There is a “room of its own” for each artlover, and it is a virtual place: it is the (increasingly visited) platform Google Arts & Culture which, in these difficult days of necessary quarantine, offers a refuge of beauty, amazement, consolation.
By opening that door, you enter a universe of creative colors and variations: neuroscientists have long shown how physical proximity to a work of art generates well-being psycho-physical in anyone, and there is no reason to think that this “correspondence of amorous senses” cannot be activated even remotely.
We then offer you a high definition poker beauty: five absolute masterpieces (4 paintings and an engraving) of the history of world art, particularly suited to the historical period we are experiencing, seen as closely as it would ever be possible. To grasp every detail, to be thrilled. They are works that everyone knows: yet, observed in this way, they reveal much more.
There Spring by Botticelli (by clicking on the + sign you can zoom in) was designed to go “out of town”, in the Medici villa of Castello, but in reality it never left Florence and today it is preserved in the Uffizi Gallery (next to the Venus birth, in one of those rooms where visitors are most often taken by Stendhal Syndrome). Sandro Botticelli built it for the powerful Medici family in the late seventies of the fifteenth century. It is a very crowded picture: on the right there is Zephyrus, the wind of Pirmavera, who chases the nymph Cloris with whom he is in love and who transforms into Flora, the woman who wears the flowery dress, our Spring. At the center is her, Venus, goddess of beauty but above all of life force: she is the director of everything that happens on the scene. On the left are the three Graces (try to zoom in as much as possible: they wear magnificent pendants around their necks that they can hardly see in the live view, at the museum) and next to them Mercury chases the clouds away so as not to spoil the spring climate. This is what we see, but what did Sandro Bottocelli want to tell us, someone who never did anything by chance? Scholars have wondered about all the possible hidden meanings, and perhaps the same number of different flowers that appears on the canvas (the zoom of ArtsandCulturand it is very useful to see every detail: there are almost 200 different plant species!) means that this painting is – intentionally – cryptic. For some it intends to celebrate a wedding (the one between Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de ‘Medici and Semiramide Appiani), for others it would indicate the precepts of Neoplatonic philosophy, still others think it indicates a calendar of months (from Zephyrus, February, to Mercury, September) . One thing is certain, and if you “navigate” inside the painting you perceive it: the magical enigma is the result of the particular technique used by the painter who laid out a diversified preparation according to the areas of the canvas (the light beige where the figures were painted, black for the vegetation). The effect? Hypnotic.
Sandro Botticelli, Spring
Does the sleep of reason generate monsters? Goya’s engraving
How did a sheet 23 centimeters high and 15 and a half wide become a symbol (and a shares much used)? Merit of the Spanish Francisco Goya, which revolutionized the art of engraving. We can see here and indeed the cursor helps us to grasp better every detail of this “Whim” (i Los Caprichos are a series of about eighty works he created at the end of the eighteenth century to portray, in a humorous or satirical way, vices and human miseries: this is the most famous and is kept in the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid). What do we see? We can read the title properly El sueño de la razón produces monstruos: then there is in the center a man who is sleeping, abandoned on a piece of furniture. We don’t see the face, only the nape. Behind his back, owls, bats and other nocturnal animals, some only mentioned, and a cat that has a disturbing look (widen the zoom to the maximum and you will see that eyes). It is thought to be a self portrait: Goya sleeps, but his imagination gallops and generates monstrous and disturbing fantasies, like certain nightmares that grip these days. To dominate evil – suggests Goya – better turn on the brain.
One of Francisco Goya’s Caprichos
Rembrandt’s La Ronda by night
The civic guard on the march – better known as La Ronda at night – it is a painting created by Rembrandt in 1642, the “Dutch golden age”, and preserved in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (it is currently being restored: the first, in history, to take place before the eyes of the public: here https: // www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/nightwatch the fascinating story of this operation).
