Painting Analysis at the National Gallery of Canada Essay

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On a recent field trip to the National Art Gallery in Ottawa, as a class, we looked at some paintings. The painting that stood out to me was Simone Martinis painting titled St. Catherine of Alexandria. We have been studying the Renaissance period and this one was identifiable instantly. For our class assignment, we are required to identify the time period or style the painting might belong to, identify its stylistic features, the date it was created, the artist, mediums used, as well as the significance of its subject matter and its importance in the exhibition. By studying Simone Martinis painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria I was able to compare it with some of the images seen in class, and from Jansons History of Art textbook. When I first looked at Simone Martini painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria, I noticed many things. I noticed how her face gesture, the position of the subjects head, and arm size hinted naturalism; however, the proportions are not yet perfected.

The subject is also being identified through the broach she is wearing around her neck, which is a wheel indicating she is St. Catherine of Alexandria. I noticed the subject has a gold halo and seems to be in a narrative; these techniques are seen in many paintings during the Renaissance period (as seen in image 1-4 in appendix). Being the left hand panel to the Madonna and Child, I also knew that this piece would have significance in the history of Art.

The use of gold (gilding- seen in image 1-4 in appendix) and materials used (tempera on wood) also led me to believe that this is a Renaissance painting. Research has helped me determine that this beautiful golden painting by Simone Martini (St. Catherine of Alexandria) was made during the early Italian Renaissance period. This is because of the style and techniques that are used within the painting. The style of the renaissance period consisted of techniques using geometry and perspective, chiaroscuro, contraposto, naturalism, and classical themes. The main characteristics of the early include the use of one-point perspective, which creates the illusion of a three-dimensional space. The use of geometry is also typically seen in the composition of figures laid out in a triangular form to create a sense of balance (Reznichenko, 2013 para. 2 ). During the early Italian Renaissance period the artist attempts to represent figures and nature more realistically than previously during the medieval period. They studied nature and the human body to learn more about the anatomy of humans and animals (Reznichenko, 2013 para. 3).

In Simone Martinis painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria, you can see examples of this in the face gesture, the position of the subjects head, and the detail in her eye-lashes (Humanism/naturalism seen in images 3 and 5 in appendix). Early Italian Renaissance artists also used contrast between gradations of light and dark and shading, which is the technique they used to create a three-dimensional sense of space (Reznichenko 2013 para. 4). (shading seen in images 1 and 2 in appendix). In St. Catherine of Alexandria, you can see the shadows and shading throughout the painting; this is especially evident in the subjects face, neck, arms and hands. The subject matter in early Italian Renaissance included some classical themes of Greek and Roman mythology as well as depicting portraits and other worldly subjects. (Reznichenko, 2013, para. 5).

In Martinis painting, you see that it is both secular and sacred, but religion stands out a little more because of the subject portrayed is St. Catherine of Alexandra. Contropposto is a word that represents a the stance of the figure which ones weight rests on one foot; this technique was used to create a twist in the figures body, thus, making the hip and shoulders no longer parallel (seen in images 3 and 5 in appendix) . The use of contropposto had been seen before but not used since the classical period. (Reznichenko, 2013, para. 6) Simone Martinis painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria does not show the subjects stance, but it does show a twist in the body (one point perspective) which creates the same idea of technique.

Simone Martini, St. Catherine of Alexandria, was created in 132223, using tempera on wood. The size of the wood panel is 32 3/4 — 17 1/8 inches (with frame). It is part of the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria is part of a triptych; and is the left panel of the altarpiece. The specific term used for this type of painting is called a polyptych. This is a three panel system with wings or side panels; Madonna and Child are represented in the centre piece which was the largest section (Wikipedia, 2013, para. 1 & 2). The significance of the subject matter in Simone Martini painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria is the changes that were seen during the renaissance, and the preservation of the tempera painting itself. The techniques seen during this period are very important.

One being in order to depict the human figure properly, artists needed to study the anatomy. With the studying of the human body, artists used the technique of shading to create the volume and a better sense of perspective. During the restoration of St. Catherine of Alexandria, many parts were left untouched while others were carefully re-painted (Brink, 2001, para. 7); in my opinion, this says a lot about the quality of work Martini presented. In other words, this painting is significant because of the stylistic breakthrough of its time, as well as the care and quality of the painting itselfas well as the materials used.

The titling of this period re-birth or Renaissance hints this time involved a breakthrough in art history. Through the use of geometry and perspective, chiaroscuro, contraposto, naturalism, classical themes, and the materials used, I was able to determine the stylistic period that Simone Martini, St. Catherine of Alexandria, was created during the renaissance period. Further research helped me determine that this painting was in fact a creation of the Early Italian Renaissance period. Without the use of these techniques and materials, the significance of this time in art history would probably not be recognized as the renaissance, or re-birth of classical learning, literature and art. Studying this type of work has helped me realize why it is important to cherish certain works and learn about why they are significant. Without the renaissance period we would still be seeing bland, flat images without volume, and a lack of proportion.

Works Cited:

Brink, J. (n.d.). Annual Bulletin 3, Simone Martinis St Catherine of Alexandria An Orvietan Altarpiece and the Mystical Theology of St Bonaventure by Joel Brink. National Gallery of Canada . Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://www.gallery.ca/bulletin/num3a/brink1.html Cimabue Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2013, January 31). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimabue Janson, H. W., & Davies, P. J. (2007). The High Renaissance in Itali. Jansons history of art: the western tradition (7th ed., p. 567). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. Janson, H. W., & Davies, P. J. (2007). The Early Renaissance in Fifteenth-Century Italy. Jansons history of art: the western tradition (7th ed., p. 545). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. Polyptych Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2012, February 7).Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyptych Reznichenko, T. (n.d.). Characteristics of Italian Renaissance Art | eHow.com.eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More Discover the expert in you. | eHow.com. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://www.ehow.com/list_6459200_characteristics-italianrenaissance-art.html Simone Martini Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2013, February 3). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_Martini Steinhart, J. (n.d.). St.
Catherine of Alexandria by Simone Martini at National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, ON.. Travel Photo Base World Image Collection & Visual Travel Planner. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://travelphotobase.com/v/CDNON/ONOG30 Tribute Money Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2012, August 3). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribute_Money

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