Skip

it’s actually crazy how much of your face is just eyes
April 4, 2014 6:37 AM   Subscribe

From the year 800 AD to 1450 the entirety of Europe’s approach to painting was “It’s impossible to know what an animal looks like, just draw a guy’s head on it.” This is their story. Meanwhile in Byzantium, they're having trouble deciding how to draw Jesus in their painting: absolutely furious or else like his face was a candle and it was melting towards the floor just a little bit.
posted by MartinWisse (76 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, don't forget the Renaissance, in which we learn about necks and gardens.
posted by rewil at 6:48 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


MONK #1: what does it look like when some people are far away but some are closer
MONK #2: draw them all exactly the same size
They should have consulted a wise Irish priest.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:50 AM on April 4 [7 favorites]


Is the author of these pieces Roast Beef from Achewood?
posted by capnsue at 6:55 AM on April 4 [17 favorites]


Monk #1: hey man I'm supposed to draw the past nine popes how did they look like
Monk #2: don't bother man I think they just all looked like this one guy only with different hair
Monk #1: thanks man
Monk #2: no problem bro

Pope portraits

Monk #1: yo.
Monk #2. yo.
Monk #1: you heard about this new thing called perspective?
Monk #2: yea you just need to draw things with 45 degree angles sometimes randomly
Monk #1: oh ok sounds simple enough. tx.

Perspective attempt
posted by Riton at 6:56 AM on April 4 [17 favorites]


I guess we better hope that, 2000 years from now, the surviving art representative of our era isn't The Oatmeal.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:57 AM on April 4 [20 favorites]


Babies are the eternal plague of artists throughout time.

also just jam em on the torso wherever is the most accurate of all of the art historical commentaries ever
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:58 AM on April 4 [14 favorites]


In college I took a medieval painting course (studied, not learned how).

We had many discussions about whether eyes worked different then. Or maybe they work different now.
posted by allthinky at 7:06 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Love the crowd scenes where the number of feet have no relationship to the number of heads. But on the other hand, realism is awful literal.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:06 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


The punishments in the Corpus Juris Civilis for smiling or bending at the waist are surprisingly severe.
posted by graymouser at 7:10 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


Babies are the eternal plague of artists throughout time.

Ugly Renaissance Babies should have an alternate title of I Only Wanted to Sit Down in this Goddamn Museum for a Few Minutes Not Stare at Nightmare Fuel While I Do It.
posted by Kitteh at 7:12 AM on April 4 [7 favorites]


TIL Monks used Twitter
posted by chavenet at 7:23 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there an AskMe about that sign Jesus is making with his hand, a few months ago?
posted by thelonius at 7:23 AM on April 4


MONK #1: how big are most peoples foreheads
relative to the rest of their face
MONK #2: oh it’s 90% of the face, definitely
MONK #1: thanks


Um, eyes are actually almost exactly in the middle of the head, we just don't realize it because all the interesting stuff is below them. The monks got that one spot on.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:23 AM on April 4 [15 favorites]


We have fun, but I remember being astonished to realize in college that art history is basically a progression of us figuring out how to do things. Previously it had never occurred to me that art looked different back then because we were literally figuring stuff out as we went along. It was more like
Monk #1: Hey do you know how to draw a table?
Monk #2: Uh no, but it is circle shaped, just go with that.

I thought it was just that tastes and styles were different or something.
posted by bleep at 7:26 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


the important thing to remember if you’re drawing Mary is that her whole eyes and face line up in a perfect T surrounded by empty space and Jesus is just furious with her

ZOMG I'm dying.
posted by ChrisTN at 7:27 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Monk #1: hey man we're making art but why?
Monk #2: woah that's a good question. i really don't know?
Monk #1: well in that case why don't we try making TONS OF MONEY?
Monk #2: allright man, why not. not sure if that's really possible tho?
Monk #1: just relax and do everything I say ok? I'll just sit here and tell ya what to do and sign my name on everything ok
Monk #2: sure man whatever

For the love of god!
posted by Riton at 7:37 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


We have fun, but I remember being astonished to realize in college that art history is basically a progression of us figuring out how to do things.

This is an inaccurate way of viewing cultural history, and makes the same mistake as the "Great Chain of Being" does in biology. It assumes that what was important for people in the past to represent is the SAME as what was important to us. But that's clearly not true.

