1-20 of 21 results  for:

  • Sculpture and Carving x
  • Painting and Drawing x
  • Art Materials and Techniques x
Clear all

Article

Alexander Nagel

[Fr. postautel, retable; Ger. Altar, Altaraufsatz, Altarbild, Altarretabel, Altarrückwand, Retabel; It. ancona, dossale, pala (d’altare); Sp. retablo]

An image-bearing structure set on the rear part of the altar (see Altar, §II), abutting the back of the altarblock, or set behind the altar in such a way as to be visually joined with the altar when viewed from a distance. It is also sometimes called a retable, following the medieval term retrotabulum [retabulum, retrotabularium].

The altarpiece was never officially prescribed by the Church, but it did perform a prescribed function alternatively carried out by a simple inscription on the altarblock: to declare to which saint or mystery the altar was dedicated. In fact, the altarpiece did more than merely identify the altar; its form and content evoked the mystery or personage whose cult was celebrated at the altar. This original and lasting function influenced the many forms taken by the altarpiece throughout its history. Since the altarpiece was not prescribed by the Church, its form varied enormously. For this reason, it is often impossible, and historically inaccurate, to draw neat distinctions between the altarpiece and other elements occasionally associated with the altar apparatus. For example, movable statues, often of the Virgin and Child, were occasionally placed on altars according to ritual needs, and at those times fulfilled the function of the altarpiece....

Article

David Summers

Term used in modern writing about art for the posture of a sculpted figure standing at rest with weight shifted on to one leg. Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (c. 440 bc; copy, Minneapolis, MN, Inst. A.; for illustration see Polykleitos) is an early example of this posture, which displays the human body as a self-contained static system, in balance in the pose itself but visibly arrested and therefore implying past and future movement. Contrapposto, like acanthus ornament and wet drapery, became a signature of the Greek Classical style (see Greece, ancient, §IV, 2, (iii), (b)) and its influence. The formula appears in innumerable Greek and Roman figures as well as in Far Eastern art and in medieval ‘renascences’, finally to be revived and developed as part of the Neo-classicism of the Italian Renaissance.

The modern term retains only a fraction of its earlier meanings. The word ‘contrapposto’ is not simply the past participle of the Italian word meaning ‘to counterpose’; it is more properly a translation of the Latin ...

Article

Article

Peter Webb

Term applied to art with a sexual content, and especially to art that celebrates human sexuality. It is derived from eros, the Greek word for human, physical love for another person (as opposed to agape, the spiritual, unselfish love for a god). The imagery of erotic art may be either explicitly or implicitly sexual, instances of the latter being more common in many cultures because of such factors as codes of behaviour, prudery, and censorship. The majority of sexually explicit works of art in the Western world have been produced as part of an overall desire to express the totality of human experience: very few artists have made eroticism their only motivation. In many other societies and cultures, however, sex has provided a far more evident source of inspiration.

All ancient cultures sought to humanize and sexualize their universe by ‘projecting’ their emotions and activities on to the spiritual powers thought to control nature. A basic concern of many ancient religions was the ritual promotion of fertility in humanity and its food supply. Sexual magic was also widely used as a defence against malignant forces, and sexuality permeated the beliefs and rites marking the human life-cycle. Thus the myths, rituals, and arts of ancient cultures, and of many continuing traditions rooted in them, express a wide variety of sexual themes. Erotic images are among the earliest surviving indications of human culture in the ...

