2012: Advent Art History: The Naked Baby Jesus Advent Calendar: December 01

by on December 1, 2012

Back in 2007, I was moved to share my enthusiasm for late medieval and early Renaissance art on my Livejournal. There was a bit of a furore at the time about censorship and nudity, with certain camps arguing from the viewpoint that all nudity was sexual in nature. I’ve never agreed with that point of view, I think it’s dangerous and unhealthy to think like that. So I decided to showcase some old master paintings involving non-sexual nudity.

And lo! the Naked Baby Jesus Advent Calendar was born.

Fast forward to now, and a good friend has asked me if I’d like to reprise the calendar for this website.

I’m an art historian with a background in medieval and early renaissance art history (as student and teacher), so I know quite a bit about this stuff. I won’t be waxing too lyrical on the images I want to share, but I will add a bit of contextual detail where I think it would be useful. Mostly, though, I’ll be adding subjective comments, and letting the images speak for themselves.

And so, onto our first image:

Madonna and Child (Madonna Litta)

Old on canvas (transferred from panel), attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1482

I’ve used this for our first painting because I don’t imagine there are many people who haven’t heard of Leonardo (always known by his first name because surnames didn’t exist back then in the way they do now, and the da Vinci part simply signifies where he’s from to differentiate him from other Leonardos). His fame makes him a good entry point into Renaissance art.

In the C15th, it was really popular to depict the Virgin breastfeeding the Christ Child. It emphasised the humanity of Christ, a significant preoccupation of the faithful in the C14th and C15th.

I won’t say too much about the rest, but it’s worth noting the quality of Leonardo’s brushwork, the tender expression of the Virgin, the corporeal heftiness of the Christ Child, and the use of aerial perspective (blueing of the scenery in the distance) on the landscape visible through the windows.

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