Saturday, January 13, 2007

Copying Michelangelo



I found a new blog -- well, new to me anyway -- David Apatoff's "Illustration Art" -- and since the author is a notorious "Grumpy old man", I'm sure to be visiting it often.

This post caught my attention first -- since I agree -- in the world of famous European drawings -- Michelangelo's Sybil is the most incredible -- and I probably wasn't the first art student to try to copy it -- and fail.







But I remember an exhibit of drawings that passed through Chicago about 12 years ago - and it had a 17th C. copy of the "Ignudo" --- another great study for the Sistine Chapel -- and I've never forgotten how good it was -- but how it was still unmistakably different from the original.

Can you see how the copy is different ? -- in the way that one performance of a Beethoven sonata HAS to be different from another -- as long as the copyist is re-imagining the forms -- and filling them with his own spirit (and not just doing a point-to-point mechanical copy)

7 Comments:

Anonymous Mike McConnll said...

Hi Chris,

It looks to be a difference of spirit, one is dancing in the clouds, the other kneeling on the ground

January 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Without impugning the scrupulous observation and subtle rendering of the copyist ... the copy has failed to grasp the essential large facts of the rhythm of bone, muscle, and spirit Michelangelo has fettered with red chalk. This is most noticeable in the way he (or she) has gone straight for the tonal values; I don't get the feeling they have seen beyond the tones Michelangelo put down to give flesh to the Form. Between Michelangelo and the modern copyist come the 19th century, Manet, and tonalism. The pursuit of optical facts, and the credo of chiaroscuro. Michelangelo has put the sculptural and plastic first, and the optical well behind. That is, he does not light the figure at all in a 'plausible' way but as his mind conceptualises the muscle groups and the rhythmic harmonic progression.

And if you look at most of the art produced before say 1860 or 1880 the same emphasis on the plastic architecture is keenly felt; optical accidents are overlayed where they don't obliterate the sculptural.

Between Michelangelo and the modern (or modernist?) copyist is this movement to the optical, ie., the pursuit tonal values and contrasts regardless of the haptic and plastic.

But this is broad conjecture and I welcome your correcting pen to set this argument's form straight.

Cheers,
Iian

January 20, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thankyou both for your comments !

I'm not sure which one Mike thought was "kneeling on the ground" -- but if it were the one shown at the top (the original - the Michelangelo) --then I agree. M.'s figure brings to mind the painful words of Hamlet's uncle: "My words rise up, my thoughts stay below; words without thoughts do not to heaven go" --- while the copyist has that figure floating like some kind of elegant balloon. (and note to Iian: that copy was made in the 17th not the 19th C.)

That copyist reminds me of Karajan as a conductor of Romantic music: turning pain into ornament.

January 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Your eraser of truth has rubbed out a rather spurious line in my argument. I'll have to brew some tea and rethink this one.

Cheers,
Iian

January 20, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Iian, though you had the date wrong, you did get me wondering what a late 19th C. copy would look like. And what about a contemporary Classical-Realist?

Many such copies must exist -- I wish someone would put them all on the same webpage.

January 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, have you done any more Chris?

January 21, 2007  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

I really should be getting ready for bed, but darn it, I just saw this, and then read the comments, and now I'm all full of Art Sparks.

Too sleepy to comment except "Yes, lian, yes!" and "Thank you Chris!"

More later when less sleepy, if I can find the trail of breadcrumbs that lead me here. (I was looking for those still life paintings, but seem to have lost them around a stairwell's turning.)

March 05, 2007  

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