The painting we can observe is large: 3 and a half meters by 430 centimeters. Non-random numbers: the painter wanted to portray people in almost real size, so as to give the illusion that they could jump out of the painting and continue their march towards us. In the digital version, all this is lost, because we look at them from a screen and seated: but we can appreciate other details. The painting features Captain Frans Banning Cocq in the foreground, dressed in black with a red belt, and his lieutenant dressed in yellow: it is like a photograph, a snapshot of the moment when the captain starts the march. Towards where? We don’t know where this patrol is headed. The painting is dark but if you enlarge it to the maximum you can count 34 (!) Characters and behind it, half-hidden (you can only see the eyes) even a self-portrait of Rembrandt appears. Who is that little girl, the only character flooded with light (besides the other soldier)? Technically it represents the “mascot” of the Ronda of arquebusiers, as it was used at the time. Have you noticed that he has dead chicken claws attached to his belt and that he carries a chalice? They are all symbols of that particular type of order of soldiers. But it is the face that matters most: that crazy face that is a mixture of anxiety, fear, haste, is an ageless face (is it really a girl?) And it seems to be the portrait of the painter’s beloved wife. She is the light, even in the darkest moment of life.
Rembrandt’s night patrol
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt made his famous Kiss when Picasso between 1907 and 1908, when Picasso worked at Demoiselles d’Avignon (here they are at the MoMa in New York https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79766): incredible, right? But art proceeds along parallel paths, and it is so beautiful. One of the most intense kisses in the history of painting depicts two lovers holding each other close: he bends over and, in a gesture of rare tenderness, takes her head in his hands, to kiss her (live , when the quarantine is over, you can admire it here). But where are these lovers? Zooomate well: is it true that your screen sparkles? Klimt uses as only the ancient Byzantines had done before him (and not surprisingly: he had been in Ravenna to see their mosaics) the gold leaf and gold tempera: creates a sort of dream around his lovers, an abstract and suspended time. Be careful, though: the act of kissing is concrete (look at his nails how red they are from the pressure, and also her cheeks). Now try to return to the normal size of the painting, without zooming: it is a perfect square (live it measures 180 centimeters per side). The perfection of absolute love.
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper
Let’s now look at the ‘hawks of the night’: they are the protagonists of the most famous painting by the American Edward Hopper, Nighthawks (you can admire it in every detail here). If in these days you too feel a bit like inside a painting by Hopper, it is when you enter this place that you really “feel” loneliness (did you notice the salt holders? And the face of the bartender? And that, disenchanted about her, while she teases something?). This painting was a very difficult birth, as Gail Levin, Hopper’s wife, tells in his memoirs (they are collected in Edward Hopper. Minimum biography, Johan & Levi publishes it: it is a tome of 400 pages, it deserves). The Second World War, after Pearl Harbor, undergoes a surge, Hitler delirious, America is afraid and Hopper stays in New York to paint and does not want to be disturbed at all. He’s painting that canvas (he will need almost twenty preparatory sketches to get to the final summary). The work represents “the solitude of a big city”, once said Hopper, one who hated to speak in public about his work (who knows how much it must have cost him to make that comment ..). On why the painting fascinates us so much, and particularly in these days (it is among the most cited works of art and posted on Instagram), it is almost obvious to say: a semi-deserted bar, the ‘social distance’, the darkness outside, the suspended air, and everyone who seems “lost behind his own business”. We are all the man in the hat, seated from behind, or rather we are the one who observes the whole scene from outside. And wait.
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper
What to do while we stay home?
During quarantine, you can be more engaged and active than ever. Here are some ideas for:
– visit the most important museums in the world,
– to explore contemporary art
– enter the buildings of Versailles, Windsor and Buckingham Palace
– immerse yourself in the fascinating world of Frida Kahlo
– choose a book among the thousands of volumes available for free in the UNESCO World Library
– listen to i podcast of Vogue Italia
– and even going to the theater. Have fun!