Exercise: Sixteenth and Seventeenth-century portraits

“Today a painted portrait can be compared with other sorts of images, notably photographs, but we have no such points of reference (apart from written descriptions  and  further  portraits)  for  portraits  created  before the  mid-nineteenth century” (Course notes p 93)

This exercise is to research portraits and make your own version. The text specifically mentioned some by name so I thought I’d start with those.

Hans Holbein the Younger: Erasmus paintings

Firstly, Holbein’s various Erasmus paintings. He made several versions.

WHA (p.463) describes Holbein’s portrait of Erasmus as showing him: … standing beside a pilaster delicately carved with Classical motifs and resting his sensitive fingers on a book inscribed in Greek ‘The Herculean Labours’ and in Latin ‘of Erasmus of Rotterdam’. The origins of  his scholarship  are  thus  made quite explicit,  but the  purity and truth of his Christian humanism are also alluded to (in the decanter of clear  water). It is  the image of  a new  and peculiarly  Renaissance type of man, the aristocrat of the intellect. (Course notes p 93)

 I found several online, the one in the National Gallery and the one in the Met are of a similar ¾ length pose and half turned to the viewer, although the NG one has all the ‘props’ to reference to the man’s personality. The third one currently in the Louvre in France, shows him in portrait, again ¾ length but almost with his back to us, an action pose, a man of letters writing away.

 

Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1532 Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London) (and Workshop(?)) Oil on linden panel, 18.4 x 14.2 cm Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/459080
Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1532
Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London) (and Workshop(?))
Oil on linden panel, 18.4 x 14.2 cm
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/459080
Erasmus, 1523, Hans Holbein the Younger Oil on wood, 73.6 x 51.4 cm © Longford Castle Collection https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-erasmus
Erasmus, 1523,
Hans Holbein the Younger
Oil on wood, 73.6 x 51.4 cm
© Longford Castle Collection
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-erasmus Image from http://www.hans-holbein.org/Portrait-of-Erasmus-of-Rotterdam-1523.html

 

Hans HOLBEIN II (Augsburg, 1497 - London, 1543) Erasmus H. 0.43 m; W. 0.33 m © 2011 Musée du Louvre/Martine Beck-Coppola
Hans HOLBEIN II (Augsburg, 1497 – London, 1543)
Erasmus
H. 0.43 m; W. 0.33 m
© 2011 Musée du Louvre/Martine Beck-Coppola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther Paintings

“Martin Luther, on the other hand, is shown without any visual clues at all, but this is significant in itself. What the viewer sees is a plain but resolute man, free of the trappings of the Catholic Church or Renaissance academic life; by implication, he has rejected all this in favour of a focus on man’s eternal soul.“ (Course notes p 93)

Again, I found several online. The one in the Met is as stated above, however in the one in Vienna, he is holding a prayer book.

Martin Luther (1483–1546), probably 1532 Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar) Oil on wood, 13 1/8 x 9 1/8 in. (33.3 x 23.2 cm) Gift of Robert Lehman, 1955 http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436047
Martin Luther (1483–1546), probably 1532
Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Oil on wood, 13 1/8 x 9 1/8 in. (33.3 x 23.2 cm)
Gift of Robert Lehman, 1955
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436047
Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther, c. 1570/1580 © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna http://www.habsburger.net/en/media/lucas-cranach-younger-martin-luther-c-15701580
Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther, c. 1570/1580
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
http://www.habsburger.net/en/media/lucas-cranach-younger-martin-luther-c-15701580

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Popes…

I was researching Titian’s Pope Paul III when I came across an article covering Papal portraiture by Joseph L Goldstein. Basically Raphael revolutionised the world or portraits of popes with his ¾ pose on the Papal throne in the Papal finery. Before 1500 the portraits were a mixture of him kneeling in prayer or with his cardinals. This pose has been repeated since then.

“Titian adopted Raphael’s general model in terms of pose and tenor but departed from it in a radically original way. Titian used color and light to produce the luster of the velvet, the stiffness of the linen and the vigor of the flesh (Fig. 1b). The secret to Titian’s technical innovation was his use of a bare minimum number of hues— two in this case, red and white—applied in the subtlest of gradations.” (Goldstein, J, 2009)

Velázquez next took up the job with Pope Innocent X.

“Innocent X was arguably the worst of all popes; he was hot-tempered, paranoid, ruthless and unscrupulously duplicitous in taking the name of Innocent. What’s remarkable about Velázquez’s portrait is how he paints Innocent X in the Raphael-Titian tradition, thus satisfying his demanding client with a flattering portrait, yet at the same time conveying a hint of the pope’s explosive personality and corrupt character (Fig. 1c).“ (Goldstein, J, 2009)

 

