Eye Candy for Today: Bartolomeo Montagna Renaissance portrait

Saint Justina of Padua, Bartolomeo Montagna (Bartolomeo Cincani)
Saint Justina of Padua, Bartolomeo Montagna (Bartolomeo Cincani)

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the “download or Enlarge links under the image on their site.

Though this is technically a religious work, not a portrait, I think the beautifully drawn and delicately rendered face has the look of a real person, not an imagined ideal.

I like the wonderful detail in the texture of the iris of the eyes, and the highlight in the eye (which, for reasons beyond me, some artists in later centuries would leave out).

The values in which the face is modeled are subtle but the face feels well defined and geometrically strong.

Montagna’s style shows the influence of Venetian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini, and it’s speculated that he may have been a student or apprentice of Bellini at some point.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Corot early Spring landscape

Les étangs de ville d'avray (The Ponds of the Village of Avray), Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, oil painting, 19th century French landscape
Les étangs de ville d’avray (The Ponds of the Village of Avray), Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

Link is to Wikimedia Commons; they sourced it from a Sotheby’s auction, so I don’t know the current location of the original — perhaps in a private collection.

Corot gives us an idyllic depiction of the gentle beginnings of Spring, in sharp contrast to the snow and forecast nor’easter on the first day of Spring here on the east coast of the U.S.

The painting isn’t dated, but it carries the look of similar landsapes in Corot’s later career, with the early foliage painted as delicate brush marks that in places are barely visible against the gray of the sky.

You can see the naturalism, free brush work and attention to the effects of light that so inspired the Impressionists.

Happy Vernal Equinox!

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Peter Lely trois crayon portrait

Peter Lely trois crayon portrait
Portrait of a Lady, Peter Lely

Black, red, and white chalk, on gray laid paper; roughly 9 1/2 x 8 inches (24 x 19 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, NY.

Peter Lely, known for his sumptuous and sometimes erotic portraits of royals, nobles and courtiers in the 17th century court of Charles 1, here gives us a sensitively realized portrait drawing in the “trois crayon” method.

This is a method of drawing with three chalks — black, red (sanguine) and white — on toned paper, often cream or buff, but in this case, gray. It’s an approach particularly suited to figure and portrait drawing.

Though it’s difficult to tell if the drawing has faded to any degree since it was done, Lely’s use of white and red chalks are judicious. His application of white is just a hint of tone, subtly raising the value of areas of the face and neck and a few curls of hair.

You can tell he started the drawing of the face with the red chalk, which remains the only outline of the forehead, lower face and nose, though the eyes and brows have been reinforced with black.

I haven’t been through the hundreds of portraits attributed to Lely and his very active workshop in enough detail to know if this was a preliminary for a finished painting, but Lely evidently thought enough of the drawing that he signed it.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt riverfront drawing

View over the Amstel from the Rampart,  Rembrandt van Rijn, ink and wash drawing
View over the Amstel from the Rampart, Rembrandt van Rijn

Brown ink and wash, roughly 3 1/2 x 7 inches (9 x 18 cm); in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, DC.

Though a number of Rembrandt’s drawings, particularly those of figures or religious scenes, can be identified as preliminary to particular paintings of graphic works, his landscape drawings seem to have been done for their own sake.

No one can say with certainty what Rembrandt’s intention or state of mind was in regard to a particularly drawing, of course, but I can’t look at a drawing like this without thinking that it was done purely for the pleasure of drawing.

This feels to me like the work of someone who could take up pen and paper and let the burdens of the world fade into the distance while focused on the scene in front of him.

There is evidence throughout of keen, clear observation (like the blades of the multiple windmills), yet Rembrandt in his mastery makes the notation seem casual and relaxed.

I love the effect of distance he achieved by using thicker, heavier strokes (perhaps with a different instrument or ink) in the foreground.

Though the term would have been meaningless in Rembrandt’s time, to our modern sensibilities, the aspect ratio of the image could be described as cinematic — capturing a panorama of riverfront structures and activity in addition to the city beyond.

Don’t take my detail crops above be the only view you get of the image at a large size. Go to the Google Art Project or National Gallery page and view the drawing zoomed in at full screen. Perhaps, like me, you can project yourself onto the bank at Rembrandt’s side, and feel the wind push the sails of the ships along the river as his pen captures the moment.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: William Wyld watercolor

St. Mark's Square, Venice, with Loggetta, William Wyld, ink and watercolor
St. Mark’s Square, Venice, with Loggetta; William Wyld

Watercolor and ink, roughly 10 x 7 inches (25 x 18 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the Download or Enlarge links under the image on their page.

I love this beautiful ink and watercolor rendering, not just for its wonderful combination of precision and sketch-like freedom, but for its unusual view of St. Mark’s Square. There are dozens, if not hundreds of beautifully rendered paintings and drawings of that most famous of Venice’s public squares, but most are from the far end, looking down the full length of the plaza.

Here, Wyld gives us a much more intimate view, the kind you might encounter as you walked about the edges of the square, and with a daring composition as well. The dark, shadowed foreground presents the primary figures almost in silhouette against the lighter base of the campanile.

The differently colored tiles in the paving lead us back to the distant group of figures, and the angled view of the Loggetta brings us back out to more shadowed foreground.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Ignacio Zuloaga portrait

Portrait of the Countess Mathieu de Noailles, Ignacio Zuloaga, oil on canvas, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
Portrait of the Countess Mathieu de Noailles (Anna Elisabeth de Brancovan), Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta

Link is to page with high resolution image on Wikimedia Commons. Original is in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

Spanish painter Ignacio Zuloaga, who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, brings together the traditions of Spanish painting from preceding centuries and the Post-Impressionist flavor of his time in this beautiful reclining portrait of a well known Parisian poet and novelist Anna de Noailles, who was the subject of portraits by a number of other artists.

Zuloaga’s portrait is dramatically theatrical, not just in the curtain-framed setting, but in the striking warm light that sweeps across her face, shoulders and gown. The face is framed by the sitter’s shock of dark hair, which is echoed in the dark tones in the cover of the setee.

 
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