Who Was Leonardo's Model For The Mona Lisa?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

The question of who the Mona Lisa really is has puzzled art historians and researchers for centuries, but former TV producer-turned-art researcher Silvano Vinceti believes that he is only steps away from discovering the answer. He is convinced that he has potentially discovered the remains of Lisa Gherardini — the second wife a wealthy Florence merchant who is widely believed to be the Mona...

Is Mona a single person or a conglomerate of Lisa and Leonardo's assistant? Some researchers even believe that it could be a surreptitious self-portrait! Whatever the truth may be, one thing is for sure, no one is going to stop looking for an answer to the identity of this elusive women. 

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When my sister recently came home from a trip to Paris she seemed impressed with everything that she had seen there – except for the Mona LisaOne of the most recognized works of art in the world, reproductions of it usually come in poster sized prints while the original, hung behind thick, bullet proof glass (see below) and guarded by a velvet rope is miniature in comparison.


Threateningly Vulnerable: The Incredible Sculptures by Artist Paul Freeman

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

These beautiful — yet disturbing — sculptures are created by artist Paul Freeman for the exhibit It's Only Natural. Freeman created the forms using traditional metal casting and the centuries old theme of the majestic wild animal... and that is where the 'normal' ends.

Painted in saturated, almost shocking red tones, the antlers of these wild creatures seem to have turned against them and are emerging from their bodies like branches of trees. The only areas left exposed are the most vulnerable — the neck and chest.

According to the artist, the message behind his compulsive, imagined work is the tensions that are emerging between genetic testing and the natural world. In these two strange forms, he seems to warn that if we are not careful, we may push the boundaries of the natural world too far. 

Is Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling Under Threat?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

The Sistine Chapel recently celebrated its 500th Birthday, and along with a huge party, it also got a warning... it may soon have only a limited amount of visitors.

More than 20,000 people a day—that's 5 million a year—visit the chapel, making it THE MOST visited room in the world! That's a lot of people packed into a space that is only 130 feet long and around 143 feet wide (approx. the same measurements that are recorded in the Bible for The Temple of Solomon).

Though many of these visitors are respectful cultural-tourists, more and more they are "herds" of people who are there only to say that they were, know little about the value of what they are looking at, and have no qualms about using flashes to take photos (damages the pigments in the paintings) or even touch the work (NOT GOOD).

According to Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, "The anthropic pressure with dust, the humidity of bodies, carbon dioxide produced by perspiration can cause discomfort for the visitors and, in the long run, damage to the paintings." (From the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.)

The Sistine Ceiling             Vatican, Rome (by Michelle Duke)

Interestingly, if he were still alive, Michelangelo himself my not have cared if the work was damaged. He hated it.

In 1508, he was ordered by Pope Julius to redecorate the ceiling which pulled him away from what he loved most—sculpture. In a letter to one of his friends, he called the work "a miserable job" and wrote "I'm not a painter".

Not someone to do anything halfway, he mastered the fresco technique, and despite hating every minute of it, created one of the most iconic works of all time.

More than 20,000 people a day—that’s 5 million a year—visit the chapel, making it THE MOST visited room in the world!

So, with human breath damaging this stunning chapel that is important to the pious, the artists, the historians, and mass tourism alike, what is the solution?

Technology. Apparently the Vatican is searching for a high-end air purification system that will keep the work safe. Until a solution is found, constant restoration is the only other option other than limiting numbers or closing the doors of the chapel altogether.  

No Wonder People Hate Art! (aka I Love Art, But Now Understand Why Some Find It Tedious and Boring)

by Lindsay Shapka in

Last night, I was excited to attend an Art History lecture — yes, I get excited about lectures — at an unnamed gallery, by an unnamed well-known, published professor from an Ivy League University. I had never heard this professor speak before, but knowing his background made me confident that I was in for a night of education and enlightenment. 

If you have visited this site before, it is fairly obvious that I have a passion for art and its history. This love comes from amazing professors whose teaching style opened the art world up to me in a unique and fascinating way. Having had a series of teachers whose education style melded perfectly with the way I learn, I expected nothing less from the Ivy League Professor that I was paying too see for fun.

Oh, how wrong I was...

Standing in front of a room full of people of all ages, backgrounds, and knowledge, this professor gave a presentation the seemed to be the seventh class in a semester of an advanced Art History program. In other words, it went way over pretty much EVERYONE'S head (mine included, and it was my minor in University!).  

He gave zero context for the era of art he was talking about giving his 'earth-shattering' conclusions absolutely no weight and, the WORST part was that he seemed to use every 7-letter word known to man-kind simply for the sake of it. (Instead of simply saying 'people' he would say 'constituents'... SO unnecessary). 

At the end of the presentation, during the question period, there were many people specifically asking for context and clarification, and he seemed unable to articulate anything that made ANY sense or did anything but confuse. The questions themselves (posed by people who clearly had an extensive background in art history) gave me more information on the topic then the presentation itself did.

