Hey everyone, I hope you enjoyed this relatively short article and another fun round of “Where’s Waldo”! I found Brusati’s essay to be quite engaging, alongside the little game of finding the artists inside the portraits. I have to say, it reminded me so much of optical illusions, in the sense that you are searching for figures in the painting that might not be so obvious to find. I don’t want to talk too much about the stuff yet, because I want to save some for our awesome discussion on Thursday. Obviously, I want this to be discussion based, so feel free to comment on my questions or even just vent out your thoughts while reading the article. I can’t wait to discuss the article in class on Thursday!
1. I wanted to start off by addressing the traditional conventions of portraiture. Brusati states that “instead of appearing in pictures as embodied human subjects according to the usual conventions of portraiture, these still-life painters transform themselves into pictures”. Do you agree with this statement? If so, are they still portraits or a hybrid form of painting that have portrait-like qualities?
2. I also wanted to take a moment to reflect on the theoretical interaction between the artist, subject, possible patron, and audience. How do you think subjects would react to the insertion of the artist into the painting alongside the sitter? Do you believe that this was a possible way to not only inflate the ego of the artist, as well as increase the value of the painting for the sitter?
3. As we have seen in some of the portraits Brusati has presented, the artists’ depictions of themselves are sometimes more hidden than others. Consider Clara Peeter’s Still Life, and Peter Paul Rubens Four Philosophers. Based on Brusati’s theories, can we make such strong assumptions about the artists’ character based on how they depict themselves in the work, or are we looking to deep into their character, as previous articles have warned against?
4. Celeste Brusati mentions that one of the concerns with vanitas still-life imagery is the focus on “morality and the fragility of human life – its pleasures, passions, possessions, and ambitions”. I wanted to open up a discussion about Brusati’s statement. Could you not say that portraits in general can potentially be seen in a negative light, by displaying ones’ vanity for all others to see?
5. Ok so let’s talk about Samuel van Hoogstraeten. Brusati states that “the artist disappears into the artistry, with his pictorial counterfeit of the brush, mirror, comb, and other implements he used to fashion his appearance”. This reminded me very much of Arcimboldo’s Fire, based on the concept of the items make the man, literally. However in Hoogstraeten’s work the items do not create a physical likeness in the literal sense. Are these 2 works still portraits are they only portraits figuratively?