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Baroque can be traced back in Rome. It was mainly used to raise emotions of viewers in order to sway their thinking. The Roman Catholic Church found Baroque very important in their ministry of the word of God. Many people had strongly believed in gods they could see or touch, like moon, sun or animals.1 The Roman Catholic Church saw this as an opportunity through which they could make their message clear to their audience.
They encouraged this artistry within this country, and helped spread the art to Europe and other parts of the world. Through baroque, they could show the faithful the face of Jesus Christ. They painted the church with different baroques of Jesus, and other saints. This proved to be very successful. Those who could not read the gospel could relate the information given, to the piece of baroque in the church. They managed to attract more followers to the church.
During this period, art had become one of the prominent ways of passing any form of communication. Many people found baroque appealing way of communication. In most of the occasions, the artist would make a beautiful painting to reflect on a well known and cherished fact. For instance, the church used the paintings to emphasize on the presence of God, and His son Jesus Christ. In other occasions, the paintings were used to communicate a hidden fact. An artist would use some known facts, but conceal the whole painting in a way that would require some interpretation. In such cases, the interpretation would at times be very different from what the artist had in mind.
In this piece of art, Aristotle is touching the bust of Homer.
This piece of art is a baroque art. According to Heller2, a good painting should bring fiction to reality. It should capture the mind of the audience and make them feel that what they are seeing is real, and not a work of imagination. Rembrandt has succeeded in this in regard to this picture.
He managed create Aristotle in his mind and bring him out in the most realistic manner possible. It would require a keen analysis, with some strong historical background about the context of the piece of art, in order to realize that this is purely baroque. This piece of art is actually a baroque art. The following characteristics can help confirm this argument.
One of the easiest ways of identifying a baroque art is by studying the brush strokes. In most of the cases, pieces of baroque art always have conspicuous brush strokes that would make one to easily identify it as such.3 Rembrandt has however, proven his prowess in painting.
The piece of art has completely concealed all the brash strokes on Aristotle. It is only a professional who will realize that there are brush strokes that is betraying this piece of art to be a baroque art, especially on the bust of Homer. A careful study of the hair, the beards and the dress of Homer reveals that this is a painting of that era. There are some visible brush strokes on the three sections on this bust. A careful study of the chain also reveals some brush strokes that confirms that this is a baroque art.
The composition of this piece of art further demonstrates that this is actually a baroque art. The artist has given this piece of art a lot of features that may convince one that this is not a piece of baroque art. The face of Aristotle is so real. We see a man who is in a deep thought.
His concern seems to be on the portrait, and the touch he has on the bust seems so genuine. The dress is typical of a dress that people of this era used, especially men. However, there are some factors about composition that confirms this piece of art as a baroque art.4 The chain around the neck of Aristotle is one of the most conspicuous factors that prove that this is a baroque.
This is a golden chain that was very popular during this time. The appearance of this chain is closer to being some form of a rope than being a chain. The face of Aristotle also reveals that this is aesthetic. The size of the mouth is unrealistically small.
These exaggerations confirm that this piece of art is a baroque art. The proximity of the mouth to the nose also makes it appear a baroque. The hand is not natural. It is not proportional to the fingers. On the left hand, Aristotle has a ring on the last finger. The position of this ring on this finger is not realistic.
A ring is always pushed to the last segment of the finger. In this case however, the ring is on the first segment. It cannot stay there for long given the position of the hand. A keen analysis of the eye reveals that this is a baroque art. According to Heller5, one of the easiest way through which a professional can tell whether a given piece of art is a painting is the eye. To a beginner, this may probably be a very difficult task.
However, to an individual who is experienced in this field, the eye will always help in knowing if a pierce or art is a baroque or not. The eyes of Aristotle are not real. Although the artist tried to make the eyes appear as realistic as possible, it still comes out as a painting.
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Depending on the level of skill an individual has on this field, color can also be used to determine the authenticity of a piece of art.6 Rembrandt was very keen on the way he use the color in this piece of art. However, some few facts give him away. The color of the face and the two hands differs.
The right hand placed on the head of the bust is very light. The face is a little darker and the left hand is the darkest of the three. This is despite the fact that the three parts of the body have received enough illumination. This is not realistic. This is confirmed by the color and texture of the bust. The right hand of Aristotle placed on the bust has more similarities (in texture and color) to the bust itself, than the rest of the body of Aristotle. This shows that the color used in painting this part was the same.
Perhaps one of the most revealing factors that this is a baroque is the light. As Cox7 observes, light travels in a straight line. It does not have the capacity to go round an object. In this piece of art, there are three possible sides that the light illuminating Aristotle and the bust of Homer.
