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The two works being compared in this writing assignment (Van Eyck’s Double Portrait, and Giotto’s Meeting of Joachim and Anna) are visually very different in several ways such as with their: setting, medium, techniques used, etc. Taking a more critical look at the two works it is apparent that although there are many differences, there are also many similarities within the two pieces including their symbolic references and certain contents.
While looking at the two pieces, it is clear in both works that couples are being portrayed in acts of union. Looking at Giotto’s work, the viewer sees Saint. Joachim and Saint. Anne in an act of union under the golden gates of Jerusalem. The couple is embracing intimately, signifying strong connection and feelings of love which, were emerging themes in art during the time this work was created. When looking at Van Eyck’s work the couple being portrayed are seen in a ‘bedroom’ in a less intimate act of union. The couple can be seen holding hands and sharing a seemingly important moment together.
In both works it is evident that there are individuals watching the couples in their acts of union; in Giotto’s work the witnesses can be seen on the left side of the painting and under the golden gates with one woman (dressed in dark clothing) looking away from the union; in the work of Van Eyck the witnesses can be seen in the reflection of the mirror in the background. In both works it is evident that there are strong hints to god, using color and object symbolism.
Both works use the color gold (which is often associated with Christ) in strategic ways, implying that he is present in both unions. In addition to this it can be seen in the work by Giotto that St. Joachim, and Anne both have golden halos showing their association with Christ (their halos seem to become one during their embrace), and in the work of Van Eyck; the single candle in the chandelier may be interpreted as the presence of Christ in the room, the mirror in the background of the painting may also signify the presence of Christ in the room as the mirror could represent Christ’s ‘all seeing’ abilities as it shows the visitors entering the room.
Another comparison between the two pieces would be the strong presence of hints to fertility. Given that Giotto’s work is based on the Gospels of James the viewer may have prior insight to the story being portrayed making, the piece easier to interpret. Giotto’s piece portrays St. Joachim, and St. Anne in union after receiving news that a child will be born to them, after many failed attempts to conceive a child. The child they will have, will be the mother of Christ (referred to as Madonna or Mary). In Van Eyck’s piece, there are strong hints to fertility as well including: the use of color symbolism (red-fertility), the carving of St. Margret (protector of childbirth) on the chair in the background, and the large bulge in the woman’s stomach.
Given the above, it is clear there are many similarities between the two works, but there are also several differences that can be noted such as: style and medium differences, the influence and meaning of the pieces, and different symbols and meanings present in each piece. The mediums and styles which the two-artist’s used are different, Giotto’s style can be seen as ‘less advanced’ yet, very great for his time period; which, made him a very influential artist of his time. In the piece by Giotto the medium used is Fresco, it is painted on a wall of the Scrovegni Chapel in Italy making it immobile. The medium that Van Eyck uses for his piece is Oil paint on wood panel making the work more so portable in comparison to Giotto’s piece. The work in which Giotto was commissioned to do was specifically for the use of a rich individual to gain access to heaven and better his soul in the afterlife, therefore the work he portrayed was directly associated with religious literature, specifically: The Gospel of James in this case.
On the other hand, the work in which Van Eyck was commissioned to create was for personal use, and it is unclear as to what the specific purpose was for (memorial, portrait, etc.) Given the differences in purpose, the pieces have different additional meanings for example: there are many hints and uses of symbolism in Van Eyck’s work to suggest the couple being portrayed in the piece are that of status (they are dressed well, have lovely furnishings, expensive fruits, a pet, and much more to suggest their riches in life) where as there is little extra symbolism in the work of Giotto due to the religious nature of the piece.
As a decisive point, the style in which the two artists paint are very much different. For example, Giotto’s work is bulky, less detailed, and less perfected whereas, the work of Van Eyck can be seen to be very developed, perfected, and detailed. This is likely due to a difference in style and types of art being used during different time periods (Giotto is from an earlier time than Van Eyck), and how art had developed over time. None the less both artists were very influential in their time periods and it is key to note that their differences in styles do not make one or the other ‘superior’ in anyway. It is clear upon analysis that the two-works compared in this assignment have many similarities, but also many differences, making the pieces both unique and significant in similar ways as well as in their own ways.
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