Etruscan Terracotta Sculptures and Vent Holes

Apollo from the Temple of Veii, c. 510-500 BCE. Terra-cotta, 5'10"

Rear view of “Apollo” from the Temple of Veii, c. 510-500 BCE. Terra-cotta, 5’10”

I’ve been thinking about the statues from the Temple of Menerva (also spelled Menrva) at the ancient Etruscan city of Veii this week. Tonight I found a cool image that shows the back of the “Apollo” statue. This image shows two intentional holes that created so that the terracotta would be properly ventilated during the firing process. One hole appears just about where the shoulder blades should be, and another is seen at the base of the decorative support between Apollo’s legs.

Drawing of the Temple at Veii with figures (from L-R): Turms (Mercury), Hercle (Hercules), Aplu (Apollo) and Letun (Diana) on the ridgepole of the roof

Drawing of the Temple at Veii with four specific figures (from L-R): Turms (Mercury), Hercle (Hercules), Aplu (Apollo) and Letun (Diana) on the ridgepole of the roof

The Apollo sculpture comes from a group of four figures that would have decorated the ridgepole of the Temple of Minerva at Veii (although many other figures would have also been included along the roof of the temple, as shown in a reconstruction model). This group of figures would have referenced the third labor of Hercules, in which he is sent to capture the sacred deer with the golden horns: the Golden Hind. This deer is sacred to Diana (Apollo’s sister), and Apollo is struggling with Hercules over the deer. For more of the story, see the Smarthistory video and article on the topic.

The figure of Diana has been ruined and lost over time, and today only the head of Mercury and a little bit of the body remain. However, a good portion of the Hercules figure exists today, although it is not in as good of condition as the Apollo.2 A back view of the Hercules sculpture reveals that it has similar vent holes (between the shoulders and at the bottom of the sculpture). I assume that the holes in the deer’s body are were created for ventilation purposes.

Figures of Hercules (left) and Apollo (right) from Veii, c. 510-500 BCE. Terracotta

Figures of Hercules (left) and Apollo (right) from Veii, c. 510-500 BCE. Terracotta

Despite that terracotta doesn’t preserve extremely well, I’m glad that we have enough authentic Etruscan terracotta pieces to enjoy today (complete with authentic ventilation holes) to help us know more about the Etruscan people. Although a venting hole may seem like an insignificant technical detail, it actually can help us identify authentic works of art. For example, the Etruscans’ use of ventilation holes helped to identify later forgeries that were created in the Etruscan style. In the early part of the 20th century, three such forgeries were created by Alfredo Fioravanti and Riccardo Riccardi (with the exception of the Colossal Warrior, which was made with the help of some of Riccardo’s family members after Riccardo’s death). These forgeries were of terracotta warriors; they were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and displayed together for the first time in 1933.

Heroic-Size warrior (left), Colossal Head (center) and "Old" Warrior (right), c. 1915. The Colossal Head is 4.5 feet (137 cm), the "Old warrior is 6.6 feet (202 cm).

The Colossal or Heroic warrior (left), Colossal Head (center) and “Old” Warrior (right), c. 1915. The Colossal warrior is approximately 8 feet tall (about 243 cm), The Colossal Head is 4.5 feet (137 cm), the “Old warrior is 6.6 feet (202 cm).

But in 1961, the Met had to admit that they had purchased works of art that were fakes. One of the tell-tale signs that these warriors were not Etruscan has to do with the vents: each warrior only had one vent, unlike the Etruscan works of art that are fired as a single unit with multiple vents (as shown in the Apollo and Hercules sculptures).3 This indicates that the large forgeries were fired separately and then reassembled. The modern day forgers did not have a kiln large enough to fire these large-scale objects! If they had taken the time to build such a kiln (and in turn create the proper number of ventilation holes), I wonder if it would have taken experts longer to determine that these sculptures were forgeries!

1 Edward Storer, “The Apollo of Veii” in Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts 2, no. 13 (June 1922): 238-239. Storer explains that the figure was fired as a single unit and that the terra-cotta is about an inch and a quarter thick. Article is available online at: http://bluemountain.princeton.edu/bluemtn/cgi-bin/bluemtn?a=d&d=bmtnaap192206-01.2.19&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——-#

2 Another well-preserved figure that decorated the roof of the Temple of Veii exists today, although it is separate from this group of four figures that relate to the Golden Hind myth. This additional figure is of Latona (Leto), a goddess with the child Apollo.

