Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"Detail from Piero della Francesca's Madonna del Parto" (oil on stretched linen; 10" x 8")

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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Madonna del Parto" (c. 1460) by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca. It is housed in the Museo della Madonna del Parto of Monterchi. The painting was actually the first one I did for the "Let's Face It 2018" online workshop. I got out of posting my recent work and am now getting back into the good habit. I apologize!

The figure of this Madonna, the protector of pregnant women, with her austere expression and natural stance of a woman heavy with child, stands out against the damask canopy, held open at the sides by two angels. The sacred and ritual nature of the image is further emphasized by the fact that the angels are drawn from the same cartoon, repeated in mirror image.

In just seven "working days" Piero della Francesca painted the extraordinary and touching image of the Madonna del Parto, distant as a heavenly vision and yet alive and real in her post-adolescent freshness. 

Piero della Francesca, "Madonna del Parto"

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"Detail from Sandro Botticelli's Venus" (oil on stretched linen; 10" x 8")

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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Venus" by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli. The artist painted this solitary Venus in the 1480s, after "The Birth of Venus". The life-size painting shows her in a similar in pose, but her torso's strong contours and pale skin are covered with a sheer top. Her red hair is tightly braided, not blown by the breath of angels, making her more earthly than godlike.

When I painted the detail, I didn't yet see the entire painting and assumed that this version of Venus was more modest than the better known Venus. Not so!

By the way, the painting was done as the week 5 exercise for "Let's Face It 2018".

Sandro Botticelli, "Venus"

Monday, February 5, 2018

"Tidal Basin in Bloom" (oil on linen; 8" x 8") sold


These days I seem to be getting quite a few commissions to copy my sold paintings. I suppose it's a good thing as it keeps me busy! Here is another commission that made me revisit my old work. The reference photo was taken on a misty, overcast day, which created a mellow, romantic mood, which the client loved. She is going to give the painting as a belated wedding gift to her brother who got married at the Jefferson Memorial. I hope he loves it too.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

"Detail from Giovanni Bellini's Madonna di Brera" (oil on stretched linen; 10" x 8")

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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Madonna di Brera" (1510) by the Italian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini. The original hangs in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, Italy. My painting shows the Virgina Mary. By the way, Belinni was the Week 4 lesson for "Let's Face It 2018".

When he painted it, Bellini was around eighty and one of the most prestigious figures of the Venetian Renaissance, a sort of charismatic patriarch who, at the end of his career, showed that he was able to take in and guide a new direction in style.

Giovanni Bellini, "Madonna di Brera"

The space of the picture is dominated by the monumental figure of the Virgin seated on a throne, wrapped in loose drapery that dilates the volume of her body in line with 15th-century schemes for construction of the image. But the harshness and incisiveness of line has vanished, and the entire composition is now built up out of color alone. Behind the Madonna stretches a landscape that is perhaps the true protagonist of the painting, pervaded by a warm luminosity that makes it look more like a magical evocation than a realistic description.

With this painting, Bellini perfected the pictorial representation of that special atmosphere and natural light which were to characterize the whole of Venetian production in the 16th century, achieving this stylistic effect through a precise change in the technique of execution: in fact examination under infrared light, carried out during the restoration of 1987, revealed the almost total absence of preparatory drawing, reduced to a summary sketch without hatching or shading on which the image was constructed solely by the spreading of paint.

I was charmed by the serious expression of the young Virgin Mary. Bellini painted many other Madonnas, but it was this Madonna that stole my heart.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Washington Monument Cherry Blossom Season" (oil on linen; 11" x 14")

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The sun sets over the Washington Monument and cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. It is a breathtaking view. I used the pointillist technique for the cityscape, pretending that my dots are stardust. Aren't we all made of stardust after all?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Detail from Leonardo da Vinci's Virgin of the Rocks" (oil on stretched linen; 10" x 8")

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The painting is the copy of a detail from "The Virgin of the Rocks" (before 1508) by the Italian Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci. The original hangs in the National Gallery in London. My painting shows the Archangel Uriel.

Leonardo da Vinci, "The Virgin of the Rocks" (London version)

The Virgin of the Rocks (sometimes the Madonna of the Rocks) is the name used for two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, of the same subject, and of a composition which is identical except for several significant details. The version generally considered the prime version, that is the earlier of the two, hangs in The Louvre in Paris and the other in the National Gallery, London. The paintings are both nearly 2 metres (over 6 feet) high and are painted in oils.

Both paintings show the Madonna and Child Jesus with the infant John the Baptist and the Archangel Uriel, in a rocky setting which gives the paintings their usual name. The significant compositional differences are in the gaze and right hand of the angel.

I chose the London version for my week 3 exercise of the Let's Face It workshop", because I like its angel better and, more importantly, I have seen the huge painting in person. Several years ago, I sat in front of it for a long time, mesmerized and utterly enchanted. Here I am, copying Leonardo da Vinci's beautiful angel!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

"Detail from Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes" (oil on stretched linen; 10" x 8")

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My New Year's Resolution is the pursuit of beauty. Well, I have been pursuing beauty in my paintings for many years, but I have a specific goal in mind. I started taking the year-long online workshop called "Let's Face It". It is run by Kara Bullock and 20 guest instructors; this year it focuses on portraiture throughout art history since the Renaissance. The students can follow the week's lesson step by step, or do whatever they wish to do, which suits better my independent style. Caravaggio was the second week's artist.

My painting is the copy of a detail from "Judith Beheading Holofernes" (c.1602) by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. The widow Judith first charms the Assyrian general Holofernes, then decapitates him in his tent. The painting was rediscovered in 1950 and is part of the collection of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Rome.

The deuterocanonical Book of Judith tells how Judith served her people by seducing and pleasuring Holofernes, the Assyrian General. Judith gets Holofernes drunk, then seizes her sword and slays him: "Approaching to his bed, she took hold of the hair of his head." (Judith, 13:7-8).

Caravaggio's approach was, typically, to choose the moment of greatest dramatic impact, the moment of the decapitation itself. The figures are set out in a shallow stage, theatrically lit from the side, isolated against the inky, black background. Judith and her maid Abra stand to the right, partially over Holofernes, who is vulnerable on his back.

The faces of the three characters demonstrate his mastery of emotion, Judith in particular showing in her face a mix of determination and repulsion. Artemisia Gentileschi and others were deeply influenced by this work and even surpassed Caravaggio's physical realism, but it has been argued that none matched his capture of Judith's psychological ambivalence.