Measured against the accelerating transformation of our own society, the Renaissance seems like a relatively minor cultural revolution in the history of humanity.Futurologists like Alvin Toffler suggest that the changing conditions of life we are now experiencing are so profound that they represent a break in historic continuity comparable only to the shift from barbarism to civilization; arriving at a speed that could alienate us from our most cherished cultural traditions, but nonetheless, the Renaissance cannot be underestimated….
Dante, perhaps the first poet of science fiction, also envisioned a future way of life, both here and in the hereafter. In his view, expressed in the Divine Comedy, the population problem was confined largely to hell. The way to paradise appeared to be still as perilous and uncertain as he so vividly recalled it. He called his poem a comedy because it begins in adversity and ends happily, and because it is couched in a familiar style. It was the sense of sin mingled with the desire for release from sin; a view of mortal existence as a testing, a preparation of the soul for its possible bliss.
Once this is accepted, his cosmogony -Hell, Purgatory and Paradise follows almost by necessity. His great discovery was that he could turn his philosophical speculations into a narrative, a fiction, by using the simple and ancient device of the journey. Dismiss all that is outmoded and antiquated in his book, there is still something precious and essential that remains: the revelation of humanity at odds with the world and with themselves, conscious of sin, longing for salvation.
During Dante’s forced exile from Florence he took refuge in a neighboring town of Porciano. According to an old story when he was forced to flee this refuge in turn, he was accosted on a mountain path by an armed party of Florentines sent to capture him. Not recognizing the poet, the leader of ghe band asked him if Dante was still at Porciano. “He was still there when I was there,” Dante is said to have answered- and trudged on, unhindered to his next safe haven.
Another story recounts that Dante had earlier journeyed to Padua and was there the guest of Giotto, then completing his great series of frescoes. The two men were close friends and Dante hailed Giotto as the greatest painter of their time- a judgement reiterated by Petrarch, Boccaccio, Vasari, and others.
In his youth , it is told, Giotto was a shepherd boy. Later in life, appropriately, he joined the wool guild, and as a practical man of affairs and a capitalist he prospered. He also became probably the most highly paid artist in Italy. He died rich in lands and in money- somewhat ironically, since he had established a large part of his fame in the service of he Franciscans depicting the virtues of poverty as demonstrated in the life and ordinances of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Giotto was aware of the practical dangers and the exaggerations that could blemish the practice of poverty as a spiritual discipline. In the end he preferred the hard won affluence of his later years to the involuntary poverty of his childhood and to the professed poverty of his Franciscan patrons. Measured against the pace of social and cultural developments over the centuries preceeding the Renaissance, Giotto and Dante lived in a time of rapid change- a time when radical new concepts were altering the outlook of man on his world.
We have no reason to believe that Giotto thought of himself as a revolutionary. Rather, his art was revolutionary in the natural course of things. He reoriented the painters way of representing the world, but this reorientation, as filtered through his genius, was the inevitable expression of a change in the way people thought and felt about the world. As the age of mystical faith waned, Giotto chaned art from an art of symbols to an art of passion. He tied painting to the earth- to the look of the world and to the emotions of people in the world- but by doing so he released it to explore in a multiplicity of directions the vast range of the human spirit and intelligence.
This was the nature of Giotto’s revolution: that he re-established our recognition of the cpacity for grandeur in human emotion. His technical revolution in the direction of realistic representation was only the necessary adjunct to this concept. Giotto is sometimes called the medieval climacteric because of the power of his narration of the Christian story. He is usually called the first Renaissance artist because in humanizing that story he opened a tradition of reference to nature. He is both of these. And he is also a great artist in the classical tradition, which ennobles man in his physical being as a vessel of the intellect and the spirit.
The the other-wordly science fiction elements of Dante and the technical revolution of Giotto opened the gates to universalized expression and the surrealism of Arcimodo, two hundred years after Dante and Giotto was a natural extension: the visual comedian who made displacement the theme of his art. He is basically known for depicting human faces through painted images of fruit, vegetables, flowers and animals. He was probably the weirdest artist of the Renaissance; a technical genius with creepiness bleeding in from the edges.
His work was passed over by art historians and it was only with the emergence of the French Surrealist school of Andre Breton, that the emerging radical new art forms resuscitated his legacy. Man Ray, Dali and others began to appropriate elements of Arcimboldo ( 1526-1593): It wasn’t until the 20th Century that Arcimboldo was rediscovered by the Modernists and Surrealists. We see echoes of Arcimboldo in the work of Pablo Picasso, George Grosz, Rene Magritte and, especially, Salvador Dalí. read More: http://jack.rusher.com/articles/GiuseppeArcimboldo.html …And, like Dali, Arcimboldo’s state of mind has been called into question on the basis of the gargoyles he came up with, which some find as scary as anything by Hieronymus Bosch. Even art historian Sylvio Leidi speaks of “nightmarish visions” in the catalogue for the current exhibition, and traces his ghoulishness back to early tapestries in which grimacing old men and ape-like faces vie for attention. Read More: http://dalihouse.blogsome.com/2008/05/28/dalis-great-great-great-grandfather/ a
Robert Fulford: Last year brought a handsome large-scale book, Arcimboldo: Visual Jokes, Natural History, and Still-Life Painting (University of Chicago Press), by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann.
An art historian at Princeton, Kaufmann seems a bit annoyed by critics who reduce Arcimboldo to an overture to Surrealism. He was much more than that, Kaufmann argues. He sees the portraits as elaborate analogies comparable to the analogies in poetry, inventively dealing with subjects that were new in the 16th century, botany and zoology. Kaufmann, as a good historian, wants us to understand the Arcimboldo his contemporaries knew. Read More: http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/01/17/giuseppe-arcimboldo-the-prince-of-produce-portraiture/ a
In the 21st century his reputation continues to spread. The Asterix theme park outside Paris, for instance, has an Arcimboldo restaurant, with an entrance that looks vaguely like a sculpted blow-up of one of his paintings. He plays a role in literature, too. Echoes are discernible in 2666, the last book of Roberto Bolaño (1953- 2003), the famous Chilean novelist.
Toward the end of that intellectual murder mystery, several characters try to locate a brilliant writer who has been missing for years, “Benno von Archimboldi” (a spelling used sometimes). Paintings are referred to in several crucial passages of the novel. Bolaño borrows Arcimboldo’s thought pattern: He makes each element in the narrative ordinary and carefully observed but combines them in an ominous, unsettling way. Characters are shaped as familiar national stereotypes, then placed where they don’t belong — like vegetables in a portrait.
And then there’s The Tale of Despereaux (2008), directed by Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen, one of the most beautiful of all animated features for children; along with the rats and mice who play most of the parts, it has a character named Boldo, constructed according to Arcimboldo principles. Voiced by Stanley Tucci, Boldo is a soup genie in a kingdom where preparing one great soup every year is the most sacred ritual of public life. Boldo is made of fresh vegetables, in keeping with his culinary profession. But the animators go another stage by deconstructing Arcimboldo. They have the strings that hold Boldo together give way at a crucial moment, turning him into a pile of groceries on the floor.