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Study of "Daniel in the Lions' Den" after Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens, the great Flemish artist of the Baroque era, completed more than 1500 paintings.  Since it was the custom not to sign the works in those days, experts suspect that this number is probably higher, closer to 3,000.  The Baroque term is used by art historians to designate the dominant style of the period between 1600 and 1750.  It originally meant irregular, contorted, grotesque but now is considered to be a new style born in Rome during the final years of the 16th century.  It shows tension and movement and makes the beholder feel part of it, as they explode from the frame.

At the age of 14, Rubens knew he wanted to be an artist.  After nine years of study, his last master, Octave Van Veen, told Rubens to go to Italy and study the Renaissance masters.  No artist could call himself a painter, Van Veen told him, until he saturated himself with studies of the Italians.  He decided to go to Italy and while there took a job for the next seven years as a court painter, hired to make exact copies of masterworks which were hung side by side the originals.  In this way, Rubens continued to learn from the old masters themselves.   



Study of "The Transfiguration" by Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)

This study of Raphael's shows two of the disciples, one young and one old, bending forward in the middle ground looking helpless.  As Christ is being transfigured, relatives bring a boy who has epilepsy to the disciples hoping for help.  The disciples are fearful that they don't have the power to heal without Christ.  

The Transfiguration, a huge painting over 4 meters high, was the high point of Raphael's genius.  Many studies were left behind showing the progression as decisions were made and changed until the final perfected painting was achieved.  

Raphael died on April 6, 1520, only 37 years old.  The Transfiguration was near his deathbed, a picture that he had been working on for some years.  He died on Good Friday, the same day he had been born.  This coincidence, as well as his premature death, provided wonderment, keeping the image of 'the divine Raphael' alive.



Study of A Little Boy after Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

It is said that no movie will ever be made about Rubens.  He had no fits of temper, no bouts with madness, felt no need to shock people into noticing his art, nor had numerous affairs.  He was a faithful husband and a caring father.  All his life he tried to honor his family name in order to make people forget the scandal his father brought to it before he was born.

He judged his own work honestly.  There was no vanity here.  He worked hard but always saved time for his family.  It was his discipline that he considered his greatest asset and responsible for his steady progress.  Centuries have confirmed his immortality but Rubens himself would not have been surprised or expected otherwise.  He was, after all, his own best critic.



Study of "The Libyan Sibyl" after Michelangelo

 Michelangelo is one of the most important figures of an extraordinary period.....the Renaissance.  He and many artists of his day were awakened by a renewed interest in the Classical Greek and Roman art.  Inspired by the ancients' sculpture and strong philosophy with their concepts of Beauty and Truth, the Renaissance period merged these truths with their belief in Christianity.  They, too, learned from the masters before them, absorbing their strengths, their forms and designs.  

Michelangelo was delighted when he was summoned by Pope Julius II in 1506 to Rome to create sculptures for his tomb.  But the Pope changed his mind and ordered him to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling instead.  Michelangelo fled to Florence trying desperately to get out of this project.  Two years later Michelangelo unwillingly agreed and started on this vast ceiling.

Sibyls were Old Testament prophets.  "The Libyan Sibyl" is a fully Mannerist figure, meaning that it portrays beauty and harmony by using highly stylized elegant forms, many times at the expense of content and expression.  Michelangelo made many careful studies of anatomy, drawing the smallest details of the figure over and over again in order to achieve perfection.  He believed that only paintings which looked like sculptures were beautiful, bursting with form and energy.  

This was a sketch from his notebook and when I started to analyze this picture I thought that this was just practicing the shape of the toe, the hand and the foot and face.  But upon continuing I realized that even this practice was designed!  Take a ruler and find the horizontal coincidences, the vertical coincidences as well as the diagonals.  Amazing!  He was even designing while perfecting his art!   And please search for the finished project of the Libyan Sibyl and see how he changed the figure from a man to a woman and changed the arms and their height.  And just try to bet into that position and if you think that you could actually reach and hold a large book, you're a better person than I am !!!