3 The fragments of the figures also did not align properly, which also indicated that they had been fired separately. Experts also became concerned when they discovered that the glazes contained chemicals that were not in use during the Etruscan era. For more information see the online articles “Tracking the Etruscan Warriors” and “The Case of the Etruscan Warriors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

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“Harvester Vase” Fragments and Forms

Harvester Vase rhyton, c. 1500 BCE (Minoan) from Hagia Triada. Steatite.

Harvester Vase rhyton, c. 1500 BCE (Minoan) from Hagia Triada. Steatite. Diameter 4.5″ (11.3 cm). Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.

Last week I introduced my ancient art students to the Harvester Vase, and some aspects of our discussion have caused me to do some further research on this vessel. This is a Minoan work of art which comes from Hagia Triada; it is thought to perhaps represent harvesters or sowers in some type of religious procession.1  Even though only fragments of the original vase remain, it is likely that the Harvester Vase had a hole at the bottom (in addition to the wider “filler” opening at the top), so that liquid could “flow through [it] like a funnel.”This small hole at the bottom could be covered by the hand of whoever was carrying the vessel during a ritual or procession, and then the hand easily could be moved away to dispense the liquid libation or offering.

Only the upper portion of the vase (and part of the lid) are original pieces; they have been mounted together to give a semblance of the original body of the vase. This appearance has been determined by comparing the steatite fragments to other similarly-shaped Minoan vases (see one such example HERE). Sir Arthur Evans suggested that the relief on this vase may have been covered with gold leaf.3 No gold traces of gold have been found on the Harvester Vase, but other Minoan vases have been discovered since with traces of gold leaf.4

"Unrolled" image of the Harvester Vase relief, to show detail of procession

“Unrolled” image of the Harvester Vase relief, to show detail of procession. c. 1500 BCE (Minoan) from Hagia Triada. Steatite.

Harvester Vase detail

Harvester Vase detail, c. 1500 BCE.

This vase is quite small, being only 4.5″ (11.3 cm) in diameter. However, there are so many details to notice in this small space, which make the artistry and craftsmanship all the move impressive to me. Recently I’ve found a few things that I haven’t noticed before. One thing that I realized is that many of the participants have one fist raised to their chests, which is a gesture that has been connected with ritual (see above).Barry P. C. Molloy also points out that this gesture is found in figurines of boxers that are located on Minoan peak sanctuaries, and could be associated with physical combat and warriors.Given the context that the Harvester Vase is also a rhyton (used for libations and religious ceremonies), the association of the clenched fist with ritual makes more sense to me.

Another thing that I noticed recently was the clothing and the hair styles of the figures. Most of them are bald, wearing a cap or headband, and are bare-chested (sometimes exhibiting a keen attention to musculature and anatomy on part of the sculptor). However, the three figures who are singing (behind the man who is playing the sistrum) are wearing long robes, unlike the rest of the bare-chested marchers. Of course, these men still seem less significant than the large priest-like figure who seemingly marches in front of the procession, who has long hair and wears an elaborate tasseled garment.

Detail of Harvester Vase

Harvester Vase detail, c. 1500 BCE.

Detail of the Harvester Vase relief, to show detail of procession. c. 1500 BCE (Minoan) from Hagia Triada. Steatite.

John Forsdykh argues that the one exception to the solemn procession is a man who has turned backwards to shout at a man who is stooping or stumbling. Forsdyke explains, “That man is usually said to be one of the harvesters who is fallen down in his drunkenness; but he has no forked implement and there is no reason to suppose that he is drunk.”7 Forsdyke, however provides no explanation for why the man is stooping. I’m not entirely convinced of the shouting exchange between the turned man and the stooping man either, since they are directly placed over the same vertical axis and there isn’t even a suggestion of eye contact between the two figures. Could the turned man be shouting orders or directions to the solemn, closed-mouth harvesters who stand directly next to him instead?

