Art History Art Ages Discussion Question 1 Essay

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There is no denying the fact that one of the hallmarks of Rembrandt's works of art is his copious usage of elements of light, dark and shadow to great effect. This sort of tenebrism is deployed by the artist initially to give a sense of contrast to his works. Light and dark are antipodes of one another, and by involving both of these elements the painter was able to create striking counterpoints within his works of art. This fact is seen quite prominently in his self-portrait circa 1629. Not only does the artist use both light and dark elements to illustrate his face and the brimming future which he saw in front of himself as an artist, but this portrait is also characterized by loose brushwork which is distinct from the crisp strokes of the Renaissance. His self-portrait in 1637 also displays a startlingly contrast between the gold and brown colors that dominate this work of art. As the final self-portrait that Soltes shows in which Rembrandt was quite advanced in his age, the artist would always depict the light emanating from the subject (himself), as though he needed no external light source which attests to his prowess as an artist.

Within other paintings Rembrandt utilized elements of light, dark and shadow to illustrate depths and a dynamic nature which is suggestive of motion. This fact is illustrated quite well in his work entitled "The Nightwatch," in which the illuminated figures of his then recently deceased wife and the two military men (one of whom is a lieutenant) provide the centerpiece for a striking disarray of activity. The usage of these same elements is present in the work which depicts the blinding of Sampson, in which the light "interrupts" (Soltes, 2011) the dark to illustrate the contrast of Sampson's struggle and his subduing by the figures who eventually succeed in blinding him.

Written Assignment 7

There are myriad differences between the sculpture of David presented by Gian Bernini and those which were previously rendered by, respectively, Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrochio. The most immediately discernible of these is the age of David. The David sculptures issued by Donatello and Verrochio are obviously depictions of a boy. The David completed by Michelangelo seems more adult than that of the previously two mentioned artists, yet still retains some distinctly puerile features. Michelangelo's David in particular has a smooth, curved quality that indicates calm, stasis, and even a boyish charm. In contrast, the David erected by Bernini is distinctly an adult. He seems larger than that of the other artists, and has a face frozen in concentration as he attempts to battle Goliath. He certainly does not look like a child, and is distinct from the other three David sculptures in this regard. Perhaps in emphasizing the masculinity of his David, Bernini has chosen to clothe him. The David sculptures issued by Michelangelo and by Donatello are naked, which somewhat aids in their rendering of a child or a man with childish features in the case of the former.

Additionally, it is worth noting that one of the chief distinctions between the David completed by Bernini and that of the other three artists is that Bernini's David is certainly engaged in an act of warfare. In Michelangelo's David the great king is contemplating warfare with Goliath; in Donatello's sculpture David has already conquered Goliath and is resting comfortably atop the Philistine's head -- confident in his victory. Even Verrochio's David is relatively bereft of motion. All three of these artists' version of David portrays him as though he were actually posing for the sculpture. Bernini, however, has shown David in the process of flinging one of the fatal stones that will result in his triumph over Goliath; hence the intense look of concentration on his face that adds to the interpretation that this David is an adult.

Another important aspect about the fact that Bernini displays David actually in action fighting Goliath is intrinsically related to the notion of rhythmos dynamics. Although in some of Bernini's works this idea of rhythmos dynamics pertains to the blurring of the lines between sculpture and architecture, within his sculpture of David this concept simply denotes the dynamic nature of the portrait. David is in motion and actually acting as opposed to posing either before or after an epic encounter (which is the case in the sculptures of David offered by Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrochio). As such, this sculpture is imbued with a dynamic nature that makes this sculpture seemingly come alive in ways that the others do not. Compared to Bernini's work, the David sculptures of Verrochio, Donatello, and Michelangelo are considerably more staid and relaxed. As previously noted, the intense look of concentration on the face of Bernini's David, the fact that he is unequivocally a man and not a child, and the fact that he is actually engaged in the act of warfare against Goliath adds to the principle difference in feel that the viewer gets from Bernini's sculpture as compared to that from the other three sculptors.

Moreover, there is a characterization of dynamic instability that characterizes the David of Bernini that is not present in the David sculptures completed by the other three artists. If anything, the sculptures of Verrochio, Donatello and Michelangelo are the exact opposite of the dynamic instability witnessed in the work of Bernini. This dynamic aspect would also come to characterize many of the other works of Bernini that Soltes shows throughout his lectures. It is also interesting to note that adding to the dynamic nature of the form of David is the fact that Bernini's sculpture is extremely angular. As previously denoted, the sculptures of the other Davids are more smoother and polished about the edges.

Yet the dynamic aspect of Bernini's work extends beyond the mere fact that it is depicting David in action, and actually encompasses the varying angles rendered within the sculpture itself. When one considers David's left foot to the top of his head, one sees a fairly smooth progression that is slightly curved as the warrior bends to the opposite side to ready his shot. Yet when one considers the angles of David from the other side, that of his right foot to the top of his head, the truly dynamic facet of this sculpture emerges. Both of David's arms are on this side of the sculpture, which presents some interesting breaks in the line from his foot to his head. His arms, which are placing the stone into the sling that he is preparing to fire, also create some jagged visually dynamic angles that are simply not present in the sculptures that Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrochio created of the same subject. In noting the progression of the lines from the feet to the heads of these respective renditions of David, the viewer can most accurately note the staid, almost static forms of these sculptures. However, there is nothing motionless about Bernini's version of David, which is a representation of a flailing kinetic energy.

One of the more important observations that Soltes made regarding Bernini's David was the fact that on some level, the sculptor's inspiration for this piece of art probably came from Myron's "Discobolus." There are several key points of similarity between these two works. Both depict figures that are crouching. Both are sculptures, and both visually represent men who are in the process of throwing. Whereas David is hurling a stone at a feared enemy, Myron's subject is tossing a discus. The most pivotal similarity, however, probably lies in the fact that there is a definite dynamic aspect about each of these sculptures. Myron's sculpture has even more spaces and disruptions in the…

Sources Used in Document:


Soltes, O. (2011). "Shadow and light from Rome to the lowlands." Retrieved from

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