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dueling media

Post #263 • April 26, 2004, 6:49 AM • 2 Comments

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists:

The story goes that at the time Andrea Verrocchio was making his bronze horse Giorgione fell into an argument with some sculptors who maintained that since a statue showed to anyone walking round it different aspects and poses, sculpture was superior to painting, which could represent only one aspect of any given subject. Giorgione argued to the contrary that in a single scene the painter could show to an observer standing still in one place various aspects of the one figure by depicting a number of different gestures; whereas for a work of sculpture to produce the same effect, he said, the observer must change his position and viewpoint. Moreover, he offered to show in a single view of one picture the front, back, and two profiles of a painted figure. After he had made those sculptors rack their brains, Giorgione solved the problem in this way. He painted a man in the nude with his back turned and, at his feet, a limpid stream of water bearing his reflection. To one side was a burnished cuirass that the man had taken off, and this reflected his left profile (since the polished surface of the armour revealed everything clearly); on the other side was a mirror reflecting the other profile of the nude figure. This was a very fine and fanciful idea, and Giorgione used it to prove that painting requires more skill and effort and can show in one scene more aspects of nature than is the case with sculpture. The picture was greatly praised and admired for its beauty and ingenuity.

Comment

1.

Jack

April 26, 2004, 5:00 PM

Nice story. It's never a good idea to criticize something just because you don't or can't do it. In other words, artists who can't draw shouldn't criticize figurative work as "academic"; artists with a poor color sense shouldn't criticize colorists as "decorative", etc. It's like a singer with a mediocre voice who cuts down someone with a gorgeous instrument as a mere "canary"--it always sounds like defensive sour grapes.

2.

Godless Roach

April 27, 2004, 3:41 AM

Hogwash. Army is better than the Navy, blah, blah, blah. If an artform is more limited than another, it takes plenty of talent to make it expressive.

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