I left feeling a bit listless. It wasn't the lost admission fee that bothered me, I was feeling let down by the academic system in general. How could someone So smart be SO incapable of teaching?

If the first experience that people have with art and its history is from people like that, no wonder they hate it!  

Creating David: How Michelangelo Created the Famous Statue of David

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

He scampered up and down the ladder as lightly as a cat, working the stout neck, heroic head and mass of curls from the top of the scaffold, carving the spine with great care to indicate that it carried and directed the whole body and was the mainspring of all movement. There could be no part of the David that was not palpable, and perfect.
— From The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

In 1501, Michelangelo (yes, the same guy who painted the famous Sistine Chapel located in the Vatican in Rome) accepted a commission to carve a marble sculpture of the biblical David to be placed high atop a buttress on the Florentine Cathedral. 

Interestingly, the commission was originally offered to Leonardo da’ Vinci who rejected it on the grounds that he despised marble sculpture as an inferior art, good only for artisans… shockingly, he and Michelangelo were NOT best friends.

David, 1501-1504              Michelangelo Buonarroti

It took four year for Michelangelo to carve the famous sculpture out of an 18-foot-tall marble block that had been damaged by another sculptor during the 1460s. Upon its completion in 1504, it was so admired by the people of Florence that they decided to place it in the square next to the Plazzo Vecchio, the seat of the Florentine government, instead of on the Cathedral. 

The MAIN reason behind this decision, however, was because of what the statue represented.

If you are not familiar with the David and Goliath story, it is a story from the Bible that tells a tale of the power of right over might. This sculpture represent the character David who by slinging a rock at the giant Goliath, kills him and, in doing so, saves his people.

Though David had been sculpted by many other artists (Donatello and Bernini both carved the subject) he is usually represented after the fight, with David being depicted as a triumphant hero.

For the first time, Michelangelo depicted his David pre-battle. With a slingshot over his shoulder, a rock in his hand, tense muscles, and a concentrated gaze, this David seems to be psychologically preparing for the danger ahead. 

Why was this so meaningful to Florence at the time? The Florentines had recently fought a war (and won) against the combined forces of Milan, Siena, and Pisa – the little guy conquered a larger foe…

It took FOUR days to move the statue (VERY CAREFULLY!!!) on tree trunks down the narrow streets of Florence, from Michelangelo’s workshop to the Palazzo Vecchio. And there it sat until 1837, when it was replaced by a copy and moved into the Galleria dell’ Accademia to protect it from the elements.

It is said that when carving David, Michelangelo wanted to ensure that the sculpture would convey beauty and emotion from every angle.

As someone who has seen this famous work, in person from ALL angles… Ahem… I can tell you (ladies) that this goal was not only achieved, it was surpassed… 

Book List: 642 Things To Write About

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

Write a short story that is set in Argentina in 1932, in which a teacup plays a crucial role.The greatness of sandwiches. You are a pirate-describe your perfect day. What a character holding a blue object is thinking right now.Write ten new cheers for a high school cheerleading squad. 

Ever get the dreaded “writer’s block”? Looking for inspiration? Want to write but just never have the time?

I know that this isn’t a conventional book to throw on a book list, but even those that deem themselves the “worst writers”, will get a kick out of 642 Things To Write About

Packed full of witty, outrageous (aka inappropriate), and thought provoking writing prompts, you can open to any page and be sure to find literary inspiration.

The coolest part? The book was written in A SINGLE DAY! A single-24 hour period with NO advance notice. 

Go get your write on! 

The Story Behind the Art World's Most Famous Kiss by Klimt

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

You don’t have to be an art expert to recognize this painting by Gustav Klimt. Next to the Mona LisaThe Kiss is one of the most replicated images in the art world.

What you may not know however, is that when Klimt created this work it was considered by many to be pornographic and was extremely unpopular.

limt worked in Austria during the era of the Art Nouveau (1890s-1900) - the first international modernest movement of the twentieth century. He was the first leader of the Sezessionstil (the Austrian version of the movement) and led a faction of liberal artists who were dedicated to creating richly decorative art and architecture in order to offer an escape from the drab, ordinary world. 

This work, showing a kissing couple emerging from a field of flowers, is considered to be part of Klimt’s ‘golden style’, or works that have figures surrounded by a golden aura.

Though often described as dream-like, luxurious, and sensuous, it is what you see when you look beyond the surface that makes this work so interesting.

Often overlooked is the tension in this couple’s physical relationship. The women’s head is forced uncomfortably against her shoulder and her arms do not surround — what we perceive to be — her lover, but are pinned against him. The couple also kneels dangerously close to the edge of a cliff.

Though you can not argue that the work is beautiful, viewers willing to look beyond this beauty may come away feeling a bit unsettled.