One-Minute Book Reviews

July 24, 2008

Why You See a Hint of Columns in the ‘Mona Lisa’ — Answers to Tuesday’s Art Quiz

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:41 pm
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How well did you do on Tuesday’s pop quiz inspired by Patrick De Rynck’s How to Read a Painting? Here are the answers from the book:

1. Why do you see a hint of columns on the far right and left in the Mona Lisa?
They create “the impression that she is sitting in an open loggia.”
2. Where in The Last Supper do you find Judas knocking over the salt?
John sits at the right hand of Christ (in the center of the picture), and Peter leans toward him, shoving Judas aside. Judas “clasps the purse containing the silver coins he received from the authorities and knocks over the salt.”
3. Why does the man stand next to the window and the woman away from it in Giovanni Arnofini and His Wife?
The wife’s position “associates her with the ‘inside world’ of the home.”

How to Read a Painting: Lessons From the Old Masters (Abrams, 2004) is an excellent collection of analyses of more than 100 great paintings, each shown on a two-page spread with callouts that highlight some of its interesting aspects. Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife, shown here, hangs the National Gallery in London under the title The Arnolfini Portrait.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

November 5, 2007

A Closer Look at a Florentine Treasure, Ghiberti’s Glorious Baptistery Doors — In a New Book and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Filed under: Art,Coffee Table Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:43 pm
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A great exhibit comes with a handsome companion volume

By Janice Harayda

On, joy and rapture unforeseen! On Saturday I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the new show of bronze reliefs from the doors for the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence, created by Lorenzo Ghiberti over a 27-year period in the mid-15th century. And when I’m counting my cultural blessings for the year, I can stop right there with a profit.

The exhibit displays only 3 of the 10 bronze reliefs from the doors that depict Old Testament scenes, a jewel of the Renaissance. But the show is so rich — in beauty and interpretation — that it might change your view of one or two of the subjects of the reliefs: Adam and Eve, Jacob and Esau, and David and Goliath. Did you remember that David beheaded Goliath after he smote him with his slingshot? You’re unlike to forget it if you view the panel about them. The New York Times‘s critic was right when she said in a recent review that this show almost makes you feel sorry for Goliath.

One of the remarkable aspects of the exhibit is that Ghiberti’s craftsmanship is so precise, you can see the use of high, middle and low relief in the same panel — a technique I haven’t seen shown as clearly anywhere else. You may be able to get a sense of this if you enlarge the book cover at right, which shows a detail from the Adam and Eve panel. At the bottom center you see God (looking like many artistic representations of Jesus) creating Eve from Adam’s rib in middle relief. At the top center you see another image of God — in a hat, looking down on Creation — surrounded by angels in low relief. Another scene in the Adam and Eve panel, which you can’t see, shows God in high relief.

I couldn’t afford the handsome companion volume to the show that the Met was selling, The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Renaissance Masterpiece/High Museum of Art Series (Yale University Press, 184 pp., $45) www.yale.edu/yup/, edited by Gary M. Radke, a professor of humanities at Syracuse University. But this is a book to check out at your local bookstore or an online retailer if your holiday gift list includes a lover of art, architecture, Italy or the Renaissance. Better still, go to the Met www.metmuseum.org and take a look at the book after you’ve seen the show, also called “The Gates of Paradise.” You have until January 13.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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