Month: November 2013

Italian Renaissance

Renaissance art in Italy is developed from Roman art. Artists focused on idealized human form, personification. The figures are made to be monumental. Unlike the northerners, Italian artists didn’t care about the specific shapes of the objects in the background. And what’s more, fresco is the way they developed painting. Since they have to finish the painting before the mural dyestuff dries, they can’t spend too much time on each details like the northerners do.




Early Italian Renaissance

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli, tempera,  1485.



Three main focusing parts are distributed evenly in the picture, but it doesn’t look stuffy. Angels on the left are sending breeze and flowers to Venus; Venus is standing curved yet stable; Flora on the right is moving towards left to cover Venus, her hair and clothes are blew towards right which exaggerated her action. The picture is full of motivation. And Venus is covering her privates — she’s feeling shy and embarrassed like a human though she’s a goddess.  Botticelli didn’t use much perspective in the background which makes the picture solemn, instead he gave us a poetic beauty in his painting.


It’s pretty light on human body. Unlike the northern paintings, figures have really dark shadows to define the shape. The lightness gives us a relaxed dreamy aesthetic ( like ancient Greek style), not the usual grave feeling of Christian Art.


Overall it’s colorful. There are lots of contrast. Background is blue and green, flowers and the coat Flora’s holding is red, and Venus has a bright orange hair.


There are very  few obvious lines in the painting. Most lines are in the wrinkles being well controlled. On the left side of Venus’s legs there are slight lines to define the shape of her body, but they are light and well controlled, too.


Textures are basically the same. Hairs are not shiny; the shell doesn’t look slick; skins and fabrics look the same. However, patterns are delicately painted. Flora’s clothes have fashionable patterns; the sea has even rhombic waves.




High Italian Renaissance

The Andrians, Tiziano Vecellio,1518. Oil on canvas.



There are lots of people having carnival in the picture. This picture is telling a myth story yet having lifelike figure motions. And we can tell the detailed painted plants derived from naturalism.


Foreground is contrasty. The trees and ground are dark and the skins are bright. The nude seductive goddess pops out. Titian used the contrast to show his love for classical human body.  In the background, things become ambiguous, which makes us feel the atmosphere.


Human bodies are light yellow and orange, and the environment is mainly green and blue. The blue sky especially adds exciting flavor for the circumistance. The girl in the middle is wearing red which is eye-catching. Artist do that on purpose — to drag our eyes back from the nude goddess to the center.


There are much more texture than the early Italian paintings. There are metal, glasses, light fabric, soft skin, rough bark… and so on.




Italian Clergy Self-portrait

Italian portrait

The drawing style is from Da Vinci’s sketch.


Virgin and Child with the Infant John the Baptist and St. Anne. Da Vinci.

The clothing is from Pieta.


Pieta, Michelangelo, 1498

The scenery outside the window is from Mona Lisa.


Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, c.1504



Northern Renaissance

Northern artists value the truth. They paid attention to each object and each detail in their paintings. Some times certain objects have certain meanings, for example, candles are the symbol of fleeting time, and lilies are the symbol of purity. And Northerners are naturalistic, the grasses and trees they painted can be found in real world. Most of their paintings are oil paintings or temperas. Oils paintings are fantastic: they carry pigments with vivid colors; they are modifiable during months; they can be kept for centuries.

The Last Supper, central panel altarpiece of the holy sacrament St Peter Church, Belgium. By Dieric Bouts, in 1464.



It’s almost a square painting, the length is slightly longer than the width. Figures are in the lower part and on the upper part are the interior environment. Figures have different poses and clothes, but the whole picture is symmetrical. For example, there are 3 figures wearing red in the left, but there’re only 2 big block of red in the right, so the painter let 2 figures wear small red caps. What’s more, the left wall is quite dark. To balance that heavy block the painter made the column also dark in the right, and he added doors which show more components in the back wall than in the left.The balance of the composition shows the Jesus being calm.


Overall the background (the table, the back wall, the ground) is lighter and the figures’ clothes are darker. The central area is the most eye-catching, in which the white table cloth meets the black robes. And even in those black ropes there are subtle different changes, they are not the same black. The subtle changes also happen on the walls. The right wall is slightly lighter than the back wall which makes it vertical to the frame of the picture.


It’s a warm tone picture. Red plays the protagonist. There are lots of unsaturated yellows, and there are lots of oranges and warm browns. Cold colors are really restricted, they appear in floor tiles and the sky through windows.


The wrinkles in clothes show a good control of lines. And all the lines toward the center definitely show one-point-perspective.

Texture & Pattern

The largest pattern is the floor tiles. It kills the banality of the grey yellow which appears a lot in the walls. And there are Corinthian Column and Gothic arches, which were popular in that period. Every little thing in the picture is meticulously depicted, even the windows of the houses outside. The painter really stayed true to reality.




Self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer, 1500



This is a self-portrait. The whole picture is in a dark tone, only the face and the hand are bright. The face is right in the middle, solemn while moderate. The anatomy is precise, the wrinkles are believable, even every filament of the furs and hair is carefully painted. At the same time, the background is pretty simple, just a signature and descriptions on a dark black.


It’s dark. The face and the hands pop out of that dark picture. And the highlights on hairs and furs show the shiny texture.


There is not much contrast between cold and warm in this painting. At that time, painters use brown to show the shadows. Only after impressionism appeared did people distinguish light and shadow with cold and warm colors.


Dürer is a master of lines. The wrinkles in his sleeves are curly and soft, the terminators on his nose and hand are hard and precisely show the anatomy.


There are several different textures in the painting, and they are painted very well. It’s such a pleasure to watch the subtle changes in different textures. The hair is flexible and shiny, while the mustache is hard and dried. The leather coat is matte. while the fur collar is shiny.




 Northern craftsman self- portrait.

late north

All the props in this picture are modern stuff. Sorry about that.

The figure is wearing the same costume with  Dürer’s.


self-portrait, Dürer’s, 1498

Then I take Eva’s face as reference, trying to mimic her facial features and hairs.


part of Adam and Eva, Dürer, 1507

But I don’t have a double folded eyelid, so I took a look at this painting:


Portrait of a Young Woman, Petrus Christus, 1465-70

Then I took a look at Dürer’s watercolor painting of weeds. My weeds at the bottom-right can be found in the nature, but I’m not sure if they exist in the north Europe in Renaissance.


part of Great Piece of Turf, Dürer, 1503




Northern Environment


There’re lots of trees in the picture so I take the  Ghent Altarpiece from  Jan Van Eyck as main reference.


JAN VAN EYCK, Ghent Altarpiece (open), Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium, completed 1432. Oil on wood

Unlike modern artists, the way Van Eyck’s painting doesn’t have any independent terminators. The way he paint object is to use shadows to let the light parts pop out. That means he doesn’t have reflections.

early northern environment

And I take the shapes of trees from Van Eyck.


For the bridge and the sere tree, I take the Return of the Hunters from Pieter Bruegel the Elder as reference.

the return of the hunters pieter bruegel the elder

the Return of the Hunters, Pieter Bruegel the elder. 1565.

early north environment 3 c early north environment 3 e

Inaccurate Medieval Architecture in Pop Culture

I’m going to talk about a strategy game: Age of Empires II !

Here’s Viking’s wonder in Age of Empires II, which is a church.


The Viking’s wonder has take the Borgund Stave Church as reference. Some small parts need to be fixed.


Borgund Stave Church, 1180 -1250 AD. Located in Norway.


And here’re Viking domestic houses in Age of Empires II.


The domestic houses have gone completely wrong. Vikings have the same houses with Byzantines in the Age of Empires II. The game designer did that because it saved money. Actually Vikings first lived in houses with sod roofs which were warm in the winter while cool in the summer.

