27 August, 2006

94. How clever is this?

The flatter and quite heavily stylised type of mosaic work that covers so much of the interior of St Mark's cathedral - similar to the picture of St Mark in his coffin in my post a couple of days ago (scroll down to #92) - is filled with narrative and symbolic meaning. It developed into a medium of great power, that could communicate its message even to an otherwise completely illiterate audience - a bit like comics without speech balloons. This was the very effective way that mosaic was used here up until the late 14th century or so.

When the early Renaissance artists began to understand how to use perspective to create the illusion of three-dimensional space, visual art became much more concerned with the appearance of the subject and the fidelity of the illusion, and less with the image's symbolic meaning or narrative function. So the later mosaics on both the inside and the outside of the cathedral are much more realistic representations of figures and other objects in space, but in other ways less interesting than the earlier works they replaced.

Ruskin (who I know I quote quite often but that is because he is such a quotable curmudgeon) greatly admired the Byzantine-style mosaic work. He thought the later mosaics were better than whitewash - but only just.

I can understand his point of view, particularly when you look at some of the syrupy schmaltzy images produced in the later Baroque and Rococo periods, with angels and cherubs that have now become such a cliche that they would look more at home on cheap greetings cards than in one of the world's greatest cathedrals.

On the other hand, just look at this example of Renaissance mosaic work from inside St. Mark's cathedral museum for a moment. Whatever the subject matter of the whole piece, aren't these a simply awesome pair of mosaic knees?

These are not just Byzantine outlines of limbs, these are totally convincing three-dimensional legs, legs sculpted and modelled with bones in them, with strong muscles and tendons flexed and holding upright the superior trunk and head of this man with the large sword at his waist. Whoever the artist was, he wasn't guessing at what legs looked like, he had looked hard at them. He knew how they worked and why, and he was able to arrange tiny little chunks of glazed tile in just the right way to convince you that they are flesh and blood.

Imagine the work that went into preparing the materials before he could even start to make this picture. There are at least fifteen, maybe even more shades and tints of this exact fleshtone in a precise gradation of density from darkest to lightest. Heaven knows how many glaze mixings and firings it took to get the colours of the tiles just right. Then they would have to be cut up into tiny pieces of an almost uniform size. Then with tweezers, the artist would have to select each piece and place it just exactly so in a bed of mortar.

I don't know who the artist was, but I have to admire his extraordinary skill with this fiendishly difficult medium.

4 Comments:

Blogger ninest123 said...

lululemon, nike air max, michael kors outlet, michael kors, new balance pas cher, mulberry, nike free run uk, michael kors, michael kors outlet, kate spade handbags, burberry outlet online, hollister, air force, michael kors outlet, coach purses, sac guess, coach outlet, hermes, true religion jeans, true religion jeans, hogan, north face, vans pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, true religion outlet, ugg boots, nike air max, hollister pas cher, michael kors outlet, vanessa bruno, coach outlet, true religion jeans, tn pas cher, burberry, lacoste pas cher, michael kors, michael kors outlet, timberland, converse pas cher, ralph lauren uk, replica handbags, nike roshe, nike blazer, ray ban uk, north face, ray ban pas cher, nike air max, oakley pas cher, michael kors, ugg boots

April 15, 2016 1:28 PM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

nike outlet, louboutin, longchamp outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, ugg boots, nike air max, louis vuitton outlet, louboutin shoes, polo ralph lauren outlet, burberry, cheap oakley sunglasses, sac longchamp, ugg boots, christian louboutin outlet, prada handbags, air max, oakley sunglasses, longchamp pas cher, air jordan pas cher, jordan shoes, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, gucci outlet, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, prada outlet, oakley sunglasses, kate spade outlet, nike air max, chanel handbags, michael kors, longchamp outlet, tory burch outlet, replica watches, longchamp, polo ralph lauren outlet, nike roshe run, louis vuitton outlet, uggs on sale, ray ban sunglasses, louboutin pas cher, louis vuitton, ray ban sunglasses, nike free, tiffany jewelry, louboutin outlet, oakley sunglasses, nike free, ralph lauren pas cher

April 15, 2016 1:34 PM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

giuseppe zanotti, wedding dresses, insanity workout, iphone 6 plus cases, ghd, nike air max, iphone 5s cases, new balance, chi flat iron, vans shoes, baseball bats, birkin bag, abercrombie and fitch, iphone 6 cases, beats by dre, iphone 6s plus cases, mont blanc, louboutin, ferragamo shoes, hollister, celine handbags, hollister, longchamp, reebok shoes, soccer jerseys, nike huarache, valentino shoes, lululemon, mcm handbags, p90x workout, soccer shoes, instyler, bottega veneta, timberland boots, iphone cases, north face outlet, oakley, nike trainers, asics running shoes, nike roshe, north face outlet, ralph lauren, herve leger, babyliss, hollister, ipad cases, s5 cases, jimmy choo shoes, nfl jerseys, mac cosmetics, nike air max, iphone 6s cases

April 15, 2016 1:40 PM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

swarovski crystal, hollister, pandora charms, converse outlet, canada goose, converse, toms shoes, barbour jackets, moncler, louis vuitton, supra shoes, moncler, karen millen, gucci, moncler, moncler, barbour, replica watches, pandora charms, lancel, moncler, swarovski, canada goose uk, pandora jewelry, ugg pas cher, bottes ugg, moncler outlet, wedding dresses, vans, louis vuitton, ugg boots uk, pandora jewelry, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, links of london, moncler, thomas sabo, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, louis vuitton, moncler, canada goose outlet, juicy couture outlet, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, montre pas cher, marc jacobs, canada goose, ray ban, sac louis vuitton pas cher, coach outlet, doudoune canada goose, louis vuitton, canada goose outlet, canada goose

April 15, 2016 1:46 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home