20+ Fun-Filled Art Notes From a Professional Art Historian

Victoria is studying for a master’s degree in art criticism and leads a fascinating channel called Explain the Renaissance in a telegram . Here she tells in an unusual manner about paintings, belonging to the pen not only of Renaissance masters, but also of contemporary artists.


We at Happy Worthy Life have plunged into the world of art with interest, which, thanks to Victoria’s live feed, has enthralled no less than an exciting movie blockbuster.

The Night Watch, Rembrandt, 1642

A dynamic thing, isn’t it: a play of light and shadow, everyone is busy with something, a dog in the corner barks.
Here, in addition to the musketeers, there is a girl in a light dress. It’s easy to notice, it’s right in the golden section of the picture. Why it is needed there, still no one knows for sure. Perhaps the girl is the mascot of the shooters. Yellow color seems to mean victory, well, this chicken on the belt can be a reference to the symbol of the musketeers – the bird’s claw.

This giant canvas (3.63 by 4.37 m) can be viewed at the State Museum of Amsterdam.

The Last Day of Pompeii, Karl Bryullov, 1833

The idea of ​​the painting came to Bryullov after visiting the excavations. He was so impressed that he went in cycles in tragedy for 6 long years.


And so you yourself do not feel sad, here’s a cool fact. In short, that guy with a box of paints on his head in the left corner of the picture is Bryullov himself. Yes, he painted himself on his canvas. Ingenious.

You can watch live on this gloomy batch in the Russian Museum .


“Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow,” Pete Mondrian, 1930

Mondrian’s unhealthy desire to remove all unnecessary from the picture led to the fact that at some point only 3 colors and lines remained. Why exactly these colors, you ask? It’s simple: these are the main colors in the palette. By mixing them in different proportions, you can get an infinite number of shades. And the glory of this picture brought the show of Yves Saint Laurent in 1965. The designer created 6 dresses, seeing in this work an inimitable and timeless style.

You can watch it in Moscow at the Rumyantsevo metro station. Joke. Nowhere is this from a private collection.

The Kiss, Gustav Klimt, 1907–1908

Everyone romanticizes this picture, although it, according to many culturologists, is not about love at all. You have to be more careful, friends. Firstly, you look at the hands of a lady, how they tensely remove a man. Secondly, a kneeling pose, in the style of submission. It is evident that the heroine is in a situation where she can not say no. Here either you agree, or … In general, the picture is gorgeous. Here is this magical halo of gold (it is real, by the way), references to Egyptian motifs, when everything was two-dimensional, are simply awesome.


You can see this work of art in the Belvedere Gallery, Vienna.

“Bouquet in a Wooden Pot”, Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1606–1607

Just look at the awesome picture. This is a classic Dutch flower still life. The artist often traveled to capture rare flowers on canvases. He also had a rich patroness (let’s call it that), who dragged him to the royal greenhouses so that he could write from nature. The bouquet, by the way, is unrealistic, because the plants depicted bloom at different times throughout the year. That’s why Bruegel painted one picture for so long, it’s not procrastination.

Where to see: The Old Pinakothek, Munich.


“Discus thrower”, Miron, V century BC e.

This statue, probably, was not seen only by the lazy ignoramus. You might think that this is some very famous athlete, but no. This is a generalized image, devoid of any individuality. Then everything private passed into the background, and this can be clearly seen in all the art of Ancient Greece. Each sculpture sought in its works the very universal formula.

By the way, the original from bronze, unfortunately, has not been preserved; only Roman copies of marble have reached us. The best of them stands in the Palace of Massimo in Rome.

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Jerome Bosch, 1500–1510

The original name of the painting is unknown, so the researchers dubbed it. We will analyze only a small part of the canvas. You see ladies bathing in the water, and men are jumping around? The objects on the heads of the ladies may seem strange and random, but I will explain now. So, black birds mean unhappiness and bad character, and berries – debauchery and lust. And the character of a man is determined by the animal on which he sits. Having found their soul mate, men and women scatter around the garden to enjoy a heavenly, dissolute life together. As they say, each creature has a pair.

The work hangs in the Madrid Prado Museum.

“Naked Sitting on the Couch,” Amedeo Modigliani, 1917

There will be a sad story. The painting depicts the beloved of the artist – Jeanne. They met just in 1917. Modigliani was completely crazy about her and wrote her at least 25 times. It so happened that they were not destined to live together for a long time. In 1920, he died of tuberculosis, and the next day she committed suicide.

Many years later, the painting was sold very expensive (very expensive), now it is in a private collection.

The Assumption of the Virgin, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1605–1606

Everyone was quite surprised when they first saw this work. Although the Bible does not say anything about the death of the Virgin Mary, still this story was written according to special iconographic canons. Caravaggio boldly ignored it all. The artist showed the most frank earthly reality without this halo of holiness. Okay, he still paid a small tribute to traditions: if you look closely, you can see a halo above Maria’s head. But she herself is depicted as an ordinary person who dies in the circle of the same ordinary people.

