2012: Advent Art History: Naked Baby Jesus, December 04

by on December 4, 2012

Virgin and Child



Egg tempera on poplar

I thought it’d be a nice idea to skip over to Italy for today’s Naked Baby Jesus and have a look at a Florentine treatment of the subject. At the time when Flemish artists like Jan van Eyck were beginning to exploit the properties of oil as a medium to carry pigment, Italian artists were still using egg as a binding medium (as Melchior Broederlam from Day 2). It gives a very different effect, and has to be applied using different techniques.

This work is the central panel of an altarpiece painted for the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Pisa. It’s worth noting that the colours have faded/changed over time, and don’t represent the colours that Masaccio originally painted.

Masaccio is admired as one of the founders of Renaissance painting in Florence, due to his naturalistic treatment of form (compared with previous works), and his use of perspective, particularly through foreshortening (see the Christ Child’s halo). Here’s a detail of one of the lute-playing angels:

This interest in naturalistic and mathematical perspective became intensely popular in the fifteenth century, and remains highly valued in Western art today.

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