For instance, it isn't clear that even if you went back in time several millenia and taught people about perspective, that they would care. Relative sizes in older paintings often depicted power relationships, rather than distances from the "viewer".
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:52 AM on April 4 [34 favorites]


Also some of the weirdness in Byzantine art is due to conscious use of reverse perspective.
posted by Iridic at 8:13 AM on April 4 [7 favorites]


Yeah, art history hasn't been this long chain of learning stuff. Things ebb and flow, other things are prioritized. You can pretty clearly see Late Roman stuff turning into things that look more medieval, and it's not like all those previous artworks disappeared and forced artists to start from scratch. The porphory Tetrarchs in Venice are a pretty good example of this - the people who carved them would have seen sculptures with more "proper" proportions and realistic faces, but that's not what was needed at that moment. And Baroque and Mannerist stuff - like the Madonna with the Long Neck - was specifically playing with proportion. It's not like Parmigiano was like, "I have no idea what a neck looks like, so I'ma just keep going! And this is where medical diagnoses from paintings get into trouble - it looks like somebody has tried to diagnose the model for that Madonna with Marfan Syndrome, according to Wikipedia.
posted by PussKillian at 8:16 AM on April 4 [8 favorites]


Wasn't there an AskMe about that sign Jesus is making with his hand, a few months ago?

You're probably thinking of the question about The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:17 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


For instance, it isn't clear that even if you went back in time several millenia and taught people about perspective, that they would care.

I know almost nothing about art and art history, but isn't there something to these paintings being done by monks (I don't mean they are all done by monks, but the ones that are)? I mean it's not like there's an artistic skill requirement for becoming a monk is there? It seems possible that at least some of this weirdness is due to the artists being shitty.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:18 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


It is exceptionally rare that I literally find myself LOLing but this room has been ringing to the sound of my chuckling...
posted by Monkeymoo at 8:21 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


I've having trouble here parsing how many levels of irony I'm supposed to read into the linked site, and into the linked site as discussed on Mefi. Are we amused by:

1. Those stupid old painter guys who like did it all wrong,
2. Ignorant hicks who laugh at Byzantine art,
3. Those pretentious fools who think hicks laughing at Byzantine art is itself amusing,
4. The subtle joke implied in posting something to Mefi as though mefites of all people would want to laugh at those pretentious fools who think hicks laughing at Byzantine art is itself amusing?

Totally up for it, whatevs, just need to calibrate.
posted by Segundus at 8:22 AM on April 4 [10 favorites]


As much as I enjoy this series I also have to sit on my hands and bite my tongue cause I'm going NO NO NO YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CONTEXT NOT TO MENTION THE LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY IS REALLY INTERESTING- cause nobody likes having thier fun ruined by an over explaining art nerd.
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 AM on April 4 [18 favorites]


The Whelk: "...cause nobody likes having thier fun ruined by an over explaining art nerd."

See, I'd love to see that comment. What if we reassure you there's no fun to ruin? :D

(Sorry, sorry....)
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Segundus: We are supposed to be laughing at the reverse-perspective plate of beans.
posted by graymouser at 8:30 AM on April 4


Two Monks Invent the Northern Renaissance:

Monk #1: hey what do peasants look like?
Monk #2: they are just drunk all the time like rolling around drunk
Monk #1: oh right i forgot
Monk #2: they are usually pretty fat and wearing funny hats and riding big kegs and things
Monk #1: that makes sense
Monk #2: just staggering all over the town square you know really sloppy drunk
Monk #1: im pretty drunk right now
Monk #2: me too
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:31 AM on April 4 [14 favorites]


Are we amused by

Honestly I love Byzantine art and I love medieval art but sometimes the lion paws strapped to an ostrich or the boob located somewhere near the armpit are just funny. I don't think the author is making fun of anyone, I think she's pointing out that sometimes things other humans have made are weird to us, because our tastes are also peculiar to our time and cultures.


Yeah, art history hasn't been this long chain of learning stuff. Things ebb and flow, other things are prioritized.

