Since then, I've thought a bit about how quickly the European art world changed, as the Barberini Palace's collection showed -- in one room, visitors are steeped in the religious art of the medieval period with its many, many depictions of Madonna and Child.
While models may (must?) have been used for these religious subjects, the emphasis is clearly not on evoking any sense of individuality, but rather on calling to mind and emphasising details of a story that is already well known or on instructing the young or those who are being newly introduced to the important Old and New Testament stories and truths.
Now, having extended myself far beyond any confidence in my limited knowledge of art history, I shall tiptoe away and let you admire the portrait of the young woman at the top of this post. Do you, too, find something strikingly modern about her face? I can so readily imagine her leaping out of that frame, ripping off the cumbersome (if beautiful!) garments and pulling on a pair of jeans, some Vince sneakers, and a well-cut but comfortably worn grey sweatshirt, perhaps a hoodie over a T, and heading off to meet her girlfriends.... No? And if you agree with me, help me identify what does the trick? For me, it's the unadorned face -- neatly trimmed but not overly so, those eyebrows, and a very natural blush, the simple luxe of those pearls (part of the point of the portrait, I'm sure, a display of wealth, of sumptuary, as was so typical of Renaissance painting).
If, like me, you enjoy the occasional art-gallery visit and you ever find yourself in Rome, I'd highly recommend popping into the Palazzo Barberini -- for one thing, it boasts stairways by both Bernini and Borromini so that you can see for yourself what that competition was all about (Jake Morrissey's The Genius in the Design was all about the rivalry between these two -- fascinating!). And in early February, at least, it was quiet, no crowds to interfere with my gazing. . . oh, that Baker's Daughter! Raphael! and Caravaggio's Judith. . . his Narcissus. . . .
But we can't all be popping off to Rome for our gallery visits, and so many delights can be found closer to home. Or we can stop by the on-line gallery Coastal Ripples is curating in a monthly link-up she's begun hosting. Each month, Barbara posts on a exhibition she's had the good fortune to visit, and then she invites other bloggers to link their own response to an exhibition or to a particular painting, or even, she suggests, writing about a favourite or newly-discovered artist. Anything to do with learning more about Art and its History. It's a great idea for blog-sharing, and I'm going to link this post with her February "Paint Monthly" (even though I'm very tardy). Perhaps you'd like to pop over there and check out her post and those of the other bloggers in the link -- say hello from me, if you do . . .