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[Music] we're in the National Gallery in London standing in front of Giovanni Bellini is the Madonna of the meadow this is a Renaissance painting from Venice but we wanted to talk about it as a vehicle to highlight the tools of visual analysis so here's what we're not going to talk about we're not gonna talk about iconography how this painting fits in with the history of paintings of the Madonna and Child we're not going to talk about the symbolism that we might see in some of the animals in the background we're not going to talk about the Commission or who the patron was we're not going to talk about the political social or economic context in which this painting was made instead we're gonna focus on the things we can see so we're gonna talk about scale composition pictorial space form line color light tone texture and pattern let's start with the issue of scale so here we can talk about the scale of the painting and the scale of the figures and what we see in the painting well we're in a gallery with paintings of all different sizes there are very large altar pieces and there are some very small paintings as well this is a moderately sized painting and that changes where we stand in relationship to the painting when you stand in front of the very large painting you tend to stand back you want to take it all in whereas when you walk up to a very small painting we tend to come in very close to see as much as we can we see a female figure is smaller than life-size but she fills 1/3 of the frame and that brings us to the composition not only does she feel 1/3 of the frame but the clothing that she's wearing the drapery spreads out across the bottom length of the painting creating in essence a pyramid the base of a pyramid is broad and pyramids are a very stable form we also noticed that the child in her lap is contained within the pyramidal shape of her body so there's a intimacy that's created between the female figure and the child the artist has placed her very close to the foreground so that she towers over the horizon line is clearly the primary subject but there is also a significant amount of landscape that surrounds her that innocence frames her Bellini has created this pyramidal foreground in front of a series of what are really horizontal bands that move back into space you see a band in the foreground of greenery then there's a band of pebbles then there's a band of tilled farmland and even the clouds create horizontal bands in the sky she's framed on one side by trees and on the other side by the vertical forms of the architecture another way we can talk about composition is to think about the way in which the artist has composed the bodies of the figures look at the lovely gentle tilt to the Virgin Mary's head which corresponds to the angle of the Christ child's head but I'm also struck by the volume in between the hands of the Virgin Mary who holds her fingertips together defining an internal space that has the same kind of volume as her own head and that of the child the diagonal line that forms the slope of her right shoulder corresponds to the diagonal line of her forearm and the diagonal line of the child's body so we have this echoing of forms that helps to unify the composition let's turn next to pictorial space we should acknowledge that we're looking at a flat surface and that what the artist is doing is creating an illusion of three-dimensional form and an illusion of space on this flat surface let's start with the figure she's seated on the ground with a child on her lap so we have immediately a sense of one thing in front of another because of overlapping but in addition the pictorial space is defined by what we would call atmospheric and linear perspective if we look at this guy at the top of the painting the sky that is closest to us it has deep rich blues and as the sky moves back in space towards the horizon it becomes paler look at the mountains in the distance they become paler and bluer this is a technique that's meant to replicate the natural phenomena of looking at a great distance looking through more atmosphere details become less vivid color becomes paler things become bluer we also notice a little bit of linear perspective if we look at the plowed field where we see diagonal lines that appear to recede into the distance that lead our eye back into space those lines are called orthogonals they meet at a vanishing point which in the context of this painting is obscured by the Virgin Mary and child in the foreground but which nevertheless creates a sense of logic and places us the viewer in a particular point in space in relationship to the image that we're seeing let's turn next to the question of form generally when we speak about form we're thinking about the representation of solids in space and it's instructive to think about the variety of types of form that the artist is representing well we have the natural forms we have trees and grass and fields and mountains and clouds we also have figurative forms the Madonna and Child and the foreground but we also have built forms we have the architecture in the background some of these forms are rounded and curvilinear like the Virgin Mary and the Christ child or even the clouds and some of them are rectilinear like the architecture in the background some of them feel very solid like the figures in the foreground and some of the form is far more delicate look at the handling for example of the leaves on the trees those forms are established just by touches of color from the artist's brush now form is often defined by line and in fact there are contour lines is to demarcate and separate forms so for example separating the Virgin Mary's drapery from the grass that she sits on and we also have places where we have lying on its own for example in the branches of the tree - also sometimes the corners of forms and at the line that forms the edge of the squared turret next we wanted to talk about color one is immediately struck by the rich blue of the Virgin's mantle but also the deep blue of the sky and that contrasts with the earth colors the Browns and the Greens that we see in the fields around and behind her there are essentially three main color groups is the brilliant blue of the Virgin's mantle of the sky of the mountains there's the red of her undergarment and then there's the yellows of the flash of the fields and of the architecture these are the three primary colors we see white in the shawl that she wears around her head and also in the clouds so Mary is connected with the heavens color is in some ways a function of light and here the artist has created a sense of the broad light of a clear day the light from the Sun seems to be coming from the left maybe a little bit forward from the figures and pie in the sky and we see the clouds illuminated from above they're in shadow below similarly with the Virgin Mary if we look at her right forearm it's illuminated from above but in shadow below and so the artist has taken pains to create a consistent use of light and shadow that is shadow is always in accordance with the source of that light look at the Virgin Mary's face her right cheek is illuminated but the left side of her cheek is in shadow and we have a sense of moving tones from light into darkness what art historians often call chiaroscuro and this helps to create a form that looks three-dimensional that appears to exist in space but light and color are both closely related to tone as well and tone refers to the amount of light and darkness in a color and we can see that in many parts of this painting we can see it in the cloak of the Virgin Mary but it's probably most subtly handled in the representation of flesh looking at the beautiful rendering of the Virgin Mary's face and the smooth brushwork makes me aware of the variety of textures within this painting and the contrast that the artist is creating between the smooth textures of the flesh or of the cloth of the figures we're in comparison to the rough pebbly surface that we see in the middle ground or we could look at the feather enos of the leaves on the trees which are yet another texture the texture is a tool that artists can use to create a sense of veracity as they define different kinds of form and texture is intimately related to the materials that the artist is using here we know it's oil paint which is well suited to the depiction of different textures let's talk next about pattern you might not expect to see pattern in a landscape which is filled with natural forms because pattern is the repetition of a form over and over again often to create a decorative field here we see ornamentation in the Virgin Mary's blue robe we see some gold embroidery if you look closely there is a soft organic pattern especially in the foreground in the foliage we do see the repetition of leaf forms and grass forms that look almost like a carpet like a decorative field then the unruliness of nature and one of the results of pattern is that it is often in conflict with pictorial space with the illusionistic depth that the artist renders and even here it seems as if that green field stands up a little bit in a way that reminds us that this is in fact a two-dimensional surface so by looking at scale at composition a pictorial space at form line color light tone at the textures and the patterns we have an opportunity to look closely at the painting but these are only a few of the tools that art historians use to discuss and explore works of art [Music]
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