The unusual ways of articulating spatial depth employed by Donatello in the San Lorenzo pulpit reliefs are analyzed in the context of Quattrocento art and in relation to evolving spatial devices in medieval sculpture and painting. A source or relevant context of aesthetic experience for Donatello's spatial innovations is proposed, in fifteenth-century scenographic design. Especially in the south pulpit, the physical arrangement and narrative concept are seen as recreating the typical stage area of a Renaissance Mystery Play: a wide but shallow platform on which chronologically sequential action unfolded from one side to the other, the episodes separated by aedicules in which, or in front of which, the principal scenes were acted. Other scenographic devices and effects, and some elements of dramatic characterization, are also traced to fifteenth-century theater.
In his San Giobbe Altarpiece, Giovanni Bellini created an illusionistic high altar to honor Job, who had in effect been displaced from the actual high altar of the church by St. Bernardino of Siena. At the same time, Bellini's fictive architecture recalls the altar of St. Bernardino in San Marco, endowed by Doge Cristoforo Moro. The following aspects of Bellini's San Giobbe Altarpiece are also considered: the probable patronage (the Scuola di San Giobbe) and date (ca. 1478); Bellini's use of architecture; his ducal imagery; Franciscan spirituality; and the cults of St. Bernardino and of the Immaculate Conception.
St. Praxedis signed and dated 1655, can be firmly placed among the early works of Johannes Vermeer. This large and striking painting, now in the private collection, New York, is a close copy of a painting by the seventeenth century Florentine artist Felice Ficherelli. While Vermeer closely followed his model, he added a crucifix and gave his figure a stronger physical presence. Although no contemporary documents record the presence of Ficherelli's St. Praxedis in Delft, a number of Italian paintings, and copies of Italian paintings, were in the Netherlands around mid-century. Clearly a market for such works existed. Vermeer may have painted this subject because of his connections with the Jesuits. Technical examinations demonstrate that the paints used are consistent with Dutch practices. The ways in which Vermeer layered his paints and highlighted forms in this work parallel his painting techniques in other early works. This painting, thus, reveals much of Vermeer's working methods and clarifies aspects of h is artistic origins.
The exact measurements of the human form made by Bernard Siegfried Albinus (1747) provided the first effective alternate to Vesalian écorchés which had dominated artists' and anatomists' texts since the sixteenth century. Artists as diverse as Callot, Vien, Bouchardon, Pigalle, Van Loo, David, Hallé, and Géricault were influenced by the Albinian-Vesalian antinomy; some, like Flaxman and Houdon, preferred variants of the slender, mathematically and perspectively correct forms of Albinus; others, such as Hogarth and Samuel F. B. Morse, advocated less Neoclassical, more robust and Vesalian figures. The two patterns may be traced in the teaching of the French Academy from c. 1750 to 1793; and they had a long Nachleben in nineteenth century anatomy texts, where they were influenced by developments in architectural drawing and in photography.
The semantic background of Action Painting continues to be the subject of intense research. In my opinion the meaning of Action Painting developed from the artist's fascination with ancient myths, primitive art viewed as a "residue of myth" and trends in contemporary philosophy of culture that deal with myths and their content and that stipulate their latent presence in the mind of contemporary man. In light of the structural motives of mythology used by artists, their paintings have a common denominator: the dialectic struggle and union of contradictions in the cosmic model of the cycle of life and death, formation and decay. Chaos and Cosmos interplay continually in paintings as well as in myths. The artists evoked a layer beyond the present leading to the rediscovery of the neglected sources of man's heritage. This change in spiritual perspective reflects renewal of art in a broad anthropological, philosophical perspective.