Paintings have always provided insight into the history of the people of the period of the artist. The subject of each painting always reflects the Social, Economic or political aspects of the culture of the Era. This essay will compare and Contrast two pieces of Art from two Different centuries by Two different artists. The first painting to be analyzed is Public Prayer in the Mosque of Amr, Cairo By Jean Leon Gerome painted in 1871. Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Albrecht Dürer’s painted around 1519. This essay will compare the approach of religious themes in two paintings from different times through, formal analysis, contextual analysis, and research.
There is a similarity in the painting in terms of the subject. The first painting has a religious theme in it shown clearly by the scene that the painting captures which is a mosque during prayer time. In the second painting, the religious theme arises due to the subjects the painter paints. These are the virgin mother, the child Christ, and Saint Anne. The first painting is more than a picture that catches a scene in the mosque during prayer time. The theme of the painting as you look at it is evidently religious as it is clear from the painting. The painting shows Muslim faithful’s in a mosque during prayer time. The most striking figure in the painting is on the right foreground and it shows a rich man with two servants behind him in the mosque. The rest of the people in the mosque are secluded from this striking figure by the creation of space between them. It is hard to pinpoint the number of people in the mosque because the figures of the rest of the worshippers are painted descending towards the diminishing point in the background. The foreground has three major figures with a number of birds on the floor. There are also a number of birds that can be seen up near the rooftop of the mosque. The second painting is more of a portrait. The theme of the painting is religious from its name. The painter intends to portray religious humility in the adoration of the baby Christ by the two women. The painting is painted against a strong green background. The painting has three figures one of an older woman, the other a young woman who is holding the baby Christ in her arms. It is easy to infer that the young woman is the virgin, while the baby is the child Christ and the older woman is Saint Anne. The woman is painted with a white veil and clothing which is a symbol of purity associated with a saint1.
Light has been used to give more illumination on each of the subjects of the composition. The tone of the colors in the first painting illuminates the whole composition in a uniform spread while in the second composition; a brighter tone is used to illuminate the three figures while its background has a darker shade. In the first painting, light has been used effectually with lighter shades of color producing a daylight atmosphere. The brightness of the painting shows the effect of natural sunlight created to show that it is daytime perhaps midday due to the lack of shadows from the figures and the structures. There is a balanced saturation of lighter pigments through the whole composition. In contrast, the second painting employs a darker or deep tone in the background. There is more light aimed at the three figures on the foreground. The painter uses these contrasting aspects of light, by using dark and lighter shades, which have been used to direct the viewers to the main subjects of the composition. The use of light in the second painting has been used to show that the painting was done inside a house or a building2.
Color saturation is another important point when it comes to the two paintings. In the first painting, color has been used with less saturation. The colors in the first painting have been tinted with white to make the original colors less saturated and create an illusion of light in the composition. In contrast to the first painting, there is more saturation in terms of color pigments in the second painting. This has created purity in the subject of the painting. However, some parts of the second painting are lightly saturated to create more illumination on the figures in the painting3.
Balance is another important in the two paintings. In the first painting, balance is achieved through a symmetrical painting of the Mosque. The painter is likely standing in front of the building and directly at the center. Objects are balanced on the two sides from the center with a centerline moving towards the end. The objects are presented as reducing in size as they move to the background to the diminishing point. This helps to create a three-dimensional perspective on a two-dimensional media. The second painting approaches the issue of balance in a different manner with an asymmetrical drawing of the outline of the painting. However, balance is achieved by placing the three paintings strategically on the painting material. The Saint Anne figure is placed nearly at the center while the virgin mother is placed on the right. The child Christ is placed on the left. This has created harmony and balance in the composition4.
From research, the two paintings can be placed within two different contexts. The first painting was painted in the 19th century and the composition takes place in a Cairo Mosque during a midday prayer. The painting has a religious theme which is a Muslim religious prayer in a mosque. The second painting was painted in a different era in the early sixteenth century and it concentrates on the adoration of Christian faith. The two contexts of the paintings in terms of their time of painting and the different religious backgrounds may have influenced the outcome and the use of the elements in their final compositions. The first painting is a more complicated composition in terms of color shades used compared to the second painting. This might be attributed to the period of the paintings as the nineteenth century was more advanced compared to the sixteenth century due to the invention of the color wheel.
Barnet, Sylavan. A Short Guide to Writing About Art. New York: Longman, 1997
Sayre, Henry M. Writing about Art 5th Edition. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River, 2006
Dürer. A. Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 15th March 16, 2012 from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/14.40.633
Gérôme, J. Prayer in the Mosque. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 15th March 16, 2012 from http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the- collections/110000924?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=mecca&pos=15