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Art Related To Popes Essay, Research Paper

The three pieces discussed in this essay are all closely related to popes of the Roman Catholic Church. Michelangelo s The Last Judgment , Raphael s School of Athens and Pietro da Cortona s Glorification of the Reign of Urban VIII not only have their relation to a particular pope in common, but also are very good reflections of the artistic movements and historical events of the time in which each work was done.

Raphael s The School of Athens was a work done on one wall of the Stanza della Segnatura, a former meeting room of the papal tribunal and Julius II s then current private library, at the request of Pope Julius II. Julius II had other artists working on the room when he saw some of Raphael s work. He then had the other artists stop work and called for Raphael to do the room instead. Raphael took over in 1508 (the same year Michelangelo was commissioned on the Sistine Chapel) and had completed the job in 1511. This piece is most significant in its reflection of the historical period. It was in this time during the Renaissance that the Medici family redefined business and people like Machiavelli brought about new political ideas in books like The Prince . A new wave of thinking and reason was spreading. The School of Athens brings together all the ancient philosophies and their famous representatives while leaving out any reference to Christian themes. The painting personifies the popular trend of the time. The painting is also completely representative of the High Renaissance style. The attention is completely on realistic, naturalistic portrayal of the figure. Notably the painting displays portraits of his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci (Plato) and Michelangelo (Heraklitos). The Leonardo portrait is assumed to pay tribute to his role as a thinker and artist in establishing the High Renaissance style.

After returning back to Rome from Florence on the order of Pope Paul III, Michelangelo began work on The Last Judgment in 1534. He completed the work in 1541. There is ongoing argument as to what style the painting should be classified as. The base for the cause of the argument lies in that Michelangelo s style evolved as he aged, not an uncommon trait of any artist s work in analyzed throughout his or her life. Some argue that it is the close or one of the last truly High Renaissance style paintings while others argue that the piece signifies the beginning of another style, mannerism. Both arguments have foundation. Michelangelo is most definitely a Renaissance artist; however, Michelangelo s late style does share certain characteristics with of the mannerist trend that was well under way during the mid 16th century. The twisted poses and radical contrapposto as well as the crowdedness and exaggerated musculature of the figures in the work are, if nothing more, at least precursors to the mannerist movement. The tortuous movement of the work may also be reflective of the troubled times for the church and perhaps for Michelangelo. It was during this time that the Roman Catholic Church would be facing the Protestant revolt of the Reformation. John Calvin was busy reforming Geneva the same year this work was started (1534) and Pope Paul III was cleaning up some of the mess caused by the Reformation the year after its completion (1542). This was an interesting time for a religiously related piece to be under way.

Cortona s Glorification of the Reign of Urban VIII gives away its relationship to Pope Urban VIII in the title. The entire work refers to Urban VIII s glory and character. Although many pagan characters are used in the piece, they are used in allusion to events surrounding Urban VIII. Athena, for example, battles the pre-Greek giants, a scene which alludes to Urban s own battle to stomp our heresy. Other symbolism includes three bees which are a symbol of Urban VIII s family coat of arms, a laurel wreath which links the pope with the greatness of ancient Rome, and little putto that refers to Urban as a poet. The crossed golden keys are a papal symbol. Artistically significant is the Italian Baroque style that this painting reflects. The abnormal perspective and dynamic look of the work are baroque qualities as well as the melodramatic presentation made in the center of the piece where Divine Providence orders Immortality to place the crown of stars upon the wreath. The work is also very decorative in the highly detailed, illusionistic painted sculpture that frames the ceiling as well as the simulated bronze reliefs that corner the ceiling. They also create the illusion of depth which is a characteristic of the baroque style. This work has so many baroque characteristics that the only fair thing to say is that is completely embodies the baroque style.

While some of these works more strongly reflect the historical events of the time and others more strongly reflect the artistic movements of the time, they all have common ground in their relationship to a pope either in his patronage of the work or the work s complete dedication to him.


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