An Episode From The Life Of Publius Cornelius Scipio

1064 words - 5 pages

Elliot Shimonov
An Episode from the Life of Publius Cornelius Scipio
Giovani Bellini is a widely known painter of Venetian descent whose work is fundamental in the understanding of the Venetian High Renaissance. His works were inspired by social and political elements which was atypical of the Renaissance culture. However, the Venetian Renaissance came later than the Florentine or Roman Renaissance and by the time of its assumption, studies of sciences such as astronomy, dynamism of the universe, and navigation made Venetians question the nature of everything around them, referring to history for answers. Accordingly, artists focused on the nature of color and other observable natural ...view middle of the document...

A studied work of art that has the same function as Bellini’s is Bruegel’s painting of The Netherlandish Proverbs (1559). Both take roots from a fundamental source, such as history in Bellini’s case or traditional sayings and folktales in Bruegel’s work. Ultimately, they both function to teach a moral lesson and engage the audience by making them think, provoking learning.
The subject matter of An Episode from the Life of Publius Cornelius Scipio is just that: a moment in the life of the great Roman general. It is a narrative in which he defeats the Carthaginians and is, along with his men, gathering hostages. As previously stated, Scipio is telling the begging hostages to be ashamed for begging for his love. The subject matter relates to the Venetian social context in that the Renaissance coincided with an increase in studies and learning. Besides a scientific revolution initiating during the time, people in Venice began to adhere to classical culture for learning inspiration. Although, it is in a different time period, the same subject matter is evident in David’s 1800 painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps. The nature of the relationship is that both paintings are glorifying the ventures of a historical general, drawing on the beliefs of classicism. The French imperialists praised and loved Napoleon for his conquests as did the Romans loved Scipio for his conquest of the Carthaginian Empire.
With regards to style, the work of art is that of the Venetian Renaissance, true to its historic period, but it also heavily draws on classicism. Since the subject matter is derived from history, all aspects of the subject matter, which includes the clothing, robes and armor of the figures, is stylistically classically rendered. Furthermore, the use of monochrome creates a trompe l’oeil. This refers to the illusion that the painting resembles a sculpture. A similar work of art that embodies a trompe l’oeil is Michelangelo’s ceiling fresco’s in the Sistine Chapel (1512) in which it is unclear whether certain figures are sculpted or painted. Another aspect of trompe l’oeil is the illusionary creation of depth. Bellini’s monochrome figures appear to be closer to us than the background. The stylistic illusion of depth is similar to Tiepolo’s 1750 fresco of America in the Residenz. (Tiepolo is also from Venice), which has figures that appear to “come out of” the painting. All three works demonstrate illusionary...

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