Musical Figuralism

Musical Figuralism

This small article comes from my curiosity for certain musical conventions established in what concerns the expression of feelings. It's something I discovered in Music History class and it caught my attention so much that I decided to do a little research about it. It has not been easy to find information of this, but with what I gathered and my own experience I think the article may be interesting.


            Musical Figuralism is the technique of composition that consists in subordinating music to the text. Music underlines the meaning of the text with sound. It is also called Word painting. Below are detailed the main movements and genres where we can say that there is figuralism.

Musical forms that express feelings and emotions

            Throughout the history of music have arisen different forms to compose. As way of introduction, I will speak of those that I consider to be the most relevant to this topic.
      Programmatic music. Before we begin, we must define this term, which refers to descriptive music, which evokes ideas or images outside the music itself. Obviously, almost any piece could have this to a greater or lesser extent, that's why I'm going to focus on the larger, more usual and obvious forms.
Ars Nova. In the XV century, Ars Nova is called a musical movement that arose mainly in France and Italy, where a sound is determined based on the sensation that produces, for the own joy of the senses. At the end of the XVI century, the Ars Subtilior happened, a kind of mannerism of the Ars Nova where everything is exaggerated. I must mention the heart-shaped score of Baude Cordier.
Musica Reservata. During the Renaissance, Musica Reservata is known as that which imitates what the text says literally. The madrigal will come from here.
Theory of affections. During the Baroque, we could say that it is an improvement of the Musica Reservata, with more development. The development was such that the types came to be stereotyped, and was something that applied mainly to the opera.
Opera. Simply to mention the opera, because the music that must accompany the staging and the events must perfectly match.
Symphonic poem. During Romanticism, it is a musical composition for orchestra that describes a literary work, that generally the public must know previously. Personally it's my favorite genre.
Film music. Already in the XX century, film music is quite similar to the music that has to accompany the opera, only in this case it accompanies the images of the film, reinforcing them. It can be listened to without the images and in some cases could be considered a symphonic poem. An example that in my opinion proves this is the soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings.

Figurative forms in musical expression

Joy is expressed with the major scale, with consonance, high register and fast tempo.

Sadness is expressed in the minor scale, with dissonance and chromatisms, low register and slow tempo. In the interpretation I also have to add the use of legato.

Dark and serious music accompanies a text about death.

A succession of very fast ascending notes speak of fire.

The action of rising, as well as the sky or a mountain are represented with ascending melodies and/or in the high register.

The action of descending, as well as the concepts of soil, hell and plain are illustrated with low melodies, descendents or without melodic curves.

The river and the flight of the birds are represented by long melismas on the same syllable.

A fright or a sigh is represented with a deep aspiration in strong time and later entry in contretemps.

Laughter is represented by successive notes on the same syllable that most probably should be interpreted with staccato.

The reference to a number or high quantity is represented by repeating the same musical figure and the same text either in the same voice or in polyphonic imitation.

The actions of chasing, hunting, following, imitating... are often dealt with by the canon technique or imitative counterpoint.

The idea of ​​unity or unification very often corresponds with a unison.

Unison can also express something that is thin, while a polyphonic homophonic texture is associated with something that is thick or wide.

The word full is often filled with notes through a melisma or the repetition of the word.

The concept of day is represented musically with more vivid and quick notes than the night especially if, as usual, they are placed immediately behind each other, exploiting the game of opposition. While in other cases it is done exactly the opposite: illustrating the day with long notes that give a feeling of immobility, while the night is illustrated with quick notes.

About Wagner…

Wagner exploits the leitmotiv, which although not exactly what I mean in this article, I have also found a few interesting figurations to mention. They belong to his opera Tristan and Isolde.

Motiv of the destiny: lament in semitones, it is represented the mockery of Isolde by Tristan.

Motiv for question: theatrically expresses a question, the melody ascends as the tone of the question to the rhetorical mode.

Motiv for death: with octave jumps and dots that increase its pathos.

