Things have been crazy busy this week with starting a new schedule that includes a new job, putting my child in full-time daycare, and getting used to the extra driving. Thankfully my son is handling things pretty well, although he’s been feeling under the weather with some sort of sinus/stomach bug thing. I still have to work at my other job today and tomorrow, as this is Holy Week for Christians (with the exception of Greek Orthodox as their Easter isn’t until May 5) and Easter is on Sunday. So figured that this art post on Botero and his most recent series Via Crucis: The Passion of Christ was rather appropriate today, as it is all about the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If anyone is interested, I have found a medical opinion on the subject.
I first discovered Fernando Botero through my college roommate. She was taking a class on Modern Latin American art and he was one of the artists she was studying. An abstract figurative artist from Colombia, Botero is famous for his overly exaggerated full-figured ladies (almost like plus-size on steroids) and likes to take elements from many different art historical periods including Renaissance, Latin Colonial art, Romanticism etc and mixing it with modern style. According to this website, “His images are rotund and swollen to almost monumental proportions, exhibiting a highly personal concept of aesthetic beauty. They articulate both his profound conciseness of artistic tradition and a satirical observation of his fellow man. His paintings offer wit, irony, and a dose of social commentary, all while displaying exceptional skill and technical ability.” I thought his art was cool, not only because he liked to imitate Old Masters and reproduce his paintings, like the examples below, but also because of the way he seemed to glorify large women. Being one myself, it is rare to see a painter paint women like this unless it was a Rubens painting (another favorite artist of mine). An example of the restyling of art periods is his painting Mademoiselle Riviere. The original version was done in 1806 by French Neoclassical artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, while Botero’s version was completed in 1979.
Another work that I just discovered is Botero’s interpretation of Jan Van Eyck (again another of my favorite artists – see this post for details as to why) 1434 painting The Arnolfini Wedding aka The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife. We studied this painting in great detail in my Northern Renaissance class during my undergraduate career, so I know about all the cool details about the painting. For example, the mirror in the back center of the painting reflects not only the distorted scene in reverse but also the artist himself. The dog signifies fidelity and the oranges could signify wealth as they were still very hard to get in the 15th century. This webpage describes the symbolism of the candle: “The chandelier only has one candle, which was carried in the bridal procession and then placed in the couple’s nuptial chamber. The candle may also be a religious symbol, representing the all-seeing eye of God. The painting was thought to represent the first painting of a civil wedding ceremony, which takes place not in a church but in a chamber of the home, in this case, the bedroom.” Giovanna, the wife of Giovanni, is made to look pregnant as that was the fashion, but there was to be no children for the couple. Botero’s The Arnolfini (after Van Eyck) was completed in 1997.
Jan Van Eyck The Arnolfini Wedding, 1434
Fernando Botero, The Arnolfini (after Van Eyck), 1997
Via Crucis is Latin for the stations/way of the cross. If you happen to be in Jerusalem, you can visit these in person, but most of the time people do them inside of church with icons/paintings set up to symbolize the path. It can be done throughout the season of Lent, in particular, Good Friday (which was yesterday). I know for sure that Catholics and Episcopalians still do this, but I am unsure about other Protestant religions. Normally there are 14 Stations of the Cross (illustrated below and Spanish-English info taken from this webpage):
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus carries the cross
3. Jesus falls under the weight of the cross
4. Jesus meets his mother, the Virgin Mary
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem and they weep over him
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his Mother, the Virgin Mary
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
The original series done in 27 oil paintings and 34 drawings in mixed media (including pencil and watercolor) on paper, was show in the artist’s hometown of Medellin, Colombia, as well as the Marlborough Gallery in New York City. He features scenes of both Manhattan, such as the Central Park background setting for one of the crucifixion scenes and of his native Colombia, like in The Flogging of Christ, where a Columbia soldier is carrying out the sentence instead of a Roman one, a comment on the violence of the country as carried by the military. He even manages to include himself in a small 21st century self-portrait on the left side of The Kiss of Judas, whose figures are predominantly dressed like 1st century men from Jesus’s time, with the exception of Judas, who is also dressed like a modern man. Botero’s addition of himself into a religious painting is keeping up the tradition of other artists who have done the same thing, like Michelangelo depicting himself as the distorted skin of St. Bartholomew who was flayed alive, in the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement. According to this website, the writer Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz writes this about the artist and his work, “Botero, who in his own words is ‘at times a believer, at times an agnostic,’ has captured the intensity and cruelty but also the piercing poetry of the tremendous drama of Christ’s journey along the Way of the Cross toward his crucifixion.” In regard to Botero’s style she astutely quotes the English poet, Francis Bacon, “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”
Fernando Botero, Crucifixion, 2011
Fernando Botero, The Flogging of Christ, 2011
Fernando Botero, The Kiss of Judas, 2011