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livelaughlove21's avatar

Baroque Oil Painting - your thoughts?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (14549 points ) March 22nd, 2012

Here is the painting: http://www.paintingall.com/images/P/French-Baroque-Painter-Sebastien-Bourdon-St-Peter-Exorcising-a-Possessed-Woman-Oil-Painting.jpg

It is Sebastien Bourdon’s “St. Peter Exorcising a Possessed Woman” completed in 1645 during the Baroque period.

I have to do a term paper on this oil painting for my art history class. It should be 3–4 pages, and after exhausting everything I can say about the piece, I’m only just starting a third page.

I’m not big on art. I appreciate it, but 4 pages on this little painting? Not easy for someone who doesn’t have much interest in it. I know quite a bit about the post-Reformation Baroque period (trying to bring the people back to the church, dramatic and emotional art, chiaroscuro, etc.), but I’m honestly out of things to say about it.

I’m not asking anyone to write my paper for me, but maybe those of you who are into art can give me a few things to think about. I’m writing about how Bourdon’s use of color, light, and space exemplifies the emotional, dramatic art movement in post-Reformation Europe.

Any thoughts at all would be appreciated. :)

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24 Answers

whitecarnations's avatar

I hate baroque visual art. I don’t see any fun. Baroque art for me was simply a means of survival, and displayed class and status. Anyhow, four pages is easy. Talk about the analogous range between the blue and green. Talk about the brightest object in the painting. Talk about the shading and the light range (accuracy). Talk about the dimensions from the foreground to the background. Talk about the accuracy of the 3-D effect. Talk about where they are and what it might represent. Talk about why you think it was painted in the first place. That should be 4 pages.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@whitecarnations I can’t figure out where they are. I wanted to describe it, but I don’t want to sound stupid.

linguaphile's avatar

Have you included how Baroque is a response to the rise of Protestantism? It’s essentially early propaganda.

Also—talk about Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@linguaphile Yes, of course. But in this paper she wants us to focus on the elements (line, color, space, texture, light, etc) and then bring it together at the end and tell her what message we got out of it. I have three paragraphs of what I think it means and my interpretation of it, but my paragraphs on the elements are only about three sentences long. I just don’t know how to expand on those ideas.

linguaphile's avatar

The Protestant response is relevant to line, color, form, etc. One way to include the response to Protestantism is that—one of things the Protestants did was make their churches, attire and art very stark, non-decorative and linear. The Puritans, Lutherans and Calvinists felt that the Catholic Church was far too elaborate and showy in their use of gold, embellishments, decor, clothing, etc. When the Protestants went to the extreme with their bland, colorless or just black clothing, removed all the cushions and decorations from their churches, banned any form of self-adornation by their women and all that—the Catholics did respond with another form of excess—a show of power, color, emotion—

whitecarnations's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Talk about how all the elements are brought together to manage a serious tone painting and as @linguaphile Says it’s pre propaganda. Also this painting is to capture the essence of human emotion. And if you literally talk about what I had mention in my first response that will be a lot of material for 4 pages. Art History Papers: Talk about painting, Write down some sources, Form an opinion followed with what you got out of it. For each element you can talk about it in this way. Have you taken a basic art design/drawing class? That’s where a lot of definitions are discovered so an artist will know what they are talking about. I highly recommend you take those classes before studying art history.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@whitecarnations No, I haven’t taken a basic art class because this art history course is a first-level class that has no pre-req’s. We had a small section on basic art terminology at the beginning of the semester, so I know those terms and I’ve incorporated them into the paper. I’m getting an A in this course, so it’s not like I’m struggling. It’s just that I’m not so great at going into detail about the elements in written form. This is the one and ONLY fine arts class I’ll be taking, and I’m only taking it because it’s required for my degree.

cazzie's avatar

The first thing that strikes me is the use of light and shadow and how it dramatises the colours in the piece. There appears to be a baby with fair hair in the front. Why do you suppose that is? Perhaps the child is the woman’s and the ‘exorcism’ is the woman’s post-partum depression. The man on the foreground appears to be looking at the baby and not the woman being ‘treated’. Perhaps he is the father of the child. There are stories here. But the idea of the facts involves when the piece was painted can not be over looked. Use your eyes and information with just a pinch of imagination.

