The studies on Melencolia I which have been written up to now, have focused on the iconography of the engraving. Despite the efforts undertaken by several generations of inves-tigators the results remain full of contradictions. The present article tries to search for melan-choly content in reading the artistic structure of Dürer’s work. The composition of the engrav-ing makes it impossible to build on its basis the coherent iconographical whole. This results from the very nature of melancholy, which is an undecidable state of the human mind. Dürer tried to depict directly melancholic emotion. He also tried to create the allegorical vision of melancholy. However, he failed to relate the two artistic modes of representation because he was unable connect the undecidable aspect of the composition with he allegory, the latter re-quiring clear and precise rendition.
Titian’s renderings of Saint Sebastian, a standing male nude figure, have prompted critical comments typical of response to his art. Praised for their naturalism, the figures seem made not of pant but of flesh; along with such praise, however, went an implicit censure for the lack of artfulness. The most celebrated and copied of these saints is the dynamically posed martyr of the Averoldi polyptych in Brescia. Another type appears among the gathering of saints in the altarpiece Titian painted for San Niccolo ai Frari, now in the Vatican. More mod-est in pose, even retardataire in its somewhat ungainly contrapposto, this figure too enoyed a certain reputation. In 1530 Titian sent a Saint Sebastian as a gift to Frederico Gonzaga, a painting he himself apparently considered a relatively unambitious production. A picture re-cently come to light in New York may be that canvas. In it the Saint Sebastian of the San Niccolo altarpiece has been isolated in an impressively painted landscape – a format anticipat-ing that of the more rhetorically posed Saint John the Baptist that Titian painted for Santa Maria Maggiore.
The article proposes that the landscape in Giovanni Bellini’s St. Francis in Ecstasy in the Frick Collection, New York, shows the Heavenly Jerusalem, a motive which originated in the North, although it is patterned loosely after Assisi. The cave serves to identify the saint with Jerome, so that it acts as the vehicle of salvation well in advance of Bosch and Patinir. While the scene has multiple resonances of meaning, the author further suggests that the likely subject is St. Francis seeking inspiration from the heavens as he is about to compose the Canticle of the Sun at San Damiano.
Giorgione’s Tempesta represents a positive meditation on the theme of unrequited love, inspired chiefly by Jacopo Sannazaro’s Arcadia but also by the songs, sonnets and strambotti of other writers composing in emulation of Petrarch. The foreground reveals a melancholy poet, rejected by his beloved, and Mother Earth, mythic anima of the landscape, who consoles him in a dream. And the landscape itself, alive with multivalent, associative metaphors, expresses the thoughts and emotions stirring in the protagonist – a device essential to Petrarchan lyricism but wholly foreign to the humanistic theory of painting, Ut picture poe-sis, which requires pose, gesture and facial expression for the communication of psychological values. To recognize these lyrical mechanism in Giorgione’s poetics is to explain why his imagery has resisted interpretation and to grasp the true dimensions of his achievement in the Tempesta.
Mario Equicola and Dosso Dossi
If the humanist Mario Equicola delivered the iconographic programme for the paint-ings of the Camerino d’Alabastro of Alfonso I in Ferrara, it seems important to study his ideas in his Instituzioni and Delia natura d’amore. The whole fresco and one major painting in the Camerino was painted by Dosso Dossi, inspired by the academic philosophy of Equicola. The influence of Equicola is evident in the selection of the narrative subjects, as well as in some formal, artistic choices.
This examination of the unusual role of Hell in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment centres on the curious fact that the “Cave of Hell” is placed directly above the altar in the Sistine Chapel while at the same time figures of the damned are also being propelled towards “Hell” proper, which is apparently located offstage to the right.
A possible explanation is related to the depiction in the fresco of Christ as a beardless “Apollonian” type of sun symbol or deity. In Christian Neoplatonism Christ is commonly analogized to the Sun. The discussion of this concept in the writings of the Neoplatonist Mar-silio Ficino is traced back to the ultimate source of Plato himself (Republic 6), where the sun deity analogy is significantly combined with Plato’s most famous metaphor of the Cave (Re-public 7). The conclusion reached in the article is that the “Cave” in the Last Judgment is re-lated, as part of the overall scheme of the fresco, to Plato’s Cave, which it in fact represents.
In his 1564 Adoration of the Kings Bruegel depicts the Old King in what seems a tra-ditional reverential attitude. But the strange and deformed face and the white wild hair throw some doubt on the devotional attitude. A careful examination of the Old King’s rich costume reveals meanings of wickedness and symbols of sin interweaved in the rich brocade design and embroidered in the border of his royal robe. Bruegel follows here Bosch’s system of hid-den symbolism, developing an unusual iconographical language by using a traditional medie-val vocabulary combined with mythological references. Although Bosch’s Epiphany might have been Bruegel’s “source of inspiration”, his own version is transformed. It is not only completely secular, but also much more pessimistic. In Bruegel’s Adoration the Kings form part of the forces of evil, and bow falsely before the Lord.
This article demonstrates that Anthony van Dyck was indeed sensitive to expressive content in his Genoese portraits by explicating the overlooked multi-layered meanings and contextual framework of his celebrated Portrait of Elena Grimaldi, Marchesa Cattaneo (1623, National Gallery of Art). Van Dyck’s mission here was to pay a supreme compliment to a noblewoman; thus his likeness can best be understood in the context of contemporaneous Petrarchan panegyrics, feminist treatises, and country-house poems that – glorify grand ladies. Like the authors of these works, the painter wields conventional rhetorical devices and hyper-bolic vocabulary to heighten his image of womanhood. In this regard, the – Marchesa’s Moor-ish servant, like his counterparts in period literature and in Titian’s Laura Dianti, Van Dyck’s own Henrietta of Lorraine, Mignard’s Duchess of Portsmouth, and Bonnarfs Dame, enhances the lady’s status and serves as a black foil to her patrician whiteness.
This essay argues that the painting’s visual language conveys ironic messages about the relationship of the elite group of medical men to the executed criminal. Other Rembrandt works close in time, as well as inherited schemata, assist an interpretation which seeks to bal-ance the strong emphasis placed by W. S. Heckscher and W. Schupbach on Dr. Tulp’s contri-bution to the iconography. The painting is also interpreted within the context of Reformation themes.
Published here as a Rembrandt for the first time The Sacrifice of Isaac is revealed as a late large-scale work. Previous discussion on the painting had been limited to those who had not seen it, resulting in a good deal of speculation.
The evolution of Rembrandt’s composition is traced through the already known etch-ing of 1655, the roundel in the background of the London Old Man as St. Paul and the drawing at Compiegne. The attribution is supported by overwhelming stylistic and technical evi-dence, relating the painting.