Ah yes, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the day when we enjoy the most light, the beginning of summer and all of the joys of summer, truly a most blessed day. Summer is truly a time to enjoy life!
Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516) was a Venetian painter, renowned for his contribution to the development of oil painting in Italy, a medium which began primarily in Northern Europe. One of this most famous students was the great Titian. Throughout his career he painted many religious works, and he seems to have possessed a deep spirituality. His later religious works, such as this one, reflect a certain noble calm and serenity of a man who has fully lived life.
This work of Bellini’s, The Madonna of the Meadow (1505), is a nice painting, flushed with a calm poetic atmosphere, deeply spiritual and meditative. I have always been struck by the landscape, the cool winter colors, the clear light, seemingly reflected in the soft, white head scarf of the Madonna and the clouds behind her, also white, pure and drawing us into the great expanse of the blue sky, of heaven and divinity itself. The Christ child seems lifeless, foreshadowing the eventual moment when Mary will embrace the lifeless body of her Son following his crucifixion. The landscape is also barren: clearly it is winter, there are no leaves on the trees, the grass is brown and dead, and life seems empty. And yet as a religious work of Christian art, it must ultimately hint at the hope of the resurrection and eternal life. The joys of everlasting life with God are always the final message of all Christian art, even if that particular artwork reflects the darker moments of life here on earth. Such are mystical contradictions inherent in all good works of religious art. Bellini’s use of color, atmosphere, and calm, serene figures capture all these elements quite well. All in all it is a beautiful piece of art.
As I have often said here, I believe that great art can lead the soul to a deeper union with God. Bellini is a good example of that.
The great Venetian painter Titian (1488-1596) produces this masterpiece in 1538. Although it is named after the ancient goddess of sex and love, within the framework of the painting there is little indication of her divinity. Rather, what we see is a nude woman, covering her most alluring area, staring straight at us. Apparently painted as a wedding present for the Duke of Urbino to celebrate his marriage, it is thought that the open eroticism of the work is meant to convey a not so subtle message to his young bride about the importance of sex and sensuality. What makes the work still alluring for us today is the near perfection of the female form, the contrast between her softness, her curves and sensuality, the warmth of her smooth flesh and the cascading flow of her blonde hair; and yet all the while she is framed by a rather linear, architectural and domestic background. It is sex and sensuality brought into our public world, as we are invited into her private world of love and pleasure.
Yet we can imagine how such a blatantly erotic work would have its detractors. A person of no less stature than Mark Twain said of the painting: “the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses It was painted for a bagnio, and it was probably refused because it was a trifle too strong” Yet in he went on to add, in typical Twain humor, “in truth, it is a trifle too strong for any place but a public art gallery”.
We can excuse such a great humorist and satirist as Mark Twain for what may be nothing more than a mockingly shocked reaction to this painting. However one may react to this, it is a great work of art, having endured now for nearly five hundred years, and still as powerful today as it was when it was first painted. It shows how beautiful depictions of eroticism and the female form have been and will continue to be a universal and permanent part of our world.
Racer X has been too preoccupied over the past few months to give this blog its proper time. However, now that the summer is rapidly arriving, he hopes and plans to devote more time to his evangelical promotion of beauty in all its forms, especially the feminine, erotic and spiritual.
As far as today’s post, I am not sure if this is an older photo or just a recent one made to look a bit archaic (it seems slightly out of focus, which was more common in older photographs, especially nudes), but whatever the case may be, I enjoy the contrast of dark and light. There is a great simplicity in black and white photography which, when well done, conveys something of the more basic elements of life. Eroticism and sexuality are two of those basic elements. Her light skin against the dark background highlights her form and beauty, and her beautiful bush and brunette hair seems to mirror the dark background, adding a nice balance and contrast to the whole.
There is no growing tired of well done nudes.