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Religion in the Renaissance, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1235

Essay

The experience of visiting an art center and being able to admire and examine the elements of famous works in person is essential to fully understanding what goes into masterpieces. My favorite works are Renaissance paintings because of their classic complexity and focus on the details of the face. The Getty Center currently contains several works by Andrea del Sarto, who is, in my opinion, the epitome of a renaissance master. One of the strongest themes of the Renaissance is religion. The depiction of biblical stories connects many artists of this period. By examining one of Sarto’s great works, The Sacrifice of Isaac, and Masaccio’s The Expulsion from Paradise, I was able to gain a knew appreciation of not only the two artists’ ability to use dimension and colors to explore a classic religious theme, but I also got a glimpse into the tactics and muses employed by many Renaissance painters.

I visited The Getty Center, which is a gorgeous art center in Los Angeles that currently features numerous impressive pieces and collections. The museum is tastefully spread out, the works featured there are not crammed together, but instead given the space to be individually appreciated. One of the collections currently displayed in the museum consists of several works by Sarto. My aforementioned interest in Renaissance paintings sparked my interest in the collection and drew me to that area of the museum. It was interesting to see multiple works by one artist displayed closely with one another. Most of the Sarto works on display are simple sketches and portraits with minimal color, which is why I was immediately drawn to The Sacrifice of Isaac, which features an extremely detailed depiction of a biblical scene and bright, striking colors that add an extra dimension to the piece. I am interested in works that have religious overtones such as this one, as they always contain a plethora of symbolism. The Sarto works are grouped together in the museum. Next to The Sacrifice of Isaac a simpler work titled Study of the Head of a Young Woman, which was painted by Sarto around 1523, and Study for the Head of Saint John the Baptist, also painted by Sarto around the year 1523. The inclusion of these Renaissance works in close proximity helped me to analyze Sarto’s technique. The simpler nature of the latter two works also helped draw my eye to the more complex The Sacrifice of Isaac. The works are all untied in their creator and his general techniques, such as attention to facial features, but the piece I have chosen to focus on is clearly the more complex. Generally, I enjoyed my time in the museum; it features a variety of artists and many unique mediums. The section of the museum dedicated to Sarto’s renaissance works allowed me to examine multiple works by a single artist and made my choice of subject easier, as I knew immediately which piece I had an affinity for.

The piece The Sacrifice of Isaac by Andrea del Sarto utilizes a variety of colors and features three main subjects. Abraham is the most striking figure in the piece, as he is adorned in a richly colored red and gold fabric. The red on his clothes is most likely meant to symbolize the blood of sacrifice, and the gold to represent the nobility of sacrificing something precious in the name of God. Abraham tilts his face to the heavens, seeming strong and obedient to God’s commands, where a cherub figure reaches out to him with a sympathetic look. In one hand, Abraham grasps the knife with which he will take his son’s life. The dagger is out of Isaac’s view, which is how sacrifices were traditionally conducted; without the sacrificial creature seeing the weapon and therefore leaving them in the dark about their own swift demise. Isaac looks anything but ignorant of the situation, however, he is naked, bent over as if quivering in fear, with a forlorn expression on his face. Unlike his father, Isaac does not raise his eyes to the sky; instead he looks despondently at the ground. This suggests that Abraham is superior because of his strong faith. Abraham also kneels on the sacrificial alter, with his son crouching below, giving him a fuller physical advantage over his son. The angel is above Abraham, as it is a servant of heaven, and Abraham is depicted as higher than Isaac, as he is a faithful, trusting minion of the higher force. There are robes on the ground and a tree in the background, along with another, less obvious figure and perhaps some animals. But all are dull compared to Abraham’s might and the winged servant of God that speaks to him (“Andrea Del Sarto-The Sacrifice of Isaac-C. 1527″). The expressions on the faces of the figures are very telling, and the religious message of the piece is undeniable. The Sacrifice of Isaac follows a strict religious theme, by depicting a traditional Old Testament story in true Renaissance fashion.

I decided to compare The Sacrifice of Isaac to The Expulsion from Paradise, because they are both products of the Renaissance that focus on religious themes. The Expulsion from Paradise shows Adam and Eve lamenting as they are forced from Eden by an angel draped in red (Lazzari, Margaret R., and Dona Schlesier). Like Sarto, Masaccio’s work features two humans and an angel of God floating above. Both Adam and Eve are completely naked, and Eve attempts to cover herself as a result of her newfound knowledge; the very reason the pair is being banished from paradise. Unlike Sarto, Masaccio does not pay as much attention to the facial features of the three figures; their expressions are more smoothed over, and Adams face is completely hidden in his hands. Eve’s devastated expression is distinguishable, but Masaccio did not put as much detail into her individual features as Sarto did, rendering her emotions less potent. The angel’s features are also a little muddled, but the strong black sword he carries relays the message that he is strong and intent on succeeding in carrying out God’s bidding. Like Isaac in The Sacrifice of Isaac, Adam and Eve are clearly suffering, and all three figures are depicted nude and shameful. Adam and Eve both seem to adamantly regret their decision to sin, as they walk forwards, not looking back at the shimmering paradise they will never again be allowed to enter. Religion was a strong motif in countless pieces of Renaissance artwork, which shows what a deeply ingrained aspect of life religion was in that time period. I found it extremely interested to examine how two separate artists took on the subject of religion and depicted iconic figures in the bible. While both of these pieces depict Old Testament stories and were created during the Renaissance, they are mainly separated by the level of detail used. I feel that Sarto’s intense attention to details and facial features and dedication to symbolism make The Sacrifice of Isaac a more striking religious piece. I prefer Sarto’s work to Masaccio’s. I feel that Sarto embraces the theme of religion more successfully than Masaccio, due to his level of detail and complexity of message.

Works Cited

“Andrea Del Sarto-The Sacrifice of Isaac / C. 1527.” The Amica Library. Cartography Associates, 2007. Web. <http://www.davidrumsey.com/amica/amico859949-34185.html>.

Lazzari, Margaret R., and Dona Schlesier. Exploring Art: A Global, Thematic Approach. South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2002. Print.

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