Starting from the Chavet cave paintings from the Ice Ages to the current trend of Modern Art, art and artists have continued to awe and mesmerise us with their art and its mysteries. While all of the greatest artworks in history could not be survived due several reasons, we have definitely preserved most of them and atleast parts of some for posterity. Let me walk you through some of the greatest of our priceless artworks from day one to today :
12. The Girl With a Pearl Earring
A 17th century craftsmanship, this painting is also called by many as “The Dutch Mona Lisa” or “Mona Lisa of the North”. This painting was completed in 1665 by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer and depicts a girl wearing pearl earrings. The connection to Mona Lisa is derivable. The painting is now on display in the Mauritshius Gallery in the Hagues, in Netherlands.
11. Self Portrait with Two Circles
The role of the perceived is reversed in this. Here the artist Rembrandt is looking at you or more likely into your soul and not vice versa. He draws on the genius of authority and acts as a moral inspector where he invites you into the court of truth where he takes on a God-like stance and scans into your guilty conscience. This masterpiece is an oil on canvas painted in 1659-60 and is currently located at the Kenwood House in London.
10. The Parthenon Sculptures
Built around 447-442 BC, these extraordinary sculptures adorned the Parthenon in Athens and was the most richly decorated of all temples. It has now been separated into the Parthenon marbles. These sculptures were a glorification of Athens and her patron, the goddess Athena. It is also said to be the inspiration to Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn.
9. One: Number 31, 1950
This artwork is a modern mystery by Jackson Pollock. He had painted 3 wall-size paintings in quick successions in the summer and autumn of 1950 and this is one of them. He lay the canvas on the floor and went on to pour, dribble and flick enamel paint onto the surface and sometimes directly from the cans itself ! This gorgeous end result is a pictorial landmark in the history of Abstract Expressionism.
Completed by June 1937, this mural sized oil painting on canvas was crafted by the legendary Pablo Picasso. Regarded by many as one of the most powerful anti-war paintings in history, Picasso fuses a palette of gray, black and white. It depicts the sufferings of people, animals and buildings that have been wrenched by violence and chaos.
Begun for the tomb of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo never got to finish it. His stone prisoners are a parallel to the heavy and beautiful; the joyful and sorrowful; of being and not being. This is one of his 4 prisoner statutes, with one of them being the apostle Matthew. The beautiful description Michelangelo gives this artwork is a must read. It runs thus :
” In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it”
Now THAT is some mark of a true artisan!
6. The Foetus in the Womb
This famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci was made around 1510-1512/13 in Rome, Italy. Through this painting Da Vinci voices the human condition in a capsule. While his painting resembles slightly an opened chestnut casing, he gives to the world a pictorial representation of our beginnings, of us laid bare. With a dimension of 22*30.4 cm, the painting succeeded in portraying human mystery in a biological light that adheres humanity to nature. It has been put up for display at the Royal Collection, in Windsor Castle, London.
5. The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.
Considered as one of the masterpieces of the artist, this was painted in 1608 by the Italian artist Carvaggio at St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta. The painting is a reincarnation of the biblical episode of the beheading of John the Baptist, and it illustrates the execution of John while Salome (whose demand for the same led to it) stands nearby waiting with a platter in hand to receive his head. Though the story is biblical, it has not been directly inspired by the same but rather from a tale that is related to Golden Legend, which is a collection of hagiographies that rose to popularity during the medieval period. In addition to being considered one of his masterpieces, it is also cited as ” one of the most important works in Western painting” ( Pomela, Andrea. Caravaggio:an artist through images
4. Chavet Cave Paintings
These earliest forms of paintings have no names as to who painted them and we are free to conclude they were by men, women or even children. These paintings were discovered from the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France which is famed for some of the best known figurative cave paintings in human history. Some of the rarest of the Ice Age paintings are found here and these throw light into the intelligence, beauty and creativity that our ancestors possessed.
3. The Creation of Adam
The Creation of Adam is part of the nine scenes painted from the Book of Genesis in the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling painting executed by Michelangelo aroun 1512. It is often claimed to be the best of the collection by art critics. As the painting depicts, the almost touching hands of God and man has been followed up as an iconic of humanity and has also been used and reproduced countless times in parodies and imitations. Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam are two of the most reproduced religious paintings in history.
2. The Last Supper
For those less acquainted with art, Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code and the criticisms evolving around it is bound to connect you to this painting. Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci in 1494-1499, it is one of the world’s most famous paintings that has been debated and reproduced countless times. It is a replication of the biblical Last Supper which Jesus had with his twelve disciples before his betrayal and crucification. Very little of the original painting remains today due to methods used, environmental factors and intentional damage as well. The legendary piece of artwork is surprisingly not displayed in any museums but adorns the back wall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastry’s dining hall, in Milan.
1. Mona Lisa
That mysterious smile, the coded eyes, the anonymous subject, the genuis of the artist and art- these are only some of the factors that has kept the Mona Lisa as an intriguing figure in the art world for years now. Acclaimed by John Lichfield in The Moving of the Mona Lisa as ” the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”, this phenomenal artwork was crafted by Leonardo Da Vinci in the early 16th century. The woman in the half-length portrait is thought to be Lisa Gherdini, who was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, though nothing has been confirmed on this . Though the work was said to be completed by 1503-1506, Da Vinci is believed to have further worked on it again in 1517. The painting was originally acquired by King Francis I of France and has been on display at Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797.
These artworks are also a reminiscence of our glorious past and our skilful ancestors. Let us appreciate the unparalleled beauty in each.