Man has been creating art for over 30,000 years. There are cave drawings, sculptures, Egyptian art, Greek Art, Modern Art and plenty more but to many, the Renaissance Art period is considered to be most important. Never had so many geniuses in art lived at one time and never had so many pieces of cherished art been produced. Two examples of Renaissance paintings are Cigoli?s Adoration of the Shepherds and Moretto da Brescia?s Entombment. Both paintings posses the attributes that were popular during the Renaissance period which I will now contrast and compare.
Both paintings focus on the life of Jesus, but at different times in his life. The Adoration of the Shepherds shows us Christ soon after being born. Cigoli chose to depict when the shepherds arrived to give praise to Christ after following the star of Bethelham. Moretto decided to pick a time much later in the bible when Christ was about to be buried after being taken down from the cross and brought to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. Both paintings tell their respective stories more clearly by visualizing as much as possible. In Entombment for example, Cigoli displayed Joseph and Nicodemus holding a crown of thorns and nails in order to help us understand that this scene takes place directly after they took Christ down from the cross. In the Adoration of the Shepherds, Cigoli probably painted the star above so people would assume it is the star of Bethelham which the shepherds followed to see Christ which is what the scene is about. This style is very appropriate for the time because organizations like the Council of Trent wanted people to understand the subject of the paintings without having to think much about it.
Both artists composed the figures in different styles. Adoration of the Shepherds is a baroque moment while Entombment is a static composition. In the Adoration of the Shepherds, Mary seems to have just unveiled Jesus and people can be seen still filing into the manger and some of the shepherds struggle to get a glimpse. You can feel that it is the beginning of a long night. People are not positioned just for this picture. They are all in action. In Entombment, all the figures are posed around Christ and are not in any action except for Mary who has to hold Christ. The characters seem to display themselves in positions specifically for us to see. Cigoli?s baroque style adds a greater sense of celebration and commotion by having movement throughout the large picture. Moretto?s painting benefits from static composition because it adds to the stillness of the background. In the background everything seems motionless, including the tree and the sky. The stillness of the foreground characters help magnify the effect and make it seem like time had stood still for a moment to help commemorate the event.
In both paintings, the artists use people to help create the mood of the scene. In Moretto?s Entombment, Moretto depicted each figure with his or her own unique emotion. Saint John the Evangelist (lower left) looks towards Christ with a gaping mouth as if he still can?t believe this is happening. He also holds Christ?s arm like he wants to help in some way but he knows that he can not. Nicodemus (upper left) definitely looks the least emotional of the group but that may be because his beard hides some emotion. Moretto angled Nicodemus?s body toward Christ as if he was trying to help, but restrained himself . Nicodemus also clenches the crown of thorns towards his chest shows in order to show the viewer his grief. Mary (above Christ) looks saddened but also in deep thought. Her eyes wander off into the sky looking at something that we can not see. I think Moretto did this in order to hint to us that Mary foresaw this event and knew that it was part of a greater picture. Joseph of Arimathaea (upper right) has his body turned away slightly, causing him to twist his neck giving us the impression that the event is too terrible for him to look at. Then we have Mary Magdeline (bottom right) who I feel Moretto has done an incredible job with. Mary Magdeline looks out to the viewer with a look of sorrow and disgust as if she is saying to us, ?Why are you just standing there after all he did for you? Help him!? Finally we have the body of Christ which gives us a sense of emptiness. The limp body makes us feel that the spirit has left the body and only the shell remains. In the Adoration of the Shepherds, Cigoli does not use the wide range of facial emotions that Moretto executed. Mary is depicted with a large smile to show how proud she is to be the mother of Jesus. Mary Magdeline who stands to the left of Mary looks on in quiet awe just like the two shepherds who stand on the right. The shepherds who have just come in have look curious and try to catch a glimpse of Christ. Above Christ is an opening in the sky where five angels can be seen along with the star of Bethelham. All the angels look overjoyed with the event. Finally we have Christ who is painted fast asleep as if everyone in the world is at piece. I think Cigoli?s excellent understanding of anatomy helped him to show more emotion through people than Moretto who I feel shows the emotion of his painting through the color and lighting.
