Essay 30092013

Submitted By cheunge
Words: 1258
Pages: 6

What methods were used to convey religious narratives in fifteenth century painting?
Answer with reference to 3 examples, each by a different artist.

Narrative painting started to grow in the 15th century as sequential paintings became the main form of tool to help the illiterate comprehend particular stories of the saints. Fresco paintings often include a cycle portraying different accounts of the saint’s life. Fresco is also a suitable medium as skilled artists become more aware of their everyday surroundings and are able to employ techniques to create illusionistic space and figures with realism.

The Tribute Money by Masaccio is a fresco scene from the fresco cycle of St. Peter, located in the Brancacci Chapel. Painted circa 1427, the Tribute Money is a continuous narrative, as St. Peter was depicted thrice, in which Masaccio’s use of composition helped convey the story. In the center of the painting, Christ and the group of disciples were confronted by the tax collector and asked to pay a tribute in the outskirts of the city of Capernaum. Since both Peter and Christ point to the left middle background, viewers are drawn to look at the subsequent part of the story, where Peter collects money from the fish’s mouth. The final scene took place on the right, where Peter pays the tax collector. This scene is separated from the other ones by the columns of the architectural structure.

Masaccio employed the use of a revolutionary device, one-point linear perspective to increase the illusion that we are being shown ‘a window to the world’. Christ is placed in the central of the painting, where his head is the vanishing point, drawing the eyes of viewers towards him. Illusionistic depth is created through atmospheric perspective, for example distant mountains are less vivid in colour. He also used a single light source to add 3-dimensional quality to the figures. Viewers are invited to “step into” the painting as the all the figures are lit from the same point which corresponds to the actual natural light coming from the windows of the Brancacci chapel. Chiaroscuro is used to increase naturalism of the figures as light gives them weight through tonal modeling. Not only do the figures show convincing proportional and anatomical accuracy, they are painted with incredible emotion and psychological intensity too. They are characterized with expressive gestures and unique features. For example, Peter’s expression shows that he is anxious and worried, making the story more believable. Masaccio painted Peter in consistent clothing, a blue and orange robe, in order to help establish a clear identification to help make the narrative more convincing.

The Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano is an altarpiece with predella scenes, painted in egg tempera on wooden panel with gold leaf in 1423. This biblical account is a popular choice among wealthy families of Florence because it is the only acceptable hint at the economic prosperity and cultural superiority of the patrons, in this case, Palla Strozzi commissioned it. It is the story of the three Kings from the Orient following a star to a stable in Bethlehem, where they lay before the new-born Christ expensive gifts.

Gentile depicted continuous narrative with a crowded composition showing the entire journey of the Magi. The painting is divided into three arched divisions. It starts from the top left arch of the painting, taking the viewers’ eyes to follow the three Magi on their course among the meanders and bends of the hills, marching into the arches of Bethlehem. Finally the three Magi and the crowd arrive in the foreground, presenting Christ gifts in devotion and adoration. Important figures are glorified in golden halos to emphasize their Holy statuses, which helps clarify identities to make the narrative easier to interpret. The narrative is made further more believable when the patron, Palla Strozzi, is painted in. Almost like a portraiture, Palla Strozzi stands