I will nth this. Perspective in particular is something that gets treated very differently on purpose in many eras of art history, and different cultures evolved different canonical styles that reflected their own choices-- not necessarily skill sets. I have my own little rant about people ragging on provincial Roman art for not matching up to classical standards and this is pretty much why.

posted by jetlagaddict at 8:31 AM on April 4 [9 favorites]


I've having trouble here parsing how many levels of irony I'm supposed to read into the linked site

Though the conventions of any given style make sense in context, they're also, being conventions, kind of silly, and it's fun to make light of them in a gentle, silly way.

J O K E E X P L A I N E D
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:31 AM on April 4 [9 favorites]


Whelk honestly if there's anyplace for an art nerd, it's right here. Talk to us, boo.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:45 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


And this is where medical diagnoses from paintings get into trouble

True--but then, there's pretty much no place at all that "medical diagnoses from paintings" don't get into trouble. Almost any article you ever read along the lines of "X artist from the past suffered from [fill in blank]" or "X painting-subject from the past suffered from [fill in blank]" is guaranteed to be utter B.S. But people can't seem to resist going there.
posted by yoink at 8:46 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


I love all this art and am reasonably knowledgeable and also kind of a geek about it and also find these posts really funny? And I've been posting them to Facebook so all my other art historian friends can giggle about it too.

I mean, I love medieval art, and find it beautiful and it can in some cases send physical chills down my spine. But I will not attempt to deny that any time you have a scene of the Madonna nursing the Christ Child, you're going to also see a really, really wacked-out idea of a breast shown. Armpit-boob, middle-of-the-torso-boob, perfectly-spherical-boob, wtf-is-that-actually-coming-out-of-her-back-boob...
posted by PussKillian at 8:50 AM on April 4 [8 favorites]


Armpit-boob, middle-of-the-torso-boob, perfectly-spherical-boob, wtf-is-that-actually-coming-out-of-her-back-boob...

Hey, she's the mother of God! If she wants state-of-the-art stealth-boob technology, she gets it.
posted by yoink at 8:54 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


For some reason I'm hearing these dialogues spoken by characters in Fargo.

Oh, yaaaah, Margie. It’s actually crazy how much of your face is just eyes.
posted by univac at 8:55 AM on April 4 [4 favorites]


cause nobody likes having their fun ruined by an over explaining art nerd.

But everyone likes seeing someone else's fun ruined by an over-explaining art nerd.
posted by straight at 9:17 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


...
MONK #2: and tiny little shrimp eyes
mouth so small he actually couldn’t talk
he could only whistle
MONK #1: no kidding
MONK #2: yeah they called him Whistlin’ Jesus

Whistlin' Jesus. Now that's an album I would buy.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:27 AM on April 4 [7 favorites]


I find this hysterically funny. Having been dragged into nearly every Orthodox monastery in Serbia by my mother, this closely resembles some of my more exasperated inner monologues during the 2nd hour of listlessly circling around the floor of a tiny church trying not to do anything inadvertently sacrilegious.
posted by Aubergine at 9:35 AM on April 4 [6 favorites]


As much as I enjoy this series I also have to sit on my hands and bite my tongue cause I'm going NO NO NO YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CONTEXT NOT TO MENTION THE LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY IS REALLY INTERESTING- cause nobody likes having thier fun ruined by an over explaining art nerd.

Also fashion! The foreheads are big because they plucked out their hair! To make a bigger forehead!

I have a very large tattoo on my chest that includes an artistic interpretation of dolphins back when artists figured that dolphins probably looked like fish (how many people had actually SEEN dolphins back then?!). Since I'm used to pedantically explaining why I'm not a pisces I found myself biting my tongue lots through this too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:41 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


MONK #1: but like what was Jesus really like?
MONK #2: idk, but pretty sure he was a hippie with a parrot.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:42 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Babies are the eternal plague of artists throughout time.

Jesus, those are ugly babies

and also

Baby, those are ugly Jesuses
posted by Shepherd at 9:51 AM on April 4 [10 favorites]


cause nobody likes having thier fun ruined by an over explaining art nerd.

