SiStan ChapLee

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Renaissance in 12 frames

Twelve paintings have been cleverly chosen to summarize the history and culture of the 16th century in Italy. Among them, there appear both overfamous masterpieces like Michelangelo's Creation of Adam and mostly ignored works like Dosso Dossi's Allegory of Hercules, or maybe Witchcraft, or whatever. The paintings in fact have been selected not on the basis of their fame or 'beauty' abstractly conceived, but according to their significance insofar as they concentrate elements of all kinds from the society for which they had been made. Sort of a 16th century visual encyclopedia, including riddles alongside facts & figures. More useful and witty than a standard history handbook. An Italian version of the Taschen book is also available, very well translated by Monica Valdettaro, and titled I segreti dei dipinti: Rinascimento italiano.

As for Dosso's painting (below), I also will launch a hypothesis: it might portray Odysseus among the Proci, Penelope's suitors, and the maids, who by night have sex with the Proci inside the very palace. Thanks to one of Athena's special effects, Odysseus (bottom left) looks like an old man, but still strong, and recalls his past glories as an athlete (shot, discus) while planning the suitors' slaughter. They consume his goods (the goat), and boast because they discovered Penelope's trick (the spindle). This of course would only provide the basic subject matter, but the painting would hint at many more, hidden references at the same time, as was the rule.