two works being compared in this writing assignment (Van Eyck’s Double
Portrait, and Giotto’s Meeting of Joachim and Anna) are visually very different
in several ways such as with their: setting, medium, techniques used, etc.
Taking a more critical look at the two works it is apparent that although there
are many differences, there are also many similarities within the two pieces
including their symbolic references and certain contents.
While looking at the two pieces, it is clear in both
works that couples are being portrayed in acts of union. Looking at Giotto’s
work, the viewer sees Saint. Joachim and Saint. Anne in an act of union under
the golden gates of Jerusalem. The couple is embracing intimately, signifying
strong connection and feelings of love which, were emerging themes in art
during the time this work was created. When looking at Van Eyck’s work the
couple being portrayed are seen in a ‘bedroom’ in a less intimate act of union.
The couple can be seen holding hands and sharing a seemingly important moment
together. In both works it is evident that there are individuals watching the
couples in their acts of union; in Giotto’s work the witnesses can be seen on
the left side of the painting and under the golden gates; in the work of Van
Eyck the witnesses can be seen in the reflection of the mirror in the
background. It is notable in the work by Giotto that there is a woman dressed
in black looking away from the union, which could symbolize/foreshadow dark
events in the future of the couple.
both works it is evident that there are strong hints to god, using color and
object symbolism. Both works use the color gold (which is often associated with
Christ) in strategic ways, implying that he is present in both unions. In
addition to this it can be seen in the work by Giotto that St. Joachim, and Anne
both have golden halos showing their association with Christ (their halos
appear to combine during their embrace), and in the work of Van Eyck; the
candle in the chandelier
may be interpreted as the presence of Christ in the room, the mirror in the
background of the painting may also signify the presence of Christ in the room
as the mirror could represent Christ’s ‘all seeing’ abilities as it shows the
visitors entering the room.
comparison between the two pieces would be the strong presence of hints to
fertility. Given that Giotto’s work is based on the Gospels of James the viewer
may have prior insight to the story being portrayed making, the piece easier to
interpret. Giotto’s piece portrays St. Joachim, and St. Anne in union after
receiving news that a child will be born to them, after many failed attempts to
conceive a child. The child they will have, will be the mother of Christ
(referred to as Madonna or Mary). In Van Eyck’s piece, there are strong hints
to fertility as well including: the use of color symbolism (red-fertility), the
carving of St. Margret (protector of childbirth) on the chair in the background,
and the large bulge in the woman’s stomach.
Given the above, it is clear there are many similarities
between the two works, but there are also several differences that can be noted
such as: style and medium differences, the influence and meaning of the pieces,
and different symbols and meanings present in each piece.
The mediums and styles which the two-artist’s used are different,
Giotto’s style can be seen as ‘less advanced’ yet, very great for his time
period; which, made him a very influential artist of his time. In the piece by
Giotto the medium used is Fresco, it is painted on a wall of the Scrovegni
Chapel in Italy making it immobile. The medium that Van Eyck uses for his piece
is Oil paint on wood panel making the work more so portable in comparison to
Giotto’s piece. The work in which Giotto was commissioned to do was
specifically for the use of a rich individual to gain access to heaven and
better his soul in the afterlife, therefore the work he portrayed was directly
associated with religious literature, specifically: The Gospel of James in
this case. On the other
hand, the work in which Van Eyck was commissioned to create was for personal
use, and it is unclear as to what the specific purpose was for (memorial,
portrait, etc.) Given the differences in purpose, the pieces have different
additional meanings for example: there are many hints and uses of symbolism in
Van Eyck’s work to suggest the couple being portrayed in the piece are that of
status (they are dressed well, have lovely furnishings, expensive fruits, a
pet, and much more to suggest their riches in life) where as there is little
extra symbolism in the work of Giotto due to the religious nature of the piece.
As a decisive point, the style in which the two artists
paint are very much different. For example, Giotto’s work is bulky, less
detailed, and less perfected whereas, the work of Van Eyck can be seen to be
very developed, perfected, and detailed. This is likely due to a difference in style
and types of art being used during different time periods (Giotto is from an
earlier time than Van Eyck), and how art had developed over time. None the less
both artists were very influential in their time periods and it is key to note
that their differences in styles do not make one or the other ‘superior’ in anyway.
It is clear upon analysis that the two-works compared in this assignment have
many similarities, but also many differences, making the pieces both unique and
significant in similar ways as well as in their own ways.