Winged Victory of Samothrace
|This lady was called Nike, which means "victory" in Greek. She came from the Greek island of
Samothraki, where she stood poised on a terrace overlooking the Aegean Sea. She was built in 190 B.C.
to celebrate a naval victory. Her wings symbolized the fact that victory is uncertain and can fly away at
any minute. The figure is of marble, but the pedestal, shaped like a ship's prow, is of stone from Rhodes.
The giant wings thrust the lady forward, and the clothes of the figure, damp from ocean spray and blown by sea winds, cling to her body. This spectacular piece stands 6' 9 1/2" tall and is almost 2200 years old.
|Aphrodite was her Greek name, but the Romans called her Venus. She was found during the second century B.C. on the island of Milos in the Aegean Sea. The 6' 6" piece contrasts the softness of the female form with shadows and texture of heavy drapery. She used to have arms, but no one knows for certain what position they were in. She now stands in the Sculpture Gallery of the Louvre and is about 2100 years old.|
|One of the masterpieces of Egyptian art, The Seated Scribe is also sometimes referred to as
The Crouching Scribe. Of painted limestone, this statue from a tomb of the Fifth Dynasty at
Sakkara, between 2563 and 2423 B.C., represents a governor of a province.
The statue is very geometric but at the same time very realistic, especially in the gaze of the eyes, which are opaque white with quartz cornea, rock crystal iris, and ebony pupils; the eyes are set in bronze.
|This painting is more commonly known as La Belle Jardiniere and was painted by Raphael Sanzio in 1507. This is a typical Raphael composition and probably reveals best the influence of Leonardo da Vinci on Raphael's works. The group of figures in this painting form a pyramid and stand out against a horizontal line of landscape. The limbs and clothing are uncluttered with jewelry or other decorative themes. La Belle Jardiniere derives its name from the scene in the background.|
|The Great Sphinx is also referred to as the Sphinx from Tanis. The original sphinx was a legendary, female minotaur in Greece, but the name is used for much older Egyptian religious statues. The Sphinx has the head of a king in a ceremonial headdress and the body of a lion symbolizing strength. Several pharaohs claimed this Sphinx by carving their names on it, but it is probably older than any of them. It dates from the Middle Kingdom, making it 4000 to 5000 years old. It is made of red granite and is 81" high and 136" long.|
|The Mona Lisa was painted about 1505 by Leonardo da Vinci. This painting, considered da
Vinci's most perfect work, took four years to complete and measures 30 1/4" by 20 3/4". Mona
Lisa was probably the wife of Francesco del Gioconde, a leading citizen of Florence, Italy. The
French call her La Joconde.
The paint of this portrait has oxidized and is seen through a greenish haze, which alters the original colors. It is believed that da Vinci used a secret mixture of turpentine, white lead, linseed oil, and varnish.
The figure is in three-quarter profile, with hands together, and the arm of the chair at a slant. The corners of her mouth and eyes fit into the same circle and make you look constantly from one to the other. Her eyes follow you around the room, moving as if by magic.
Leonardo da Vinci brought the painting from Italy to Paris when Francis I summoned him to the French court, and da Vinci lived there for the remainder of his life.
|Seaport at Sunset, sometimes referred to as View of a Seaport, was painted in 1639
by Claude Lorrain, who, as indicated by his name, was a native of Lorraine. Claude's drawings are of
great beauty; his fantastic landscapes are bathed in sunlight and haze. His goal, and the goal of other
landscape artists of his day, was not to depict nature as they saw it but to treat it in an idealized
manner. He chose elements of landscape that would relate to each other according to principles of
clarity and order.
For the first time in the history of art, Claude represented the sun in his works as the source of light. In Seaport at Sunset, the sun dominates the air and colors the ships and buildings. Claude treated light with an unparalled subtlety which was not surpassed until the Impressionist era.
|The Gleaners is one of two great canvases for which Francois Millet is known, and both are
housed in the Louvre. The Gleaners was painted in 1857 and reflects the lifestyle of the artist's
own early years on a farm in Normandy. It depicts what Millet knew best and felt most deeply. Millet
did not see the peasants of the countryside as crude and broken from their work, but rather, he saw
dignity in their efforts to make a living.
The rise of painting landscapes was something of a phenomenon in Europe at the time of Millet's paintings. France had no tradition of naturalistic paintings at that time, and Millet as well as others like him, were suspected of being political revolutionaries and underminers of classic values.
|This is a small sketch in the Louvre of a very large painting (23 by 72 feet) in the Ducal Palace in Venice. It was done by Tintoretto, a Venetian who needed great expanses to express his creativity. Together with Michaelangelo, Tintoretto was the greatest painter of the Baroque. The artist was already seventy years old when he was given this tremendous task. This painting portrays the saints and prophets revolving around Christ in the same way as the solar system revolves around the sun.|