In the last section on Mannerism we finished by looking at El Greco, and the re-rising of the Catholic church in art as it became ‘purer’ by removing factions which did not agree. Having defeated the Turks in the early 1570s, the Catholics felt that God was on their side.
View of Toledo, El Greco
In Spain, El Greco found an artistic and spiritual home. Toledo remained the religious seat in Spain, though the political centre had moved to Madrid, so that now there was a greater scope of artistic patronage.
One of the ways the Catholic church renewed itself was by having the Council of Trent. There, discussions on the nature of art were part of greater discussions. One of the things called for in ar was a clarity, or a return to the real, which people could relate to.
In this painting, from the 1580s, Carracci is painting on a large scale, normally reserved for religious images. However, here he is using the large scale to represent a real situation. They have returned to painting from life, a naturalism, away from the twisted courtly paintings of the Mannerist period.
Along with his brother, cousin and other artists in Bologna, Carracci set up a group of artist known as the Incamminati which went to paint from the real. He was then however called to Rome.
Domine, Quo Vadis?, Annibale Carracci
Here, Carracci has adopted a more classicising Baroque style, away from the realism of his previous paintings. However, it is still more natural than the Mannerist style. Also, there is drama, as ideas are passed on not by signs or symbols, but by expression; The drama of Peter’s encounter and Christ’s pointing is very much dramatic, and the body is very much idealised.
The Dead Christ Mourned (The Three Maries), Annibale Carracci
In this painting, you don’t need iconography to explain what the events are; the body language is enough to explain. This was a way of involving the audience and pulling the people back into the church.
Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Rome), Annabile Carracci
Look at the drama of the figures. Very obviously a 17th century painting.
Carracci and Caravaggio
Carracci’s painting here has a number of comparisons to early Caravaggio. They seem to call fro an appeal to our senses. We don’t only think about objects, but also about what the drink tastes like, and how it feels trickling down his throat; you can sense and feel what is occurring. We can see that the painters are drawing us in by making us feel.
Though the dress is very classical, the faces are very much real-like Roman. Caravaggio was using real models from the streets. Looking at these 17th-century paintings we ask who the people were who are being shown here. We never asked who the models were earlier paintings.
The Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio
In this painting, which was painted for a banker, we see a naturalistic representation of the people – they appear real. The dramatic behaviour at the table shows when the people realise who it is that is sitting with them at the table. Jesus is also surprisingly unbearded. This could be a preference of Caravaggio to plump shaven feminine male faces. However it could be intentional as it takes even the viewer some time to realise who it is.
You get the sense that the people are real from the details seen, such as the tufts of hair and torn clothes, rather than the idealised figures.
The lighting is very important – chiaroscuro, or strong contrast of light and shadow. Strong shadows create a sense of depth, while light directs our attention to where the artist wants us.
Though there are some iconographical details, such as the pomegranate which was used to represent resurrection, we’re also looking at a form of reality effect rather than necessarily iconography. We are drawn in, so we are more likely to react to it.
Crucifixion of Peter & the Conversion of Saul, Caravaggio
Unlike the previous painting which was commissioned by a painter, these were public paintings fr the Church of St Maria del Popolo. These two are in situ with the Ascension of Carracci (above). Compare the idealised figures in Carracci and the realism and naturalism in Caravaggio. Observe the crucifier’s black feet, and the dramatic way Saul falls.
Often, these were too much for the patrons, too removed from the idealised versions that boundaries taste were overstepped.
Caravaggio’s style changed at around 1606. He committed a murder and had to go on the run. At this point his dramaticism seemed to have been pared down (Compare the Supper at Emmaus above with the one painted in 1606).
The executioner is presenting Salome with what she had asked for (or really what her mum wanted). One gets the sense that she is quite horrified. We don’t know who the old woman is. We however notice that the light has become even more dramatic.
David and Goliath, Caravaggio
Goliath is in fact a self-portrait of Caravaggio. However we note that David’s face is not revolted as he normally appears in previous paintings.
Caravaggio often serves as a benchmark for other 17th century paintings. We constantly ask: did he know Caravaggio, how did the two relate? and other similar questions.
In Italy there are many who continue this dramatic style.
Look at the drama, the heads rolling. We see a lot of visceral and gruesome paintings, allowing for a lot of dramatics. Brushwork also gives movement.