Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Transfiguration of Christ

Rachael Hackbarth
New Testament Art Project
The Transfiguration
The New Testament artwork and masterpieces that are still around today are immense. Artists specialized in painting specifically religious works have increased rapidly over the past centuries. It was difficult to find a piece that really stuck out to me from the rest. Eventually, I came across the artist Giovanni Bellini who is well known for his piece called the Transfiguration of Christ. This painting portrays the story in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36 (it is not mentioned in the gospel of John).
Giovanni Bellini was born in Venice, Italy and lived from 1430 to 1516. His father was a painter which drove Bellini to learn as much about art as he could. While he was beginning to develop his own knack for painting, Bellini was astounded by the artwork of his brother-in-law Matengna. Bellini began to stray away from the common way of art in Italy, which was more gothic at the time, and moved towards Matengna’s colorful and depth-portraying style. As Bellini came into his own, he brought new attributes of painting to the table: realism, color, and form with a religious feeling behind his work. Through Bellini’s success, the Venetian School of Painting was founded, bringing a renaissance art to Venice. As he continued to do his work, the beauty in his landscape paintings through oil paintings is what made him famous.
From 1455 to 1460, Bellini painted the Transfiguration of Christ who he attributed to Mantegna, his brother-in-law. His painting was to display the account of when Jesus took his disciples Peter, James, and John high on the mountain. Elijah and Moses were present with Jesus as the Father spoke to the disciples from the heavens. In my opinion I believe that Bellini did a good job in portraying the transfiguration. All the people mentioned in the text are present in his artwork with Jesus being clearly recognizable. Some controversy that could be brought up is the nationality of Jesus as well as the others. This dark-skinned portrayal of Jesus is not the typical Jesus America is use to seeing but may be closer to the nationality that Jesus actually was.
The aspects of this painting that first grabbed my attention were the contrast in the color of the sky in the background. The sky gets darker as it goes up, which is bewildering to me, but at the same time this contrast in color was the admired quality of Bellini’s artwork. I also noticed that it didn’t really catch my attention that they were high on a mountain, but instead they were on more of a hill. Another attribute I found was important in the account of transfiguration that the painting was lacking was the bright cloud that settled over the group when Jesus’ face shown like the sun. I think adding this detail would have enhanced the painting.
Not a lot of information was given on Bellini’s rendition of the transfiguration which makes it hard to debate because we do not know the artist’ meaning behind the artwork. Points of controversy could come from the expression on Jesus’ face which I found to be very interesting. It gave me the feel that Jesus had the attitude that no one should be looking at his divinity at the moment. One thing that Bellini did say about the meaning behind all of the cowering faces of the disciples, Elijah, and Moses was to represent that lowly standing of the human race could not stand in the presence of a sovereign Lord. The landscape in the back left was to represent the realism of the account. Although the disciples were standing in front of a holy and perfect Savior, by no means was this a figment of their imagination. The landscape was to enforce the fact that what was happening on the mountain was majestical, while still being very real.
Giovanni Bellini had many pieces of artwork over his 86 years of life in which he painted until the very last day. He without a doubt left a legacy. Bellini was known as the best painter in the Venice Renaissance and establishing his well-known school. Also, he was the one to bring new techniques to the use of color and landscape to Italy. Today, his well-known painting stands in the Museo Correr, a museum in Venice, where people can still admire his work.
"Giovanni Bellini, Venetian Painter, Renaissance Art Venice, Biography: Famous Oil Paintings, Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan." Irish Art | Encyclopedia of Visual Arts in Ireland | History of Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking: Artists, Museums, Galleries, Exhibitions. Web. 06 Apr. 2010. .
Web Gallery of Art, Image Collection, Virtual Museum, Searchable Database of European Fine Arts (1000-1850). Web. 06 Apr. 2010. .

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