1. Jan van Eyck, Lucca Madonna[caption id="attachment_4939" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Jan van Eyck, Lucca Madonna, ca 1437, Stadel Museum[/caption] The Lucca Madonna served her unknown patron as a medium of private devotion. As in 14th century, there were a lot of paintings about the Virgin wearing her traditional red robe under a blue cloak, supporting the child in her arms in various postures. Lucca Madonna was one of those. The huge drapery is in red covering the whole body. Its symbolic meaning is life, energy and Jesus Christ’s passion. Again, it is a symbolic colour of Christ’s martyrdom and redemption. However natural in appearance, the scene is full of other religious symbolic references. The fruit in the Christ child’s hand, for example, alludes to the Fall of Man, the consequences of which are overcome through the incarnation of God. The throne with its lion decorations symbolizes not only the judgement seat of the proverbially just king Solomon, an ancestor to Christ, but also the Last Judgement.
Giorgione, Young Woman (“Laura”)[caption id="attachment_4940" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Giorgione, Young Woman (“Laura”), 1506, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna[/caption]
The half-length portrait created by one of my favorite painters depicts a young woman in a fur-trimmed red cloak. The laurel-tree (Italian: lauro) may be intended as a coded reference to the subject’s name but it could also been and attribute of poetry. And yet another possibility is, that this young lady was a prostitute. The winter clothing of wealthy Venetian courtesans was usually a beautiful garment lined with fur. Her nonchalant way of wearing the fur supports this interpretation. With this portrait Giorgione created a prototype for later depictions of courtesans in Venetian painting.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels[caption id="attachment_4941" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels, 1656-1657, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin[/caption] The informal pose and dress – a housecoat, glowing deep red in places and tied casually over the low-cut white undergarment – suggest a familiar relationship between Rembrandt and model. For this reason the woman was identified as his later companion Hendrickje Stoffels. The pictorial type reveals his familiarity with Palma Vecchio’s portraits of courtesans. This is confirmed by scientific investigations showing that the movement of the right arm originally corresponded with the Venetian model, but was then increasingly modified. While the ring on Hendrickje’s chain gives her the status of a married woman, the courtesan’s pose reflects the extramarital relationship disapproved of by the church.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle in a Red Dress[caption id="attachment_4942" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle in a Red Dress, 1908, Harvard Art Museum[/caption] Renoir painted Gabrielle Renard more than two hundred times. In several of the portraits, she wears the same informal, square-necked gown like this one seen here. By 1908, she had been employed in Renoir’s household for fourteen years, as a nanny, housekeeper, model, and companion to the aging artist. This painting’s gold and brownish-red palette, loose brushwork, and stylized, heavy forms typify Renoir’s late work; he adopted the style in response to the ancient murals of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which he had seen in Naples.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Loving Cup[caption id="attachment_4943" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Loving Cup, 1867, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo[/caption] Rossetti was known for his lively relationships with women. He used his female friends and lovers as models to represent his own image in relationship to the heroines of stories. The model for this painting is Alexa Wilding, who frequently appeared in Rossetti's works from the spring of 1865 onwards. This cup she holds is a cup from which close friends and especially lovers both drink. Here the cup is suitably embellished with heart-shaped designs. The frame of this work is inscribed "Douce nuit et joyeux jour/ A chevalier de bel amour (Sweet night and pleasant day/to the beautifully loved knight)." This inscription shows that the image probably represents a toast to the woman's knight, who is leaving for war or has left for war. While the source of this quote is uncertain, it is thought that Rossetti, steeped in Arthurian legend, wrote the poem himself.
József Rippl-Rónai, Lady in Red[caption id="attachment_4946" align="aligncenter" width="620"] József Rippl-Rónai, Lady in Red, 1898. Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest[/caption]
József Rippl-Rónai, the outstanding artist of Hungarian post-impressionism, was active as a member of the Nabis during his stay in Paris in the last decade of the 19th century. Rippl-Ronai designed the dining room furnishing of count Tivadar Andrássy’s Buda palace. From the textile decoration, only the tapestry created out of this study drawing survived World War II. In the middle, the woman in the red dress turns partly away from the viewer. There is a tiny flower in one hand, and the other hand is stretched behind her with the typical gesture of Japanese prints. The figure and the vegetation are surrounded by dark brown outlines. The tapestry was embroidered by the French wife of the artist, Lazarine Boudrion.