Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Painted Any Funerals Lately?

I suppose they were never at the top of any artist's list of "must do" paintings, but I would hazard a guess very few if any artists today have ever done a painting of a funeral.  Yet five-hundred years ago, they were not all that uncommon.  Quite a number of quite well known artists have painted them.  Probably the most noted funeral painting was created by a man born in the year 1541, on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, an artist by the name of Domeniko Theotokopoulos.

In Italy, the Renaissance was past its prime, but still vibrant. Michelangelo was still a force to be reckoned with in art. And throughout Europe, the arts were flourishing as never before. For an artist, it was a great time to be born. As a young man, he traveled through Italy and was briefly a part of Titian's workshop of apprentices. His work picked up Venetian and Mannerist influences.

The Burial of Count Orgaz, 1586
The painting was for the church of Santo Tome in the artist's adopted hometown, Toledo, Spain.  It is an enormous 16' x 11' mural-size canvas bridging the the gulf between the realism and mysticism of the Mannerist era. Created in 1586, it is entitled The Burial of Count Orgaz.

On its lower level, the painting depicts the title event in a group portrait encompassing some 27 life-size figures, dressed in the contemporary finery of the time. If the work were nothing more than this funerary scene, it would still be remarkable.
But above it, on a second level, under an arch shape, we see the deceased pleading on behalf of his soul before Christ on his throne, St. Peter, Mary, numerous angels, and a multitude of heavenly hosts.

The figures below are slightly antenuated, those above, more obviously so. Some experts believe the artist suffered from an astigmatism. Others see it merely as a matter of style. The influence of Michelangelo's Last Judgement is noticable. Recently, a reader told me she keeps an "art book" near her computer to read further regarding some of the artists mentioned here. So, before you go looking in your art history books for the tongue-curling name Domeniko Theotokopoulos, perhaps you might want to know that his "professional name" was El Grecco.

No comments:

Post a Comment