Pick a historical work of art from the list of possible works for this assignment posted on OnQ. Pick a recent (from the last 2 years) photograph from the news to compare to your work of art. The assignment will be stronger if there are some visual similarities between the historical work of art you choose and the news photograph. (Just having a conceptual similarity generally does not work well.)
You could, for example, choose to compare Filippo Brunelleschi’s Sacrifice of Isaac to a photograph of recent violence or the mosaic of The Emperor Justinian and his Attendants (from San Vitale in Ravenna) to a news photograph of politicians or other powerful figures.
Compare the photograph to your chosen historical image, keeping in mind that the photograph is not an objective image of the truth – photographs are taken strategically, to tell emphasize certain aspects of their subjects. How is each structured? What size are the people in relation to the overall composition in each? Are they in the foreground, the middle ground, or background? Is there a setting, and, if so, is it a broad, open space or a tight, even claustrophobic one? What about color (if applicable) and light and darkness? Is there, for example, one bright area in the middle of overall darkness? Or a concentration of a particularly bright color in order to emphasize particular people or things? Are there any eloquent empty spaces or is the composition of each packed? Any juxtapositions of objects of different sizes or different textures? Is the image symmetrical? How do all of these separate aspects come together to tell you what is important in your photograph and in your historical image?
The point is not to give an opinion as to whether each image is good or bad or to give an opinion on the subject matter but instead to analyze how the way in which the image has been created tells you something about the subject in each. Please include illustrations of your chosen photograph and historical image at the end of your essay.
Your essay should be no less than 3 and no more than 4 double-spaced typed pages in length (12 pt. font, with 1 inch margins, so approximately 750-1000 words in length), not including a title page nor illustrations.
A brief introduction should start immediately with your photograph and which historical work you are going to compare to it – do not waste space with any generalizations or broad remarks about art or history. Please do come to a conclusion about the overall difference and/or similarity in how the images are constructed in each.
Your essay should be based on direct observation rather than research, but if you do carry out any research, you obviously need to footnote your sources. Please organize your argument, edit, and proofread carefully.
It is better to express a simple idea clearly than to attempt complexity and only achieve confusion. This assignment will be discussed in detail in tutorials, and you should discuss any concerns about it, as others probably share these concerns, but you should also feel free to email me about the assignment or raise questions in my office hours.
Neither I nor your tutorial leader will read drafts of assignments, but we are happy to talk about ideas, and I am willing go through an outline with you. Please upload your assignment as a Microsoft Word or PDF document. There is also a bonus architectural scavenger hunt, which is in the attached document.
What a Picture Tells us – List of Works
Pick one of the images listed below to do this assignment. The images are listed by chapter in the textbook.
- Early Jewish, Early Christian, and Byzantine Art
- -Good Shepherd, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (Ravenna)
- -Emperor Justinian and his Attendants, San Vitale (Ravenna)
- -Empress Theodora and Her Attendants, San Vitale (Ravenna)
- Islamic Art
- -Yahya ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti, Scene in an Arab Village
- -Behzad, A Poor Man Refused Admittance to a Mosque
- Early Medieval Art
- -Jesus Washing the Feet of St. Peter, from the Gospel Book of Otto III
- Romanesque Art
- -Crowds Gaze in Awe at a Comet as Harold is Told of an Omen, detail of the Bayeux Tapestry
- -If you pick this one, keep in mind that this is just a part of a much longer object, so that it wouldn’t make sense to say that something is on the right or left edge or in the middle of the composition.
- -Battle of Hastings, detail of the Bayeux Tapestry
- –If you pick this one, keep in mind that this is just a part of a much longer object, so that it wouldn’t make sense to say that something is on the right or left edge or in the middle of the composition.
- Gothic Art
- -Jean Pucelle, The Betrayal of Christ, from the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux
- -There isn’t any setting here, and the scene floats on the page, but you could compare the way in which the figures are packed together to your photograph.
- -Jean Pucelle, The Annunciation, from the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux
- Art in Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Italy
- -Anonymous, St. Francis Preaching to the Birds, Assisi
- -Giotto, Christ Entering Jerusalem, Arena Chapel, Padua
- -Giotto, The Lamentation, Arena Chapel, Padua
- -Duccio, Annunciation of the Death of the Virgin, Siena
- -Duccio, Christ Entering Jerusalem, Siena
- -Pietro Lorenzetti, Birth of the Virgin, Siena
- Artistic Innovations in Fifteenth-Century Northern Europe
- -Limbourg Brothers, January page, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
- -Limbourg Brothers, July page, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
- -Jan van Eyck, The ‘Arnolfini Portrait’
- -Rogier van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross
- -Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, the central panel when it is open.
- -Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Deligths, the hell panel (on the right when the work is open)
- The Early Renaissance in Fifteenth-Century Italy
- -Filippo Brunelleschi, The Sacrifice of Isaac
- -Lorenzo Ghiberti, The Sacrifice of Isaac
- -Masaccio, The Tribute Money
- -Masaccio, The Expulsion from Paradise
- -Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano
- -Sandro Botticelli, Primavera
- -Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus
- -Piero della Francesca, Resurrection
- -Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in the Desert
- -Pietro Perugino, The Delivery of the Keys
- -Luca Signorelli, The Damned Cast into Hell
- The High Renaissance in Italy
- -Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin of the Rocks
- -Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper
- -Michelangelo, The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden
- -you could choose one of these scenes or compare this as a whole composition (the two
- scenes together). It is NOT acceptable to compare the entire Sistine Ceiling.
- -Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam