Monday, May 20, 2013

Italian Baroque (pt. 3)

Without a doubt the Flemish master of the time was Pieter Paul Rubens.  Just look at his famous painting The Raising of the Cross, painted in 1609-1610, which was in many ways an emblematic representation of the Catholic Counter Reformation.
The dramatic movement dominates the painting.  There is a stark diagonal line stretching across from the top left to the bottom right of the frame, and almost every character in the scene follows that diagonal, directing our eyes up and down through the scene to see everything that's going on.  I count nine burly, muscular men that it (apparently) takes to lift the cross.  Is this an exaggeration or do you think it would literally take nine of the strongest-looking men to lift Christ on the cross?  I personally believe it would fit in with the style of the time to assume this is an embellishment, a demonstration of the incredible weight of Christ—not physical weight, but the spiritual weight, the weight of the subject on Man's heart.  The Crucifixion is a subject not to be handled lightly, seems to be the message here.  Christ, the brightest and holiest figure in the painting, is shown here to have died a most dramatic death.  Attention and respect is owed to Him for what He did.  You can go to church to pay homage to the Crucifixion—the Catholic Church.  This is again almost advertisement for Catholicism.  Notice the dog, again the symbol of loyalty and faithfulness, on the bottom left-hand corner.  Be faithful to the Catholic Church.
And this is Daniel and the Lion's Den, another famous painting by Rubens.  The lions in the painting look absolutely ferocious, and the scattered bones of a presumably eaten human at the bottom of the picture add to the sense of danger and imminent death.  It is only people who remember the story of how the Lord shut the lions' mouths that remember Daniel's escape and survival through such an ordeal.  Daniel, however, looks less than confident in his God's ability to save, but he is praying, hands folded and looking up to Heaven for aid.  I always thought it looked funny that he has his legs crossed, like he's sitting casually on the sofa, reading the morning paper or something.

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