Friday Art: Madonna & Child With Putto by Fiorentino Rosso (1522)

Mannerist paintings from the late Renaissance can often be a little bizarre, with long necks and weirdly shaped bodies… but this one, with it’s matching clown faced Jesus & Mary, has got to be my favorite.

I can’t believe a church actually hung this up after commissioning it. I guess I can understand whatever Tsar bought it for the Hermitage where it remains today. Hell, I’d put this on my wall just for laughs.

Jesus as baby Danny Bonaduce after the accident? Works for me.

Rosso came from Florence, but left Italy after one of the numerous sacks of Rome in the 1500s and wound up getting a steady position at the court of Francis I, the King of France.

To be fair, some of his other work is quite good – Descent From The Cross (1521) is considered his masterpiece, and it looks quite modern.

The stiffness of those bodies, the sharp lines and the colors reminds me of some Twentieth Century mural art. Here’s another one in the same style, Moses Defending The Daughters of Jethro, from 1523:

Same color palette, but this time those stiff bodies are slightly curvier.

Make them even more curvy, and I think you wind up with Thomas Hart Benton, which is why I find some of Rosso’s work so modern:

I mean, look at Benton’s People of Chilmark from 1920 – brighter colors, yeah, curvier bodies… but somehow the same vibe.

Even if Charlton Heston fought off those goat herders (including a young Mike Connors) without getting nekkid.

But Benton could have never come up with this kisser

Maybe Todd Phillips will make his dark-origins Taxi Driver-derivative film. Bethlehem as 1970s New York. I think it works, don’t you?

In the meantime, I’ll never tire of wondering what Rosso’s 1522 audience thought of his depiction of the Madonna & Child. Was there some sort of Susan Sontag-let’s-appreciate-kitsch movement lost to history? Or did they just think the world was ending and it didn’t matter anyway?

Whatevs. I’m glad it’s still around.

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