*Leonardo da Vinci(1452~1519)
In 1483, Leonardo was commissioned by the Milanese Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception to paint a work celebrating the Immaculate Conception for their new chapel. In the first version of this picture, Leonardo painted Virgin Mary in the center, Christ in the left side, and Saint John in the right side with Uriel. Upon this painting, the clients felt upset because the painting was depicted as if the Christ was being baptized by Saint John, which the reverse situation was more appropri
Due to the clients' objection upon the first version of the painting, Leonardo began to paint another version of this painting. In this version, Leonardo more explicitly indicates that the baby in the left side is Saint John. Leonardo added the camel-skin robe, Saint John's typical clothes, and the narrow wooden cross, which is the symbol of Saint John as the messenger to the world about the arrival of the Christ. The Christ is the baby in the right side, who is showing the gesture, meaning 'I bless you', which could be only done by the sacred, divine personnel.
The first version of "Virgin of the Rocks" is now in Rovre, Paris, and the second version is preserved in the National Gallery in London.
In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel. Before beginning to paint, Michelangelo asked the pope to prohibit anyone's entrance to the chapel until the completion of his artwork. However, four years later, Pope Julius II stealthily sneaked into the chapel to steal a glance at the work. Michelangelo found out that the pope came inside the chapel. He become enraged and returned to Firenze, leaving the work unfinished. Realizing the greatness of the work, the pope beseeched Michelangelo to come back and finish the work.
It is hardly believable that Michelangelo completed the work by himself without any assistance. The pictures of 343 characters from the Old Testament were painted on the ceiling that's about twenty meters high. He worked on a piled worktable. Since the pictures were painted by Fresco technique, which required the painter to paint the picture before the water dried out, Michelangelo had to paint the picture rather slowly, repetitively applying a small amount of water. After finishing the work, Michelangelo suffered from serious arthritis and muscle spasm.
*Rembrandt Harrnenszoon van Rijn(1606~1669)
This painting is more properly entitled "The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch." The picture is a group portrait, depicting the gathering occasion of civilian militia of Amsterdam, Netherland. Although most people consider the picture as showing the scene during the night time, as the popular name "Nightwatch" implies, Rembrandt depicted the militia during the day time; this misconception was created because the main job of civilian militia was the night watch. Moreover, in 1940s, it was found that the painting was coated with a dark varnish and dirt piled on the picture as time went by. While those substances were removed soon after, the misunderstanding subsisted. The picture is still commonly called by the name "Nightwatch."
Besides, it is notable that this painting was a turning point for Rembrandt, since after finishing the painting his career took a serious downturn. Along with the eighteen people who actually paid for the portrait, sixteen more people – including Rembrandt himself - were additionally drawn in the painting to make the composition more dramatic. This kind of attempt was never tried until then, and the eighteen clients did not like this new attempt. People did not understand his use of dramatic light and shade, either. Unfortunately Rembrandt lost his fame as a portrait painter soon after the completion of this picture and had to finish his life in poverty.
*Jacques Louise David(1748~1825)
David was one of the most famous painters in his days and is still popular for his paintings depicting the heroic images of Napoleon and historical events in European history. He was ordered to paint a portrait of Napoleon after Napoleon's successful coup d'etat in 1799. Napoleon is depicted as the courageous leader who is never daunted by any obstacle. Throughout the history, this portrait of Napoleon climbing up the Alps Mountains implanted the heroic image of Napoleon in people's mind. However, the true image of Napoleon was quite different from the image depicted in David's picture.
When he climbed the Alps Mountains, he climbed the mountain on a mule, not a horse. A native road guide walked beside the mule to hold the reins. Different from his image as a vanguard, showing the way for the rest of the military, actually he didn't lead the military. Rather, he waited until his soldiers all crossed the pass first, in order to pre-check the path. Moreover, Napoleon refused to do model for the portrait. David had to make one of his pupils to do the model for the portrait of Napoleon. Consequently, Napoleon in the picture didn't resemble the real Napoleon, but produced a highly idealized, heroic image.
*Jean Francois Millet(1814~1875)
This picture is famous for its bucolic atmosphere. In the evening, after the daily farm work, farmers are giving a prayer listening to the ringing sound from a nearby church. Most people consider the picture highly peaceful and romantic. However, in reality, the scene is not that romantic, but rather gloomy.
The mesh bag at the center of the picture beside the farmers' feet is commonly known as containing metal chains and potatoes. However, in the original painting, the mesh bag contained a dead body of a baby. At that time, people didn't have enough food during the winter. Despite farmers' yearning for spring period during which they could get enough food to feed their baby, baby failed to stand the extreme famine and died. Before burying their beloved baby, the parents are giving the last prayer.
After the completion of this picture, a friend of Millet was shocked at the contents of the picture. The friend asked Millet to make some changes to the picture. He advised Millet to draw other objects to replace the dead baby. Accepting this advice, Millet drew potatoes instead of baby, and then submitted the picture to an exhibition.
Andy Warhol openly expressed his desire to become a star just like entertainers. He also wanted to earn a fortune by producing artworks just like businessmen producing consumer goods. By these tendencies, he resisted the image of artists as elegant, lofty group of people who transcend the secular desires. He considered himself a businessman, and considered his studio as a factory. Just like normal factories producing identical products, he made his assistants produce a huge number of identical pictures through silk-screening. Moreover, he adopted images from already existing designs, such as bromides of stars or product labels.
The image used in this picture of Marlyn Monroe was not created by Warhol as well. He adopted the image from Monroe's star bromide. At the beginning, this picture was made as a tribute to Monroe's death. Warhol applied fluorescent colors to make the image vulgar and stimulating. Similar to his previous artworks, he juxtaposed the same images to render the implication that the contemporary people are surrounded, or even overwhelmed, by floods of consumer goods. Through the juxtaposed images of Monroe, which lost the elegant atmosphere but became indecent, Warhol suggests the way the public considers stars. Modern people constantly buy things and abandon them as they lose their utility. Through his artwork, Warhol insinuates that stars are not much different from consumer goods that are used and wasted. Monroe, who was the leading star in her days, was soon neglected when she no longer gave the public entertainments.
written by: Hwayong Shin