Theophanes the Greek (in Russian Feofan Grek) (ca. 1340 - ca. 1410) was a painter from Constantinople, active mainly in Russia. He is said to have been a prolific decorator of churches, but only one fresco cycle survives that is certainly from his own hand, in the church of the Transfiguration at Novgorod (1378). His is one of the outstanding monuments of Russian medieval art, showing the highly personal version of the Byzantine style that Theophanes brought to Russia; his figures are vigorous and strongly characterized, and his brushwork has an almost impressionistic freedom and dash. Deësis (Greek, "entreaty") in Eastern Orthodox art is the representation of Christ flanked by the intercessory figures of the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist and other saints. The icon represented in the painting featured here is the Archangel Michael.
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Bernardino di Betto (Benedetto), (ca. 1454-1513) an Italian painter called II Pinturicchio, was, like Perugino, a native of the district around Perugia and consequently open to the artistic currents common to the Umbrian region. Pope Alexander VI (Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia) was elected pope in 1492. He entrusted the decoration of the rooms in his apartment (now known as the Borgia rooms) to Pinturicchio. The paintings, which were executed between 1492 and 1494, drew on a complex iconographical program that used themes from medieval encyclopedias, adding a semi-theological layer of meaning, and celebrating the supposedly divine origins of the Borgias. The rooms include: Room of the Sibyls, Room of the Creed, Room of the Liberal Arts, Room of the Saints, Room of the Faith. These frescoes are problematic in degree of workshop participation. For the vast enterprise, presumably done rapidly, the painter had a number of collaborators, although the overall style, the taste, and the program must have been Pinturicchio's responsibility. The busily elaborated ceilings, with ancient style motifs and numerous classical references, coupled with constant allusions to the Borgia, are definitely from Pinturicchio's hand.
The painting featured here shows a detail of the ceiling in the Sala dei Santi (Room of Saints). This section depicts the story of the Apis bull. The integration of this animal, venerated in ancient Egypt, into the decorative program of Alexander VI's private apartment served as a mythical explanation for the presence of the bull in the Borgia family coat-of-arms.
The power of form over content, of abstraction and of symbolism are all evident in this intense work by German Expressionist, Emil Nolde (1867-1956). We don’t have nearly the amount of fine detail. There is no city behind, no angels, no linear or atmospheric perspective. Yet, arguably, this scene is much more potent. The anguish we see on Nolde’s version of Christ is palpable. The other figures are simplified and mask like - I think this actually makes them more relatable as it reminds us of the masks we all wear. We could go on and on discussing how ‘form’ here takes precedent over the ‘content.’ In other words, it is not what Nolde shows, but how he shows it that causes us to react emotionally. Often compared with Renaissance works, this is actually much more medieval in style. If we look at the “Crucifix with Stories of the Passion” detail below--the similarity is marked, as is the effect.