I also want to mention, drawn from my experience, that in the opera of the Valkyrie, it could also be considered the part of the Ride, music that makes you to want to ride. A well-known and used fragment, emphasizing in Apocalypse Now, where it fits perfectly with the sequence of the helicopters, something due to this expressive resource.


Other figurations from my experience

I will try to put an order here, although what I am going to say is from my thought and experience. I am aware that there will be many more examples, so these are just a few.

About the Macabre Dance of Saint-Saëns, a symphonic poem, depicts Death playing a violin (in my opinion a good choice of instrument), and calls the attention the use of xylophone to represent the sound of bones. From Saint Saëns I must also mention his Carnival of the Animals, where he represents musically several animals.


The 4/4 compositions are more associated with a march. An example that comes to mind right now and fits perfectly with the pace of walking is Polyushka Polye, Russian Army music.

The 3/4 compositions or the use of triplets in 4/4 are more associated with dances. Some examples that come to my mind are the Blue Danube by Strauss or the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms.


Mentioning the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, I want to mention the treatment of the leitmotivs: the Hobbits are represented with warm, cozy and simple music, Gondor is represented with ascending and heroic music, Mordor is represented with dark and march music, Isengard is represented with a music with sounds of percussion that remembers to the industry, the Elves are represented with a sensual and calm music...

I also want to mention Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, where he represents musically various social classes.


            I think we are surrounded by these conventions, and probably I could have ampliated this article more, but I think that these notions are more than enough to start to see more in the musical pieces.

Genres in Art History

Genres in Art History

Genres arise from the human being's need to classify and define. They are a group of artworks that are grouped in the same category because they have similar characteristics to each other. In this article I will talk about genres in the history of art, mainly visual, exposing examples of my preference to illustrate them. The examples are pictures that I have selected as part of the practice of the subject itself, and are pictures that for one reason or another, I love.

Literary Genres

According to classical rhetoric:
Lyric (poetry): elegy, satire, gnomic, erotic ...
Epic (narrative literature)
Dramatic (theatrical): comedy, drama, tragedy
Narratives of fiction: story and novel (of chivalry, Byzantine, picaresque, pastoral, courtesan, historical, fantastic, gothic, of terror, of adventures, of cloak and sword, black, western, pink, of science fiction , etc.
Didactic or non-fiction, oratory, treatises, essays, journalistic genres.

Musical Genres

They are formally established according to differences of: rhythm, instrumentation, harmonic or melodic characteristics or the structure of musical works.
Classical, academic or educated music.
Popular, academic and non-academic music.
Traditional or folk music.

Pictoric Genres

Gender painters are those who deal with a single genre or subgenre of the painting of landscapes, flowers, animals or clothing. Pejorative in front of the history painter. The status of history and religious painting is elevated by Alberti, who identifies with the tragic genre. The painting of regular issues were considered minor and identified with the genre of comedy.
A hierarchy of values ​​was established in the painting. It was more important the what about the how, the meaning about the signifier. Calvo Serraller points to two decisive factors The iconoclasm of the Reformed Church deprived the painters of a patronage hitherto incomparable, while the courts and the aristocracy were also weakened, thus favoring the development of new pictorial contents that more satisfied the bourgeois than the nobles. The verisimilitude advocated by the decrees of Trent for the treatment of religious painting that will drive extreme naturalism.
Gender painting: reflects everyday scenes or domestic interiors. Worthy of note are the seventeenth-century Holland paintings, such as those by Vermeer.
Still Life: still lifes, inanimate objects. Practiced a lot in classical antiquity, then extinguished and reappears in the sixteenth century, highlighting in northern Europe and Spain.
Portrait: representation of a face or figure of a person.
Landscape: representation of a natural or urban place. The heroic landscape is developed in the eighteenth century and is an idealized landscape to evoke feelings.
Painting of history: scenes of history or of legends. The Academy considered it comparable to religious or mythological painting.


