Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Niccolò Barabino Painter Florence Italy
Dear Art Lover,
In the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy, I discovered an artist to admire. I had never before heard of Niccolò Barabino (1831–1891), but I think his painting in the museum is fantastic. I share it with you here. It is titled, Christ Enthroned with Mary and Florentine Saints and was created from 1882 to 1883.
The composition is brilliant and I admired so many things that I see as definitely intentional. The composition is set up as symmetrical, but then the variations create a situation that hardly leaves one with a feeling of repetition. Christ at the center, with the largest area of white or light colors is no doubt the subject of the painting. The lilies in their vase serve as an obvious pointer, in case our eyes could forget. The vertical columns on either side of him lend a strength and stability, and even a calming effect (assurance of a sense of well-being?) to the painting.
The figures on the left are all aligned mostly horizontally in their halos, yet there is enough of a change that there is no stiffness in the postures of the figures or their relationships to one another, while the diagonally line of the figures are right (and continued by the raised arm of Christ) serve to point to our subject.
I enjoyed the perspective in the scene, as well as the 3-dimensionally painted dark niche behind Christ’s figure that really helps to again, put the focus on him. I like how he plays the lights and darks against one another to emphasize (or play down) each of the personalities of the saints while never losing sight of compositional interest.
One might think that red is such a strong color that an artist would be a fool to paint the only really large red shape off to one side. But if you look, you will see that he has spread around the staircase and the right background enough of this same muted red serves as a sculptural base or even a frame (if you count the darker, cooler reds in the niche behind Christ’s head). The artist has done the same thing with the whites or light shapes in the composition. Christ receives the largest and most eye-catching white shape in his robes. However, the worshiping figures each contain a figure in “white,” but they do not take up as much real estate and are beautifully designed to strengthen the composition.
I love it that the faces are individuals and beautiful. I also love it that the artist snuck in a half-dressed man next to the nun. Each character’s head is different, in hair style or hat or veil… lovely variety!
Anyway, I truly admire this work of art and I am glad that the next time I walk past the Duomo, I will look more closely at the painting under the same-shaped arches and hope to see more of Niccolò Barabino’s paintings.
If you would like to learn more of this artist, this may be a decent start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicol%C3%B2_Barabino
~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher
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