The Ascension

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The Ascension, a Renaissance painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, dates from the late fifteen century, from about 1490 to 1500 A.C. The name of the author is still a mystery; however, the provenance of the painting is known to be from Picardy, a city on the northern region of France.
During the Renaissance period, many ideas and ideals changed most of the artistic taste of writers, sculptors, painters, and philosophers. The Ascension is not the exception. As most of the artistic expression of the Renaissance, this painting suggests a religious theme. The Ascension is the depiction of the biblical passages on the Gospels of Mark and Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles which tells how Jesus was taken up to heaven in the presence of his eleven remaining disciples—Judas Iscariot was no longer a disciple of Jesus--and others who followed him closely. In the painting, one can appreciate the amount of detail put by the author to sort of explain what happened, how it happened and who were there. First, the painter painted the scene with Jesus and his disciples outside in the field—which is mostly referred to be the Mount of Olives. Also, the author carefully portrayed faces of men and women, letting people know of the presence of Mary Magdalene and other women that played important roles in the message of Jesus while on earth. It is imperative to denote the relationship between time and space the author makes by painting on the horizon what seem to be buildings of the Gothic period, intending to create an atmosphere similar to that of France. Furthermore, the author painted the glory of Jesus accompanied with stylized, golden corners, which is a feature a bit unusual in Renaissance paintings.
Looking at The Ascension from its contextual perspective and from its artistic elements, the painting is full of moods and techniques. First, the event itself has an outstanding message of hope. The painter did a good job depicting the majesty of Jesus as he rose physically to heaven by painting a golden halo and purple clothing, which are symbols of holiness and wisdom. On the other hand, the elements used in this painting are the crucial features that vivify the message represented. As characteristic of Renaissance paintings, The Ascension contents triangular placement of figures; its lines follow a triangular pattern to the main figure—Jesus elevating over his disciples. Regarding the lines that outline the objects, they can be distinguished or seen—pigmentation are used instead—except for the traces of the glory that emanates from Jesus' halo.

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Colors in The Ascension are vivid. The play of shades and shadows add detail to the painting and they enhance the beauty of the content. For instance, the changes in skin tone in the figure of Jesus may try to portray an illusion of glare while his glory is manifested. Also, different pigmentation is used to depict the footprints of Jesus on the ground as he was rising to the air. The brush strokes in the painting are refined, narrow and precise.
Regarding organization, The Ascension is purely Renaissance. Figures are centered in the picture so that viewers look at the painting as if they were watching straight onto the scene. The arrangement of the figures throughout the scene follow a the geometrical trend of triangles, which all merge onto the central figure of Jesus, that achieve unity and balance among the objects. All of the disciples and followers of Jesus are placed at the bottom of the painting in an irregular but balance form. Nevertheless, the figures form a big isosceles triangle from the bottom of the painting to the center top. Finally, into the horizon there can be seen buildings of a city which may add value to the exclusivity of the place—they represent the quietness and idoneousness of the Mount of Olives.
Based on the aesthetic terms, The Ascension is an authentic sample of the Renaissance. As most Renaissance works, the people, trees, land and other figures all fall into naturalistic parameters: the bodies portray common the common appearance of humans; the trees may seem a bit tall but still show the spontaneous shapes of the branches and leaves; the clothes are naturally falling over the bodies, etc.. However, there are some decorative features in the top corners of the painting that add style to it. Since the actual appearance of the characters in the painting is unknown one could say that this painting is idealized. For instance, the long hair of Jesus, the clothing of the characters and the look of the place may depicted for instruction rather than observation. A three-dimensional sensation is felt by the merging of the lines and the difference in size of the objects. Also, as proper of the Renaissance, a concrete message is illustrated—the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Similarly, a didactic intention for teaching the uneducated and illiterate people about the message in the Bible is hold in this painting. Dynamism and individualism are features of The Ascension, since the motion of the people is intended and the look of their faces is different from one another. For example, there is depicted the motion of Jesus as he rises up and as his disciples look up and try to reach their master. Undoubtedly, this painting leans onto serious due to its important content. The scene could be both crowded and uncrowded. It is crowded for many people are involved in a semi-orderly way, but it is uncrowded since there can be since more field than human figures. Finally, The Ascension stimulates both the reason and the emotions; this is a characteristic of the Renaissance period. The reason for this is that the purpose of the painting may be to instruct, but the content depicted goes beyond the understanding and more to the faith.


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