Perhaps we would get a better suggestion of what was happening in this vignette if we were able to see the whole vase. Maybe we would also get a better indication of why one of the men is either stooping or stumbling – did something on the ground trip him? Other people have also considered how our understanding of this vase is limited due to its incomplete state, too. For example, tn the early 20th century, a father and son artistic team (Emile Gilliéron Sr. and Emile Gilliéron Jr.) set out to to create an object which imagined the original appearance of the Harvester Vase. The Gilliérons specialized in creating reconstructions of antiquities for sale and were able to profit over the cultural interest in Minoan art following Sir Arthur Evans’ excavations. Unfortunately, though, I can only find one image of this Gilliéron vase (see below,) and it doesn’t include the scene with the stooping man, so I don’t know how they interpreted this vignette in the overall scene.

The Gillierons' restored version of the "Harvesters' Vase," early 20th century.

The Gillierons’ restored version of the “Harvesters’ Vase,” early 20th century.

I like this image of the Gilliéron restoration, though, because I like being prompted to think about the legs of the figures who would have been energetically marching in the procession. I’m even reminded how some of the curves and angles are made for practical purposes (such as how the tilt of the priest’s kilt is likely due to a raised leg in motion). It is common today to discuss how the Harvester Vase depicts a sense of dynamic energy and movement, but it’s easy to forget that the sense of movement that is only a portion of what would have been seen on the intact vase in antiquity!

1 For a synopsis on interpretations of the vase in relation to harvesting or sowing, see Wendy Logue, “Set in Stone: The Role of Relief-Carved Stone Vessels in Neopalation Minoan Elite Propaganda,” in The Annual of the British School at Athens 99, (2004): 165-166. Logue mentions that the long poles carried by the marchers were interpreted by Müller as harvesting tools for fruit in trees (such as olives), whereas Forsdyke proposed that this was a ritual that took place before sowing.

2 Barbara M. Soper, Ancient Rhytons, The Old World Archaeologist (Journal of the Old World Archaeological Study Unit) 24, no 3 (July 2004): 1. Available online: http://www.owasu.org/articles/rhytons.pdf

3  Peter Warren, Minoan Stone Vases (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. Available online HERE.

4 Ibid.

5 Logue, p. 166.

6 Barry P. C. Molloy, “Martial Minoans? War As Social Process, Practice and Event in Bronze Age Crete,” from The Annual of the British School at Athens 107 (2012): 110.

7 John Forsdyke, “The ‘Harvester’ Vase of Hagia Triada,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 17, no. 1/2 (1954): 2.

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Jackson Pollock’s “Sea Change”

Jackson Pollock, "Sea Change," 1947. Artist and commercial oil paint, with gravel, on canvas, 57 7/8 x 44 1/8 in. (147 x 112.1 cm), Gift of Signora Peggy Guggenheim to the Seattle Art Museum

Jackson Pollock, “Sea Change,” 1947. Artist and commercial oil paint, with gravel, on canvas, 57 7/8 x 44 1/8 in. (147 x 112.1 cm), Gift of Signora Peggy Guggenheim to the Seattle Art Museum

Lately I’ve had some opportunities to study and think about Jackson Pollock’s painting Sea Change (1947, above) at the Seattle Art Museum. This painting is fascinating to me for several reasons, including its interesting history regarding how it was gifted to the Seattle Art Museum by Peggy Guggenheim. I also like the painting from a visual perspective: I like to try and trace which layers of paint were placed first, although it is difficult to tell (which isn’t surprising in some ways, since Pollock would work for uninterrupted sessions of 20-30 minutes or more, but later would revisit paintings that he didn’t feel like were finished).

Detail of Jackson Pollock's  "Sea Change," 1947. Artist and commercial oil paint, with gravel, on canvas, 57 7/8 x 44 1/8 in. (147 x 112.1 cm), Gift of Signora Peggy Guggenheim to the Seattle Art Museum

Detail of Jackson Pollock’s “Sea Change,” 1947. Artist and commercial oil paint, with gravel, on canvas, 57 7/8 x 44 1/8 in. (147 x 112.1 cm), Gift of Signora Peggy Guggenheim to the Seattle Art Museum

Some of the layers in Sea Change painting are also especially unusual, because Sea Change was completed (as a drip painting) on top of an earlier Pollock painting. Pollock’s earlier style involved more gestural strokes of paint that were directly applied with the paintbrush touching the canvas (as seen, for example, in his Mural from 1943). The Seattle Art Museum recently conserved Sea Change, and a video points out some of the areas which reveal Pollock’s original painting underneath the dripped paint. In the detail image above, you can see some bits of blue and reddish-orange paint (now serving as an underlayer to the dripped paint) that were smoothly applied with a brush.

