History of ART II
1. The Marriage of the Virgin
c. In order to obtain a better understanding of this work, the artist, and the time period in which it was developed, it would be helpful to look at useful comparisons of both the work of this artist and other influential work that may have served as an inspiration to this particular piece. Raphael a very well known Renaissance painter was an artist who was able to combine the qualities of both Leonardo and Michelangelo to create art that had drama, richness, and an almost sculptural quality. In comparison to a piece created in 1507 named La Belle Jardiniere, The Marriage of the Virgin an earlier work has some remarkable similarities both literally and figuratively. The figures in both of his interpretations are executed in a similar manner. All of the characters are in their own unique poses. All of the figures seem to be painted in the same technique, solid having a distinct mass, and painted in such a way that resembles a sculpture. In addition to this Raphael has used a technique in both known as sfumato or smoke, which creates an almost atmospheric haze to the entire composition. The more significant similarity in my opinion is his use of a triangular or pyramid like focus in the three main characters in La Belle Jardiniere, and between the church, Mary and Joseph in The Marriage of the Virgin. With this particular idea in mind I would like to discuss another work by Pietro Perugino, The Delivery of the Keys. This particular work done in 1482 is so strikingly similar to The Marriage of the Virgin that in opinion there is no doubt that it was a key influence for Raphael in the development of this piece. This triangular focal device was adopted and used in nearly the exact same way as Perugino used it. In both works there are two forces one on the left, and one on the right, which are coming together to form a union with the church in the far background as the visual intersecting element between the two. Both have the same symmetrical design where the church symbolically represents the link between the two forces that must come together, only through this structure which in essence is God is it possible for this to occur. Aesthetically the figures in The Delivery of the Keys are done in a similar way that Raphael handled his own characters, very statuesque and solid in appearance. Another important area to compare is the church itself. While Perugino s is a prime example of the ideal church in Alberti s treatise Raphael s has a similar dome shaped structure but it lacks the pair of arches in Perugino s work. In fact this dissimilar characteristic pertaining to the style of Raphael s church allows me to see a very overwhelming resemblance to Donato Brumante s Tempietto in Rome. I believe that this architectural design had a tremendous impact on Raphael and the painting of the church in The Marriage of the Virgin. The tempietto which marks the site of St. Peter s crucifixion, can clearly be seen as a strong influence to Raphael. In fact, it is almost a direct translation in his painting, the overall cylindrical shape of the structure, the dome shaped roof, the mathematical placement of the pillars that surround and give support to the structure as well as the ascending stairs that go completely around the building inviting those from all directions to enter.
2. To put the The Marriage of the Virgin in the context of Renaissance culture, values, and art criticism I believe it is necessary to look towards some of the important individuals of this time period. If we first look at the work in light of Alberti and his opinions of art, I believe it can be assumed that he would be in favor of this piece. The human figures in the work all vary in their poses facial characteristics and in dress. Alberti said, In every istoria variety is always pleasant, a painting in which there are bodies in many dissimilar poses is always especially pleasing. The dramatic one-point perspective that creates the focal point can be found in his treatise in relationship to circumscription a mathematical formula devised to illustrate the influence of perspective in correlation to the objects it relates to. His use of a symmetrical composition emphasizes the importance of the subject, and finally Raphael s keen eye for light would most certainly be praised in Alberti s scrutiny in that, he achieves great success under Albertis rules for the reception of light. In terms of its moral characteristics we must look towards both Fra Antonino and Fra Savanarola. In this work there seems to me and perhaps to both Fra Antonino and Fra Savanarola, a blatant inaccuracy to the way the Virgin Mary is portrayed in relationship to her true character as proposed in the word of God. In Raphael s interpretation the Virgin as well as Joseph are dressed in extremely affluent garb. Fra Antonino said Nor are they praised who paint apocryphal tales, such as midwives in the Nativity, or the Virgin s girdle thrown down to Thomas the apostle during her Assumption because of his doubt and the like In my opinion this statement explains how a painter is not a worthy man if he does not illustrate the truth especially in religious stories. Fra Antonino goes on to say To paint curiosities in stories of saints or in churches, which have no value in stimulating devotion, but laughter and vanity, such as monkeys, or dogs chasing hares or the like Another significant comment made by Fra Savonarola on the topic of painting inaccurate portrayals specifically of the Virgin is Do you believe the Virgin Mary went dressed this way, as you paint her? I tell you she went dressed as a poor woman, simply, and so covered that her face could hardly be seen, and likewise Saint Elizabeth went dressed simply. You would do well to cancel these figures that are painted so unchastely. You make the Virgin Mary seem dressed like a whore This bold comment leads me to believe that Fra Savonarola may be displeased by the way Raphael s Virgin is dressed. While She is dressed modestly in concern to showing nudity, she is still not cover as Savonarloa explained and more importantly she looks far from the poor woman that she was. Now Raphael s intention was most likely to show the richness of her character by paining her in garments that were as well very expensive in fabric and in construction. However I tend to agree with both Savonarola and with Antonino that perhaps this is an inaccurate portrayal of the true Virgin Mary.