=History and Art at "Cookie Heights" Parson Street=(1926)
Sunday, June 13
The French Ambassadors =1533 Hans Holbein=
'The Ambassadors, yes I love this one! The objects represent the 7 liberal arts of renaissance education, 3 basic - grammar, logic and rhetoric (known as trivium) and arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. Iconic of the renaissance as well as the darker side - the broken lute string - representative of discord. The open hymn book - work of Martin Luther, the silver crucifix in the upper left corner just behind the curtain - all to do with the religious debate and discord of the renaissance period. when Holbein painted it Luther's protestant ideas were spreading around Europe defying the RC church, and so the broken lute is quite a powerful symbol of the religious conflict of the time. Then the hymn book is a printed book - the spread of new ideas in print - especially religious texts would provoke instability, uncertainty and anxiety, again a feature of the renaissance period. then there is another printed book near it, which is an instruction manual in how to calculate profit and loss for the renaissance biz and finance worlds were related to culture and art etc The globe represents an expansion of trade and finance, as well as travel and exploration and discovery and is probably the most important object in the painting. Also Europe s labelled as Europa which is in itself is pretty significant, it shows the globe was very up to date (mid15th Cent.) because prior to then people very rarely called themselves European - a new political and cultural identity was emerging. (there are 2 globes though, one is celestial and the other is terrestrial) There's loads going on in this painting. I love it!! I've got a nice old print of this all ready to be framed and put up. I read somewhere also that although skulls are often seen in art resembling 'death comes to us all', the one painted in The Ambassadors was a quite new perspective trick by Holbein and a few others, called anamorphic painting. You must go to the oblique to see the skull because of the fashion it was painted.
To me it looks as if the artist caught his very own paint loaded paintbrush within the frame of the subject when viewed straight-on. I have never heard any art critic see that.