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Unit iv botticelli (1445-1510)

Among the painters of the poetic current in the late fifteenth century, Sandro Botticelli stands alone in depth of feeling and delicacy of style. His concentration on line is so deep and his research into the unreal is so enchanting, that it is difficult to believe that he studied with Filippo Lippi, a follower of Masaccio. Although aloof from scientific current and criticized by the young Leonardo da Vinci Botticelli remained the leading painter resident in Florence in the 1480s and 1490s. Before him the old masters had drawn the inspiration for their works from the Bible. Botticelli delighted in myths, fables, and poetry, his nature was imaginative. The artist was the first to make his painting a means for the delight of the secular as well as the religious world.

Botticelli was closely associated with the Medici and his fortune paralleled theirs. After the death of Lorenzo, that ended the world in which Botticelli had found honoursand fame, the painter was greatly impressed by the preaching of Savonarola. Soon he became an ardent disciple of this great prophet. When Savonarola demanded that bonfires should be made of the "profane pictures", he contributed many of his works of art to the bonfire pile. In his later life Botticelli turned to a religious style, and after 1500 gave up painting altogether.

Botticelli's most celebrated pictures, the Primavera (The Allegory of Spring) and the Birth of Venus were painted at a slight distance from each other in time, the first on panel, the second on canvas. Later the two paintings were considered companion pieces. Both have been interpreted in different ways. The Primavera with its ambiguous but clear meaning, is far from being the simple pagan mythology that it appears to be at first sight. No explanation of the Primavera is wholly successful. Probably the Primavera symbolizes Lorenzo Medici's real wedding in 1482.

A Christianized Venus, modestly dressed and resembling Botticelli's Madonnas, reigns in the midst of a dark grove of trees bearing golden fruit. At the right Zephyrus, the wind-god, pursues the nymph Chloris; flowers issue from her mouth. She is transformed into the goddess Flora, clothed in a flower-covered gown, from its folds she strews blossoms upon the lawn. At the left Mercury is dispelling tiny clouds from the golden apple, the symbol of the Medici family. Between Mercury and Venus the Three Graces dance in a ring. These lovely creatures are shown in transparent garments. This painting is a complex allegory. As in all Botticelli's mature works his figures are extremely attenuated, with long necks, torsos, arms and sloping shoulders. Their beautiful faces and graceful bodies and limbs seem almost bloodless and weightless, their white feet touch the ground so lightly that not a flower or a leaf is bent. The individual forms are perfectly modelled. Botticelli's representation of figures in motion is far beyond anything that preceded him and has never been excelled. The composition is based on an interweaving of linear patterns, drapery folds, streaming or braided hair, trunks, and leaves. Such a picture, both in content and style, represents a withdrawal from naturalism of the Early Florentine Renaissance.

The Birth of Venus may show the effects of Botticelli's residence in Rome in the early 1480s. Venus, according to the ancient myth, was born from the sea. Upon a sea represented without concern for space, and dotted with little V-shaped marks for waves, Botticelli's Venus stands lightly in a beautiful cockleshell, wafted by two embracing wind-gods, toward a highly stylized shore. This Venus, proportioned like the Three Graces, differs from the splendid Venuses of classical antiquity. She uses the curving streams of her long hair to cover her nakedness. She can't wait for the cloak that one of the Hours is about to spread around her. Botticelli's allegory is related to the Christian tradition with which he tried to reconcile the pagan legend. The composition has been compared to medieval and Renaissance representations of the Baptism of Christ. It may be argued that this is a rather artificial interpretation, but it is an interpretation that made sense to the fifteenth century.

Later, under the impact of Savonarola's preaching and the troubles besetting Italy Botticelli's imagery becomes less esoteric and more Christian. The best possible example is the Mystic Nativity. In order to emphasize the importance of the Madonna and Child and the relative unimportance of the humans, Botticelli has reverted to the early medieval device of disregarding scale and perspective and grading the actual sizes of the figures according to their importance; hence the Madonna is far the largest although placed apparently in the middle distance. The feature that links Botticelli most firmly with the Florentine artistic heritage is his linear perspective.

The unreality of Botticelli is a blind alley in the development of Renaissance painting, the brilliance and beauty of his line are not, and it may have influenced the pictorial style of Michelangelo.

