Gamble 1 Sherise Gamble September 8, 2010 Major Artists of the Baroque Hassold Precis of Wölfflin: “Plane and Recession”

Within this chapter, Wölfflin compares two compositional styles: the first being the plane schema which is popular in paintings created during the 15th and 16th centuries, and then the Baroque schema which gained popularity by the 17th century. In the first style, the composition is arranged in such a way that the eye follows the composition from left to right, and all the forms are ordered in strata parallel to the picture plane. Wölfflin cites Leonardo's Last Supper as a prime example of this “classic plane style” because every figure is contained on the same picture plane, from left to right, and the eye grasps all integral visual information as essential points in one arc. Also in this style, figures are positioned in an almost relief-like style; in parallel planes not receding into the background, but rather parallel to the picture plane. Wölfflin considers the Baroque style to be in complete contrast to the former style, which derives from decorative feeling and cannot be understood on the basis of mere imitation. In this style, figures begin to recede into the background, with an importance being made not on the degree of recession, but rather the way in which the recession is made effective. In order to achieve this recession, there are numerous methods which Wölfflin cites. In these types of compositions, the aim is to withdraw the plane from the eye, making the inapparent, forward and backward relations emphasized. One way of achieving this is by using diagonals to have the figures recede into the background. Another way of doing this is by using color. By increasing the separation of the color gradation of the “picture-zones,” eventually a recessional perspective is achieved. Another way of doing this is by having an exaggerated foreground, and using perspective reduction for the elements in the background. By placing figures further back and illuminating them, and placing larger, oftentimes darker elements in the foreground, the eye seeks out the light, which causes the illusion of recession. Overlapping and enframing are also successful devices in order to cause the composition to recede. Although this style did not suddenly emerge in the 17th century, earlier attempts, while oftentimes employing recessional elements in the background, usually place the figures in the foreground and do have any sort of interaction between the figures and their environment. When the recessional style is most

they are still aligned parallel to the picture plane. which causes the eye to emphasise the forward and backwards relations of the figures. it is usually due to a sense of movement created that engages the figures with their environment. This similarity reinforces Wölfflin's assertion that it is not the degree of recession that marks the style. in a relief-like manner. but it also creates the illusion that the figures are not parallel to the picture plane. and it serves more as a backdrop for the figures rather than an environment they interact with. as the figures in Madonna and Child with Saint John and Three Angels are also placed in the foreground. one next to each other. and Saint John. the background. the dynamic nature of their movements allows them to recede from that picture plane. The painting Madonna and Child with Saint John and Three Angels by Domenico Ghirlandaio and family workshop [1490] in the Ringling Museum of Art [Gallery 4] is an example of the planar style of painting. not a single figure is statically facing forward. the figures to not recede into it. which creates the sense of . but even then these figures are in an unnaturally frontal position than they otherwise would be if they were naturally interacting. Even though the angels are behind the Madonna. as opposed to the figures merely lying in the same picture frame. In contrast to the planar style of Madonna and Child with Saint John and Three Angels is The Gathering of the Manna [1625] by Peter Paul Rubens. and even walking towards. Christ. The only figures which are not directly positioned forwards are the Madonna. Christ. the figures are all positioned in a way that they are facing forward.Gamble 2 effective. Despite all of the figures standing parallel to the picture plane. parallel to the picture plane. The reason for choosing this painting as opposed to a lesser known Baroque artist is the painting's employment of the recessional style while still keeping the figures in the foreground. Not only does this create a sense of motion. and interact with both each other and their environment. The figures do not recede into the background. This allows for a more apt comparison. but rather are simply placed in front of it. All of the figures are parallel to the picture plane. Many of the figures are also positioned so that they are facing. All of the figures are engaged in some sort of action which causes their limbs to be outstretched at diagonal angles. Furthermore. the eye being able to grasp all of the figures by going left to right. but rather the way in which the recession is made effective. In The Gathering of the Manna. and Saint John. Though there is a receding background using atmospheric perspective.

too. and into the space containing the figures. but they also receive less light than the figures. but rather a comparison which deals with how the figural composition allows for visual recession. Another device used in this painting to recede the figures that Wölfflin details is Rubens use of an exaggerated foreground and enframing the picture plane. there is a platform that receives less light than the figures. Because the eye seeks out light. not only create a sense of motion due to their diagonals. which draws the eye back into the composition. in the foremost ground. .Gamble 3 motion that they are receding into the background. At the very bottom of the painting. it allows a comparison which is not dependent on the recessional nature of the environment. the figures which Rubens has positioned further back have highlighting that is more intense than the figures overlapping them. The spiral columns. this draws the eye past the foreground. Because the background is a mere tapestry acting as a backdrop behind the figures. Furthermore.

. Madonna and Child with Saint John and Three Angels is The Gathering of the Manna [1625]. Madonna and Child with Saint John and Three Angels [1490].Gamble 4 Domenico Ghirlandaio and family workshop. Peter Paul Rubens.