Tuesday 25 July 2023

Video: Hieronymus Bosch Butt Music

 In a segment on hell in Hieronymus Bosch's painting of THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS, there's a man with music notation on his butt. This has been transcribed and played by various artists. The version by James Spalink, played on lute, harp, and hurdy-gurdy, is creepy & cool.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

History Book Review: Ritual, Gender and Narrative in Late Medieval Italy: Fina Buzzacarini and the Baptistery of Padua by Anne Derbes

This is a deep dive into the pictorial program at the Baptistery of Padua, redone in the 1370s, and the woman who commissioned it, Fina Buzzacarini.

The book has 6 chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. The chapters are: 1. Fina Buzzacarini in Carrara Padua, 2. Baptistery as Mausoleum: Ambitions and Motivations, 3. Narrative, Ritual, Exegesis: The Genesis Cycle, 4. Narrative, Ritual, Exegesis: The New Testament Cycle. 5. Narrative, Ritual, Exegesis: The Apocalyptic Cycle, 6. Gender Matters: Maternity, Sexuality, and Visual Rhetoric.

The author provides a good amount of background information about baptisteries as they were used in medieval Italy, the city of Padua and its ruling family (of whom Fina was an important member), and how her struggle to birth a male heir, and its eventual accomplishment, are immortalized in the frescoes.

I learned so much from this book about how baptism was performed in the medieval Catholic church (including gestures & some phrases) and about how medieval artists and theologians interpreted scripture to relate to the current day (Biblical exegesis). I’d always assumed Biblical stories were appropriate to church institutions due to their holiness. It never occurred to me that each individual story could be applied to the sacrament of Baptism. The author pointed out so many interesting nuances, not only with the exegesis in general, but its application to this particular baptistery: Eve being pulled from Adam’s side, people putting their hands on heads the way the priest would to the catechumen, the importance of the white robes of purity, etc.

The book is richly and gorgeously illustrated. There are abundant photographs of the baptistery in question with a good number of supplementary images comparing certain stories with those in other baptisteries or churches.

Even if you’re not interested in the baptistery of Padua, this book contains of wealth of information on medieval thought. The amount of input Fina apparently had when deciding the program is also fascinating. So many of the stories and poses pertain to her specifically. She’s even included in several frescoes.

I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in medieval art, Italian art, or Christian history.