Article

Frame  

Paul Mitchell, Lynn Roberts and William B. Adair

The role of the frame in the presentation of a picture fulfils some or all of the following functions: the protection of the painting; its display and physical attachment to the wall; the enhancement of subject and colour scheme while remaining subordinate to the picture; the definition of the picture’s perimeter and the focusing of the spectator’s attention on the subject; the provision of an area of transition between the real world and that of the picture; the creation of harmony with the surrounding interior decoration; and the isolation of the picture from a distracting background. It also exists as a pleasing ornamental object in its own right. The picture frame is the medium through which fine arts are merged with architecture and the decorative arts. Frames, often themselves works of art, have been designed by artists, architects and ornamentalists, and executed by highly skilled wood-carvers, gilders and craftsmen. Picture and frame are mutually dependent, the one incomplete without the other. They were generally conceived as a single stylistic entity, like the architectural mouldings surrounding frescoes or inset pictures, or a tapestry with its interwoven border; their fusion was commonplace in the Renaissance, when paintings and relief sculptures were integrated with architectural frames in wood or marble. Many paintings, however, have been separated from their original frames. This divorce rate, generally higher in proportion to the age of the picture, stems from various reasons. Because of the portability of unframed pictures, for instance, marriage with the frame has always been vulnerable. The act of framing is also a signal of ownership: pictures were reframed according to the tastes of new owners; to suit a prevailing style of interior decoration; or into a standard house or gallery frame....

Article

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts

In 

Article

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts

In 

Article

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts

In 

Article

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts

In 

Article

William B. Adair

In 

Article

Paul Duro

[Fr.: ‘reception piece’]

Name used by the French Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (see Paris, §VI, 1) from its foundation in 1648 until its dissolution in 1793 for a presentation piece submitted as part of the requirement for membership. The institutional structure and many of the artistic practices of the Académie Royale were based on those of the Communauté des Maîtres Peintres et Sculpteurs de Paris (see Paris, §III, 2). One such borrowing was the guild distinction between apprentice, journeyman and master, which the Académie translated into student, provisional member (agréé) and academician. The morceau de réception, to be accepted as proof of artistic competence before the agréé was permitted full membership of the Académie, was equivalent to the guild’s requirement on the journeyman to produce a masterpiece.

From the first the Académie emphasized the probity of its selection procedure, designed to contrast with that of the guild, in which venality and nepotism were rife. Candidates were sponsored by two academicians and submitted one or more works to the members, who voted secretly. If accepted, the candidate took the title of ...

Article

Term used to describe art forms that draw on myth for their subject-matter. The term ‘myth’ refers to a story that attempts in more or less symbolic form to explain the mystery of the origins of the cosmos, the earth and humanity, the issue of life and death, and the causes and meanings of natural phenomena, all of which have bewildered humanity since ancient times. Humankind uses myth as an attempt to express its relation to nature. Closely related to myth is the saga or legend, which is based on historical events and which is by definition associated with a place and time, so lacking the universality of the myth. A legend or saga can, however, accumulate so much mythical material that the divide becomes blurred. This article concentrates on Greco-Roman mythology and its particular significance for contemporary and for later Western art and culture. There was a fundamental difference in attitude to mythology during these two periods: whereas in antiquity mythology was inextricably linked with religion, in post-antiquity it became primarily a source of inspiration for a variety of themes in art and literature. The diversity and universality of these themes, combined with the inexhaustible, metaphorical possibilities of the ancient myths, ensure the survival of mythology in Western art up to the present day. For a discussion of mythology and its relationship with religions and beliefs in other civilizations and cultures, ...

Article

Nude  

David Rodgers and Dimitris Plantzos

Term used to describe the depiction of a naked human figure in works of art. As a subject for art, the nude is essentially Western, emerging in Greece before the 5th century bc. With the exception of India the nude seldom appears in Middle or Far Eastern art and, where it does, as in some Persian miniatures, it is largely incidental. In Indian art religious sculptures have a symbolic importance that transcends realism, and their intended harmony with nature and fertility is often expressed in heavy nude figures that are rhythmic rather than static and that emphasize the roundness of form linked with ideas of abundance. In contrast, the 24 teachers or saints of Jainism are always depicted nude, but in this case the symbolism is of world renunciation. Despite the erotic content of some Japanese prints (shunga) of the ukiyoe (‘pictures of the floating world’) school, nakedness is rare. Moral taboos caused the nude figure virtually to disappear from Western art from the rise of Christianity in the 3rd century ...

