Saturday, April 21, 2018

Peasantry as Separate

Throughout this time shift from early 17th to mid-18th century, there is a sustained gap between the poor in society and the rich in artwork. There is a distinct expression of having to choose between peasantry, upper class, or royalty. Because art is still seen as an upper class activity, the poor are depicted as “other” from the rich. Even after a century of growth and change, the non-wealthy are being portrayed as separate. There are different styles which express this notion, and provide context for society throughout this time. There are certain acknowledgements in the context which necessitates coordination and coexistence. Other than these specific scenes, it is clear that higher society has decided that peasants are not of their same kind. There are many stylistic cues which are used to perpetuate visual representations of this ideology. This separation implies condescension and objectification. Even in celebration, peasants are identified in their existence by their ability to provide entertainment or food or even the subject of a painting for their household. 

Johannes Lingelbach, Peasants Dancing, Oil on Canvas, 1651, 71.123

Lingelbach takes on an increasingly popular style called Bamboccio, which specifically combines a desire to portray everyday life with tenebrist lighting throughout the composition. Lingelbach’s Peasants Dancing uses style and light in ways that push against the expected 17th century portrayal of the lower class. We know that Lingelbach did indeed comprise this painting in order to portray the scene as a staged, but accurate representation of peasanthood. Despite their depravity, they can still celebrate.
Francesco Villamena, Street Fight, 1601, Paper, British Museum

This piece is a 17th century reminder of human nature in its brutality. This is not civilized war or an argument of the upper class. This is a dirty street fight, with filth and no rules. Even in the black and white of the print, the people seem dirty and ruthless. This is intended to create horror and disgust. This piece creates a perspective of the poor as irrational savages.
Hubert Robert, A Hermit Praying in the Ruins of a Roman Temple, Oil on canvas, c. 1670,J. Paul Getty Museum

This painting creates a context for 18th century culture in the context of Roman ruins. Religion is still being depicted in her prayer, but the temple itself has become dilapidated ruins. These upper class women have the time and ability to create a shrine and bring flowers to what is left of this place of worship. Their work is seen as good and important, giving their image importance. The decrepit nature of this abandoned building reflects the movement away from ancient ideals. 

Johannes Lingelbach, Italian Marketplace with a Quack Dentist, Oil on Canvas, 1651, Rijksmuseum

This piece is stylistically similar to Lingelbach’s work, and was painted at the same time. This artist depicts the difficulties of peasantry, but not to empathize with them, but to objectify them. The “quack dentist” pulling teeth in the middle of the street creates an image of peasants as desperate and horrible. Because it occurs in the middle of the marketplace, everyone’s focus is on this grotesque act.   This puts the peasant’s lives on public display to be analyzed and objectified.

Hubert Robert, Le Bosquet des Bains d’Apollon, ca. 1775-1777, Oil on Canvas, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

The title translated to english reads The Grove of the Baths of Apollo. This is an intriguing painting in its depiction of poor and rich in the same scene. However, the lighting and division in the painting clearly draws a separation between the wealthy spectators and the carpentry workers. The division is directly in the center of the painting where the poor exist as if under a shadow, while the upper class are in the light. This is an interesting depiction of the coexistence of these two types of people, but their lack of interaction. 

Simon Johannes Van Douw, Italian-Style Capriccio with Market Scene, Oil on Canvas,1650/1660, Fondazione Cariplo Collection

This scene depicts the massive population in one area. This context forces multiple kinds people to be in the same place in order to accomplish the mutual goal of buying goods in the same place. There are government officials, poor, middle class, all which are gathered together. This coexisting seems counter cultural to the belief of this class separation. This painting also depicts a large gathering very close to two farms. The creation of cities is still dependent on these farms and the poor who are growing the food of the rich. 

Canaletto, View of the Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum, 1742 - 1745, Oil on canvas, J. Paul Getty Museum

This photo depicts how Roman pillars(literally and figuratively) have become overgrown and withered away. People beg at the base of the Arch, while upper class people stand and talk. These ideological representations and remembrances of Roman culture are disappearing. However, class division is still seemingly prevalent through this culture. The poor and rich may be in the same geographical location, but there is a lack of acknowledgement and interaction.

David Teniers the Younger, The Village Holiday, ca. 1650, Oil on Canvas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

This work uses popular lighting and landscape design from the 17th century. This celebration of peasant life is somewhat realistic. This exact scene was not recorded and painted, but is staged. It depicts peasants as happy and joyous. They are not defined by their depravity or lack of fancy clothes and livlihood. While these peasants are shown to be content, they are still depicted as separate from normal upper class culture. It was easy for the upper class to condescend upon this kind of livelihood when it is depicted in a painting like this as something foreign to the upper class, city culture. 

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