Female Head (La Scapigliata), c.1508 Art Print
Leonardo da Vinci Posters & Prints
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DÜRER, SON OF a goldsmith of Hungarian descent, was born at Nuremberg in 1471. After a short apprenticeship in the goldsmith's trade he began his studies of art. Dürer worked in Basle, possibly in Strassburg, and later in Venice. Returning to Nuremberg he married; and with the growing burdens of a family applied himself industriously to the making of those engravings for which he is renowned. Of the wide European recognition that Dürer received in his lifetime, of that very special recognition by artists of the achievements of a brother in the arts which frequently characterized the Renaissance, there is no sweeter example than the reception tendered Dürer in Antwerp, as he has himself written of it.
"All their service was of silver, and they had other splendid ornaments and very costly meats. And as I was being led to the table the company stood on both sides as if they were leading some great lord. And there were among them men of very high position, who all treated me with respectful bows, and promised to do everything in their power agreeable to me that they knew of. . . . So when we had spent a long and merry time together till late at night, they accompanied us home with lanterns in great honour."
Dürer died suddenly in 1528 in his native city, deeply mourned by all who had come to know him.
FOR Moroni and a few others, we of today might not so fully appreciate the dignity and the substantial position of that middle class of the Renaissance which through its skill in the arts and crafts contributed to much to the accomplishment of what the nobles, patronizing them, are celebrated for. The tailor of that period of splendid costume is perhaps to be ranked with the craftsman artists of the Renaissance.
The craft guild movement of the middle ages was the prototype, though not the progenitor, of the craft unions of today. It was the expression of the natural interest of the skilled workers of each of the various crafts in establishing such standards of workmanship and compensation as were consistent with the importance and dignity of their crafts. In the northern European countries the rapid development of crafts into industries led to the formation of associations headed by such syndics as are the subject of Rembrandt's painting of that name; and, with the expansion of commerce, to such modern trade associations as, beyond the exploitation of the craftsman, are not concerned with him.
The slowness of Italy's industrial progress permitted the guilds to retain for a long period their true character; and their membership to continue in the enjoyment of their individual prerogatives and pride.
IT IS significant of no more than the vast number of Madonnas painted by the Italian masters of the Renaissance that an obscure detail of this "Madonna and Child" by Andrea Del Sarto has given the picture its name. Curious, but of no particular interest in the composition, are the little winged female figures of the harpies. They may suggest, if we incline to seek such meanings, the contrast between good and evil.
Choosing, with questionable wisdom, Andrea Del Sarto as a symbol of the artist in his attitude to life and work, Browning has made him say:
I am grown peaceful as old age tonight.
I regret little, I would change still less.
Since there my past life lies, why alter it? . . .
This must suffice me here. What would one have?
In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance--
Four great walls in the New Jerusalem,
Meted on each side by the angel's reed,
For Leonard, Rafael, Agnolo, and me
To cover,--the three first without a wife,
While I have mine! . . .
LOOKING at this picture, we should all be harboring the same feeling--regret. This must have been an excellent painting. Now we can't see a significant vestige of the original. So let's not imagine that it was the greatest of all "Last Suppers." Leonardo did this in oils on an enormous surface, a terrible technical mistake. It was falling to pieces in his own lifetime. A truly great painter of the Renaissance would probably have been a painstaking craftsman.
This Painting, perhaps the world's most famous portrait, has generated more nonsense than any other art-work in history. Thousands upon thousands of lines have been written about it; ecstasies have reached heavenly levels; men have seen in the subject's eyes all of the world that has been and all of the world that is to be. This may be delightful fantasy, enjoyable daydreaming, even good writing--but as criticism it is dense and a sickening pretense.
"Mona Lisa" is an unfinished portrait executed in a manner that was common to many painters of the Italian Renaissance. The picture, in terms of painting itself, is confused in its treatment; it gives the impression of a work whose elaboration was too far extended. The subject is not without psychological interest. The treatment of the mouth, upturned at the ends, makes the subject seem quizzical and curious. Legend has it that Leonardo had musicians present at all times to sustain the peculiar mood of his subject.