrel or bottle.

Botticelli’s works were something that the Medici family became fond of, and he respected them. When he was asked to be apart of making something in dedication of them, he was happy to do so. In the portrait of the birth of Christ, three members of the Medici family were incorporated into the work of art along with a self portrait of Botticelli being one of the witnesses of Christ’s birth.   The three Medici family members were Cosimo, the head of the family, Piero and Giovanni- Cosimo’s sons. While looking at this picture, it is easy to pick out the Medici family. They are well dressed in more modern clothing for the time. Not only are they a part of this portrait, they hold high positions, well Cosimo does. Cosimo Medici was said to be one of the most powerful men of his time. He not only controlled his family, but a good portion of the economic well being of Italy. They could be considered more important than government at one point throughout their “reign”. With Cosimo having people eat out of the palm of his hand, he could do literally whatever he wanted and could walk on whoever he wanted to get to where he needed to go.  With all that being said, since he had the most power, in the artifact he is able to have one of the most esteemed position, holding and kissing the feet of Christ as an infant.

This picture is not so much based off of what Jesus’ life is all about, this photo is just an example of who the general public and artists had respect for and almost praised as a god. In this instance, the Medici were respected. Since they were so well known and lived the life of the rich and famous, they were able to have a picture with Christ, almost making themselves out to be worthy of being in the presence of God (which is not true in anyone’s case).  From this picture you can get a glimpse of what the Italian people thought was important. It was not that God was not important, they just found wealth would provide for them more and put them on top in the end.


Holy Family – Justin Fink

18 Apr


Artist: Luca Signorelli

Medium: oil on wood

Date: Began in 1490 Ended in 1495

Location: Uffizi Gallery: Florence

Dimensions: 80.6 X 64.8 cm

Just like many artists, Luca Signorelli’s birth would be undocumented but estimated. He was born and lived most of his life in Cortona, Tuscany.  He was thought to be born between the years of 1441 and 1445. In 1522, he would die and be buried where he had lived a majority of his life.  Signorelli was an Italian Renaissance painter. Through his paintings the viewers were able to decipher which artists he had studied and was trying to take after in their art. A prime example of who he was trying to mimic would be Botticelli.  Throughout his life, he would create many sacred and mythadical paintings. His sacred portraits were not just based off the life of Jesus like the photo of the Holy Family is. He has also created ideas of what the disciples looked like such as Thomas and St. Paul.   With the idea of “sacred” paintings, Signorelli would go on to create a series of eight frescoes that would tell the life story of St. Benedict.

With being apart of the era of Italian Renaissance, he practiced the technique of chiaroscuro. Due to that trend of painting, his portraits usually came out darker and dim.  The Holy Family, I believe would be an exception to this rule.  There are many bright colors and a use of light so that all of the facial expressions can be seen in the picture.

With it being the time of the Renaissance when this painting was created, the idea of human potential became something more than just the way people lived at the current time.  They were on a search for many attributes that would distinguish themselves among the rest of the people. The idea was that a person had unlimited potential, they could be anything. In art and in their ways of life, they longed for balance and order and searched for that in their government and through art.

With this idea of being able to find the ultimate human potential, balance and order, this painting suggests that we can find all three things in Christ and the Holy Trinity.  Jesus was able to show the real potential of humans. He was God in the flesh. He did no wrong and still was the perfect example of how people should live their lives simply because He was and is perfect.  We are able to find our balance and order in the Lord because He is the one who is able to give us peace. This picture is both calming and reassuring. Jesus is the focal point in this picture because He is in the center between Mary and Joseph. If we keep Jesus as our focal point, we will be able to find rest like His parents did. They hoped in the Lord and they were blessed. We need to come to the realization that if we hope in the Lord and put Jesus as our center, we too have unlimited human potential. We can live in eternity with no pain or suffering, but with balance and order.*/key-facts

Incarnation From The Book of Kells – Shaila Costanza

17 Apr



Date: c. 800

Artist: Celtic Monks

Location: Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Medium: Manuscript painting on vellum

Dimensions: 13 x 9 1/2 cm


The Book of Kells, or sometimes known as the Book of Columbia, is an illuminated manuscript containing the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The book was created by Celtic monks and uses only Latin. This was amongst one of the few manuscripts produced during the sixth through ninth centuries, including the Book of Durrow, the Durham Gospels, the Echternach Gospels, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Lichfield Gospels. The group of manuscripts was commonly created in Ireland, Scotland, and northern England monasteries. There has been much debate and many theories regarding the precise date and location of the production of the Book of Kells. There is, however, a common accepted theory that it was created in Iona, Scotland, up until 805 AD. when the Vikings invaded the island. Before the manuscript was completed, it was brought to Kells, Ireland. This was said to a safe haven for the Vikings. The manuscript was eventually finished at the Abbey of Kells around the eleventh century where it was dubbed the Book of Kells. It remained in the city until 1654 when the governor sent the manuscript to Dublin for safekeeping. In 1661, Henry Jones presented the Book of Kells to Trinity College, and has been on display there ever since in the public library.

In the Book of Kells, the four gospels are depicted, up until John 17:13. It can be assumed that the rest of the book, along with other prefatory material, was lost when the book was stolen and vandalized. Along with the gospels, there are other prefatory additions. These include Breves Causae (Gospel summaries), the Eusubain Canon Tables (cross reference sections and indices), and the Argumenta (short bios for the Evangelists) of the gospels. The book is said to be very disorganized in the way it is almost impossible to find the referenced material since there are no chapter numbers. The gospels are comprised based on the Vulgate, which is the Latin version of the Bible, created in the fourth century AD. There were also passages that were drawn from the Vetus Latina, which is an earlier version of the Bible. The book consists of 340 vellum folios, which are part of a larger sheet, called bifolios, when folded in half form two folios. Since 1953, the book has been bound in four volumes. It was designed that the manuscript would have a full folio for each gospel. Because the opening few words of each gospel were so extravagantly illustrated, the actual text became incomprehensible. The rest of the pages were filled with human figures, animals, and mythical beasts, alongside Celtic knots.

In this particular page, it devoted to the three words Christi autem generatio, which means “the birth of Christ”. Most of the page is taken up by the first three letters of Christi (XPI). There is a human head that forms the top of the “P” and also dots the “I”. At the lower left side of the “X” there is a small vignette showing cats watching mice fight over a round wafer. This may have symbolic intent since the wafer is similar to those given during mass at communion. There are many different vignettes and symbols throughout the whole book, yet some of the original meanings are lost to us today.


Chris Orr (2001)

Wikipedia, Book of Kells

Wilkin, D., Schultz, B., & Linduff  K. (2001). Art Part, Art Present. Fourth Edition.