Category Archives: Painting


By Sara Bauer

I have chosen the painting titled Apollo and Daphne.  It was painted by Giovanni  Di Lutera who was also know by the name of Dosso Dossi.  He painted the mythological scene in 1538 and it is now found in the Galleria Borghese located in Rome.  I first saw this painting in our Western Humanities textbook on pg 366.  I fell in love with the scenic view that takes place behind the central figure of Apollo.  Especially how Daphne is a small figure in the background.

Dosso Dossi used the medium of oil paint on canvas.  I think that the quality of the oil against the canvas actually gave his painting a real amount of texture and allowed the colors to blend and add to the scene.

Now we can look at the form and line of this painting.  The line seems to be in the slope of the hill and the layout of the trees.  We see the form and figure of Apollo and his bow that is held aloft.  We seem to be waiting for him to play a note on his violin.  There are several forms that call to you;  the form of Apollo and Daphne, the clouds that seem to be rolling in, and the folds of the cloth that covers the lower half of Apollo.

I was drawn to the vibrant green colors in this mythological scene.  I was taught some mythology when I was growing up, but when you have something like this to guide your eyes and that you can picture yourself in, it really helps.  I can see the golden path that leads out of the woods behind Apollo.  I could look up into the dark clouds that seem to be ushering in the wind, a wind that appears to be ‘pulling’ on Daphne’s skirt.

To most everyone the focal point is Apollo himself, and his lithe form.  In his face we see a hint of a smile and can follow the crown of leaves he wears in his hair.  The violin looks a little large, but I can’t honestly say it’s out of proportion.

There is definitely a sense of perspective in this piece.  Dossi is using the slope of the hill and the line of trees in the background.  You can even see small buildings that give you the sense that you are standing on a hill overlooking the scene below.

All-in-all I reacted to the colors first, then I noticed the figure of Daphne in the corner below Apollo.  I wondered if he had just finished playing his violin or was he just about to start?  Is Daphne listening?  To me she seems to be leaning against a small doorway and looking up towards Apollo.


Matthews, Ray T., Platt, F. Dewitt, and Noble, Thomas F.X. “The Western Humanities” seventh edition (2011):366.

Wikipedia “Archivo: Dosso-Apollo-1524.jpg” 27 March 2011. Web.

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Wedding Dance

By Valorie Bourke

Wedding Dance is oil on panel painting that is 47 X 62 inches.  Once it was framed by the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, the painting measures 57 ¼ x 72 x 3 ½ inches.  The Wedding Dance is still looked at today at this venue.  It was painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1566 and illustrates a less dark attitude toward country folk than in any other ones of his paintings.

This painting has a variety of colors and includes lively folk that are enjoying themselves at a wedding. The bride and groom cannot be found from the other dancers around them.  It is painted from an elevated point of view from above which is the typical style of Bruegel.

In the painting, you can see the line of the dancers goes from the foreground back through the trees and returns back to the front. The size of the shoulders and arms of the dancers are bigger than their legs.  This shows the dramatic expressions of the dancing and the characteristics of how the dance is performed.

As stated by the Atlantis International, some spots are few and quite negligible in relation to the fine coordination and rhythm of the whole. The left side of the painting shows a better relation of positive and negative areas. The right background can be rather confusing because of a lack of massing of the figure groups.

There is a light medium tone that is dominant in the overall picture. Upon the background of the picture it has medium tones that are decoratively scattered throughout. The black and white tones in the picture hold more or less of the tonal scheme together, according to Atlantis International. The black tones can be seen to form triangular shaped areas, mostly across the middle distance. The white tones show little massing but instead is repeated as small spots in a large oval at the center of the design. (Atlantis International)

The main color in the Wedding Dance picture is yellow ochre. On the ground, Bruegel puts some green for the grass and in the trees and shadows browner in color. There are some light blue, white, and warm black colors spotted throughout the picture as well. The blue acts like a mutual complement to the yellows which gives it its balance to the two-dimensional color.

The focal area of the picture is seen to be closer in the center of the field but near the front of the plane. The center of interest is the group of dancers in the foreground. The focal point is created here due to the size of the figures.

The Wedding Dance is a neat picture for me. With all the people coming together to celebrate the special day with the bride and groom, is really moving to me. They are all having a good time and you can’t distinguish the newlyweds from the guests.  These happy people and all of the dancing reminded me of my own wedding day.

