(Fourth in a series about D&Dish art)
"With a few exceptions, however, Vasari's aesthetic judgement was acute and unbiased. "
|St Anthony from Grunewald's Isenheim Altarpiece. Why did no-one|
ever tell you that art was totally fucking Warhammer?
Because Vasari, that's why.
|I repeat: this man did not want you to hear about this|
giant bludgeoning eagle monster.
-Was published in 1550
-Invented art history
-First applied the specific term "Renaissance" to what was going on in Italy then
-Helped put Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo on the pedestals they currently occupy
-Has an amusing anecdote about Paolo Uccello and cheese
-Contains a lot of mistakes
-Is fun to read
-Was kind of a piece of pro-Florentine propaganda
|A deposition by Rogier Van Der Weyden|
The Italian Renaissance was big on painting baby Jesus.
the Northern Renaissance was big on painting dead Jesus
|Rabbit by Albrecht Durer, or--as Vasari called him in|
Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects--
Part of the Italian Renaissance painters' continued pre-eminence is due to the early (if halting and uneven) adoption of innovative realist techniques like perspective, chiaroscuro, sfumato, careful anatomy, and the not-inconsiderable fact that the cities they built are, to this day, still very beautiful due to the influence of their Renaissance buildings--but part of it's just politics and luck.
Let's assume, despite 500 years of evidence to the contrary, for just one moment that pictures actually can speak louder than Vasari's words, :
Here is Michelangelo's Moses done circa 1513-1515
This is because while the Italian Renaissance was largely a reaction against the symbolism, suffering, and icy clarity of the International Gothic style (the tail-end of Medieval art), the Northern Renaissance was largely just a continuation of the International Gothic with more sophisticated techniques. I mean no disrespect to the draftsmanship of Leonardo or the many magnificent sculptures of Michelangelo when I remind you: these were still people who looked at Gothic cathedrals and didn't like them.
|By the Limbourg Brothers, pre-eminent purveyors|
of the International Gothic
|Michael Pacher, Austrian. This painting could be titled|
"Bizarre Northern Renaissance Foreground Event
Intrudes On Otherwise Pleasant Italian Renaissance Day"
|Rogier Van Der Weyden. Totally not giving a fuck|
how big you think a horse's head is and putting
an awesome castle on a weird crag because he
|Carpaccio. And definitely click to enlarge.|
|Pieter Breugel's Fall of the Rebel Angels|
|(detail) He'd been specifically commissioned to imitate Bosch|
in this painting.
…and the Temptation of St Anthony--who is always depicted as set upon by weird demons:
|Good old Hieronymous Bosch|
|Close up. Because: Death With A Lyre On A Freak Emerging From A Tomato|
So anyway, the upshot for D&D fans is that the Northern Renaissance with its twin and opposing manias for precision and invention is basically the best treasure trove of "What This Thing Actually Looks Like" art outside of purpose-built modern fantasy illustration (much of which is consciously or unconsciously influenced by the art of this era) I mean, check it:
|Durer, man, Durer.|
…and, likewise, the sort of colored-light-blurriness and ritual vagueness and weightlessness of corporate fantasy illustration is derived from hazy recollections of the Italian Renaissance.
In the end, though, quality knows no real borders. Here's Nicola Pisano being awesome:
…and, y'know, this thing Michelangelo did is pretty good...
That is a seriously dead guy right there--and it's achieved not with blood-spray theatrics but rather with minute attention to positioning--the way Christ's body lays is not just believable (a little more believable than Van Der Weyden's deposition above) but it uses that new believability to push forward to being articulate--it is a pose that tells you at every moment (the armpit, the upper arm, the wrist, the knees) where the weight is going. It reminds you of death in a new way that art--all the skulls and twisted faces of the previous millennia notwithstanding--had not yet been able to do. It puts a new tool in everyone's toolkit going forward.
And, god, we haven't even got to Jan Van Eyck yet:
|click and enlarge you fool|
Look at that NPC. Look at his very specific face. Look at that floor--isn't it cool someone had that floor back then? Look at that rug. Look at that armor.
Alright. See you next time.