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Video: Secrets and hidden interpretations of one of the most mysterious paintings: "The Flagellation of Christ" by Piero della Francesca
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 05:58
The fantastic vision and mathematical calculation of "The Flagellation of Christ" by Piero della Francesca made this picture one of the most mysterious in the history of painting. The composition is embarrassing by the combination of two seemingly incompatible episodes - the New and Old Testaments. What is the secret of the dissonance of the famous canvas?
In the 1459-1460s, Piero della Francesca prepared the shocking "Flagellation of Christ", which is now in the National Gallery of the Marche. The artist was the author of a treatise on perspective called "On the perspective of painting", and was also known as a mathematician and geometer. The artist skillfully used this knowledge of his in the canvas "The Flagellation of Christ". The painting is an early Renaissance masterpiece. The characters in the scene are very expressive. The composition is complex and unusual, and its iconography has become the subject of a variety of theories.
The composition of the picture is divided into two planes - the Old Testament plot (directly the scourging of Christ) and the New Testament plot (three men in the foreground, who are prototypes of real people).
Oddly enough, the dominant character of the picture is a domineering hero who is visible to the viewer … from the back. Dressed in white, his figure contrasts sharply with the image of the scourged Christ. The rest of the characters seem to be frozen in place, as if time had stopped for them. To understand all the formidable power of the character wrapped in clothes, it is necessary to recall the greatest fear of medieval and Renaissance Europe before the might of the Ottoman Empire. Pay attention to his turban. The exotic outfit betrays a Turk in it. It is this cold-blooded and heartless character who gives viewers a clue to uncover the mystery of the New Testament story in the light of the humanism of the Renaissance. The restraint of the Turk is balanced by his unyielding will, confidence and power over everything that happens. With his tacit consent, the terrible actions of the guards take place. In the scene on the left, deliberately pushed back into the scene, Jesus is depicted, scourged under the indifferent and merciless gaze of Pontius Pilate. Dressed in oriental attire (a symbol of moral error and blindness), Pilate expresses an amazing calmness.
A number of art historians have put forward a rather curious theory that della Francesca's masterpiece is an allegory of the suffering of Constantinople in 1453. It was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II. From this point of view, the two men watching the scourging are Murad II (the Islamic sultan who waged a long-term war against Christianity) and the Byzantine emperor John VIII (against whom this war was fought). Thus, the three enigmatic men in the foreground may represent the nobles who were indifferent and allowed the destruction of the Christian people.
The scourging process in the background is quite possibly the topic of the conversation between the three men in the foreground of the composition. The traditional identification of these heroes on the right is that the young man in the center is Oddantanio da Montefeltro, ruler of Urbino. On both hands of him are advisers. All three were killed in the conspiracy. Therefore, it is assumed that the client of the painting was Federigo da Montefeltro, who honored the memory of his brother, comparing his innocence with the innocence of Christ. Thus, the picture acquires a political meaning: Christians of the West and East must unite against the Ottoman threat. This is why the character on the left extends his hand towards his skeptical neighbor. The work, commissioned by the church in 1460, is an authentic historical document today. Depicting the scourged Christ, the artist reminds the European peoples of the humiliation that the Muslim world inflicted on the Christian people.
Technique and composition of the painting
The virtuoso use of perspective (in which the column is the constructive axis of the composition), the predominance of elegant classical architecture, the careful study of details give the "Flagellation of Christ" the status of a manifesto. The use of lines (horizontal and vertical) is especially significant in the composition, the powerful diagonals of the floor and ceiling create a strong balance, a symbolic image of the world. The artist gave the figures real volume with the help of chiaroscuro (transition from light to shadow). It is also noteworthy that the dramatic events take place on a covered courtyard with black and white checkered tiles, with three men outside standing on the reddish tiles that permeate the stage.
The mysterious nature of Piero della Franceschi's "The Flagellation of Christ" proves that works of art continue to generate interesting artistic and historical research even after many centuries. In the case of this painting, it is unlikely that a definitive interpretation of the plot will ever be accepted as there is too little data preserved. Perhaps this mystery partly explains why 600 years later, the painting continues to intrigue and attract the attention of viewers, as well as inspire new masters. Considering the skillful geometric composition, the well-thought-out plot, the political connotations of the picture, the careful study of details, the expressive architecture, the small size (58.4 × 81.5 cm), the epithet to the painting "The greatest small painting in the world" is absolutely worthy.
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