By Joseph Archer Crowe, Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle

Swinging among the majesty of the Greco-Byzantine background and the modernity forecasted by way of Giotto, Early Italians paintings summarise the 1st steps that bring about the Renaissance.             Trying out new mediums, these first artists bit by bit left frescoes for detachable panels. If hieratic faces can offend our neophyte eyes, this detachment used to be asked at the moment. It highlighted the divinity of the nature, comforting the sacrality by means of a heritage lined with gold leaves. The beauty of the road and the color selection mixed to enhance the symbolic offerings, half-confessed final target of the Early Italians artists: make the Invisible… visible.            the writer, within the excellent e-book, takes up with emphasizing the significance that the competition among the Siennese and Florentine shools performed, for the evolution of paintings heritage. And the reader, during those forgotten masterworks, will detect how, bit by bit, the sacred turned incarnate and extra human… commencing a discrete yet definitive door in the course of the anthropomorphism, loved through the Renaissance.

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Augustin, in the latter half of the fourth century, tells us that “Abraham offering up his son Isaac” was then a common subject, typical, of course, of the sacrifice of the Son of God; “Moses striking the rock,” the Gospel or the water of life; the vine or grapes expressed the sacrament of the Eucharist; Jonah swallowed by the whale and then disgorged signified death and resurrection; Daniel in the lions’ den signified redemption. This system of corresponding subjects, of type and anti-type, was later, as we shall see, taken much further.

The arched lines of the brow are but the continuation of a long curved lid extending towards the temple far beyond the outer corner of the eye. The canthus, instead of forming a loop as in nature, is drawn at a drooping angle. The iris is an ellipse, and conveys an unnatural expression of ecstasy. The mouth is indicated by dark strokes, with two black points at the corners. Outlines, red in light, black in shadow, bound the form, which is mapped out in flat tones of enamelled surface with little effort of blending.

The state of the picture and the fashion of the signature both reveal a series of manipulations which excites suspicion. The date is too early for the painting and it exhibits a curious variety of handling in several of its parts. The subject is the Virgin Mary, sized larger than life and seated on a cushion in an armchair decorated with mosaic patterns. Her head is wrapped in a white cloth which drapes onto the shoulders; a high-waisted red tunic is partly seen beneath a large blue cloak, and both are shot with gold.

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