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Cultural Content - Essay Example

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The artist encodes very little information about what is going on in the story – there is an obvious depiction of Jesus featured prominently in the centre, who is surrounded by his apostles (as shown by their halos). But indications of who is who are very small and very subtle – many of the apostles look very similar to each other. Similarly, there is no obvious indication of exactly what is going on. The architecture and the actions of the people on the margins of the painting tell the story, while the rest is simply a portrait of important people in Christianity. All of this speaks to a highly religious society where the viewer would be expected to be highly literate in the story, where this painting works both as a retelling and reinforcement of a story that the public would already know. The composition of the wardrobes in this painting also give interesting hints about the Italian culture’s understanding of the timing and role of religion in their society. The dress is a mix of different types of clothing – Jesus and the apostles wear what is essentially a Roman toga – yet the person in the front right of the composition wears a clearly Italian tunic, with a tight set of leggings under a lose, belted garment. The architecture likewise bear resemblances to both Roman architecture with round arches and renaissance architecture (78). This mixing of contemporary and ancient probably speaks to a variety of things. Firstly, it could simply speak to the renaissance ideals of harkening back to Rome – the people in the renaissance described themselves as being part of a rebirth of Roman ideology, technology and culture, and actively rejected and insulted the Middle Ages (3). So this mixing of ancient Rome and modern Italy could be simply a representation of Renaissance sensibilities – as the natural successors to ancient Rome in culture and history, it is natural to mix the two together and represent them as very chronologically close. This representation could mean something different, however, if given a religious interpretation. It could also speak to an attempt to make the past of Christianity present in the viewers day-to-day life. By placing Christ and his companions in togas the painter acknowledge that they existed in the distant past, but by placing them in the context of modern Italy through architecture and the one modern looking character, the painting emphasizes to the viewer that Christ, his teachings and his disciples remain a part of day to day life regardless of the gap of time that separates them from each other. The content is not the only thing this painter uses to recall ancient Rome – the technique and form of the painting also does so. The painting uses linear single vanishing point perspective, a technique that was well known in ancient Rome but had not be used throughout the entire middle ages and was believed lost (). In close analysis, one can see that the vanishing point of the entire painting is directly behind Jesus’s face, emphasizing his importance. A modern viewer cannot know whether this was an intentional throwback to ancient Rome or not, but it certainly makes this painting match ancient paintings more, further emphasizing the connections between Renaissance culture and Roman. The form and content of this painting demonstrate a great deal ...Show more
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Summary

“The Tribute Money” is a beautiful and highly important painting, one of the most important of the entire renaissance. It was composed at the beginning of the 15th century by Masolino as part of the Italian renaissance (Kim 38). It used traditional iconography and novel techniques to accomplish a stunning effect that grows no less potent as time marches on…
Cultural Content Essay
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