Works Cited

Creative Art. Atlantis International. 2010

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Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni

By Breeana Brandt

Circa 1488 Domenico Ghirlandaio painted Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni a portrait of Lorenzo Tornabuoni’s wife in the common portrait style of the renaissance time period. This painting does still exist in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. I viewed this painting first on page 309 of The Western Humanities.

This simple yet stunning piece is painted using tempera and possibly oil on panel. Using tempera/oil has allowed the artist to make very clean distinct lines. There is no blending or mixing of the colors in this work. Every line is clearly visible due to what I believe is the use of the oil. I don’t think there are any implied lines in this piece but I would say the outlining is very strong due to the dramatic color difference from foreground and background. The lines really make this piece for me. It’s simple but so clear. I can tell all the lines in her hair and gown making it really pop.

The form in this painting is beautiful. This work was commissioned as a memorial to Tornabuoni wife so being that she is perfectly depicted as a beautiful woman makes this work all the better. It’s not abstract or unflattering. Better than the form and lines in this piece is the color. It is very simple colors except her gown yet the painting just grabs your attention. The contrast is very significant with the almost black background and her being bright with her white skin, orange hair, and yellow/orange gown. Your eye gets drawn mostly to her in the foreground but there are brighter colors of the book pages, necklace and other trinkets in the background that draw your attention to the simplicity of the painting. Your eyes get drawn around the whole painting by her many intricate lines in her gown and the lines of the bookcase or cabinet in the background.

This piece of art is so simple its extraordinary to me. I love viewing a piece that is very busy with things to keep your eye wondering all over the work for hours but I also enjoy a simpler work. One that shows what it intends to without the bells and whistles. Giovanna died in child birth and clearly seems to be pregnant in this painting which makes it all the more meaning full. To me this painting shows this stunning woman standing in front of an almost empty book case with her unborn child almost saying that she needs nothing in her life but the simple things. It’s almost like the Mona Lisa where people try to figure out what she is feeling by staring into her eyes, for me, this painting catches me like that. I wonder what she is thinking and feeling at the time this was painted. What things were going on in her life? Something so simple can make a person think so much about what could be behind the look on someone’s face. The simplicity of this work makes me feel almost at peace with nothing crazy going on, not a large amount of busyness or stress; just peace. I think that if just one element was different, the color, fainter lines, less/more depth, different focal points, would make this work completely different.

Works Cited

NGA Virtue and Beauty. 2011. 26 March 2011 <;.

“The Early Renaissance.” R. Matthews, E. DeWitt Platt, T. F.X. Noble. The Western Humanities. n.d. 309.

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The Last Supper

By Nick Brinkhaus

The Last Supper is a 14th century oil-tempura painting on a wall, by the Italian artist considered to be the “Renaissance Man,” Leonardo Da Vinci.  The painting is 15 ft. x 29 ft. and covers a wall at the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, located in Milan Italy.  One of the most famous paintings of our time, The Last Supper represents the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before his capture and death.  It shows the moment in which Jesus told his disciples that one of them would betray him.  It is one of the most copied pieces of artwork and a highly beloved painting of the western arts.  The painting quickly deteriorated because of the materials Da Vinci used and it became flaky and rough.  I saw a picture of the painting in Chapter 12 of the Western Humanities 7th edition on page 347.  I was already somewhat familiar with the painting because I’ve seen it so much throughout my life in school.  From observing the painting I could tell that it was very old and delicate.  Just by looking at it you can tell that Da Vinci is telling a story.

Da Vinci used tempura over a ground that was mainly gesso to paint The Last Supper. Gesso is a paint mixture consisting of any combination of chalk, glue, filler or pigment.  This is different from the fresco technique.  Fresco comes from the Italian word affresco, which derives from the Latin word for fresh.  This consists of painting in pigment mixed with a thin layer of wet, fresh lime mortar or plaster.  The medium of this painting clearly shows the result of the materials Da Vinci used.  His use of line helps depict the length and size of the walls, ceiling and table in the painting.  He implied the lines at the edge and end of the table so that it is accurately outlined and looks three dimensional.  You can see the use of colored edges on the ceiling as well as the walls on the side and behind the table.  There is objective form in the painting.  Some of the disciples can be seen talking, perhaps arguing and others seem to be quiet and listening.  I think the form Da Vinci used helps tell what is going on in the scene.  The colors used in the painting are not too bright or vibrant.  There is not too much light in the painting, as everyone is in doors eating.  Rhythm can be seen by all disciples sitting next to each other, leading up to Jesus in the middle.  It can also be seen through on the ceiling and the doorways on the side walls as everything comes together.  Harmony is also shown, as everyone sits at the table conversing and enjoying their meal, is somewhat pleasing to the viewers eyes.  I believe the focal point of the painting is definitely Jesus, sitting at the middle of the table.  He has his arms spread and is looking downward to his left.  My attention seems to stray from that point because there is a lot going on around him on both sides.  There is a lot of space in this painting.  The high ceiling adds to the aerial space, and the long walls run horizontally to the back of the room which makes it seem big.

