A perfect specimen of the Flemish oil painting style with its attention to the tiniest details, the picture under the title The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger is truly a masterpiece embodying the ideas and world vision of the XVI Century.
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With a distinct scent of the German, namely, the Augsburg (Bavaria) culture, this piece makes one plunge into the 1533 and see the world through the prism of the then philosophical ideas. Indeed, if there is anything that can intertwine the Bavarian and the Flemish, this is the painting by Holbein. With help of his peculiar style, the two cultures came as close as ever, making the philosophies of the two countries merge.
Taking a closer look at the picture, one can notice that time proved completely helpless to make any damage to it. Each detail is still there, perfectly outlined and impeccably expressed.
It is truly unbelievable that the size of the picture correlates with its grandeur and magnificence – the canvas make 81×82.5”. Created with careful strokes of oil paint on oak panel, this masterpiece is shot through with the spirit of the Renaissance.
Depicting the two ambassadors, the painting makes an impression of a piece of the Renaissance life frozen for a moment for the people of the future to see it. Depicting numerous details, the painting creates an impression of a part of real life snatched from 1533 and put into the frame of the XXI century.
On a second thought, the picture can tell much more than merely the historical traits of the epoch and the details of the Renaissance epoch. Helping the spectator understand the art of the Renaissance from within, the picture reveals the ideas and philosophies of XVI century together with the temper of the artist and the thing a that inspired him and guided on his way to creating this masterpiece.
It is obvious that the picture is rectangular, which is the most frequent and the most logical picture shape. Since the piece embraces the entire room and the two people in it, it cannot be square – to show the spaciousness, Holbein uses the rectangular and two-dimensional shape.
It must be also mentioned that the use of the light in the picture is quite unusual. With help of the shadows and spots of light, the author emphasizes the most important parts of the picture an places the less significant ones into the background. Thus, the two ambassadors are in the limelight of the picture in the literal sense of the word, whereas less important details are left in the periphery.
One more peculiar thing about the painting is the color casts used y the author. With help of the dark-green background, Holbein created the atmosphere of calm meditations and the air of political secrets. It is remarkable that the other colors, including the shade of red, are dark as well, with the white color being the only exception.
Although it is clear that tae painting must have a hard and somewhat rough texture, it seems as if the painting were made of velvet. Looking at the dark-green curtains, one cannot help feeling the wish to touch the material and see it swaying in the candlelight. Though this is merely an illusion, the painting does leave a feeling of something extremely soft and refined.
Despite the fact that at very first sight the picture might seem a bit shallow, further on it reveals the special depth that the spectator had no idea about previously. Since the people in the picture are set in a single line, the illusion of a flat image is retained for a while; however, as time passes, the spectator catches the play of light and shadow that create additional spaciousness. Leading in the background of the picture and beyond its actual boundaries, this spaciousness sets the imagination of the spectator loose, making him/her see the world of the XVI Century in its beauty and innocence.
With help of the lines in the picture, Holbein makes the impression of the striking reality complete. It is peculiar that the even and straight lines of the table and the devices in the picture are combined with the natural curves and roughness of the curtain, the folds of the ambassadors’ dresses, etc. Altogether, this draws a distinct line between the world of nature and the artificial world of the mankind.
What strikes most in the painting is that it looks completely real. Each detail, each shadow and line makes the spectator dive deep into the Renaissance epoch. Even the eyes of the ambassadors seem live and haunting. Looking wise and breathing with the new ideas and scientific innovations, this piece of Renaissance culture can take one five centuries back.
With help of this amazing picture, time traveling becomes possible. With help of this amazing piece of the XVI Century Renaissance art, one can feel the pulse of the great scientific discoveries and even greater expectations. For a moment, it seems that the world has held its breathe to meet the future – the XXI Century.