In the classical world, man is the measure of all things. The gods are idealized but they are men with passions and failures. Body based on a canon with its own beauty, paideia. The classic nude is the essence of Western art. In the Hellenistic period the heroic nudity trivializes towards the costumbrist and the erotic.
It reflects social standards for aesthetics and morality at the time the artwork was performed. In the Middle Ages there are hardly any nudes, practically none.
Kenneth Clark theorized about the nude. Difference between the naked and the nude. It differentiates the body between what is imagined as ideal and what is real. A picture of nude could be praised, but could also be rejected for presenting the body defenseless, imperfect and vulnerable.
In the Renaissance the attempt was made to connect the doctrine of myths with the most profound ideas of Christianity and an allegorical reading system was developed which could justify the use of any mythical pagan motif. The female body is more associated with carnality, compared to the masculine that expresses the ideal vision.
In the seventeenth century there began to be some nudes more focused on anatomical study, and as time goes on the censorship ceases to have effect and the genitals show up in all their splendor. There are many controversial pictures.


Diptych of Melun by Jean Fouquet | The Garden of Love by Karel van Mander 


Young girl by François Boucher | The pearl and the wave by Paul Baudry



Its etymology comes from retraho (to look back, from where it comes ritratto and retrato) and protraho (reproduce, from where old portraire, portrait, porträt, and portret).There are two tendencies: realistic (represent reality) and idealistic (idealization, correcting the imperfections).
It offers a more dramatic view of what is existence itself: the revelation of the character. It visually represents the image of a person, his face, full body or in bust. With the portrait you can know your physical appearance and your mood. Description of the character.
Types of portrait according to the plane, same as in the cinema: whole plane, American plane, medium plane, bust or short medium plane, close-up, very close-up and plane detail.
In the Renaissance the portrait was democratized, that is, more people could have portraits, and also increased in size when incorporated into domestic furniture. Social, symbolic and documentary dimension. Socially the portrait is destined to represent important individuals of his time: the nobility, the militia, the religion, the commerce.
The self-portrait uncovers the person's deepest intimacy, along with his traumas, shortcomings and inner poverty. Psychological perspective. Representation of personality.
In Ancient Egypt the portrait is related to funeral beliefs. Image of the deceased conserved in the serdab. Ideal image, free of temporal connotations. Representation of the Pharaoh as demigods. Portrait with ritual intention. The exception is Amenophis IV, with his portraits with deformities, but also with some idealization. The bust of Nefertiti is very realistic.
In Ancient Greece, in the archaic period the portraits were idealized, of athletes. Types were represented. Frontality. In the classic period there are already some portraits, like the one of Pericles, Herodoto or Socrates. Portraits of political and philosophers. Collective interest for having the representation of the seven sages, historians, tragic and poetesses. In the Hellenistic period triumphs the portrait with psychological features, the psyché. Born in Athens. Of particular note are the portraits of Alexander the Great by Lysippus, although they are somewhat idealized.
In Ancient Rome the influence of Greece is evident, but they are realistic portraits. Copy art, as Roman collectors wanted to evoke the classic. Artists specialize in copies. Also featured are the wax mortuary masks. For the Romans the naked was immoral and a sign of lasciviousness, although at the same time it was a symbol of the immortal values ​​of the gods. The figure who opposed the naked was the gown, which constituted the canonical and acceptable form of portraiture. With the toga represent the social values ​​of the individual. Marked naturalism. Respect for the age and appearance of the individual, which is represented as it is. Highlights include the mummy portraits of El Fayum, which unite the tradition of Greek painting, Roman royal art and Egyptian religion. There are also painted portraits in Pompeii. The portrait of the empire begins with Augustus, with portraits very idealized. The successive emperors will be represented with quite realism and they are testimony of the fashions of the time. There are also portraits of women highlighting various hairstyles related to fashion. There are several types of modalities of imperial portrait: toged, veiled or pontifex Maximus, equestrian, thoracato, and apotheosis. It emphasizes the fashion of the beard that begins with Hadrian, related to the Greek philosophers.