Nullo's avatar

Write about what stands out. Enhance with your artsiest BS.

janbb's avatar

One thing that strikes me immediately are the uses of blues to enhance the drama of the painting. The possessed woman’s dress is a very bright blue that is echoed by paler blues on the pointing person and in the sky. How does this relate to the Baroque style and the idea of propaganda?

CWOTUS's avatar

I’d try to talk about all of the symbolism that I can see there.

For example, the action in the foreground is taking place in bright sunlight, but there are dark clouds massing in the background, upper left.

The blue of the woman’s dress has to be representative of something. That couldn’t have been an accidental or happenstance choice of color. Also, I think, the fact that her blouse is nowhere near as colorful or stylish as the dress has (or can be made to have) meaning.

She is the only character in the painting reaching “upward”. What does that mean? Likewise, she’s the only woman in evidence. Her foot, vaguely shown below the dress (obviously) looks almost skeletal. Ascribe meaning to that.

What do you suppose is the meaning of the half-naked man lounging on the step below her, and the naked child next to him.

Remember that nothing in paintings is accidental. And religious paintings have meaning nearly everywhere.

I’m especially curious about the man who is only partially shown at the right with a red sash or tunic. That has meaning, too, but I don’t know what it would be.

Don’t you also wonder where St. Peter’s right hand and arm are? He was a pretty strong-looking dude, too, wasn’t he? Healthful, young and well-muscled. That’s a symbol for the Church, clearly.

Bellatrix's avatar

Are you just describing what you see there? Have you compared and contrasted what you see there to other painters from the same period and brought in some discussion of the theory in terms of those different elements? Go deeper. Make sure you aren’t just describing the use of colour but explain what is typical of the use of colour during the baroque period and how this painting compares to that norm. What is similar, what is different? Why might Bourdon have used line/colour etc. in that way? What do you learn about him as an artist and his technique from this painting?

ratboy's avatar

Here’s a larger image that shows dark clouds mirror the smoke emanating from the victim’s mouth.

flutherother's avatar

The smoke leaving the woman’s mouth is interesting. She looks young and filled with inspiration or longing rather than evil. And why should possession tend to make her breast fall out?

whitecarnations's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Ah I see. Yes well history papers, English papers, anything written in general for college is all a test to see how well you can form your own opinion and talk about something. I’m sure the data given by fellow jellies will see fit! Good luck with your college endeavors :D

dappled_leaves's avatar

@CWOTUS In fact, there aren’t many right arms at all, are there? Just the woman’s and the lounger’s.

CWOTUS's avatar

Ah, nice observation, @dappled_leaves. And smoke! from the victim’s woman’s mouth. I hadn’t seen that before.

We may have five pages written here before the end of the night.

janbb's avatar

@flutherother Wardrobe malfunction?

rojo's avatar

Ok, so which one is St. Peter, the old guy in the yellow sarong or the guy copping a feel?

linguaphile's avatar

The faces in the far right background look animalistic…

janbb's avatar

Oh – it occurs to me I don’t know if anyone has mentioned anything about the position of women in society at than time and what it meant for a woman to be possessed.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@ratboy Thank you SO much for that image! I’ve been looking for a larger version. That helped a lot.

@everyone Thanks for the input! A few of you pointed out things I didn’t even notice.

BUT—a couple people mentioned the blue garment the woman is wearing. It looks to me like that is actually draped over the man’s lap. You can see the woman’s right hip and it looks like she’s leaning over the man, as if she’s falling forward. If that were HER knee, it’s very large and disproportionate to the rest of her body, and the clothing at her hip is a totally different color. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m seeing.

janbb's avatar

I think you’re right; I didn’t see that at first. You still can look at the iconography of what the blue represents for that time period.

cazzie's avatar

it’s funny. @CWOTUS thinks of the man holding the woman as St. Peter, but I think it is the older man facing the woman. He looks like he is calling to her, and incanting the name of god to cast out the demon. St. Peter would have the strongest man in the village hold the woman so he can concentrate on the word of the lord to cast out the bad spirit.

“The high price of ultramarine also meant that its use was appropriate for the mother of Christ and royalty. Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo used ultramarine as well to symbolize spirituality. In religious symbolism, blue signifies truth and is associated with the creative power of God.”
Source: http://startstudioarts.si.edu/2010/10/blue.html

So, I would say the blue is on the man holding the woman and perhaps does represent the church and the power of god.

I have seen Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ in person and it really is something to behold.

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