Art History Descriptive Essay

Subject: Art
Type: Descriptive Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1287
Topics: Painting, Art History, Bible

This research paper will discuss about religious art which is also known as sacred art. Religious art is usually inspired by religious events and its main purpose is to uplift the mind to an atmosphere of spirituality. This type of art can be categorized mainly as Christian art, Buddhist art or Islamic art but there are also other religions that influence art. This document will concentrate on two art works; the Lamentation by Ludovico Carracci and the Crucifixion/the Last Judgment by Jan Van Eyck. Both these paintings define certain periods during the life of Jesus Christ as explained in the bible.   

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The Lamentation

Ludovico Carracci’s painting of Jesus Christ was painted between the years 1582–83. It is an oil painting that has the dimensions of 37 ½ * 68 inches. The painting was painted for Alessandro Tanari who was a longtime admirer of Ludovico’s work. Ludovico was an Italian artist who was born in 1555 and died in 1619 in Bologna. His work was greatly influenced by other artists who resided in the northern part of Italy. Ludovico used a model that portrayed Jesus Christ in a distress position. 

The painting is full of emotions. It displays six figures in the painting; Jesus Christ, the Saint John, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and two other holy women. The audience initial attention is drawn to the lifeless body of Jesus Christ. The painting suggests that Jesus has just been crucified and his body waits to be buried. Most of the light focuses on the Virgin Mary while some also bounces on the Saint John. The Virgin Mary has her eyes closed overwhelmed by the sight of the death of her son while the other individuals’ faces portray worry and sadness. Jesus’ body is on top of a white cloth covered in blood. Moreover, there is a sharp contrast between the hand of Mary and the body of Jesus Christ- showing the experimental works of Ludovico as he introduces his work as religious art. Furthermore, Jesus has a crown of thorns which portrays him as a king of peace however his right arm is twisted in an uncomfortable manner showing that he must have broken his arm before he died (Bellori and Wohl, 19). 

The title ‘the lamentation’ accurately describes the emotion that passes through the audience. The scene of the painting seems to be happening just before nightfall with the painting appearing in dull fashion. The emotions of the individuals of the painting explain that Jesus was loved by his family and his followers. 

The Crucifixion: The Last Judgment

The other painting by Jan Van Eyck is entitled ‘The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment.’ The oil painted is composed of two paintings with each having a dimension of 22 ¼* 7 2/3 inches. Jan Van Eyck is a Dutch painter who had assistance from his workshop assistants to complete it. Jan Van Eyck lived between 1390 and 1441 and was responsible for pioneering the approach of Northern European paintings to realism and naturalism around the 15th century. Considering the time the piece was painted, Van Eyck was one of the first few artists to paint is such details and depth. His work was also characterized by luminous surfaces which made his work achieve a lot of realism, which had not been done before. 

Jan Van Eyck works are very narrow which was a common trend was during the 14th century when most artists used these formulae to compare the difference of heaven, earth and hell. But most crucifixion was mostly done in horizontal fashion therefore Van Eyck was forced to be creative and increase the length of his painting by adding the sky. The audience’s attention is forced to concentrate on two different occasions of the bible.

Jan Van Eyck’s paintings narrate stories in the two paintings. In the Crucifixion, Van Eyck shows how the occasion of Jesus Christ’s death is met with different reactions from the crowd. On one hand, there are rich men dressed in beautiful clothes discussing particular matters with no regards to the death of the son of God whereas on the other hand there are a group of mourners who are saddened by the crucifixion of their savior. The other side is a painting that shows the transition from heaven, earth and hell. The scene of hell shows how sinners are tortured and devoured by creatures of hell. It is a dark place and there is evidence of blood everywhere. There is a clear difference between heaven and hell where people are dressed in white and hell where most people are naked and there are creatures. Between heaven and hell there is a guard who separates the two worlds. The guard is an angel who has a sword and a shield and below him is a skeleton with people falling below it. Jesus Christ is in heaven and there are angel surrounding him (Schaeffer, 43).

Similarities and Differences of the Artwork

There are a lot similarities and differences between the two paintings in terms of format, technique and interpretation of the painting. The similarities that are clear from both the painting are that they are early forms of art that appreciate the use of oil as the medium of their painting. During Jan Van Eyck’s era, oil was a new concept and it was fundamental in creating details for his paintings. The other similarity between the two paintings is the theme of their art. The both try to narrate to the audience the importance of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith. He is center of all the painting explaining he is the subject of Christianity and the events of his life dictate the direction and fate of mankind. The other similarity is the style of painting; the paintings are in a dull-color fashion with light falling on certain figures of the painting. Furthermore, the paintings surround the last days of Jesus and his divine purpose on earth. It explains the death of Jesus as a significant event that is celebrated and acknowledged in the Christian faith.

The differences between the two paintings are the technique of each painting. The Lamentation by Ludovico Carracci is painted in a landscape format whereas ‘The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment’ of Jan Van Eyck is painted in a portrait format. One of the main reasons for this decision is the theme of heaven, earth and hell. Jan Van Eyck shows the levels of different worlds in the ‘Last Judgment’ painting which is absent from Ludovico’s Lamentation. Furthermore, Jan Van Eyck’s painting has a lot of details and very many figures unlike Ludovico’s painting which on portrays on six figures. Jan Van Eyck’s painting also expresses different events happening in one painting such as mourners weeping and rich men chatting whereas in ‘The Lamentation’ by Ludovico Carracci, there is only one event taking place and there is a common atmosphere among the individual. The other obvious observation is that Jan Van Eyck has two paintings that are combined into one showing various activities happening at ago whereas Ludovico’s painting is only composed of one painting.

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In conclusion, the two paintings summarize the perception of religion in terms of oil paintings. It is clear that the paintings have been done by two complete different artists in different times influenced by different works of art. The art work shows the importance of Jesus Christ as the center figure of Christianity. It also shows the importance of other individuals in the Christian faith such as Saint John, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. Despite having different styles, the theme of holiness, suffering and divinity is present in all paintings. The paintings have successfully given spiritual meaning to their art works.

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  1. Bellori, Giovanni Pietro and Hellmut Wohl. The Lives of the modern Painters, Sculptors and Architects. New York: Cammbridge University Press, (2005).
  2. Schaeffer, Francis A. Art and the Bible. London : InterVasity Press, (2009).
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