Admittedly, Renaissance art is often regarded as a great stride forward. The artists started creating three-dimensional paintings which ‘involved’ the viewer into the world of the painting. The use of linear perspective made it possible to make certain stresses and to highlight particular ideas. Masaccio’s Holy Trinity (1427) is one of the most illustrative examples of the specific use of perspective and vanishing point in particular.
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The artist creates a three-dimensional message to people. He reveals his own outlook (which is, of course, similar to ideas of people who lived at that period). The use of perspective creates a special effect: the artist makes people realize their particular place in the relationship with the divine. The fresco conveys the idea that the divine is something real but still unreachable for human beings.
To start with, it is important to focus on the technique used by the artist. Masaccio places the vanishing point at the eye level of the viewer. Apart from this, the artist painted a magnificent vault. It is divided into squares which are shortened in the background. This technique creates a specific effect of three-dimensionality of the painting. It seems that the vault is real and the objects in it are real as well.
Basically, the viewer can feel as if he/she was standing in front of a real vault. It goes without saying that this visual effect helps the artists to convey his ideas concerning the divine and the place of people in the relationship with the divine.
Furthermore, the vault helps to divide the space into two levels or dimensions: the level of the divine (which is, in its turn, divided into two dimensions) and the level of mortal people. The Holy Trinity and the figures of Mary and Saint John are located in the dimension of the divine (inside the vault). At the same time, the figures of the donators are outside the vault.
These figures are quite distant from the figures which are in the dimension of the divine. Therefore, it is possible to state that the location of the vanishing point and the techniques used to paint the vault contribute greatly to the creation of a specific effect: depicting real objects at different levels.
In the first place, it is essential to consider the foreground, in other words, the first level. It is but natural that the first level is occupied by donators (i.e. people). However, one more object is depicted in this level. In fact, this object is really illustrative. It is a skeleton which is at the bottom of the fresco.
The skeleton symbolizes perishability of human beings. This object signals that human body turns into ashes. Therefore, people should be more concerned with the well-being of their souls rather than their bodies. The object at the bottom of the painting is a great reminder for people.
The other two objects which are depicted in this level are the figures of two donators. These people are kneeling before the figures of the other two levels. The donators commemorate the holy entities. It is important to stress that these figures are located at the viewer’s eye level.
This position suggests that the viewers should place themselves into the similar position. The figures of the donators are very realistic. More so, it may seem that those are real people praying. This precision makes the viewer associate the figures with him/herself. Apart from this, it is necessary to have a closer look at the figure’s location.
The figures are at the bottom of the vault where the Holy Trinity, Mary and John are depicted. The donators are in immediate proximity to the divine. However, these figures cannot possibly reach the divine. Their role is to commemorate the divine.
It is also possible to assume that the artist conveys one more idea. He claims that people should try to remain in that position instead of turning into the object depicted at the bottom of the fresco (skeleton). The painting suggests that it is crucial to protect such a world order.
As far as the objects ‘inside’ the vault are concerned, they are as realistic as the rest of the objects. Techniques used in Renaissance art enabled artists to create lively and realistic characters. Thus, the figures of Mary, John and the Holy Trinity are realistic. The viewer comes to an understanding that the divine is not some unclear entity. The viewer can see the embodiment of the divine.
Apart from techniques used to paint the figures located in the dimension of the divine, it is also necessary to consider position of each object. Basically, the dimension of the divine is divided into two levels. Thus, the figures of Mary and John are depicted in the foreground.
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It is quite logical that they are in this very position. The artist refers to the background of these mortals who became saints. Mary and John were people once. Therefore, they are closer to people. Notably, they are also commemorating the Holy Trinity.
Finally, the figures of Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit are a bit above the viewer’s eye level. However, these figures are in the middle of the painting. They are in the central position. Again, Jesus Christ is depicted in the foreground, whereas God is behind the cross.
This position is also symbolic as it also refers to Christ’s origin (a mortal woman delivered him). Importantly, God holds the cross. He supports his son who is helping God’s children. Therefore, the divine is quite distant from people. Though, the divine protects mortals.
Notably, one more object is worth particular attention. The Holy Spirit is depicted in the dimension of the divine. However, Masaccio manages to depict it in a very special way.
The use of perspective enables the artist to depict an object which may appear in the three dimensions. The Holy Spirit is depicted as a white pigeon. The white pigeon is above Christ’s head. Nonetheless, it may seem that the pigeon is flying to bless people. It may seem that the pigeon is approaching the viewer.
To sum up, it is possible to state that the use of perspective enables Masaccio to create a three-dimensional painting which reveals his outlook. The fresco Holy Trinity represents the artist’s ideas concerning the relationship between people and the divine. It is important to note that the people who lived in the fifteenth century shared similar viewpoints.
Therefore, people thought that the divine was in the immediate proximity to people, though people could never reach it due to their sinful nature. The fresco reveals this idea perfectly well as the objects symbolizing the divine and the humane are in different dimensions. Three-dimensionality helps the artist to reveal his outlook.