You just narrated the absence of what would have been the first comment, by your old chum here, that was completely written and then deleted.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:15 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


OKAY SO - middle ages - I'm going to keep this short because I can literally talk about this for a solid two hours without stopping but you have to realize the conception of art as primarily aesthetic object is a recent THING. The Church was overwhelmingly the primary patron of the arts so the role of a painting was to inform, explain, or educate a largely illiterate populace. It's better to think of them as textbooks rather than painting, they had to be read, sometimes straight up right to left with all the characters identifiable and full of layered references that could be explained or elucidated by church officials.

(My personal favorite was Painting-as-devotion, the finished product wasn't the point it was the fact that you're painting an icon. Some rich patrons would pay for paintings as proof of piety or as a tithe - they where never meant to be seen really.)

SO you have things like Proportional Representation. The larger something was, the more important it was. Some of this comes from tapestry work - the conventions of visual narrative had been codified for a while and some of it is just WE NEED TO PUT THE WHOLE STORY ON THIS FINITE SPACE.. The idea wasn't to portray realism (there are some early church arguments against representing ANY natural form cause that's God's job) but to keep the tradition of symbolic syntax and grammar going unchanged - Nothing changing was (is) very important to the Catholic church so any deviation from tradition would be heavily side-eyed, so modern clothing and buildings and event happen in the same world as Biblical scenes, the larger something was the more important you'd know it was, the general ranking of the world (cause again, Hierarchies, super big deal in the world-view of the middle ages church) was clear, obvious and unchanging. Symbol language was the point, not aesthetics.

Here's a really good breakdown in how the small changes to the religious painting tradition slowly crepped toward Naturalism, you wouldn't blink twice if you saw it in a row of related paintings but put next to earlier versions you can see the changes happening

posted by The Whelk at 10:19 AM on April 4 [36 favorites]


OH OH ALSO, serene unchanging expressions = heavenly grace and divinity. Having an expression other than placid calm was usually reserved for souls being tortured in hell. There was a lot less rules and guidelines for depicting hell and demons so a lot of artists went to fucking town in them.

Also the conception of "artist" as a distinct job rather than someone being a craftsman or a church officer who also paintings as part of his duties.
posted by The Whelk at 10:42 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


Ha ha why can't they make people look real, they're all out of proportion and wacky.

Ummmm, routine photoshopping of models' bodies, giant doe-eyes in anime, Barbie's measurements...yeah, we're awash in realistic representations of people these days.
posted by desuetude at 11:27 AM on April 4 [4 favorites]


I know a lot of this art nerd stuff and find it incredibly interesting and important. But I also think it's funny.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:27 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Those Netherlandish portraits where all the women are like 90% forehead, eyelid, and mousy brown hair is pretty much the only art that ever looks like me. #representation
posted by Sara C. at 12:04 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Ha ha why can't they make people look real, they're all out of proportion and wacky.

Ummmm, routine photoshopping of models' bodies, giant doe-eyes in anime, Barbie's measurements...yeah, we're awash in realistic representations of people these days.


Yes, those modern things are bad. What makes you think Mallory Ortberg, who wrote the dialogues in the OP, wouldn't object to them? She probably didn't mean these dialogues as celebrations of how representations of people are today, only as whimsical riffs on the weirdness of old art. If she hasn't done so already, she'll probably write similar stuff about photoshopped models, weird-looking anime, and Barbie not long from now.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:16 PM on April 4


I would actually like another entry in this series where the monks travel forward in time and gchat about modern day photoshops.

or maybe 70s teen boy bedroom posters.

MONK 1: so like how far out from a face should hair go
MONK 2: all the way
MONK 1: oh right
posted by Sara C. at 12:20 PM on April 4 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I don't really see any tension between knowing the context and thinking this is funny as hell.
posted by invitapriore at 12:54 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]


Like, I would be very surprised if Mallory Ortberg did not know that the stylistic tendencies she's making light of were the purposeful reflection of cultural mores and not just that medieval art was painted by dummies.
posted by invitapriore at 1:00 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Ignorant hicks who laugh at Byzantine art,

Huh. I'm sure it just reflects my own biases, but I got douchebros out of the tone of this, not hicks. Besides, hicks would probably have some respect for, or at least superstition about mocking, the religious aspect, right? At least the hicks I'm related to. Whereas douches, fuck everything, lmao, amiright yo?
posted by aught at 1:19 PM on April 4


Ignorant hicks who laugh at Byzantine art,

I am actually pretty disappointed that I didn't notice the Pissed Off Baby Jesus in that one mosaic, which I've actually seen in person.

