Ancient Art and Rhetoric

Two days ago in class we discussed the ways that the ancient art we saw at the Uffizi Gallery used rhetoric to convey the message it was looking to get across. For example, an artist would use red or blue to convey royalty, or they used light to highlight a certain feature in a person. There was also an incredible amount of symbolism in many of these paintings, something that I have never really realized before.

Typical art (paintings, etc.) has never really been something I have been too interested in until we saw some of the paintings in the Uffizi Gallery. The painting that had the biggest impact on me was definitely Caravaggio’s “Sacrifice of Isaac” . The way Caravaggio used light to not only highlight the desperation in the angel’s grasp of Abraham, or the absolute terror on Isaac’s face was amazing to me. There was also so much expression in all of the subject’s faces. This was very different than the statue we saw in the Duomo museum. Abraham was simply holding the knife near Isaac and they both looked relatively calm. The artist was probably trying to just give a general idea of what happened – not necessarily a highlighting of emotions as Caravaggio did.

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One thought on “Ancient Art and Rhetoric

  1. Caravaggio’s “Sacrifice of Isaac” is one of my favorite paintings we have seen during our time in Italy as well. Like you said, the clear expressions on Abraham and Isaac’s faces help me to understand the plot behind the piece and how these two felt in the moment captured. Some details that make this painting so captivating is the indent in Isaac’s cheek as Abraham’s thumb is pressed against it and the wrinkles on Abraham’s forehead. The indent shows the harsh forcefulness placed in order to complete this horrible action and the wrinkles on Abraham’s forehead symbolizes the concern and remorse he was experiencing in order to prove his commitment and faithfulness to God. I am also not one to usually be intrigued by art, but when a certain painting such as this one offers details and emotions so vividly, I find it difficult not to gravitate towards it.

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