Italian Renaissance Essay

Read Mannerism by Shearman and The Book of the Courtier by Castiglione and then answer these questions.  Does painting by Giulio Romano (Madonna and Child with a Young St. John the Baptist) seem to embody the idea of Castiglion, or to fit Shermans expectations? Do either writers categories work better than others, in regard to your image? And can you discern effortless, in the painting-or are term like these too diffuse to be or real use? Be specific and quote assertions from the readings.

                As the issue of art and artists has long concerned patrons, the concept of service and retrieving esteem will always be practical issues in art; if not so directly confronted by most theorists it is however often the case that art is a masquerade of a plea for acceptance even though it may appear to serve only itself.  It is rarely authentically an ornament for a person but rather almost always an ornament for an establishment.  With Giulio Romano’s Madonna and Child I find that both Castiglion and Sherman work well with this piece to assist understanding and further insight into a painting that is indeed a treasure.

                Art is often a symptom of attraction and a cause of it, the artist is always a courtier in the sense that the courtier embodies artistry and technique drawn from both subtle imitation and immense initiation.  Romano’s Madonna and Child is attractive in a beguiling, aloof way that is both enthralling and carries the cadence of auxiliary pleasure and supreme beauty of proportions and intuition.  As Castiglion writes of the good pupil, the good pupil must always be “governing himself with that good judgment which must ever be his guide, to go about selecting now this thing from one and that thing from another.”(Castiglion, 34)  This thing from one and another could quickly turn into a mess but because the courtier just like Romano is most like guided by one great master, which according to the context and according to historical documentary is most likely Raphael, there is indeed a guiding force and impetus to this piece.

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                 Yet Castiglion also notes a paradox of representation and imitation, namely that a work that encompasses both representation and imitation must be what it pretends not to be.  If “true art is [that] which does not appear to be art,” then what is art when it denies itself in a paradox of pretending to be what it is not, something that is in a way secondhand and designed to be false and pleasing?(Castiglion, 35)  The devices used by Guilio Romano are indeed impressive but they speak of the effortless serenity of the magician as he plays his tricks.  There is attentiveness and distraction both encouraged and this dual effect on the audience leads to negligence and praise as we grow a bit dulled by the serenity of the beauty but also a bit hesitant to give over to it.  As it feels too coupled with both weight and error, and wrung from a piece with most perfect form there is distortion and this brings us to see that art is not always sought if art is the love for beautiful forms as form gets put to use in the best way but also distorted if only to be corrected again.

                The Madonna is respectful and alluring, her raised brows make us want to make her accept and love but in a way there is a sadness in her eyes that almost makes us sympathize with a similar and yet awful grief.  We want to do something for this lovely Madonna as the infant on her lap seems far too great a weight to bear but her childish face conceals her masculine body and even more masculine hands.  While her face is the covering of sweetness and a light grace her hands are large to the point of misshapenness and there is an anger to this piece that is denied on the sweep of the surface.   We could explain this point on carelessness but hardly is the point entirely diffuse but rather it is just too implausible; For how could we not notice how ugly the hands are but rather praise in superficial stupor the beauty of the Madonna?  How do we not notice that her hands are like claws, a bit predatory and functional rather than formed with beauty in mind; How can we not keep in mind the reality that mistakes are all too hard to conceal and that natural flaws create interest but also assault if noticed too harshly or noticed singularly?

                While Mannerism is derived from style and it’s two faces of over-exertion to the point of mockery and a sweet simplicity of consonance, what is most useful are that mannerism’s characteristic virtues.  Those virtues of “aggression, anxiety and instability,” that make this painting such a tenuous project as it still projects a tenderness and aloofness of beauty that is all too easily shattered upon noticing the weaknesses and instabilities that provide an allure of the somewhat obstructed and grotesque.(Sherman, 15)  The hands on the Madonna are much too large and the infant has almost the muscles of a man, there is a perversion to the extent of malformation and asymmetry that both conveys aggression and assaults invisibly our aesthetic for quieter paintings like this appears to be.  As demure as this painting seems to be with courtly grace and a deportment that is fitting of any human, it almost acquire such “deportment” as a result of having something terribly embarrassing to hide.(Sherman, 17)  The hands are the embarrassing thing for the Madonna and holding a child too large and aged is another feature of grotesqueness and a fissure of mental boundaries.   However, the Madonna rejects shame and her face distracts us from all insults that may form upon noting how we were once fooled into believing perfection was her.  Her fingers are not the fingers of a lady, they have been worn and are large, and have done much servile and gross work, even harsh manual labor has been the labor of those hands.  There is a dressed up commonness about this painting that speaks of common origins or beginnings ascended if only to assault then distract our sensibilities with both its uncommon grace and its common yet challenging imperfections.  Sherman writes that mannerism should speak by tradition, “a  silver-tongued language of articulate, if unnatural beauty, not one of incoherence , menace and depair; it is,, in a phrase, the stylish style.”(Sherman, 19)  There is certainly a fallen state to the Madonna and this is seen in that the menace and despair and even evil is concealed but certainly made clear if only one looks.  The goat is an animal with hooves and horns that is frequently a satanic representation and the twisted sexuality another hybridization that discomforts after a time with a frenzy of suffering for realizing how we were so deceived by the simple purity of the face.  A face that seems to not fit, a face that we want to not fit, a face that reminds us that the painting is much more than pretty and even much more than a stylized beautification.  That rather it operates as an obscuration and also as a moral lesson, that evil is eloquent but also it drops the hints to those who do not focus too much on perfection and desire too much grace.  It prompts towards further exploration and a realization that mistakes are not careless but rather that carelessness is an excuse for saying things we should not because an inner-ought for destruction and ugliness prompts us towards aggression and assault, revenge against the romance of illusions that are not true to life;  An unrealistic reality that kills reality is what is destroyed by serving only to not serve and manipulating mistakes so that they are hidden but quickly appear if only we look closer and study rather than merely sight.