in the tags on your post about 'shots that look like a renaissance painting' you mentioned something about ren paintings being 'operatic in nature' what exactly does this mean? thank you!!
I meant Baroque paintings, sorry if the tags are confusing. The shots from movies, TV, random happenings on the street, are often very operatic and thus they look more Baroque than Renaissance.
The Renaissance–at least the Italian Renaissance, which is what most people are referring to when they casually talk about the Renaissance and art–covered a fairly long period, and a lot of people debate when that period is, but the point is that there was an Early, High, and Late Renaissance in Italy. The art that a lot of people identify as Renaissance art is actually High Renaissance (from about 1490-1520, give or take a few years). It’s the art that was dominated by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
Raphael is the artist I’ll use as an example, because he did a good job of combining the styles of the other two to make his own thing.
“School of Athens”, at a glance, might remind you of those “shots that look like Renaissance paintings”. But at a closer glance, it’s really nowhere near as dramatic and emotional. It’s not reaching. Everyone is perfectly composed, there is a symmetry to the piece. Neither Baroque and or Renaissance works present people as they actually are, but they alter reality in different ways. The Renaissance searched for perfection, whereas the Baroque searched for high emotion above all else. This isn’t to say that there aren’t dramatic Renaissance pieces, but Italian Renaissance art was about grazia, creating a goal for people to aspire to, and presenting perfection for political purposes. Think politics + religion + humanism and you’ll get Renaissance art. Raphael is giving us his highly idealized view of classical scholars the way he–someone who, like any genius of the Italian Renaissance idolized these people–viewed them. It would be stiff if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s so damn good, and because of that it seems like we’re caught in this moment of grace.
Whereas these pieces that people often seem to compare “shots like a Renaissance painting” to are about high emotion. Whether that’s grotesque or beautiful doesn’t matter (whereas the Renaissance masters would often prefer beauty, though Michelangelo dabbled more in the grotesque as he aged into the Baroque–see “The Last Judgment”).
Raphael’s “The Deposition” depicts the dead body of Christ, and sure there are indications that he’s dead (the skin tone, the prone form) but he definitely doesn’t depict the grotesque nature of death. And again, everyone here is more the perfect grieving people over the over the top grief that you’ll see in the Baroque.
Caravaggio, an iconic Baroque artist, gives us “David with the Head of Goliath” in a manner that is both operatic (the chiaroscuro!) and grotesque. The head of Goliath (allegedly modeled after the artist himself because Caravaggio was the self-loathing Mick Jagger of the Baroque) looks gross in a way that Raphael’s corpse of Christ does not. It looks super dead, and Caravaggio was in general obsessed with depicting death in a way that dramatically emphasized how dead people were, and of course he inspired a whole wave of Baroque painters called the Caravaggisti.
And of course, my favorite Caravaggio here is “The Incredulity of St. Thomas”. Jesus is standing there, proving that he’s Jesus by basically pushing Thomas’s fingers into his gaping wound. Now, a Renaissance artist might depict this in a much more composed, symmetrical manner. Caravaggio plays the emotion here in a very highly dramatic way. He digs Thomas’s finger into Jesus’s flesh in a way that isn’t necessary but does provoke an emotional response in the viewer. Thomas’s expression is emphasized by the lighting. This reminds me more of these shots that resemble “Renaissance” paintings. A lot of these shots also resemble Baroque paintings in technical manners–they feature chiaroscuro (the high contrast between dark and light), as well as a lack of symmetry. Renaissance artists prefer lighter color palettes and symmetrical compositions.
Hope this explains it!