After that, a rumor was circulated about Caravaggio that he was an immoral person. But still then he was recognized as a great artist, and now this picture hangs in the Louvre, Paris.

The Old Coquette, Bernardo Strozzi, circa 1637

The main message of the picture is obvious: getting old is very stupid and trying to get younger too. This painting belongs to the genre of the Baroque Vanitas era , which raises the theme of the transience of life and the inevitability of death. So, well, let’s go over the main characters. In one hand the old woman holds a rose, but that’s okay. Here in her other hand is a bouquet of orange blossom – a traditional attribute of the bride. There is such a degree of irony that you can go crazy. There is also a super-thick reference to vanitas – a dead bird on the mirror.

You can look at the picture and reflect on the frailty of being in the Pushkin Museum to them. Pushkin, Moscow.

Portrait of the Arnolfini Couple, Jan van Eyck, 1434

Have you heard about the era of the Northern Renaissance? Well, the same Renaissance, only in German-speaking countries. So this artist is from there.

The picture shows a wedding. At that time, to make a marriage, 2 chairs were needed, as they say. You could do this in a church or at home with two witnesses. “Where are the witnesses?” – you ask. But look in the mirror for a couple. By the way, one of the ones shown in the reflection may be van Eyck himself. As usual, a game of genius. But the artist could not resist and left one more mark. This is a small inscription above the mirror, like on a fence, like “Jan van Eyck was here.” And you just can’t get past this doggie at the feet of a couple, here it is as a symbol of fidelity.

A masterpiece hangs in the London National Gallery.

“The Lady with the Unicorn,” Rafael Santi, 1506

It’s as if it’s like Mona Lisa, isn’t it? This back landscape and the girl’s pose very much resemble the “Mona Lisa”. Interestingly, the paintings were painted at about the same time. The unicorn here symbolizes chastity. According to medieval legends, only an innocent girl can tame an animal. A model is generally a separate topic, an intrigue. I’ll tell you one of the most juicy versions: the girl may have been the Pope’s mistress, because the unicorn was just the family symbol of her family.

Where to see: Borghese Gallery, Rome.

“Maha Dressed,” Francisco Goya, 1800–1805

Who this lady is in light attire is not known for certain. I can only say that in Spain they called girls from a lower society with violent temper. The picture has a couple that was painted before. There is the same mach, only stripped. In general, Goya could easily go to jail for nudity, because in those years the Inquisition ruled in Spain and the church tried to influence art with all its might. Nudity was considered immoral and was banned, but did this stop Goya?

Of course not, especially since he had reliable contacts at the very top. But even this fact did not allow the artist to show the insolent naked woman. Usually exhibited “Mach Dressed.” And only sometimes, with the help of a special mechanism, another painting with a naked woman came out from behind the picture.

Both paintings can be viewed at the Prado Museum, Madrid.

Café Terrace at Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

You see the picture of Van Gogh – speak with a smart look that this is post-impressionism, and you will immediately be accepted into a bohemian party.

This is a real street with a cafe in the French city of Arles, where the artist drank towards the end of his life. And the best thing about all this is that after 100 years this place was restored and made just like in the picture. Probably everyone paid attention to the starry sky: this is Van Gogh’s recognizable feature. From the point of view of astronomy, here, by the way, everything is clear and stands in its place. Artists who do research are brilliant.

You can appreciate the color depth and the magical starry sky at the Kroeller-Muller Museum in Otterlo (Netherlands).

The Miracle with the Statier, Masaccio, 1425-1427

Superlogical composition. There are 3 actions from one storyline taken from the Gospel. You can say almost like a movie. Jesus with the apostles goes on a journey through the cities. Having reached Capernaum, they encounter the first difficulties: to enter, one must pay. Then Jesus tells the apostle Peter: “Go fish, and in it you will find the right coin – statir.” So basically it happened, that’s why he and Jesus. Peter safely pays for the entrance of all the apostles.

By the way, the fresco appeared for a reason, but was commissioned by the state. Stupid people had to show how important it is to pay taxes. At that time, tax reform was being developed in Italy.

You can see the work in the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence.

The Penitent Mary Magdalene, Titian Vecellio, 1565

As the name suggests, remorse is depicted here. In general, Mary Magdalene in Catholic art is often portrayed as a repentant sinner. Artists write it with her hair loose, easily dressed, even with a hint of nudity. Then Titian decided not to differ. In front of the main character, we see the Holy Scriptures. You can still notice the skull – this is such an advancing artist with the theme of memento mori (“remember death”).

The canvas is stored in the Hermitage.

Which of these notes did you find particularly fascinating? Perhaps you know something about famous works of art?

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