In conclusion, I’m somewhat overwhelmed by The Last Supper.  Da Vinci uses so many artistic elements in this painting.  There is also a lot going on in the painting which triggers my curiosity.  It makes the viewer wish they could see this scene in real life so they could use their others senses to observe what’s going on.  I think it is a great work of art that causes an emotional response from its viewers.


The Western Humanities 7th Edition

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The Creation of Adam

By Mary Buckner

Michelangelo Buonarroti’s, The Creation of Adam (also commonly referred to as The Creation of Man) is one of the most famous and beautiful demonstrations of painting styles and techniques used by artists during the High Renaissance. A picture of this extraordinary masterpiece can be found in our book, The Western Humanities, on page 353. The Creation of Adam is just a section of the huge Sistine Chapel ceiling that Michelangelo was asked to decorate by Pope Julius II in 1508. Michelangelo’s amazing frescoes, known as “unquestionably the greatest cycle of paintings in Western art” can still be viewed today within the famous Sistine chapel, located in Vatican City, Italy (Matthews and Platt 349). Being created over 500 years ago, the ceiling has undergone several cleanings and has been fully restored so many generations to come can visit and fully appreciate Michelangelo’s beautiful artwork. However, “the end result of the restoration has been controversial: Critics say a vital second layer of paint was removed and argue that many of the restored figures seem much more flat”. (Sacred Sites at Sacred Destinations). In March 2008, I was lucky enough to travel to Italy and visit The Sistine Chapel and see The Creation of Adam in person and it was simply breath taking. I can’t even imagine how it could have been more beautiful before it’s restoration because it was the most amazing artwork I have ever seen. Here is a picture of The Creation of Adam as found on the website

During the High Renaissance, the years 1494 through 1564 were “preeminenently an age of painting” (Matthews and Platt 347).  Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam demonstrates many of the High Renaissance painting traits such as harmonious colors, perfectly proportioned human bodies, naturally posed figures with serene faces, and realistic space and perspectives. According to our book, it was the ceiling’s restoration that truly brought out the brilliant colors and details of Michelangelo’s original work. The Creation of Adam really stood out to me when I visited the Sistine Chapel because unlike the many other busy and filled frescoes composing the ceiling, Michelangelo really made The Creation of Man rather simplistic, causing focus to instantly go to it. A good portion of the frescoes is an off-white colored background, with one stretched arm from both God and Adam meeting towards the center of the work, with their pointing fingers nearly touching. It is apparent that Michelangelo put much time and effort into these fingers and hands based on the fine articulation and detail. “By means of this vivid symbol, Michelangelo suggests that a divine spark is about to pass from God into the body of Adam, electrifying it into the fullness of life. The image demonstrates the restraint characteristic of the High Renaissance style” (Matthews and Platt 353). This piece by Michelangelo really strives for depth and a three dimensional appearance. He uses color to help heighten this effect by choosing primary colors for the bodies, draperies, and piece of land Adam sits on so that they will stand out against the muted hues of the background. Michelangelo also uses the anatomy of the body to assist the 3-D appearance by having the muscles of Adam and God stick out and create different levels of body muscle. Michelangelo also uses shadow in the artwork to enhance the dimensions in the painting’s scene as well.

Overall, after researching and learning about The Creation of Adam, I have so much more of an appreciation for paintings created during the High Renaissance. Just by looking at and examining various pictures of The Creation of Adam is an amazing experience, but nothing will compare to the real-life experience I had witnessing it in person. I would highly recommend to anyone lucky enough traveling to Italy to stop and visit the Sistine Chapel to observe Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Pictures of The Creation of Adam are wonderful, but it isn’t until you are looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that one can fully understand the true beauty and really see and notice Michelangelo’s many small and precise details. This painting is one that leaves observers at awe, and I don’t believe it is because of one element of the piece, but of the many Michelangelo so brilliantly used and combined together. Similar to God giving Adam life, Michelangelo fully succeeded in giving life and energy to his painting, The Creation of Adam.