In the time of the Tetrarchy a new aesthetic expressionist and abstract occurs. Away from the classical canons, as it now goes in search of spirituality. Very large eyes. Mystical authoritarianism. Christianity comes and the emperors are equated with Christ.
In the Middle Ages, the portrait was almost confined to the mode of prayer. It loses its imperial dignity, but on the other hand, it will reach a new rank, becoming the seat of the Popes, who will collect the legacy of the ancient emperors and even, like them, will place their own representations in the sacred places next to the figures Sacred Priestly portrait. The apses of the basilicas will have saints and popes. Distinction between living and dead through nimbus. If it is circular is a sacred character, and if it is quadrangular or not appears is a living character.
The Byzantines are heirs of the Roman and Greek tradition. They emphasize the icons, especially the one of Mandylion, that popularized the image of Christ. Portraits of emperors and great dignitaries.
In the High Middle Ages there is no concept of personal portraiture. The earliest portraits of the Middle Ages appear on funerary stones and as part of illuminated manuscripts. The Carolingian monarchs were made to differentiate through the expression but above all the divine origin of power is emphasized. In the Late Middle Ages the altarpiece was born. There are only true portraits in funerary sculpture. In the funerary portrait what matters most is the sense of genealogy and belonging to a lineage, that is why in the funeral chapels the name and surname of the lineage appear.
In the Renaissance there is a profile portrait of Florentine origin, which searches for its roots in antiquity and is inspired by portraits that appear in coins and medals. Importance of hairstyle and realism in the face. Flemish painting offers a corporeal portrait that looks at the viewer and dialogues with him, individualises the human being. They appear the people who order the works included in the religious paintings.
The collections of portraits with the Duke of Berry become fashionable. His collection had a cabinet of portraits among which were several French monarchs.
In the sixteenth century the artist was released and the self-portrait was born as an independent genre. Highlights include the self-portraits of Dürer. Ideal beauty and attracting feelings. With the Counter-Reformation religious painting loses priority, and portraits, landscapes and gender painting gain. Portraits that try to show the social position of the models it represents. Refined details. In the Italian area the natural portrait is emphasized, generally to three quarters or middle plane. They also emphasize the portraits of the popes and the kings, in a warlike attitude many times. The equestrian portrait is recovered, having as reference the one of Marcus Aurelius. Drama of war, twilight light, horror of war and restoration of peace. Portraits as allegories of power. As something exceptional, El Greco stands out for his unique style, with sobriety, frontal portraits and his characteristic coloring and priceless clothing.
In the late Renaissance or mannerism there will be an interest in ugliness, disgusting and negative. Grotesque vision of reality, with simian-like characters associated with the idea of ​​evil. Arcimboldo's fruit portraits are also highlighted, in a way related to alchemy, since it shows the transmutation of matter in a similar process. They are rather surrealistic portraits.
In the Baroque the portrait is much more realistic. In painting like the naturalism, the eagerness for movement and the taste for the efectista and bombastic. • The painter is concerned with the study of expression, represents full laughter, smile, shout, fear and pain. There are wedding portraits, noble portraits... They show the pomposity of kings and popes.
From Neoclassicism onwards the portraits are more intimate and naturalistic. The interiors of private homes are seen. Abandon the importance of belonging to a estate. Interest in the individual. Portraits of the bourgeoisie, with a sweetness and a pictorial detailing sometimes cold and academic as well as attractive. It becomes a very popular genre. The photograph does not suppose the death of the genre, rather the search for new forms of representation. In the self-portrait the artists inquire about their psychology, about the disease.
In the twentieth century and the avant-garde the concept of similarity is broken. It loses the illusion for reality to give way to subjectivism. The portrait dissolves with abstract and non-figurative art. Not interested in group or group portrait. It is more usual the portrait of friendship between artists. It does not interest beauty or idealization, as a transcription of virtue but the capture of the nihilistic soul, and interests the ugly, the grotesque.