Not to really weigh in on the flippantness of this (like invitapriore I'm pretty sure Mallory Ortberg is in on the joke), but I think when you see these in person, at least the Byzantine ones that I happen to have actually seen, they're so beautiful that you sort of forget to snark about them. Divorced from context they are a lot funnier.

Also, most of the weird face scale issues are because they are kind of site-specific and really meant to be observed from the angle a person would actually be seeing them from in person. When you are actually in Hagia Sophia, you can't really tell that Jesus' face is kind of stretched out.

Also, Jesus' eyes are designed to follow you around, which, creepy.
posted by Sara C. at 1:57 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Those of you that understand Spanish and/or mock Italian might enjoy El Hematocrítico de Arte.

(Some recent ones: "Thanks for giving me another baby as a present, but I've got nowhere left to put them," "The Virgin regretting having washed Jesus in the hot water cycle" or "Dear Husband: the recent news about that fluffy white stuff growing on your private parts are disturbing me")
posted by sukeban at 2:29 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Oh man there was a show of Byzantine icons and mosaic work at the National Gallery recently and at first even I was going "they're Christian icons from the 11th century they all look the same." but by the end you're going "THIS WAS CLEARLY A COMISSION BY AN EASTERN ORTHODOX ARTIST FOR A WESTERN CATHOLIC CILENT IT'S SO OBVIOUS."

The Byzantine ones of the era where more realistic, more portrait focused, and less about making sure everyone was in the right place in relation to everyone else/the universe and conveying proper Lessons and Symbolism.
posted by The Whelk at 2:32 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


MONK #1: what do people look like when they’re just with their friends
sort of relaxing and normal, outside together
MONK #2: they stand in a straight line and look straight ahead of them
nobody makes eye contact
and they all point at something different


And thus the Disney Princesses line was born.
posted by sukeban at 2:38 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Oh man there was a show of Byzantine icons and mosaic work at the National Gallery recently

This show is full of transcendentally beautiful things-- enameled pieces of gold and icons full of gilded solemnity and numismatic changes and it was just all around amazing. Little thumbnails of objects (maybe even all of them?) here. If you're near the Getty soon, go and visit it, it's really incredible. And yes, many of them are different in person, and it's harder to focus on the details that are easy to tease out as odd in pictures.

(just jam 'em anywhere boobs are still whackadoodle though, MICHAELANGELO)
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:06 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


This show is full of transcendentally beautiful things-- enameled pieces of gold and icons full of gilded solemnity and numismatic changes and it was just all around amazing.

That exhibition has a bunch of stuff from the Byzantine & Christian Museum in Athens, which is one of my favorite museums because the design of the museum itself tells a story in concert with the artifacts (or used to, they were mid-renovation when I last went, so things might be different now). You sort of descend through this spiral staircase of Late Roman history onto the plains of high medieval Byzantium with all of this gold and beautiful icons and so forth, then you're swept over into a much smaller corridor for the stuff from the Fourth Crusade and afterwards, until you come to the Fall of Constantinople and then history (and the museum) just stops dead at a wall with the defiant letter than Constantine XI wrote to the Ottomans in giant letters towering over you. Like I said, the place was mid-renovation at the time, but I don't think for a second that the layout was unintentional.
posted by Copronymus at 3:25 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


just jam 'em anywhere boobs are still whackadoodle though, MICHAELANGELO

For a long time my mental image of Game Of Thrones' Brienne of Tarth was one of those Michelangelo "oh I don't know some kind of muscly dude, but like with boobs probably" ladies from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
posted by Sara C. at 3:29 PM on April 4 [5 favorites]


Night and Day are absolutely the worst offenders to me though it's a tough call! I will read any and all monk snarking on this subject though.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:35 PM on April 4


With all Michelangelo paintings you have to assume a baseline of "UH I HATE THIS STUPID PAINT I HATE IT WHY ISN'T THIS SCUPLTURE I LOVE SCUPLTURE FUCKING PAINT." and "WOMEN HAVE LIKE ...THINGS MAYBE I DUNNO IM NOT REALLY INTO IT WHAT IF EVERYONE HAD HUGE TWISTING MUSCLES IN ALL DIRECTIONS FOREVER OH GOD YES LET'S DO THAT."
posted by The Whelk at 3:54 PM on April 4 [10 favorites]


Michelangelo has a bumper sticker on his car, "ID RATHER BE SCUPLTING HUGE MUSCLE DUDES."
posted by The Whelk at 3:55 PM on April 4 [12 favorites]


Sara C.: "I would actually like another entry in this series where the monks travel forward in time and gchat about modern day photoshops. or maybe 70s teen boy bedroom posters.

