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100 Great Paintings - Duccio to Picasso by Dillian Gordon

By Dillian Gordon

. lge fmt, 1981 illus, 2223pp

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Like Sassetta (see p. 27), the other leading Sienese painter in the early 15th century, he was interested primarily in decorative effects. The simultaneous narrative showing St. John both leaving home, and going into the wilderness, is as old-fashioned and as unrealistic as is the use of only two basic colours, pink and green. The rules of proportion, scale, and perspective are disregarded. Yet the roses painted in the borders on either side are studied in loving observation of the natural world, and are painted with an awareness that the altarpiece would be set up high on an altar and viewed from below.

And he loved perspective. The 16th-century biographer, Vasari, grumbled that Uccello would have been the most captivating and imaginative painter to have lived since Giotto, 'if only he had spent as much time on human figures and animals as he spent, and wasted, on the finer points of Here the broken lances arranged artificially on the ground lead toward a single vanishing point, and show Uccello, like the other contemporary Florentine painters, preoccupied with the possibilities of perspective'.

Rocks, he was at the By the time height of his powers. was originally the altarpiece of the chapel of the Confraternity dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in the church of San Francesco Grande, Milan. The two wings, each with an angel playing a musical instrument (also in the National Gallery), were painted by his pupils, the brothers Evangelista and Giovanni Ambrogio Preda. Another version of The Virgin of the Rocks, also by Leonardo, is in the Louvre in Paris. The exact relationship of these two paintings is still unclear, but it seems that the altarpiece commissioned by the Confraternity in 1483 was the Louvre version, and that Leonardo was commissioned to make a copy, the National Gallery version.

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