Works Cited

Matthews, Roy T., F. Dewitt Platt, and Thomas F.X. Noble. The Western Humanities. abcdef7th Edition. New York: McGraw Hill, 2011. Print

“Sistine Chapel– Vatican City, Italy.” Sacred Sites at Sacred Destinations – abcdefExplore Sacred Sites, Religious Sites, Sacred Places. Web. 22 Mar. 2011. abcdef<;.

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Essay Unit 3

By Ashley Burden

No figure of the Renaissance period is more recognizable in his work and thought than that of Leonardo Da Vinci. His devotion to portray and discover the world directly in front of him rather than conform to the classical values of his predecessors, led his art, engineering concepts, and scientific discovery in a direction that would come to define the works of those who followed him. One of the early examples of this new concept and a classic example of his non conformity to theological paintings that preceded it, is the Virgin of the Rocks, also known as the Madonna of the Rocks. There are actually two versions of this painting in existence today. The first is housed in the Musee du Louvre ( Louvre Musuem ) in Paris, France. This version is the earlier of the two (1483 to 1486) and is the subject of this analysis as it is widely accepted as the work of Da Vinci alone. The other is housed in the National Gallery in London, England and is believed to have been completed mostly by Da Vinci’s assistants due to many reasons including the inaccurate geological representations that likely were not Da Vinci due to his painstaking desire to paint the world in its natural and scientific state. Both versions depict the Virgin Mary, an infant John the Baptist, and infant Jesus and the angel Gabriel. The Louvre version is in good condition and stands as one of the best preserved of Da Vinci’s 17 surviving paintings.

Originally an oil painting on wood panel (it was transferred to canvas in the 19th century), the Virgin of the Rocks is tribute to Da Vinci’s creative genius both in its precision of features, both on the subjects and in the surrounding landscape, and its innovative use of shadow and softened lines to make the subjects prominent and defined. His use of sfumato, or a fine haze around the subjects, softened traditional lines used by his predecessors and gave a unique quality to the figures displayed.

The form, or visible elements of the painting, are intertwined with the focal area and spacial elements of the painting. These are pronounced contrast between the subjects of Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Gabriel against the gloomy backdrop of a created (apparently created from Da Vinci’s amazing creativity since it does not appear to be of any biblical or historical location) grotto and the use of precise scientific representations of the biological and geological features of the plant and background. The background of the eary and elegant rock formations lend to the name of the painting while the figures present are representations of the Immaculate Conception. The placement and action of the figures is example of Da Vinci’s non conformist ways. They stand against traditional locations in theological paintings depicting the infant Jesus in the left frame of the painting, while John the Baptist and Mary hold the more powerful and prominent positions of center and right. Analytical theory is that Da Vinci did this to portray the intent of the painting and its subject matter of Immaculate Conception, since Mary and John the Baptist are said to have been born without original sin and carrying the Holy Spirit. Further theory suggest that the placement of the figures in a pyramid form ( which would be copied by future painters due to its striking visual effect) suggest that Mary was conceived without original sin, whereas John the Baptist was washed of original sin upon encountering Mary and the unborn Jesus when Mary visited her sister Elizabeth who was pregnant with John. This gives Mary the powerful center focal point of the pyramid, John at a lower level , but still elevated above Jesus on the right and the infant Jesus on the left and lower point with the angel. This is countered by the gestures of the subjects which focus on the infant Jesus as the blessed and praised one.

The dramatic color contrast as previously stated between the background and the figures almost has them bathed in a soft light.  This, coupled with the unique perspective that places the figures up front in a deep and dark background, evokes even more visual focus on the subjects and their actions.

My initial reaction to the painting is one of religious respect but confusion. I am sure this was shared by the original commissioners of the work due to the placement of the figures. We are taught to hold Jesus and God as the focal point of most things. However, after discovering the finer points and truly examining the details of the piece, I find myself riveted by the genius of its artist. He manages to portray deep relationship between the subjects and their interaction and place in religion, while giving prominence to many figures at once. The background and contrast leave you feeling almost like you are witness to a holy and special event. Yet it does not feel overbearing or overtly powerful. It is more of a comfortable and soft feeling. This piece is touching and powerful and I am glad I chose to look into it for this discussion.

Works Cited

Bambach, Carmen C. “James Kettlewell: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Virgin Of The Rocks: The Subject Matter Explained.” James Kettlewell: Rethinking Classic Themes in Art HistoryRethinking Classic Themes in Art History. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. <;.

Matthews, Roy T., and F. DeWitt. Platt. The Western Humanities. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007. Print.

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