Facts and trivia about some works of art . . .
Today marks the start of Art Week in Bytes.
Enjoy, dear artistic readers.
The painting's subject is commonly thought to be Lisa Gherardini, whose wealthy—and presumably adoring—husband Francesco del Giocondo commissioned the work in Florence, Italy around 1503. This explains the less prevalent title for the painting, La Gioconda, or La Joconde in French. The name Mona Lisa (or Monna Lisa, as the Italians prefer) roughly translates to "My Lady Lisa." Leonardo da Vinci never completed the portrait — when he died in 1519, it was one of many unfinished works left to his assistant.
Napoleon had Mona Lisa hanging in his bedroom in the Tuileries Palace for about four years, beginning in 1800. It's said his fascination with the painting inspired his affection for a pretty Italian named Teresa Guadagni, who was actually a descendant of Lisa Gherardini.
Some claim the subject's lack of eyebrows is representative of high-class fashion of the time. Others insist her AWOL eyebrows are proof that Mona Lisa is an unfinished masterpiece. But in 2007 ultra-detailed digital scans of the painting revealed da Vinci had once painted on eyebrows and bolder eyelashes. Both had simply faded over time or had fallen victim to years of restoration work.
The Last Supper
Da Vinci’s other most famous work—which can be seen in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy—originally included Jesus’ feet, as contemporary copies of The Last Supper show. However, in 1652, while installing a doorway in the refectory where the painting is on view, builders cut into the bottom-center of the mural, lopping off Jesus’ feet.
The Starry Night
After experiencing a mental breakdown in the winter of 1888, van Gogh checked himself in to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The view became the basis of his most iconic work. Of his inspiration, van Gogh wrote in one of his many letters to his brother Theo, "This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big."
The Starry Night that is world-renowned was painted in 1889. But the year before, van Gogh created his original Starry Night, sometimes known as Starry Night Over The Rhone. After his arrival in Arles, France in 1888, van Gogh became a bit obsessed with capturing the lights of the night sky. He dabbled in its depiction with Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, before daring to make his first Starry Night draft with the view of the Rhone River.
Starry Night Over the Rhone
Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum,
The marble slab that was eventually turned into the sculpture of David by Michelangelo in 1504 was cut 43 years earlier for an artist named Agostino di Duccio, who planned to turn it into a statue of Hercules. Di Duccio abandoned his sculpture, which was originally to be installed in a Florentine cathedral, and the marble was unused for 10 years until another sculptor, named Antonio Rossellino, decided to work with it. Rossellino also abandoned his work because he found marble too difficult to sculpt, and eventually Michelangelo began work on his sculpture in 1501.
David gets a spring clean, 2016
The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo painted the fresco ceiling of the Sistine Chapel—including the most famous panel called “The Creation of Adam,” which depicts God giving life to the first man—entirely standing up. The artist invented a series of scaffolds specially designed to attach to the chapel walls with brackets so he and his assistants could be close enough to the ceiling to reach above their heads to work and paint.
According to art critics, the Creation of Adam is not just about the first man. They believe that the hidden meaning of the painting is the birth process. This is concerning the red cloth around God that takes the shape of a human uterus. There is also a green scarf hanging out that resembles a newly cut umbilical cord. This, according to art scholars, explain the navel that appears on Adam.
The creation of Adam has several figures in it, the main figures being God and Adam. Art historians speculate that Eve has also been featured in this painting. The figure by God’s left hand is believed to be Eve. That is the only feminine figure in the fresco. Adam is also portrayed to have an extra rib. This is believed to represent Eve too.
There are technically five separate versions of Expressionist artist Edvard Munch’s most famous work, The Scream. The first two, from 1893 and created with tempera and crayon on cardboard, are located in the National Gallery in Oslo and the Munch Museum, respectively. A privately owned third version created in 1895 with pastels recently sold for nearly $120 million at auction. Yet another version from 1895 is a black and white lithograph. A final version, done in 1910 by Munch due to the popularity of the previous incarnations, is also held in the Munch Museum, and it made headlines in recent years for being stolen in 2004 and recovered in 2006.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Picasso’s abstract depiction of five Barcelona prostitutes was deemed immoral when it debuted at the artist’s studio in 1907. Picasso created over 100 preliminary sketches and studies before setting his vision down on canvas, and in previous incarnations the figure at the far left was a man.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is the most famous example of cubism painting. In this painting, Picasso abandoned all known form and representation of traditional art using distortion of the female body and geometric forms in an innovative way, which challenge the expectation that paintings will offer idealized representations of female beauty. It also shows the influence of African art on Picasso.
Though there are now dozens of casts of Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture The Thinker around the world, it had a much smaller origin. Rodin originally created a 70cm version in 1880 as the central component to a bigger sculptural work called “The Gates of Hell.” Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, the piece—first called The Poet—was conceived as a representation of Dante himself. The re-dubbed sculpture was exhibited on its own in 1888, then was enlarged to the depiction we know it today in 1904.
The Thinker in The Gates of Hell at the Musée Rodin