Of Heaven and Earth

Rhino

 

Beauty.  A Rhinoceros or an Italian painting from the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance?

I attended an exhibit of 500 years of Italian painting from Glasgow Museums at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) last week.  It was a great romp through art history – who was influenced by whom and who were the influencers.  The images selected for the MAM website are the best ones, I think.  http://mam.org/of-heaven-and-earth/

One of the centerpiece works in the exhibition is a painting of the Annunciation by Sandro Botticelli.  Mary’s expression is what interests me when I see paintings of The Annunciation.  How does she react when the Angel Gabriel appears to tell her she is about to be with child.  Therefore, I was especially fond of Botticelli’s version from Glasgow Museums, painted 1490-95.  Botticelli uses sparkling gold lines to symbolize the Holy Spirit piercing Mary, a symbol used by Medieval artists.  On the other hand, he is almost severe in the depiction of the interior arches and columns that separate Gabriel and Mary, exploring the early Renaissance of perspective drawing.

Botticelli painted other versions of the Annunciation.  One, from 1485, is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City is similar to the Glasgow painting.  http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/459016

There is another Botticelli Annunciation in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence from 1489-90 that places Gabriel directly in front of Mary. Here, Botticelli emphasizes the use of perspective as the eye follows out the window to the countryside beyond. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cestello_Annunciation_(Botticelli)#mediaviewer/File:Botticelli,_annunciazione_di_cestello_02.jpg

In all of the Botticelli versions, Mary looks serene and thoughtful, but in other artists’ hands she can look startled, shocked, disbelieving and even dismayed.  Or she can look most pleased and delighted.

Imagine a virgin rhino

Visited by an angel

Touched by the Holy Spirit

The pleasure spreading

Over the tough hide

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