The multiple layers of the painting are compelling to me visually, because they play with perceptions of illusionism and space. On one hand, the multiple layers appear complex, but the thickness and viscous nature of the paint simultaneously also reminds me that the layers rest (almost hover) on the flat surface of the canvas. As a result, the painting “suggests a visual space that appears infinitely deep yet shallow at the same time.”2

The thing that I also like about Sea Change is that is isn’t comprised merely of paint, but also of gravel that Jackson Pollock found at a gravel pit near his home in Long  Beach (see detail image above). Pollock often would add other materials to his paintings, “such as sand, small pieces of hardware, pebbles and string, to emphasize the ‘thingness’ of the work and to point out that the work was no mystical icon removed from the world; rather, the painting was of the world.” In other words, the gravel helps to assert that this painting, despite its lack of representational subject matter, is grounded in reality.

Namuth_jackson_Pollock_1956_1957

Hans Namuth, photograph of Jackson Pollock working in his studio, 1950

Pollock’s gestural movements also help to ground the painting in reality too, because the viewer can get a sense of Pollock’s physical exertion and real experience in creating the work of art. When creating his drip paintings, Pollock would place his canvases on the floor while he worked. This placement was intentional for Pollock, not only so that gravity could aid the paint to drip downward, but also so Pollock could sense his own physical relationship with the painting. He said, “My painting is direct. I usually paint on the floor. . . Having the canvas on the floor, I feel nearer, a part of the painting . . . similar to the Indian {Navaho] sand painters of the West.”3

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, c. 1950 Museum of Modern Art

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, c. 1950 Museum of Modern Art

Lee Krasner, an Abstract Expressionist painter who was married to Pollock, explained that Pollock painted with different tools, “using sticks and hardened or work-out brushes (which were in effect like sticks) and basting syringes . . . His control was amazing. Using a stick was difficult enough, but the basting syringe was like a giant fountain pen. With it he had to control the flow of paint as well as his gesture.” Sea Change is a very early example of a drip painting by Pollock, so it seems most likely that he was using a sticks or hardened brushes. In contrast, the basting syringes were used later by Pollock, as seen in his Untitled painting c. 1950 at the Museum of Modern Art (shown above).

What are your favorite paintings by Jackson Pollock? Do you prefer his earlier style with the smooth gestural strokes, the classic drip paintings like Sea Change, or the later “fountain pen” drip paintings that were made with the basting syringe? I like how different types of energy are conveyed through Pollock’s diverse experimentations with painting. It is unsurprising to me that he once said, “My concern is with the rhythms of nature.” After all, various forms of energy and rhythm are manifest in the world; some of them are subtle and lyrical, and others are quite explosive.

1 Michael Corris, “From Abstract Expressionism to Conceptual Art: A Survey of New York Art c. 1940-1970″ in Art and Visual Culture 1850-2010: Modernity to Globalization by Steve Edwards and Paul Woods, eds. (London: Tate Publishing, 2011), 233.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

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The Mosocophoros, Kriophoros and Early Christian Art

Moscophoros (Calf-Bearer), c. 570 BCE. Marble, height 165 cm (65 inches). Image courtesy Wikipedia via user Marsyas.

Moscophoros (Calf-Bearer), c. 550 BCE. Marble, height 165 cm (65 inches). Acropolis Museum, Althens. Image courtesy Wikipedia via user Marsyas.

When I was an undergraduate, I remember my professor casually mentioned that Early Christian imagery of Christ as the Good Shepherd was adopted syncretically from previous Greco-Roman images of a human figure who carries a sacrificial animal on its shoulders. She mentioned this point in passing when we were learning about the Moscophoros (or “Calf-Bearer,” shown above), but didn’t elaborate further. Had I asked for more details, I’m sure that she would have then explained that the Moscophoros from the Acropolis Museum couldn’t directly have influenced this Early Christian tradition (since this Moscophoros was buried under the Athenian acropolis from the 5th century BCE until the 19th century, thereby “missing out” on the Early Christian period). Instead, she must have been thinking of similar imagery found in depictions of Kriophoroi (“Ram-Bearer”) images from ancient Greece and Rome.