Make sure you know the pronunciation of the following:

Sandro Botticelli [¶@]; Florence [@]; Flora [@]; Graces []; Hours [@]; Savonarola [@@@]; Renaissance [@@]; Venus [@]; Christian [@]; Zephyms [@@@]; Chloris []; Mercury []


Primavera (The Allegory of Spring) - "Весна"

Birth of Venus - "Рождение Венеры"

Baptism of Christ - Крещение Христа

Mystic Nativity - "Мистическое Рождество"


I. Read the text. Mark the following statements true or false.

1. Botticelli's contemporaries admired his works of art.

2. In the Primavera Christianized Venus reigns on Olympus.

3. Flora, Mercury and Zephyrus dance in a ring.

4. Botticelli's figures are extremely attenuated.

5. In the Birth of Venus Botticelli depicted the sea as a seascape painter.

6. Later in life Botticelli's imagery becomes more esoteric and less Christian.

II. How well have you read? Can you answer the following questions?

1. What glorified Botticelli? What other painters are mentioned in this text? How were they connected with Botticelli?

2. What impact did Savonarola's preaching make on Botticelli?

3. What are Botticelli's most celebrated pictures? How are they interpreted?

4. What gods and goddesses are pictured in the Primavera? What do they do? What is Botticelli's allegory related to?

5. What is represented in the Birth of Venus? What gods are depicted in this painting? What do they do? Where is Venus placed? How is Venus proportioned? What differs Botticelli's Venus from the splendid Venuses of classical antiquity? What did Botticelli try to reconcile in the Birth of Venus?

6. What does the Mystic Nativity exemplify? What device did Botticelli use to emphasize the importance of the Madonna and the Child?

7. Whose pictorial style did Botticelli influence?

III. i. Give Russian equivalents of the following phrases:

poetic (scientific) current; early in life; celebrated pictures; to give up painting; to pursue the nymph; to spread blossoms from the folds; sloping shoulders; a complex allegory; a mature work; on canvas; on panel; in the fresco; in the picture; companion pieces; lovely creatures; drapery folds; an interweaving of linear patterns; classical antiquity; to interpret in different ways; delicate faces; attenuated figures; to be aloof from; transparent garments; a withdrawal from naturalism; wafted to the shore by the wind-god; to reconcile a pagan legend with the Christian tradition; spread a cloak around Venus; to stand in the cockleshell; V-shaped marks for waves; to paint the sea without concern for space.

ii. Give English equivalents of the following phrases:

ведущий художник; научное (романтическое) направление; парные работы; знаменитые картины; на холсте; на доске; на картине; на фреске; на рисунке; отход от натурализма; проповеди; разбрасывать цветы; примирить языческую легенду с христианской традицией; зрелая работа; прозрачные одежды; трактовать по-разному; легко касаться земли; перестать писать картины; стилизованный берег; галочки вместо волн; фигуры необыкновенно воздушны; преследовать нимфу; влекомая к берегу; легко стоять в раковине; утонченные лица; переплетение линий; последователь к-л.

iii. Make up sentences ofyour own with the given phrases.

iv. Translate the following groups of words into Russian:

Christian - Christianize - Christianity - christianized; reconcile - reconciliation; baptism - Baptist - baptize; reside - residence -resident; preach - preaching - preacher; aloof- aloofness.

v. Arrange the following in the pairs of synonyms:

a) aloof; current; pagan; give up; to dispel; to strew; attenuated; transparent; transform; reconcile; pursue;

b) heathen; trend; distant; translucent; to disperse; to scatter; lengthy; abandon; to transfigure; chase; appease.

IV. Match the names of the gods and goddess with their responsibilities.

Venus (Aphrodite); The Three Graces; Mercury (Hermis []); Zephyrus; The Hours (The Horae); Flora

1) the god of the west wind; 2) the goddess of flowering and blossoming plants, shown with a wreath [ri:p] of flowers in her hair; 3) goddesses of season, representing the different times of the year and of the day; 4) the goddess of beauty and love, she emerged from the sea-foam and the winds blew her to the coast of Cyprus [@]; 5) the god of commerce and prophecy, the messenger of the gods and the bearer of the dead souls; 6) goddesses of grace and beauty, who appear in art.

V. Replace the expressions in italics in the following sentences with expressions from the text which have the same meaning.

1. Although Botticelli was not interested in science he was the leading local painter in Florence in the 1480s. 2. Savonarola's spiritual leadership had a great impact upon Botticelli. 3. After 1500 Botticelli abandoned painting at all. 4. Botticelli's most famous pieces are the Primavera and the Birth of Venus. 5. The two pictures were considered mate paintings. 6. At the left Mercury is dispersing small clouds from the golden fruit. 7. Botticelli's figures are very lengthy. 8. The Three Graces are depicted in translucent clothes. 9. Venus was blown to the coast of the sea by Zephyrus. 10. Botticelli endeavoured to appease the Christian tradition with the heathen legend.

