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Nicholas La Duca 11/4/18 Art Appreciation/ART 100

Museum Paper

On October 24th I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Oil on canvas is the

shared medium of the three paintings chosen. These paintings are, St. Jerome and the Angels by

Simon Vouet, The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt van Rijn, and Daniel in the Lions’ Den by Peter

Paul Rubens.

St Jerome and the Angels was created using oil on canvas by Simon Vouet around 1622/1625.

The painting depicts an elderly man sitting with a quill in his hand and his other hand raised. He

has a large white beard and a billowing red cloth draped over his arm and lap. Next to him is a

young man with large white wings, dressed in a blue robe with a golden cloth tied around his

shoulders holding a trumpet. There is also a table. On it are various objects such as a stack of

papers, an hourglass, pince-nez, a dirty cloth, an inkwell, a sphere and three books. In the

background are two more books and an extinguished candle in a large candlestick. The painting

is depicting an angel appearing to St. Jerome while he writes. Since this painting was created in

the 17th century, it can be neatly categorized into the Baroque era. One aspect of the painting

that can immediately link it with the Baroque period is the use of uneven lighting and extensive

use of primary colors. The uneven lighting is apparent because even though both figures are in

a dimly lit room with an extinguished candle, they are still perfectly visible and stand out on the

canvas. Then, there is the abundant use of primary colors, which is seen by the close grouping

of yellow, red and blue cloth. Vouet’s use of line can be seen in the gesticulations made by the

angel. Line in art acts like a path of action indicating direction. In the painting, the angel appears
Nicholas La Duca 11/4/18 Art Appreciation/ART 100

to be attempting to draw the attention of the St. Jerome and the viewer to the left. The formal

element of space can be seen through Vouet’s use of implied depth. Space in art has a wide

definition. When applied to painting it means how the artist creates the illusion of a 3-

dimensional space on a 2-dimensional plane. Vouet achieves this by his strategic placement of

the angel behind St. Jerome. Obviously, the use of shadows plays a large role as well. Not only

that, but the angel also appears to be leaning forward, furthering the perception of depth.

The Apostle Paul is an oil on canvas painting that was created by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1657.

The painting portrays a middle-aged man with a large beard. He is sitting in a big wooden chair

at an ornate writing desk. On it are a stack of papers. The man holds a quill in his right hand and

his other hand held up against his head. He wears a simple black cap and a black robe with red

cuffs, collar and pants. This painting is from the Baroque era. This mid-17th century work can be

categorized as Baroque by its contrasting usage of light and darkness. This can be seen by how

opaque the surrounding area is in comparison to the subject of the painting. Another

characteristic Baroque element is the depiction of raw emotion. The way in which the man

holds his head in his hand. This and the expression on his face all come together to give the

viewer a glimpse into a very personal and private moment of intense feeling that is not was not

usually depicted in say the Renaissance. The use of the formal element of texture can be seen

throughout this painting. Texture is the perceived surface quality of an object. It is especially

visible in the satin like consistency of the man’s robes. It is also a factor when one observes

closely the almost scraggly quality of the man’s hair. This giving the appearance of having him

sweat and or not bathed. The formal element of mass can also be observed. Given the fact that

this is a 2-dimensional piece of art a more accurate term would be shape. But nevertheless, it
Nicholas La Duca 11/4/18 Art Appreciation/ART 100

refers to the bulk of a physical object or solid body of material. Its use is evident when looking

at the small vertical spire of wood protruding from the writing desk. The way the lines

diagonally snake around it give the object a real sense of it being cylindrical.

Daniel in the Lions’ Den is an oil on canvas painting by Peter Paul Rubens created around

1613/1615. In this painting one sees a rather muscular man in a pit filled with lions. The man is

muscular and is clothed with a billowing white and red cloth tied loosely around his waist. The

mouth of the pit is covered with ivy. Inside it are 9 lions. Bones and a skull are strewn across the

floor. The man’s legs are cross, and his hands are clasped with a desperate and supplicatory

expression on his face. A few aspects that distinguish this as a Baroque painting are the use of

asymmetry. Asymmetry was used often in Baroque works by having the focal point of the

painting off to the side. This evoked a sense of motion and imbalance which would in turn add

to the characteristic emotion of Baroque pieces in general. In this work it can be seen by the

placement of the man to the right side. This is emphasized by the white cloth draped over his

lap and the swooping red cloth that directs the focal point even farther to the right. The formal

element of texture is quite striking in this painting. Texture being the perceived surface quality

of an object. The way Rubens paints the coats and manes of the lions’ makes one feel as if they

could reach out and touch them. The meticulous attention to the detail of the hair tufts and

almost individual strands of hair immediately brings to mind their characteristically smooth and

soft fur. Another formal element that is prevalent is the use of light. Light generally speaking is

referring to the visible electromagnetic spectrum of light. The way that light is used in this

painting is very impressive while still remaining artistic. The main example of this is illustrated

by the change in color of the red cloth. Since the only source of light is coming from the hole up
Nicholas La Duca 11/4/18 Art Appreciation/ART 100

above it changes the intensity of the cloth based off of how much light is hitting it. For instance,

when one looks at the cloth by the man’s foot, which is in direct sunlight, it appears to be very

light. However, if one directs their glance to the right they can see a very dark and rich red color

of the cloth that is in the shadow.

My reaction to all these paintings was very positive all around. I enjoy the dark and light

contrast used in Baroque works. It is something that, I believe, to be a very compelling device

that definitely enhances the drama and emotion of a piece. Drama and emotion, in my opinion,

being a very important aspect of art and self-expression in general. I also appreciate and find

the depiction of personal moments and times of great stress to be especially cathartic. The

honesty involved in the portrayal scenes like this gives one a sense of deeper sense of

connection with humanity and it’s past. This assignment expanded my appreciation of art by

pointing out some of the more characteristic aspects of the Baroque era. The combination of

formal elements and techniques to create a story and leave the viewer with a unique

perspective and insight into human nature is especially captivating. I think this understanding of

formal elements and technique used in the Baroque era has left me better equipped to

appreciate more art. Also, I believe it has given me an appetite to learn more and to keep

expanding my horizons in this particular subject.


Nicholas La Duca 11/4/18 Art Appreciation/ART 100