Augustus of Prima Porta | Giuliano de Médici by Sandro Botticelli | Caballero de la Mano en el Pecho by El Greco


Rubens and his wife Isabella Brant by Peter Paul Rubens | Self portrait by Salvator Rosa


The Landscape or Country represents scenes of nature or urban landscapes. It emphasizes above all in Dutch and Japanese painting. In the hierarchy of genera occupied a very low place. The sky is called celaje.
Three types. Cosmic or sublime landscape, where nature is presented wildly, and also the natural landscape where there are atmospheric phenomena such as storms. The realistic landscape is man-dominated nature, picturesque landscape, topographic landscape, which represents a precise and identifiable place. Landscape colonized by man, typical of the Italians, where cultivated fields, houses, roads, canals appear... In the classic landscape the nature is ideal, with elements of Roman architecture, academic model.
According to the theme there are several concepts. Marina (oceans, seas or beaches), river landscapes, stellar or cloudy landscapes (with clouds and storms), lunar landscapes (where the moon is seen), urban landscapes, hardscape, Business or industrial complexes), aerial or ethereal landscape (you see the terrestrial surface seen from above, especially from aircraft or spaceships), dream landscape (surreal or abstract landscapes).
            The genre was born in Flanders and Holland. Its artists make the landscape an independent genre. They relegate the subject to the background, making it an excuse to make the landscape. But it is an idealized landscape. The main clientele of this market was the mercantile bourgeoisie, cultivated but without humanist culture to enjoy the painting of history. The problem was that nature itself and, therefore, its artistic vision produced apprehension and suspicion if it was not possible to stamp a certain humanizing stamp. Only when the human horizon widened to a dimension not only planetary, but cosmic, it was understood that it was essential to clear our eyes of what dwarfed our vision: our fears and the corresponding ballast of prejudice.
The landscape is linked to the history of cultures. In antiquity the world was conceived as heaven and earth, with harmony derived from order. In the Middle Ages nature is one more element of God's creation, representing Him. With the scientific achievements the conception is changing. In Renaissance nature is the object of contemplation for aesthetic pleasure, and in the baroque there is a feeling of nature as infinity, which is enhanced in romanticism with sublime landscapes.
China. Pure landscapes, tiny men.
Japan. Ornamental landscape on screens and parchment scrolls.
Egypt. Schematic landscapes framing hunting scenes or ritual ceremonies.
Greece. It appears in the Hellenistic period. Considered as an auxiliary and decorative element, as what we call still lifes. Special mention of a mosaic of Sosos of Pergamum which represents a soil full of food remains, known as oikos asórakos (soil without sweeping), an exercise of wit and illusionism. In the decoration of vessels is presented in an exceptional way.
            Rome. Walls decorated with very naturalistic landscape paintings. Decor. Procedures such as encaustic, temper and fresco. Sets of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Four styles. Inlaid style, architectural style, ornamental style, architectural illusionism style.
Middle Ages. The landscape is conceived as a divine work of God. It appears in religious works of the thirteenth century. Archetypal representations, wavy lines for water, for example. Giotto was the first to replace the golden background of sacred images with real scenes. Gothic-Flemish painting is characterized by its realism in details, with oil painting. Landscape of great realism, both natural and urban.
Renaissance. The landscape reaches autonomy in the sixteenth century, thanks to the realism granted by Flemish and German art. They emphasize the watercolors of Durero. In Italy predominates the landscape of classic and idealized inspiration. In Venice the landscape is the background of the works, although it is not the main thing. They focus more on realism, especially on water and atmospheric phenomena, as well as buildings. In Flanders, the first representation of the independent landscape was that of Joachim Patinir, with Charon crossing the Styx, where the scene is an excuse to represent the landscape. In the next generation the human figure is reduced to insignificance, as in the Hunters in the snow of Brueghel the Elder. Also highlights landscapes of battles, like the Battle of Alexander in Issos of Altdorfer. In Spain the landscape is not abundant, it is limited to representations of topographic or botanical interest, but as an exception stands the Vista de Toledo by El Greco.
            Baroque. At the beginning of the century, in the time of the tenebrismo, the landscape was still little cultivated. Only the German Adam Elsheimer stands out for treating the histories, generally sacred, like authentic landscapes. Rubens also painted pictures with landscapes. It is at this time when landscape painting is definitively established as a genre in Europe, driven by the development of collecting, Protestant reform and the rise of the bourgeoisie, which is less interested in history, religious and mythological painting and more Interested in landscape painting, still life and genre painting. Each painter specializes in a theme, such as landscape, animals, harbors, cityscape ... They emphasize the epic landscapes of Claude Lorrain, with a religious or mythological base.
In the eighteenth century Italian artists such as Canaletto cultivated this genre, with the subgenre of the Vedute, urban perspectives that the travelers of the Grand Tour saw in their travels to Italy and then carried away for remembrance. Paintings of Venice canals.
In the nineteenth century is the height of the sublime landscape. In romanticism the landscape becomes an actor or producer of emotions and subjective experiences. The picturesque and the sublime. They emphasize John Constable and William Turner, with technique based on the decomposition of the color in small strokes, emphasizing its studies of atmospheric phenomena, especially clouds. Also highlights the sublime landscapes of Friedrich. In realism the landscapes are represented in a realistic way, emphasizing Camille Corot. He observes the landscape meticulously, focusing on light and color, with fidelity and contrasts. Also highlights Rousseau. The Impressionists sought their motives in the real nature that surrounded them, without idealizing it, with a vision based on impression and color. They work with spots of color, great strokes. They emphasize Monet, Pissarro, Sisley and also Van Gogh. In North America stands out the Hudson River School, with sublime landscapes that capture the epic reach of landscapes with romantic aura, on a terrible nature. In Italy they emphasize the macchiaioli, painters of juxtaposed colored spots.
In contemporary art the genres dissolve but within the isms of the vanguard one can find landscape painting. Cezanne stands out, but all the artists have some landscape, like Klimt. There are also expressionist landscapes that convey feelings and chromatic sensations, and abstract landscapes. Finally mention hyperrealism, photography, and land art.

