Thursday, March 13, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - Resurrection (Bronzino)

Bronzino represents a very short period of art called Mannerism.  Actually, it's hardly a period at all.  I tend to think of it as a transition point between the late Renaissance into the Baroque period.  It's still considered part of the late Renaissance, but certain elements of the Baroque were already starting to show in the work of the Mannerists. 
First of all - Drama.  Lots and lots of drama.  Not only in the scene, but in the style of painting.  Here in Bronzino's "Resurrection," we can see a technique that Caravaggio would exploit to its fullest degree, called chiaroscuro.  This is the dramatic use of contrast in the light and shadow to create a heightened sense of form in the practical sense, and a sort of theatrical intensity in the aesthetic sense.  After all, we can see a light source in the upper part of the composition that seems to be shining from the background.  But there is no indication in any of the figures that this light is even shining on them.  The lighting is not realistic at all.  The figures indicate another much stronger light source that we can't see coming from the left side.  What this light source is, we can't say.  But we can say it is strong and makes the figures, particularly that of Christ in the center, stand out.
Second - Lots and lots of bodies flying and floating around everywhere.  Hardly any of these figures appear to be on solid ground of any sort.  Even if they are supposed to be, they still appear to be floating in space.  This is another thing we'll be seeing later on in the Baroque.  It is another aspect of the dramatic, theatrical qualities of the Baroque.  This is something we also started seeing in Michelangelo's later fresco of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, completed about a decade before this painting.  As if Michelangelo's reputation in art history wasn't already grandiose enough, it could be said that he paved the way for the Baroque by beginning this transition called Mannerism. 
One of the things that I admire about Bronzino is that he had a deep attachment to his adoptive father - none other than Jacopo Pontormo.  So of course, we know who Bronzino's teacher was.  It is said that Bronzino's religious paintings weren't particularly his strongest, and that he borrowed a lot of the figurative poses from other works - mainly Michelangelo's and Raphael's.  But what I think makes this such a great painting is that it is a glimpse of where art was headed.  This painting is an example of what future generations of artists such as Caravaggio, Velázquez, and Rembrandt would look at for their inspiration.  Mannerism was not meant to last.  Rather, it was meant to be a diamond in the rough that would eventually lead us into the next great movment of art following the epic Renaissance.

oil on canvas

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