Some farmhouses in the Shetland Islands are still based on Viking architecture. In this example, the functional structure of the Viking longhouse is evident.  P138

Some farmhouses in the Shetland Islands are still based on Viking architecture. In this example, the functional structure of the Viking longhouse is evident.

Viking site_27

Reconstruction of Norse longhouses at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, where Vikings first settled in Newfoudland.


Viking Longhouse at Trelleborg


Early Viking fortifications were temporary, designed to provide safe winter havens for a Viking warband and its ships. Such camps were preferably located on islands, or in riverine or coastal areas on higher ground surrounded by marsh or mudflats. The natural barriers provided some degree of security, but the camps also needed to be close enough to the water for theVikings to haul their boats up to protect them from winter storms.


Remains of the trelleborg

BUT, the shape of longhouse will be eccentric for that game, and hard for players to identify. I need some shorter houses.


A Scandinavian farmhouse on the upper summer pastureland in Norway. Viking dwellings were built in a similar manner to this later structure.


Hand-hewn shingles shaped with aadze were used to build walls in a Viking house. Reconstruction from the town of Hedeby, Denmark.


A carpenter carves a post using an ax for a standing loom that will be used in the reconstructed Viking town of Hedeby, Denmark.

And I found some cabins with Viking features in this website :

So this is what I think about Viking domestic house:


Medieval Art- the Hiberno-Saxon and Ottonian Style

In Medieval ages, artists became worse in realistic painting. Though they derived things from Byzantine, the knowledge of anatomy and perspective disappeared. And almost everything is about Christianity. The care of a personality from Roman art has gone completely. Most painters of the books were monks, which had little professional experience in art but numerous time. So there are tons of work in each page which tells the piety from a believer.

Let’s start with Manuscript 58, Book of Kells, St Matthew’s Gospel, fol. 28v (8th century, the Hiberno-Saxon)

the book of kells 8th century


Obviously it’s symmetrical. The symmetry always makes things solemn which is very appropriate for religious books. There’s a thick frame for decoration around the figure. And there are circles and rectangles on that frame to break the rigidity of a single frame. The colors in the middle are more contrasty and the lines in the middle are thick, which make the figure pops out of an intricate picture.


Lines are geometric. Most of them are straight or circle, only the ones of the figure is organic. Artists used thick and thin lines to make the picture interesting. Lines of the figure vary from thick to thin, and vice versa, trying to show the fabric and the body. But they are still primitive.


Colors are dazzling! Most colors are warm, such as yellow, orange, red, and brown. The smart thing is, they added a little blues and greens! Those tiny cold color are so fresh!


There’s absolute no value in a same color. Byzantines used to have a rough value to show the wrinkles or the concave areas. In this period, value had gone.


There are many interlaced pattern which was popular in Medieval in this picture. They are usually abstract animals or flora. Bur I can’t tell for these patterns because they are attrited.

Then let’s see Evangeliary of Henry II, Echternach Scriptorium, Ottonian, ca. 1020. Painters got a bit more sophisticated in this period, they knew a little bit more of perspective and anatomy. And they stopped painting those fantastic complicated patterns.

Evangeliary of Henry II


Buildings in the background are completely symmetrical, while figures are diverged. The buildings are taking a big part of the picture, because the painter wants them to be huge. The figures are in a better scale than before, showing the side of their bodies, which is easier than the front considering the perspective.


Lines are much more simple than what they did in Hiberno-Saxon Style. And the lines on the fabric show the structures of bodies.


Color skills are far more naive than the ones showed in the Book of Kells. Orange and blue take the main part, with some red and green accompanied. Cold and warm color are in the same amount.


There’s a rough value in figures and buildings. The shape of the shadow looks like Byzantine mosaic pictures!


There’s no magnificent patterns! Look at those lazy squares on the roof!