Paintings You Should Know: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c.1486)

Botticelli The Birth of Venus 1486
Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c.1486

Representing a definite break from the Christian themes of the Gothic period, Sandro Botticelli’s (1445-1510) painting depicts the goddess Venus springing fully formed – and stark naked – from the foam of the sea. She was the Roman goddess of sex, love, and fertility, so Freud would have fun with that one. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c.1486)”

Summer Holidays #4: Exploring Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland Art Gallery.pngAlthough I had gone to the Auckland Art Gallery specifically to see the Lindauer portraits it seemed rather a shame to leave without checking out some of the other exhibitions, so we didn’t. In this post I’ll be recording a few brief impressions of the other exhibitions we saw at the Gallery.

After our experience with modern sculpture at Brick Bay, we decided to largely eschew the modern art exhibitions and focus our attention on primarily on art from before the start of the 20th century. Fortunately, the Auckland Art Gallery is large and has numerous exhibitions to choose from. Continue reading “Summer Holidays #4: Exploring Auckland Art Gallery”

Paintings You Should Know: Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, 1509-1511

With my nascent interest in the world of philosophy now seemed like the perfect time to write about the Renaissance masterpiece which is The School of Athens. The painting is a fresco, part of a series commissioned for the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. Regarded as Raphael’s masterpiece, it captures the Renaissance fascination with the philosophy of the Classical (ancient Greek and Roman) world.


Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, 1509-1511”

Paintings You Should Know: The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck (1834)

The Arnolfini Portrait, also known as The Arnolfini Wedding, The Arnolfini Marriage, or The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife, is one of those paintings which changed the world of art. During the preceding Gothic period, art had been focussed almost exclusively on religious subjects, but this is a large-scale work depicting two real individuals in a realistic setting.


Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck (1834)”

Paintings You Should Know: Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’, 1511


The painting of the Sistine Chapel seems to have been one of those projects which got wildly out of hand. The Pope (Pope Julius II) had originally commissioned Michelangelo to design and build his tomb, but handed him a number of side-projects. One of these was to paint the twelve apostles on the triangular pendentives that supported the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and cover the central part of the ceiling with ornamentation. Michelangelo envisaged something rather grander, and convinced Julius II to give him a free hand. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’, 1511”

Paintings You Should Know: Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing A Coat with Fur Collar’

Durer Self Portrait at 28 1500
Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing A Coat with Fur Collar, Albrecht Dürer, 1500

The neologism ‘selfie’ first entered the Oxford English Dictionary’s online edition in 2013 and has come to be associated primarily with narcissistic adolescent girls, but historically the great Queen of the Selfie was in fact a King, the great Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer.

Over the course of his lifetime Dürer painted at least three self-portraits, of which this is the last. He also completed several sketches of himself, and may also have used himself as the model in several paintings of Christ. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing A Coat with Fur Collar’”

A Very Short History of Art: The Renaissance

Fr Angelico Annunciation 1432
Fr. Angelico, The Annunciation, 1432.

The ‘Renaissance’ (‘rebirth’), which began in Italy in the early 1400s, spread progressively through the rest of Europe, and (from an artistic standpoint at least) ended in the early 1600s, left with us some of the greatest names and most recognisable masterpieces in European art.

After the centuries of intellectual decimation left in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance was a time of increasing enquiry and experimentation in multiple fields. A renewed interest in the workings of the natural world led to the beginnings of modern science. The questioning of old religious assumptions and hierarchies led, in the North, to the Protestant Reformation. The invention of the printing press led to an unprecedented spread of literature, literacy, and literary endeavour. And in art a quest for greater realism led to changes in both technique and subject matter. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Renaissance”