The Kriophoros depicts a shepherd or Hermes (specifically Hermes Kriophoros, due to an ancient tradition that Hermes carried a sacrificial lamb in order to prevent a plague in Tanagra). The Kriophoros imagery appears in a votive or commemorative context, specifically one which involves the solemn animal sacrifice a ram. Therefore, the kriophoros often can be seen as one who presents a sacrificial ram to a god or goddess. In other contexts, the kriophoros appears within pastoral imagery, and sometimes is seen as part of the imagery for the months or seasons, such as March or April (such as the Byzantine mosaic from Thebes Chalkis, which shows the Kriophoros as a personification of April).1

Not all Kriophoroi depict a figure carrying a ram over the shoulders, for the ram can also be held in figure’s the arms). However, many of them do follow the same composition with the ram being held on the shoulders, behind the neck of the male figure.

Late Roman marble copy of the Kriophoros of Kalamis. Rome, Museo Barracco

Late Roman marble copy of the Kriophoros of Kalamis, first half of the fifth century CE. Rome, Museo Barracco

Here are a few other examples of ram-over-the-shoulder Greco-Roman kriophoroi:

  • Kriophoros Statuette, Archaic Period, Crete. The Cleveland Museum of Art believes that this is an unusual example which shows the kriophoros also as a warrior.
  • Limestone Ram-Bearer, 2nd quarter of the 6th century BCE, from Kourion, sanctuary of Apollo Hylates
  • Limestone Hermes, ram-bearer Cypriot Archaic 6th century BC
  • Hermes Kriophoros – circa 5th century BC, at the Archeological Nusem, Palermo
  • Hermes Terracotta statuette, known as “Hermes Criophore,” from ancient Thebes in Attica. C 500-450 BCE, at the Louvre Museum
Christ as the Good Shepherd, first half of the 4th century, Vatican

Christ as the Good Shepherd, first half of the 4th century, at Vatican Museums

In the 3rd and 4th centuries, Early Christians adopted this imagery. However, it seems that the imagery was syncretic, meaning that the Early Christians gave the kriophoros imagery new meaning. Instead of functioning as a representation of a votive figure or an ordinary shepherd, Christians used the Kriophoros to depict Christ as a protective figure who will care for his followers (his “flock”).

Apart from the parable of the Good Shepherd that appears in the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Luke (New Testament), it is likely that Christians also were inspired to draw on shepherd imagery due to the Christian text, The Shepherd of Hermas written sometime around the early-to-mid 2nd century. In this text, a freed slave named Hermas is the recipient of heavenly messages, and he is guided and taught by a heavenly messenger who is dressed as a shepherd.

Christ the Good Shepherd, Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, 3-4th century CE

Christ the Good Shepherd, Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, 3-4th century CE

Such a protective figure was no doubt appealing to the Early Christians, who were persecuted heavily before the Edict of Milan in 313 CE. With such syncretic imagery too, the reference to Christ could easily be overlooked by a Roman who was accustomed to seeing the Kriophoros in art.

Here are a few other examples of Good Shepherd imagery influenced by kriophoroi:

Do you know of other good examples of Kriophoroi, either Greco-Roman or Early Christian?

1 David W. Jorgensen, Treasure Hidden in a Field: Early Christian Reception of the Gospel of Matthew (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter Inc), 2016, p. 124. Available online: https://books.google.com/books?id=8ucsDQAAQBAJ&lpg=PT124&ots=I7nta1T9eL&dq=kriophoros%20pastoral&pg=PT124#v=onepage&q&f=false

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Alberti’s “Istoria” and Modesty

Longtime readers of my blog may remember when I wrote a post about istoria painting and the game of hide-and-seek to find the “figure in communication” (who is looking out at or communicating with the viewer of the painting). Lately I’ve been thinking more about istorie. Out of all of Alberti’s recommendations for this special category of painting, I feel like his recommendation regarding the depiction of modesty is the most difficult for art history students to pinpoint immediately. This confusion makes sense, since the word “modesty” has many definitions:

1) The avoidance or impropriety or indecency, through one’s appearance, manner, or behavior

2) A person’s unassuming state about their abilities or appearance

3) The quality of something being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount

In the case for Alberti, I think he was thinking of all three definitions of the word “modesty.” The first definition of modesty about impropriety may seem confusing given the popularity of the nude form in Renaissance art, but Alberti wrote:

