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zaterdag 1 maart 2014

Paragone

The art of sculpture is seven times larger than any other two dimensional form of art, because a spatial statue has eight views which all have to be equally good.




Years ago I was at a bronze foundry during the break. I remember the patina of the theine in the unwashed tea cups, but also the conversations about art. When reading an autobiography of an artist it is also like sitting at the artist’s table. The book “The life of Benvenuto Cellini 1500-1571 told by himself“ published by Querido, 1982 reads as if the artist is at your table with you. It has been a while since I read that book, but I still connect it to Cellini’s [1] statement I quoted above. And to sharpen the matter even more, this one is quite nice as well ([2]). Here he discusses the difference between flat and spatial works.

As a sculpture I aim for a spatial effect, leading the spectator around the statue, around the various views Cellini intents. Of course this does not applies to all works; with relief works you tend to get stuck in the grey area between flat and spatial.
Cellini’s statements are part of fierce disputes between artists that all want to acknowledge their discipline as the best one. It is the comparison of arts, which is known in art history as the paragone. I can elaborate on the notion paragone for a long time, but it will be to complex for this blog. The essence is the rivalry between renaissance artists to be the best artist.
A painter is a mister, a sculptor is a worker, a painter works in his outfit behind an easel, a  sculptor bites dust and his clothes wear out fast. This is just to picture the battlefield. Not just painting and sculpturing, but all forms of art were involved in these arguments. Suspected source is a publication by Leonardo da Vinci about 'The Paragone’ on painting, increasing the rivalry between him and Michelangelo. He states that painting – which he subsumes at the Artes Liberales (the seven free arts, I will write a blog about that) -  is at the top of the hierarchy. Way higher than sculpturing, poetry or music. Which is a bit of tour de force, because musica had been in the Artes Liberales for ages. Leonardo states that painting is based on mathematical starting points, which is quite logical for that time, when perspective was discovered…

I myself do not feel the competition between painting and sculpting. It has to do with the affinity you feel for the way you want to bring across your idea and feeling, and to me that is pre-eminently by means of three dimensional objects. 



And as for that eight views, it could as well be ten, or thirty. It is how you look at it. With a video camera you have no views but more of a 360 degree look, and a zoom button for details.









1 http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benvenuto_Cellini
Dico, che l'arte della Scultura infra tutte l'arte, che s'interviene disegno, è maggiore sette volte, perchè una statua di Scultura deve avere otto vedute, e conviene che la sieno tutte di egual bontà.
I assert that the art of sculpture, among all the arts connected with design, is at least seven times greater than any other, for the following reason: why, sir, a statue of true sculpture ought to have seven points of view, which ought all to boast equal excellence. (Opmerking: Hoe kun je nu otto vedute vertalen als zeven aanzichten-wk?)
Letter to Benedetto VarchiJanuary 281546, cited from G. P. Carpani (ed.) Vita di Benvenuto Cellini (Milano: Nicolo Bettoni, 1821) vol. 3, p. 183; translation from Thomas Nugent (trans.) The Life of Benvenuto Cellini, a Florentine Artist (London: Hunt and Clarke, 1828) vol. 2, p. 264.
[2] La Pittura non è altro, che o albero o uomo o altra cosa, che si specchi in un fonte. La differenza, che è dalla Scultura alla Pittura è tanta, quanto è dalla ombra e la cosa, che fa l'ombra.
Painting, in fact, is nothing else much than a tree, a man, or any other object, reflected in the water. The distinction between sculpture and painting, is as great as between the shadow and the substance.