I open with this statement to help provide the context and content of this essay. It is my opinion, like that of the great conceptual artist Sol Lewitt, that many individuals misinterpret art, especially the art of the past. In connection with this, I also believe each person has a right to their own opinions and thoughts. It is my hope that you as the reader will permit my upfront opinion found in this essay. It is my desire to compare and contrast the two pieces I have chased through their formal characteristics, the symbols they contain, and the cultural backgrounds of each piece of art. I have chosen two paintings depicting the same story, Christ being adored at his birth. The first piece, painted by Pietro Perugino in the years of 1470 to 1473, is titled Adoration of the Magi. The second painting is entitled Adoration of the Shepherds, and was painted by El Greco between 1612 and 1614. While both of these paintings depict similar scenes centered on the adoration of Christ they both differ in their functional purposes, the symbols they include, along with their formal or stylistic characteristics.
I first to desire to describe the formal characteristics of both paintings. First, Perugino’s painting was created to be used as a functioning altarpiece and the cabinet that it may have once fit in was the shape that you see it to be now (Figure 1). The paint used in this piece is oil and it is on the canvas. The oil paint is well blended and there are no visible brush strokes that I can see. Because there is no great contrast between shadows and highlights, this painting appears quite flat to me, especially the whimsical background. The background is so appears so flat that it almost looks like a backdrop of a theatrical play. Ea...
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...y and purpose. Both paintings are similar in their theme but quite different in the symbols they contain, their formal or stylistic characteristics and their cultural backgrounds and histories.
Caffin, Charles H. “The Art and Influence of El Greco,” Art and Progress, January 1911.
Grove Art Online “Greco, El [Theotokopoulos, Domenikos [Dominico; Dominikos; Menegos]].” Oxford Art Online. Accessed March 13, 2014.
Lewitt, Sol. Paragraphs on Conceptual Art. New York: Art Forum, 1967.
Williams, George C. Pietro Vannucci Called Perugino. London: George Bell & Sons, 1900.
Williamson, George C. The Great Masters in Painting and Sculpture: Perugino. London: George Bell & Sons, 1900.
- - -. Masters in Art. El Greco. Boston: Bates and Guild Company, 1908.