The first possibility is that it is coming directly from the top. This is supported by the fact that the head of the bust, and on both shoulders of Aristotle. However, is ruled out by the fact that the cap worn by Aristotle is in darkness. There is another possibility that the light could be coming from the staircase. This is supported by the brightness on the right hand side of Aristotle, and the upper part of the bust. However, a number of facts rule this out.
The fact that the left hand of Aristotle is also illuminated rules out this possibility. Moreover, if that were the case, we would be expecting the shadow of the bust to be cast on the left hand side of Aristotle. The third and last option is that this light is coming from the direct front of Aristotle.
This is because both the left and right hands of Aristotle are illuminated. The light on the face of Aristotle also supports this idea. This is idea is rule out by the fact that part of the left shoulder is in partial darkness. This source of light would have also hit part of the cap worn by Aristotle, which is not the case. The source of light in this piece of art is therefore undefined. This is only possible in a piece of art. Some of these characteristics appear obviously exaggerated, which confirms that this confirms that this is a baroque art.
Context in History
Baroque is actually an era. It started in around 1600, when prominent artists like Rembrandt came out strongly to show their worth. During this period, people used paintings to present given information to the target audience. It was one of the best ways to win heart of various categories of individuals. As Henderson8 explains, many prominent people used this art to appeal to a given section of the society.
The Roman Catholic Church used it to convince the faithful to stay in church and to believe in Jesus Christ. In many of the cases, the artists were forced to come up with a painting of a person they had not seen in their lives. They would rely on the information that was given to them, or historical facts about these individuals.
For instance, no one can actually remember the face of the saints that were used by God to pass His message to His people in those olden days. However, the artists had to come up with their image anyway. They heavily relied on the information provided by the church leaders because during this time, the bible was a reserve for the church elders. The same is the case with the painting of other prominent people.
Putting this piece of art in this context, it comes out as a pure baroque. One of the common characteristics of baroque works was a little exaggeration. As explained above, these paintings were supposed to raise some emotions from the audience. In order to make this successful, it was necessary to exaggerate some facts to make it get the attention of the audience. In this painting, the contrast between Aristotle and Homer is exaggerated.
The dress worn by Aristotle is very expensive, sharply contrasting the simple gown that Homer has on the sculpture.9 To emphasize on the value of the dress worn by Aristotle, he has a very expensive chain, probably given to him by his former student, Alexander the Great.
This is very historical. During this time, many people had come to appreciate both Homer and Aristotle are great teachers and philosophers of their times. Homer came before Aristotle, and was thought to be very prominent in poetry. On the other hand, Aristotle cut across disciplines, from physics to metaphysics, to philosophy and medicine among others.
However, there was a contrasting characteristic that differentiated the two. Homer was a simple man who was keen on developing his career and did not mind having a lot of wealth. On the other hand, Aristotle was a rich man who valued wealth a lot. The piece of art has exaggerated this fact.
The dress of the two great scholars in this piece of art shows this. Another historic interpretation can be gotten from this piece of art. It is a fact that Homer was nowhere near Aristotle in knowledge and philosophy. This explains why Aristotle was able to have massive impact on various fields.10
Homer was only prominent in poetry. This piece of art shows Aristotle admiring the bust of Homer. It could probably be that he was admiring the little knowledge that Homer had. Given opportunity (from the perspective of this piece of art), then Aristotle would not mind adding the little knowledge that Homer had, into his vast knowledge bank.
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Burn, Barbara. Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. Print.
Cox, John. Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007. Print.
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1 Zirpolo, Lilian. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Baroque Art and Architecture. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. P. 67
2 Brilliant, Richard. (1991). Portraiture. London: Reaktion books. P. 90
3 Brzyski, Anna. (2007). Partisan Canons. Durham: Duke University Press. P. 12
4 Bazley, Tom. (2010). Crimes of the Art World. Santa Barbara: Praeger. P. 56
5 Heller, Joseph. (2004). Picture This. New York: Simon & Schuster. P. 49
6Denham, Robert. (2010). Poets on Paintings: A Bibliography. Jefferson: McFarland & Co. P. 9
7 Cox, John. (2007). Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith. Waco: Baylor University Press. P. 113
8 Henderson, John. (2002). Pliny’s Statue: The Letters, Self-Portraiture and Classical Art. Exeter: Univ. of Exeter Press. P. 19
9 Burn, Barbara. (1993). Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. P. 89
10 Wilson, Douglas. Omnibus IV: The Ancient World. Lancaster, Penn: Veritas Press, 2009. Print. P. 18