Among the Sierra Nevada, California by Albert Bierstadt


Ranchos del Barranco by José Cuneo | Solitary Cedar by Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry

Pine Trees by Hasegawa Tohaku

Saturn as seen from Titan by Chesley Bonestell


Gender painting is where everyday scenes are depicted indoors or outdoors. Precedent of realism and romantic costumbrismo. They can be realistic, imaginary or embellished by the artist. Also called costumbrista painting. History painting was considered the top genre. The representation of the low and modest classes as peasants without argumentative or moralizing pretense was not important for "intellectual" artists.
In ancient Greece there is an appraisal of tragedy in the face of comedy (noble action of gods and heroes in the face of everyday life of vulgar characters). In the Middle Ages: the genre scene was confined to the margins and the historied letters of the prayer books as the Book of Hours. In the Trecento they relate to a religious moral theme. Flemish primitives such as Van Eyck paint rather realistic genre scenes. Objects help us understand the scene. Topics of the tavern, with drunkenness and prostitutes, and the market, with food and still lifes. In century XVI in France also emphasize the paintings of baths. From the seventeenth century, this genre began to be valued more. With the rise of Protestantism, in the northern countries gender painting is more represented, highlighting Vermeer. Also Caravaggio will make painting of genre, although included in the religious thing, putting the quotidian and the divine to the same level. In Spain stand scenes costumbristas with still lifes, highlighting the first works of Velázquez or Murillo. The purpose is not clear. In the baroque are seemingly daily scenes that often hide allegorical themes. It could also be simply a genre anecdote for entertainment of the bourgeois public.
In the eighteenth century there is satirical or moralizing intention. It was given more in Nordic countries and are generally small format. Success in the bourgeois classes. Great interest in this century for everyday life. Idealized paintings by Watteau and Fragonard. Watteau created the genre of the gallant celebrations in which the artificial daily life of the court nobility was reflected. Jean-Baptiste Greuze represented the life of the humble classes in a sentimentalist style close to Rousseau, in a series of works that had the pre-revolutionary bourgeoisie public, arriving at the monotony. In England Hogarth stands out with his representations of comic history painting, works with social criticism and satirical moral lessons. Goya also made genre painting to do a dark study on the human condition. The nativity scenes represent a panorama of the society and its customs, emphasizing those of Salzillo.
In the nineteenth century is when this genre takes more authority. It is said that the scenes of the Bible could be genre scenes if the subject is ignored. Relationship with comic literature. It highlights the realism of Courbet, who made large-scale genre paintings, something reserved for history painting. The painting of history goes from the representation of important events to the representation of genre scenes in historical times, both in the private moments of the great figures and in the daily life of ordinary people. Sorolla in Spain also paints gender scenes. Also highlights Fortuny with its preciosity.
In the twentieth century, the term genre painting has become mainly related to painting of an especially sentimental or anecdotal nature, painted in a traditionally realistic technique.


