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Introduction to the Visual Arts

Throughout history art has played an intricate role in society’s perception of life. Art is used as form of expressionism be it physical or emotional, religious or the mockery of religion. The birth of new artistic eras were due to the technological advancements of the world. Below are a few examples of works of art that from different era in our humanity. Francisco de Stefano’s, named Pesellino during the renaissance, A Miracle of Saint Silvester is a scene representative of an episode of Saint Silvester’s life who was pope during the reign of Constantine the Great.

Originally this work forms the lower portion of an altarpiece. The scene may be recognized as showing the miracle by which the Pope Saint Silvester convinced Helen, the mother of the emperor Constantine, that her son’s conversion to Christianity was justifiable. Saint Silvester is shown bringing back to life a bull that had been killed by a Jewish Doctor, who had argued for his faith. Witnessing this godly act all present at this scene were converted to Christianity. Helen is seen enthroned under the right hand loggia, the Emperor under the left hand, while the Jewish pagans witness the miracle.

Pesellino uses rich colors that entice the spectators’ attention, which was common during the Renaissance. The use of orange, blue, and gold allows the artist to draw the spectators attention to what he feels is imperative within the work. Pesellino composes with an extremely finished style which is apparent with the detail used in the facial features as well as the gold trim that is which is shown on all present within the work. This style of painting opened the door for many artists who followed. Andrea Del Sarto’s Saint John the Baptist only one of few paintings in America composed by Del Sarto.

He composed this work of the patron saint of Florence at the height of his artistic career. The harmonious balance composition, delicate modeling, and glowing tonalities are hallmarks of his artistic style. The graceful design and blending of rich colors reflect the idealized style of the High Renaissance. He also uses Christian and classical traditions such as the portrayal of a coarse hair shirt, pointing hand, and reed cross are representative of Jesus Christ. The use of light on the right arm and pointing hand draws the spectator to focus attention to the cross symbolizing Christ.

The use of analogous colors, red and green gives the spectator a genuine portrayal of human skin and stimulates our eyes. The use of golden halo and ivy reef alludes to Bacchus, who was considered a pagan antetype of both Christ and the Baptist during the Renaissance. The late Roman Hunting Scene is mosaic that was escavated from Antioch in three pieces of pavement. The sheer size of this work is breath taking, 20 ft. 6. 25 inches X 23 ft. 9. 75 inches. The mosaic depicts the hunting of dangerous game, an aristocratic pastime which is represented throughout Roman work.

At first glance from a distance one may mistake the pavement to be a carpet. At the center position is a hunter surrounded by animals in a pattern that doesn’t clutter the mosaic. The animals are portrayed more naturalistic than the humans and were used to fill the voids in the mosaic. The tiles are arranged in an arching motion, which gives the illusion of movement to the spectator. Hunters on foot and horseback attack a variety of animals that are highly placed with in the animal kingdom. There is a sense of grotesqueness due to the portrayal of blood with in the mosaic.

The hunters seem to consider their conquests as sporty due to their facial expressions. The hunters dress in a Hellenistic style. Mosaics were produced by workshops consisting of mastercraftsmen and apprentices. Mosaicists painted or scored the basic designs ad figures into the wet surface. Tesserae were then laid onto a thin bed of sort mortar. Once the entire floor was finished, the surface was polished with an abrasive stone and fine sand. An excellent piece of architecture is the Chapter House from west central France.

It served the purpose of prayer, study, and reflection. The gothic style of the arches, which support the ceiling, is apparent through the pointed rise among them. The use of the arch, a Roman quality, and presence of a vaulted ceiling also reveals many common French and Spanish architectural qualities. The ceiling is divided into six compartments with the vaults springing from piers in the corners of the room. The two columns support provides for the base of the Chapter House. The stain glass windows provide for illuminating sunlight and a refuge from the summer heat.

The fireplace was created for the simple fact that the religious community would gather daily to discuss business and current affairs. In conclusion, each time period provided it’s own form of expressionism be it in paintings, sculpture, mosaics, or architecture. Medieval, Classical, and Renaissance art contain similar qualities but meet spectators’ different needs. They touch their viewers in different ways as shown above. Each work of art remains true to the values that are present within society but each has a unique twist which entices the spectator. Perhaps art is the best record keeper of the world’s history.

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