Arts + Sciences Hunt

Perspective epitomizes the marriage of Arts + Sciences, so it should be no surprise that I’m providing this as the give-away clue to all those clever BAC-aged youths who’ll be on the hunt for Science at the Louvre tomorrow afternoon. Science-Académie (known as Science-Ac’).

Established in 2006 with just a few hundred students this Paris-Montagne Association now stands at 2000 students, enlivening the interest of high school students and pre-BAC kids in Science. Science-Ac was born from the l’Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS is the French equivalent of MIT, for you American readers), and has generational dons or tutors per each level, PhD candidates doing lab work along high-schoolers. Their proximity in age of course bolsters the inspiration for the students to further their scientific studies.

Tomorrow a group of Science-Ac’ students will be scouring the Louvre for 25 pieces of art that marry Art with Science. For instance a David and Goliath inspects the centripetal and centrifugal forces of the sling. But as that strays a bit from typical THATLou reading I’ll do a give-away that’s a bit closer to home.

Here are two works of art in two separate wings on two separate floors which illustrate perspective beautifully. Scientific perspective is an approximate representation, on a flat surface (such as a canvas or paper), of an image as it is perceived by the eye. The two most characteristic features of perspective are:

  1. objects are drawn smaller as their distance from the observer increases
  2. The distortion of items when viewed at an angle (spatial foreshortening)

In art the term foreshortening is often used synonymously with perspective, even though foreshortening can occur in other types of non-perspective drawing representations.

da Messina's Christ at the Cross

da Messina’s Christ at the Cross

 CHRIST AT THE COLUMN Antonello da Messina (1430-1479), 15th C Italian Painting

This fine painting is tiny, only .30m x .21m wide, so in a reversed way it pops out among the Italian Painting gallery. Antonello’s acquaintance with the rules and foreshortenings of Tuscan perspective allow him here to show a living, monumental Christ whose Passion thrusts itself upon the viewer. This immediacy is enhanced by the illusionist handling of the knot in the rope: set at the bottom of the composition, it appears to rest on the frame, as if on the ledge of a window opening onto the divine. During his apprenticeship in the Naples of the Princes of Aragon – collectors of the work of the Northern painters – Antonello acquired Flemish oil painting techniques: the layering of paint and glazes creates depth and subtle transitions from shade to light, while also enabling meticulous realism in physical terms and in the stroke by stroke rendering of Christ’s hair and beard. Please pose with his pained expression (just think of all Christ had been through at this point), to me it says “how much longer do I have to go through this torture?” It’s a great painting.                                             

de Hooch Card Players in an Opulent Interior

de Hooch Card Players in an Opulent Interior

CARD PLAYERS, Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684), 17th C Dutch Painting

During his decade in Delft (Holland), Pieter de Hooch was deeply influenced by the color and strict lines of the art of Carel Fabritius, who also influenced Vermeer (huh, Vermeer’s Astronomer may just be close by, then!). de Hooch developed a personal style that proved a success, basing his compositions on a colorful, artful use of perspective, with figures fitting harmoniously into the overall scheme. His works are subtly illuminated with lateral sources of light and often feature a series of rooms leading from one to the next. The lines of the marble floor tiles here draw the viewer’s attention to the vanishing lines of the painting. The spatial elements opening onto the exterior-windows and half-open doors-are punctuated by a contrasting play of light, accentuating the lines and volumes. Please photo your team pointing to the small hint of another room in this painting that measures.

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