The San Marco Altarpiece (Madonna and Saints) This piece is the work of early Italian renaissance artist, Fra Angelico. It is currently in Florence, France at the San Marco Museum. Its estimated time of creation is around 1438 to 1443. It is tempera on wood and is a panel artwork, with a main panel accompanied by nine other predella panels although only the main panel remains today. The main panel has an illustration of the enthroned virgin and child with saints and angels surrounding them. There is a curtained panel standing on two pillars overlapping a landscape with trees forming the background (Woods 204). The Merode Altarpiece (The Annunciation) Renaissance artist Robert Campin did this piece in the period 1427 to 1432 and it is currently in the Metropolitan Museum, USA. It oil on oak with three panels. It has a main (center) panel in between two smaller panels. The main panel shows the moment just before the annunciation of Mary. She is sitting on the floor reading a bible and is looking down. To her left is an angel she is not aware of, with an oval table separating them. A small figure of Jesus is flying towards Mary holding a crucifix. The right panel has Saint Joseph in a carpentry workshop where he is making mousetraps with a townscape appearing behind him in an open window. The right panel has two figures called the donors waiting to go inside an open door (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Similarities The scenarios appearing in both paintings depict religious themes. In The San Marco Altarpiece, there is Virgin Mary who is holding baby Jesus around saints and angels, which is a scenario in Christian beliefs. The same case applies in The Merode Altarpiece where the same Virgin Mary is in the same room with an angel and a perception of Jesus flying in. much of the iconography is therefore religious. On another note, both paintings are renaissance panel altarpieces that Italians made in the 1300’s to 1400’s. Altarpieces consist of wooden panels covered with cloth that is plastered with gesso paste to create a smooth painting surface (D'Elia 19). Both have several panels that make up a complete work under the same theme. Another similarity between the two is the exclusion of the crucifix with Christ on it from the main idea of the picture. According to Casa Santa Pia, the Dominican order of those days only allowed painted or sculpted crucifixes on altarpieces. In The San Marco Altarpiece, Angelico uses a special optical illusion to include the crucifix in the main picture but still it appears as a unique piece on top of the bigger painting. In The Merode Altarpiece, Campin uses an almost similar tactic. The crucifix is not easy to spot but it is in a miniature size above the angel’s head and appears as a small figure (representing Jesus) flying down towards Mary clutching onto a crucifix. There is also a similarity in the use of a single color to highlight subjects in both paintings. In The Merode Altarpiece, the highlight color is red. In the left panel, the color red attracts the eyes to reveal a tiny figure in the extreme background. In the main panel where the most red is, the eye concentrates on
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Name Institution Course Instructor Date Comparative Analysis of Altarpieces In art, a comparative analysis is the process that enables one to study in detail a piece of artwork by observing the application of elements, concepts, and ideas. Studying an artwork brings out contrast and correlation between two or more pieces to better understand its history and time of creation, the style in use, its function, the artistic period and so on…
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