Christ in both paintings is very similar to one another. In both paintings, Christ is the is the point of view and is surrounded at all sides by people. What I found most interesting though is that Christ acts as an arrow in both pictures. In the Adoration of the Shepherds, Christ is angled so our eyes follow an imaginary line from him to the torch the man holds in the doorway. In Entombment, Christ?s body is leaned to the side and his arms are held out making Christ look like a giant arrow which points to the three crosses alone on the top of the hill where the crucifixion took place. With the exception of the crosses, there is nothing else on the hill. Both artists chose to do this for different reasons. I think Cigoli chose to do that in order to add balance to the picture. When looking at the painting the viewers eyes get caught first by the large light source on top and then the viewer works his way down to the light on Jesus and from here the ?arrow? Christ works because he points to the third light source adding total balance of the light. Even though the picture is asymmetrical, it still has balance and harmony because of this. For Entombment, I think Moretto kept the hill bare with a barron, dismal backround of greys in order to show the loneliness and pain of being crucified. To see Christs body and to know he was up there on one of those crosses alone makes you feel more pity for him. But Christ?s body may also be pointing to the light that is fading over the hill which may be Christ after he left his body since he was known as the bringer of light.
Both paintings also feature the Virgin Mary. For Adoration of the Shepherds, Cigoli painted Mary in the traditional sense by giving her a young beautiful face and body. In Entombment, Mary is shown unusually older. There are wrinkles are visible on her face and that shows to us that she must endure the same displeasure of the world. Now both pictures are far apart in the life of Jesus so Mary would of course look older in the Entombment picture but artists of this time had created Pieta scenes that depicted Mary still as a young woman.
Morretto and Cigoli each worked with the brush carefully in different ways to create their masterpieces. Cigoli blends his colors until one can not see where one color ends and the other color begins. By doing this, the light source above becomes much more realistic because it falls realistically on the bodies of the figures. Moretto on the other hand to not take blending as seriously and on some of the garments, the paint is laid on rather thick. Moretto did care more about to detail than Cigoli though. His love of detail is evident in the lavish garments that Joseph and Nicodemus wear. Patterns can even be seen faintly in Saint John as well and Mary Magdeline?s outfit looks so realistic with all the folds in the drapery. The cave and the hill are also depicted clearly and to the point. Cigoli seems to suggest rather than explain fully when it comes to detail. There is no texture on the garments that they wear and there is no backround. The only part we can see detail is the still around Jesus. But even the basket and the hay are not drawn with much detail, he just draws a line or two in order to suggest.
Both paintings benefit from their unique color schemes. In Cigoli?s painting, the bright magenta, green and gold colors help the viewer understand that this is a joyous event. In Entombment, the viewer knows that it is a sad moment because of the darkness of the picture. Grey seems to be blended with every color. What I found most amazing was his decision to make Jesus completely gray, compared to the other figures in the painting who have flesh colored skins. I think this works so well to help express that Christ has left his mortal body and moved on to heaven.
Both artists also use a different sense of reality. In Adoration of the Shepherds, Cigoli used Angels which made the paining more light hearted. The problem with the angels is that some people who do not believe in angels will just dismiss the whole scene as imaginary. In Entombment, Moretto painted with the idea in mind that everything must be realistic so that the viewer will believe that this event actually happened.
Both artists also displayed messages in their paintings. The angels in Adoration of the Shepherds and hold a banner that says ?Gloria In Excelsis Deo.? The slab of the tomb in Entombment reads (in the English translation) ?Philippians 2.8 (He? became obedient even unto death.)? I would think these messages were added so the messages of the paintings would even be clearer.
In conclusion, both artists successfully expressed the message that they were trying to send but through different stylistic elements. Moretto gave us a sense of guilt towards what happened to Christ and it makes you feel like you should be in church right now. For Adoration of the Shepherds, Cigoli was able to show us a light hearted celebration and a new beginning through the colors and commotion of the people. These paintings help show us that there is more to painting a masterpiece than just having idea. Many elements must be considered to express true feelings.