Baroque: Two Pieces, Two Styles: Procaccini versus Le Nain
Art has changed immensely throughout its existence in recorded history. It has progressed from cave drawings to beautiful academically trained polished pieces of strongly cultured art. The transformations which “contemporary” (for the time) artists made are remarkable. Their extraordinarily trained artistic eyes give way to the magnificent brushwork their brains and hands skillfully construct.
These ideas are seen quite evidently in the Museum of Fine Arts’ Koch Gallery. This massive space houses some of the most amazing artwork from some of the most famous artists. The space is constructed much like in the Academic Salon in that the pieces are arranged at different levels dictating their importance. The more influential and well-crafted works are hung at eye level, while the pieces that are not as highly regarded by the salon are hung either high above view or below the better pieces. Two images which just happen to be aligned and positioned at eye level, stand out amongst the beautiful works surrounding them. The pieces are Giulio Cesare Procaccini’s “The Scourging of Christ” and Mathieu Le Nain’s “The Entombment of Christ”. The two works offer much to the viewer. In both paintings the artist depicts a particular moment in the ultimate death of Jesus Christ. Alone each work can be deciphered and interpreted in many ways but together the two images open up a world of contrast and viewpoints of differing styles and influences. Giulio Cesare Procaccini was born in Bologna, Italy and about 10 years later moved to Milan where he flourished as a baroque sculptor and painter Procaccini’s work was also influenced by the mannerist style, a style that his father worked in. Milan and Italy in general, in the early 17th century was a booming artist Mecca. Artists like Caravaggio, Gentileschi, as well as Procaccini were making major advances in the baroque style. The depiction of religious and historical scenes was crucial in the early baroque paintings seen at the time of Procaccini’s professional career. The works such as Caravaggio’s “Entombment” as well as “The Conversion of Saint Paul” shed some light onto the influences of Procaccini. Much of Italy at the time had an eye for the theatrical and dramatic. This period saw intense motions, emotions and lighting. Giulio Cesare Procaccini’s “The Scourging of Christ” can be seen as the definition of the blending of the baroque style with that of the mannerist. With its immense size the artist is able to fully articulate the space and fit in the necessary information. The forms in the composition are placed in a way that the image is symmetrical on all sides. The painting is only a small fraction of what is actually occurring in the scene. The frame of the piece works as a way for our brain to only see what is put before us, but we must look further and put ourselves in the actual event and feel the crowd around us. The crowd can’t be seen but implied by the deep vignette surrounding the divinely lit Jesus. The frame works as an isolation for the pain and loneliness that can be seen in the eyes of Jesus. Procaccini’s decision to center Jesus in composition speaks volumes to what he is trying to evoke from the viewer. Jesus is seen bound to a small pillar sharing the center of the composition. With all the motion surrounding him, Jesus seems silent and alone in his pain. The painting composition can be considered complex as well as simple at the same time. The mass of movement of the characters and tension seen in the dimly lit corners would classify the painting as complex. In contrast to that categorization, Jesus with the use of strong light and shade is seen almost solely by himself. Jesus is centered in front of four other figures that are all arranged in a way that the image has equal weight on all sides and all the corners are articulated evenly. The use of exposed flesh in repetition is used...
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