“If it is allowed here [in the painting], there ought to be some nude and others part nude and part clothed in the painting; but always make use of shame and modesty. The parts of the body ugly to see and in the same way others which give little pleasure should be covered up with draperies, with a few fronds or the hand.”1

Vasari, "Allegory of the Immaculate Conception," 1541. Tempera on wood, 58 x 39 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Vasari, “Allegory of the Immaculate Conception,” 1541. Tempera on wood, 58 x 39 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

So, one could immediately connect this statement with censorship and modesty in relation to indecency, and perhaps Alberti does have that in mind to a degree – it seems like there is some tension in the Renaissance to resolve the desire to depict biblical figures within a classicizing, nude style. So far I haven’t found a Renaissance painting that literally applied Alberti’s recommendation to use a frond-as-a-coverup, although the figure of Truth in Botticelli’s The Calumny of Apelles (see below) covers her genitalia with a long tress of blonde hair.

Similarly, I think that Vasari’s painting, Allegory of the Immaculate Conception (shown above) could serve as an example of this consideration of modesty, since the nude figures in the foreground are twisted in a way so that there isn’t an excessive focus on their sexual organs. At the same time, though, Vasari recognizes the beauty of the nude form in this painting with the various nude, idealized angels that surround the Virgin. Similarly, Vasari’s painting Incredulity of Saint Thomas depicts Christ with an prominently-displayed idealized torso, but drapery covers the lower half of his body.

However, Alberti also seems to be thinking about “modesty” in other ways. He also continues in his text to explain:

“The ancients painted the portrait of Antigonos only from the part of the face where the eye was not lacking. It is said that Perecles’ head was long and ugly, for this reason he – unlike others – was portrayed by painters and sculptors wearing a helmet. Plutarch says that when the ancient painters depicted the kings, if there were some flaw in them which they did not wish to leave unnoticed, they ‘corrected’ it as much as they could while still keeping a likeness. Thus I desire, as I have said, that modesty and truth should be used in every istoria.”2

This explanation leads me to think that Alberti is also considering the second definition of modesty: the state of not being too proud or confident about oneself or one’s abilities. In this case, I think that Alberti is thinking about the modesty of the figures within the painting, and the self-effacing tendency of the figures to not visually showcase any feature which is exaggerated or unsightly. This self-effacing context made me think of the personification of Remorse shown in Botticelli’s istoria painting,The Calumny of Apelles (detail shown below). Remorse is depicted as an old woman, but she doesn’t showcase her old wrinkles too much for the viewer and covers much her face with a hood. Instead, Botticelli opted to cover up most of her unsightly, aged features, which perhaps visually suggests – without reading too much into the subject matter – a self-effacing characteristic that figure.

Botticelli,  detail of Truth and Remorse from "Calumny of Apelles," 1494-95. Tempera on panel, 62 x 91 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Botticelli, detail of Truth (left) and Remorse (right) from “Calumny of Apelles,” 1494-95. Tempera on panel, 62 x 91 cm.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Finally, the context of Alberti’s writing also suggests that modesty can relate to the third definition about something that is small or limited in number. Before his discussion on modesty, Alberti writes about dignity and restraint. Although he recommends a complex composition in istoria painting (which involves a variety of figures in various poses), but at the same time also warns against excess. He explains,

“In my judgement no picture will be filled with so great a variety of things that nine or ten men are not able to act with dignity.”3

I think Botticelli’s The Calumny of Apelles also serves as a good example of limitation in number. Although Botticelli includes ten figures (not to mention all of the figures depicted as sculptures) within his painting, his composition is not overly crowded. Instead, Botticelli is able to exercise modest restraint with his composition, and showcase a variety of poses and figures while still utilizing ample areas of open space to emphasize this restrained modesty.

Botticelli, "Calumny of Apelles," 1494-95. Tempera on panel, 62 x 91 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Botticelli, “Calumny of Apelles,” 1494-95. Tempera on panel, 62 x 91 cm.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Do you know of good examples of istorie that fit with any of these definitions and connotations of modesty? Please share!

1 Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, 76. Available online here: https://books.google.com/books?id=sVGZtXjRXPAC&lpg=PA77&dq=alberti%20modesty%20istoria&pg=PA76#v=onepage&q&f=false

2 Ibid., 76-77.

3 Ibid., 76.

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.