VI. Match the names of gods and goddesses with the appropriate painting. Describe these works of art.

a. Venus

1. Primavera                                                                           b. Flora

c. Zephyrus

d. Mercury

2. Birth of Venus                                                  e. The Three Graces

f. Hour

g. Chloris

VII. Translate the text into English.

Две наиболее прославленные картины Сандро Боттичелли "Весна" (ок. 1477-1478) и "Рождение Венеры" (ок. 1483-1484) находятся в галереи Уффици. Тема "Весны" трактуется неоднозначно. Одни считают, что на картине изображена в аллегорической форме свадьба Лоренцо Медичи, другие полагают, что картина навеяна поэзией. Боттичелли не разъясняет сюжет. В картине "Весна" в единую композицию соединены фигуры Весны, Мадонны, Меркурия, Трех Граций, нимфы. Зефира, которые изображены в чаще тенистой рощи. Лицо Весны, разбрасывающей из подола цветы, печально. В работе отчетливо видны все особенности письма Боттичелли: декоративность стиля, романтический характер образов, фантастический пейзаж, воздушные фигуры.

Боттичелли создал своеобразный женский тип: утонченные лица, удлиненные тела, покатые плечи. Фигуры кажутся бескровными и невесомыми, почти не касающимися земли. В картине "Рождение Венеры" Боттичелли изобразил прекрасную богиню. Рожденная из моря, под дуновением ветров в раковине Венера скользит по поверхности моря, написанного безотносительно пространства с галочками вместо волн, к чрезвычайно стилизованному берегу, на котором ее поджидает одна из Гор, готовая набросить на богиню плащ. Венера почти не касается раковины. Струящиеся волосы прикрывают ее наготу. В своих работах Боттичелли стремился примирить христианскую традицию с языческими мифами.

VIII. Summarize the text.

IX. Topics for discussion.

1. Botticelli as the precursor of the High Renaissance.

2. Savonarola's impact on Botticelli.

3. Botticelli's style and characters.


I. Read the text, retell it. Add whatever information you can. Here are some facts from the life of the gods of Olympus [@@]. But before reading the text learn the names of the gods.

Zeus [] - Зевс; Cronus [@] - Крон; Rhea [@] - Рея; Titans [@] - Титаны; Tartarus [@@] - Тартар; Нега [@] - Гера; Apollo [@] - Аполлон; Muses [] - Музы; Artemis [] - Артемида; Hermis [] - Гермес; Aphrodite [@] - Афродита; The Horae [] - Горы; Hephaestos [@] - Гефест; Erinyes [] - Эйрена; Nike [] -Ника; Hebe [] - Геба; Ganymede [] - Ганимед; Themis[] - Фемида; Dike [] - Дике; Moirae [ ] - Мойры; Tyche [] - Тихэ

Zeus, the father of gods and humans, god of the sky, thunder and lightning reigns on Olympus. Zeus was the son of Cronus and Rhea. When he grew up he fought Cronus and the Titans and imprisoned his opponents in Tartarus. Zeus married Hera, and she became his lawful and perpetual wife. Countless gods and goddesses surround Zeus on Olympus. Among them are: Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hermis, Athena and others. Athena was always Zeus' favourite. She was born fully armed and shouting her dreaded war cry from the top of Zeus' head, which Hephaestus, his lame son, split open with an axe. The beautiful Horae guard the entrance to high Olympus. The gods feast in the golden halls erected by Hephaestus. Zeus sits on his throne, on both sides of which stand two goddesses: Erinyes, the goddess of peace, and Zeus' permanent associate, winged Nike, the goddess of Victory. When Hera enters the festival hall, all the gods render honours to her. She is the patron goddess of the family and married women. During the feasts the gods are served by Zeus' daughter Hebe, the goddess of youthful beauty, and Zeus' favourite cupbearer, Ganymede, the son of Tros, the king of Troy. Hebe and Ganymede bring the gods and goddesses ambrosia and nectar. The Three Graces and Nine Muses entertain the gods with their songs and dances. At these feasts the gods decide all matters and determine the fate of the world and of men. From Mount Olympus Zeus decrees laws; and Themis, the goddess of justice, and Dike, the defender of justice and truth, help Zeus to guard them. The fate of men is determined by three merciless Fates (goddesses of Destiny) - the Moirae. Nobody can escape their fate - neither gods nor mortals. The first goddess of Fate spins the thread of life, the second determines its length, and the third cuts off the thread of life. Tyche, one more goddess of Destiny, is the goddess of happiness and prosperity. From the Horn of Plenty, that suckled the infant Zeus, she pours gifts on men and happy is he who meets Tyche on his life-path.

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