Monk #1: so are faces like mostly hair or mostly teeth?
Monk #2: uhh i was going to say hair but now that you say it teeth sounds right too
Monk #1: i know right?
Monk #2: maybe split the difference? 50% hair 50% teeth
Monk #1: ok sounds good
posted by mhum at 4:20 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


You mean your boobs AREN'T just jammed on haphazardly?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:11 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Two monks invent manga — hey how big are eyes?
posted by Tom-B at 5:23 PM on April 4


“It’s impossible to know what an animal looks like, just draw a guy’s head on it.”

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay.
posted by homunculus at 10:52 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


The Jesus face with the melted or angry look is deliberate because he has a different expression depending on which side you are looking at him from, with religiousy stuff involved. On a large icon painted that way, the effect is very strong when you're standing in front of the icon.

I have a bunch of orthodox icons and it is really interesting the sheer diversity of styles they have, and yet they all are recognizably icons, not portraits. One of my favourites are an Indian icon of I think St Moses which is painted with little dotted borders and bright cheerful colours, like Grandma Moses' style crossed with an Aboriginal dot painting. Yet the proportions - the big eyes, the centered staging, the still expression - clearly link it to the Byzantine-style icons.

Babies are always hard. Baby Jesus looks like a very tiny balding adult in a lot of old icons.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:23 AM on April 5




I always assumed Baby Jesus looked like an old man to signify the dichotomy of his being his own father and stuff.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:56 PM on April 6


UM WHAT OKAY ONE LAST THING ABOUT middle ages religious painting aesthetics, and this is a super broad statement that is like SUPER reductive and 101-level but when I say they weren't PRIMARILY concerned with aesthetics, it's not that there wasn't an idea of what makes a painting pleasing to look at it's that that was A) Secondary to it's role as educating and uniforming church doctrine in a visual culture and B) What they tended to value is not what we value. The focus was on materials and form, the "grace" in delicate linework and drapery, the "gentleness" in expression and rendering. It was flat and shape-based, not form based. Creating 3-D space or realistic depictions was so far beyond the scope as to be alien, and indeed there are platonic arguments that church art should NEVER depict realism cause to do is to re-create the fallen and imperfect world, not the unchanging, sainty world of Heaven and the divine.
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 PM on April 6


er replace form with figure in one of those I've been drinking
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Rustic Etruscan: "Yes, those modern things are bad. What makes you think Mallory Ortberg, who wrote the dialogues in the OP, wouldn't object to them? She probably didn't mean these dialogues as celebrations of how representations of people are today, only as whimsical riffs on the weirdness of old art. If she hasn't done so already, she'll probably write similar stuff about photoshopped models, weird-looking anime, and Barbie not long from now."

Uh, my point was that we have modern conventions which are amusingly parallel. I wasn't casting aspersions on Mallory Ortberg. Sheesh.
posted by desuetude at 8:35 AM on April 7


I must have misread your comment, which read to me as genuinely peeved at the idea of making fun of past conventions' irrealism when today's conventions are no more realistic. You meant something lighter. Sorry.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:01 AM on April 7


Aw, I was ironically peeved with a side dish of "yeeaaaah, The Whelk, preach it!"
posted by desuetude at 7:15 PM on April 7


The Byzantine Series
Byzantine painting is a language as any kind of art and it doesn't necessarily express a religious statement. For me this concept of illustrating known -fantasy- characters in Byzantine way began as a mistake when I was trying to draw a prophet and the face reminded me of Saruman!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:48 PM on April 10


MetaFilter: I was ironically peeved

These were hilarious. I am exactly the philistine this was meant for.
posted by psoas at 6:31 AM on April 11




« Older Is it a "geep" or a "shoat"?   |   Moses of the prosthetic leg... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post