Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bite 159: Leonardo da Vinci - The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the Infant St. John the Baptist ('The Burlington House Cartoon'), c. 1499-1500

The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the Infant St. John the Baptist ('The Burlington House Cartoon'), c. 1499-1500, charcoal on canvas, 141.5 x 104.6 cm, National Gallery, London
In this daringly monumental drawing the entangled figures of St. Mary and St. Anne with Jesus and St. John the Baptist dissolve into the canvas, the drawing unfinished.

St. Anne points upwards, a reference to Jesus’ destiny, while St. John the Baptist gestures a blessing, indicating his future role in the life of Christ. Improved with age the scene now appears like a mysterious vision, incomplete in places, a strange landscape looming behind the figures, lifelike in their rendering.

The technical term cartoon refers to the intention with such large drawings to transfer the image to another canvas for the purpose of painting a final image. The survival of this work however can be attributed to there being no final painting resulting from it, and it stands as the only surviving large-scale drawing by Leonardo.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Bite 158: Leonardo da Vinci - Drapery Study for an Angel, c. 1495-8

 Drapery Study for an Angel, c. 1495-8, ink on paper, 21.3 x 15.9 cm, Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, UK.
Skin beneath cloth, finely detailed in the grandmother of artistic technique: drawing with pencil on paper. 

Leonardo da Vinci had an uncanny attention to detail and this is demonstrated best perhaps in the huge number of drawings he left behind, many of which are in the collection of the Queens Gallery in London, and a selection of which were shown as part of the unprecedented exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan at The National Gallery until 5 February 2012.

Created to apparently solve a compositional problem in the London version of Virgin of the Rocks, the pose of the figure is very similar to that of the angel on the right of the altarpiece. With the aid of fabric dipped in clay and laid over a clay figure, the resulting still-life has been studied from different angles and under different lighting conditions giving the piece an intriguing sculptural quality.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bite 157: Ejnar Nielsen - Man and Woman, 1917-19

 Man and Woman, 1917-19, Oil on canvas, 305 x 177 cm, National Gallery of Denmark
"Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev'ry fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say 'I love you' right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all."
                                 - Joni Mitchell, Both Sides, Now