Article

Sandra Sider

Abbreviation for ‘optical art’, referring to painting, prints, sculpture, and textiles exploiting the optical effects of visual perception. The term entered American art vocabulary in 1964, referring especially to two-dimensional structures with strong psychophysiological effects. The reasons for these effects had been explained in three 19th-century treatises: Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Zur Farbenlehre (The Theory of Colors; 1810); Michel-Eugène Chevreul’s De la loi du contraste simultané des couleurs (Simultaneous Contrast of Colors; 1839); and Hermann von Helmholtz’s Physiologische Optik (Physiological Optics; 1855–66).

See also Op art.

Painting was transformed after the mid-19th century, once artists understood the three-receptor theory of vision, and how the mind—not the eye—creates colour. The optical experiences in Op art include after-images, line interference, reversible perspective, chromatic vibration, ambiguous forms, and sculptural superimpositions. Op art awakens questions in the viewer concerning the perceptive processes: ‘As we stand before Op paintings that resist our understanding, we introduce ourselves to our unconscious selves’ (exh. cat. ...

Article

Pietà  

Barbara Watts

[It.: ‘pity’]

Devotional image of the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ, who lies across her lap. Occasionally other figures, such as St John the Evangelist or Joseph of Arimathea, grieve with her. The Pietà was a popular devotional subject in European painting and sculpture from the 13th century to the end of the 17th.

The subject is thematically related to the Crucifixion, the Descent from the Cross, and the Lamentation, but unlike these it is not a specific event from the Passion cycle. Thus, representations of the Pietà usually lack narrative elements such as the cross, the tomb, and other mourning figures. A related, but more hieratic, subject is the Man of Sorrows (imago pietatis; Lat. ‘image of pity’), in which the dead Christ, sometimes supported by Mary or angels and surrounded by the instruments of the Passion, is presented to the viewer for contemplation.

There are three general types of Pietà, differentiated by the position of Christ’s body. In early German representations it has a sharp diagonal axis, with the torso virtually upright, as in the ...

Article

Studio  

Carola Hicks

[workshop]

Artist’s place of work. The term is also used to define the work of an artist’s assistants or followers.

In the most straightforward sense, a studio is the place where an artist works, its nature determined by the practical needs of production: adequate light by which to see and space in which to create the work of art. Subsequent activities (e.g. storage, display, and sale) and related activities (e.g. training) may also be considerations. Since work in a studio might involve a whole range of artistic practices, often each with several different processes, separate areas of work are required. There has always been some difference between the needs of painting and of sculpture, for example the latter’s requirement of distinct areas for modelling in clay and in plaster, for casting in metal, and for carving in wood and various types of stone. The processes involved in creating a painting require the preparation of drawing implements, paints, wood panels or canvases, and frames; these are all carried out within the studio, but can take place within one large room. On the other hand, a stained-glass studio (whether medieval or 19th century) might have employed many people, who remained segregated within specialist activities, which were carried out in separate areas under the same roof. Although a studio thus implies a specific space reserved for artistic activity, in the medieval period, because so many works were carried out ...

Article

Tondo  

[It.: ‘circle’]

Circular painting or relief carving. It developed as an independent form in Florence in the first half of the 15th century. However, earlier examples of the circular form do exist, for example in France with Jean Malouel’s Pietà (Paris, Louvre) which dates c. 1400. Many of the surviving Italian tondi depict themes that also occurred on the desco da parto, from which the tondo may have evolved. This was a circular or polygonal painted tray made to celebrate the birth of a child and presented to the mother with gifts of sweetmeats and fruit. Tondi paintings were produced in Florence primarily for domestic settings, with the Adoration of the Magi and the Virgin and Child being particularly popular subjects (see fig.). Among the earliest surviving tondi are Luca della Robbia’s terracotta relief of the Virgin and Child with Two Angels (c. 1428; Oxford, Ashmolean) and Domenico Veneziano’s circular panel painting of the ...

Article

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts

In 

Article

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts

In 

Article

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts

In