Saturday, March 08, 2008

In the spirit of taking our first art test

Oh the joys of teaching! I've been grading tests today, and one of the assigned tasks was to draw a detail from a famous painting on a grid. While looking at the little piece of the painting (24 times!) I pondered one of its elements, which brought to mind a fun little art history trivia question.

The painting we used has a reflection in it and it is one of two famous paintings that have mirrored reflections that are incorrect. Both were done purposely by the individual artists, but neither reflection is realistically possible. Anyone know which two paintings I'm talking about? (BTW, there may be more than two; I only know of these two--but I'm not an expert!)

Here's a hint: they are both 19th century works. Have fun!

And before you go ponder what paintings have mirrors, take a look at this lovely Botticelli, The Madonna of the Magnificat. I spend quite a bit of time looking for paintings that exemplify the concepts I'm teaching and/or testing on, so my nose was buried in art books for a while this week. I found a wonderful reproduction of this painting in a book about Mary in art. So many times the reproductions are small, or, frequently in the case of the internet, dark, but this image was full page in an oversize book. It made me long to stand in front of the real thing and see the surface: is it glassy, or can you see his brushstrokes? Does the translucent paint have that lovely glow that so many oil paintings do? Are the details fine? Maybe some day I can see for myself. In the meantime I must content myself with dreams and lots of books!

In case you're not familiar with the Magnificat, a beautiful passage from Luke 1:46-55, here it is:

And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."

Thanks to From Old Books for the scholar image at the top; Web Gallery for the Botticelli; and Biblegateway for the verse.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Mystery of the Mirrored Reflection:

my immediate thought was of Velazquez's "Rockeby Venus", but then i read your criterion of 19th century. So, here's a proposition -- how about Whistler's "Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl" and Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergere"?