Figure 1. Papal portraiture from Raphael to Titian to Velázquez. (a) Raphael. Pope Julius II. 1511. Oil on wood. 108 x 80.7 cm. National Gallery, London. (b) Titian, Pope Paul III. 1543. Oil on canvas. 106 x 85 cm. Museo Nazionale di Capondimonte, Naples. (c) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome.
Figure 1. Papal portraiture from Raphael to Titian to Velázquez. (a) Raphael. Pope Julius II. 1511. Oil on wood. 108 x 80.7 cm. National Gallery, London. (b) Titian, Pope Paul III. 1543. Oil on canvas. 106 x 85 cm. Museo Nazionale di Capondimonte, Naples. (c) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome.
Figure 2. Three portrait versions of Pope Innocent X. (a) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome. (b) Francis Bacon. Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X. 1953. Oil on canvas. 153 x 118.1 cm. Nathan Emory Coffin Collaboration, Des Moines Art Centre. (c) Glenn Brown, Nausea. 2008. Oil on panel. 155 x 120 cm. Tate Liverpool.
Figure 2. Three portrait versions of Pope Innocent X. (a) Velázquez. Pope Innocent X. 1650. Oil on canvas. 114 x 119 cm. Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Rome. (b) Francis Bacon. Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. 1953. Oil on canvas. 153 x 118.1 cm. Nathan Emory Coffin Collaboration, Des Moines Art Centre. (c) Glenn Brown, Nausea. 2008. Oil on panel. 155 x 120 cm. Tate Liverpool.

 In 1953, Francis Bacon reinterpreted Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X by placing him in an electric chair, surrounded by a yellow hexagonal rail. There are vertical lines that run up and down the painting like bars of a prison cell. He is dressed in bloodstained clothes and gripping the chair arms and screaming.

In 2008, an artist called Glenn Brown, reinvented this yet again by making his canvas glossy and smooth like a magazine and turning the pope on his head.

“Brown distorts the image of Pope Innocent X by removing his cape and cap, painting his hands gangrene green and rotating his body 180 degrees. Only the white apron and the Ring of the Fisherman are retained. In this painting, Brown literally turns the 500-year-old field of papal portraiture upside down and on its head.” (Goldstein, J, 2009)

 

screenshot_2016-01-22-22-51-47.png
In the introductory blogposts I researched portraits and self-portraits too, I noticed then the prominence of the ¾ length pose turning to the viewer during this period and made a copy of this Rembrandt self-portrait with an app on my phone.

Currently I’m readying a David Hockey’s Secret Knowledge which got me inspired to try a Camera Lucida to make my copy, seeing as I cannot afford a real one (they seem to sell them on ebay for just under £100!) I thought I’d go digital again and try one of the many apps you can get which uses the camera on your phone to give you a Camera Lucida’s experience of an image you already have. Ie, it overlays a ghost image on your page, so you look at the screen but your pen is under the phone on the paper. I tried to make a pencil copy of Pope Innocent X (the Velázquez version). Here it is, I took a picture with the pencil in the frame so you can see how tiny it turned out! You can still disern his meaness though.

20161025_161853-01.jpeg

I think it would take a bit of practice and skill to use a real one. Issues include knocking the device or the paper and then the image goes out of alignment. The real one, obviously allows you to draw from life but also would need you to be viewing from a certain constant angle or you’d lose the image.

Todo: when the book on signs and symbols I’ve reserved from the library comes in I hope to revisit this post. I was wondering what props I would use if I were to make a portrait of my tiny daughter. She has a suitable pink spotty chair, which perhaps I can drape her play mat behind as a “curtain”, not sure she’d sit still enough for the traditional ¾ length turning to the viewer pose though (even for a photo, she’s almost one and a half). I was thinking maybe I could use a balloon to represent her innocent joy or my hopes and dreams for her? A clear glass of water seems to represent purity. Perhaps some favourite toys? She has a good sense of humour, how would I interpret that? Will have a think.

Edit: So my book on symbols arrived. Its mostly religious and classical stories which is a bit disappointing. Thinking on the above problem I was able to glean that unicorns symbolised purity which is why the Christians commandeered it to represent Jesus and female chastity (which has kind of ruined them for me now) since the unicorn is usually seen with the Virgin. Innocence is represented by a lamb. Children blowing bubbles represents to brevity of life in ‘Vanitas’, which is just super depressing! I might try and go for my original ideas of her with a balloon, clear water and now a lamb.

 

 

References:
Goldstein, J. (2009) ‘Lasker Awards and papal portraiture: Turning fields upside down‘In: Nature medicine Vol 15. Number 10. [online] At: http://www.laskerfoundation.org/new-noteworthy/articles/lasker-awards-and-papal-portraiture-turning-fields-upside-down/
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Habsburger. (2016) Lucas Cranach the Younger: Martin Luther, c. 1570/1580 At: http://www.habsburger.net/en/media/lucas-cranach-younger-martin-luther-c-15701580
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Hall, J. (1979) Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art (introduction by Kenneth Clark). John Murray Publishers
 

Lourve. (2016) Erasmus At: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/erasmus
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Met Museum. (2016) Erasmus of Rotterdam At: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/459080
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

Met Museum. (2016) Martin Luther (1483–1546) At: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436047
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

National Gallery. (2016) Erasmus, 1523, Hans Holbein the Younger At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-erasmus
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

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