Casino dell'Aurora, Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome
This ceiling is the only mural painting of Caravaggio, executed in oils for the small 'alchemy room' of Cardinal del Monte situated in what is now a corridor of the Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi. Del Monte purchased the building in 1596.
On his eagle, Jupiter swoops down towards Neptune and Pluto, who are standing at the opposite edge of the ceiling, as if he were making the sky light up with a crystal ball. Any interpretation of the gathering of the gods, seen - unusually - from below, must shift between mythology, astrology, alchemy and even the Christian doctrine of salvation. An oddity in the artist's work, this ceiling painting does not fit into any stylistic category.
Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 38 minutes):Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony in C Major (Jupiter-Symphony) K 551
This is a violently dramatic, cruel scene, every figurative borrowing from Michelangelo, from Raphael and from the Mannerist sculptors, in particular from Giambologna, is transferred and absorbed in a new image of Tintoretto's vision of harmonious dramatic force.
With intense inner involvement, Tintoretto presents a picture of masculine brutality and feminine courage. As always, he uses not faces but bodies, draperies, lighting, colour, and artistic technique to convey expression. The dreadful marks on the ramp of the stairway, for instance, appear as if painted in real blood. The glance of the woman at the lower edge of the picture suggests that her right arm, cut short by the edge of the picture itself, was once stretched out into the viewer's own world in a plea for help. To achieve this literally gripping effect, Tintoretto may have attached an arm made of plaster or stucco to the picture, as many Baroque painters later did.
On the left a high wall blocks all means of escape; on the right in the background a portico can be glimpsed which opens onto a wooded landscape where the cruel massacre continues. All the details are of epic expressive violence and some attain high points of poetic effectiveness.
Monet signed this painting in 1866 but continued working on it in the spring of the following year. This canvas and at least three other paintings show the Louvre's immediate environs, all share a vantage point taken from the shelter of the colonnade of the palace.
Catalogue numbers: F 364, JH 1352.
Influenced by Signac, whom he met around 1887, van Gogh devoted the whole year to a series of experimental variations on the dot or dash brushstroke, the aim of which was not so much optical blending as the structuring of space. The paintings of late 1887, such as Portrait of Père Tanguy, in which a newly acquired maturity begins to assert itself, retain traces of this experimental Neo-Impressionist practice in the stark contrast between the network of touches of pure colour and the backgrounds against which they are applied.
Degas produced many portraits between 1865 and 1870, too, the major ones of which were Thérèse de Gas, Double Portrait, The Collector, Madame Hertel, Duke and Duchess of Morbilli, Jacques Joseph (James) Tissot, Mademoiselle Dihau at the Piano, Madame Camus at the Piano, Portrait of Hortense Valpinçon as a Child.
Conventional as they may be, these portraits highlight both what is characteristic and what is casual in the personality and deportment of the sitter.