 Hipp Hipp Hurrah! by Peder Severin Krøyer | The balance by Johannes Vermeer

The Barge Haulers of the Volga by Ilya Repin


Paul Helleu drawing with his wife by John Singer Sargent | Crime at the tabern by Obdulio Miralles Serrano


The painting of history, or historical painting, is a pictorial genre inspired by scenes from events in Christian history, ancient history (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman ...), mythology or historical events Recent Equally, this genre includes allegory and those pictures that take their narration not from history but from literature. It is called "historical" not because it represents only historical events but because it tells a story. It is characterized, as far as its content, to be a narrative painting: the scene represented tells a story. It thus expresses an interpretation of life or conveys a moral or intellectual message. They are usually large format paintings. Concentration of few main characters in the midst of other minor characters in crowd, all framed in the architectural structures. The colors are usually sober, importance to the care of accessories and details like clothes and objects related to the theme. It can represent classical and contemporary history, mythology or religion. Also past events, literary or allegorical.
Traditionally, it was considered the most important genre. The idea comes from classic Greece, where tragedy was valued more than comedy. Aristotle gives more importance to poetic fiction (what could happen, what is necessary) than to what has really happened (historian). During the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, this genre was the most important for painters, in which they had to strive to excel and with which it was recognized through prizes, to obtain the favor of the general public and even admission to the academies Of paint. This type of picture required the artist to have a great mastery of other genres such as portraiture or landscape, and he must have a certain culture, with particular knowledge of literature and history. This situation changed already at the end of century XVIII and throughout the XIX, to benefit of other sorts like the portrait, the scenes of sort and the landscape.
It is the genre star of the Renaissance and the Baroque and during the Neoclassicism, with the academic painting or academicism, the painting of history had a very outstanding treatment. Highlights Jacques Louis David. In romanticism, Delacroix and Gericault also stand out. In the nineteenth century the painting of history is mixed with genre painting, as in the Burial of Ornans de Courbet, where a minor event was treated as a painting of history through the huge format and a crowd in which a few Main characters, as well as by chromatism.
History painting often fell into historicism, with the copy of ancient styles and authors. At the turn of the century, it evolved into a style called pompier and gave rise, as a reaction, to the birth of modernism. As history painting was the favorite of the academy, it was the objective against which the avant-garde movements of contemporary painting fought: the Impressionists rejected all historical themes. In the twentieth century, in the beginning, the paintings of the official national academies coexist with the painters who left the workshops to paint in the available natural light and focus only on humble subjects and pure sensation. Everyday themes and landscapes become preferred, and relegated history painting to the background. The avant-garde will only revisit the genre sporadically, although occasionally in a brilliant way, as Picasso did in Guernica.


 The Raft of the Medusa by Gericault | Åsgårdsreien by Peter Nicolai Arbo


Ossian rising the spirits by Gérard | Perseus and Andromeda by Charles Antoine Coypel

Krishna and Rādhā

Still Life

The still life represents inanimate objects. Palomino distinguishes between floral paintings and still life paintings (the edible). The precedents originate in ancient Rome. They are called Xenia, guest, offerings that made the host to the guest. The lobby is decorated with food representations.
Plinius talks about the grapes of Zeuxis and the competition with Parrasio. Still life of hospitality. Still life in Pompeii, very naturalistic. Still life in mosaic. Symbols against the evil eye, symbols of the genitals to attract fertility. Asarotos Oikos, mosaic of the Hellenistic period, realism, house not swept, begins Sosos of Pérgamo. Shows the status of the family because it shows expensive foods. Introduce live animals that seem to eat that food without sweeping.
In the Middle Ages there are symbolic things, but they are elements within religious pictures. Simulated architectural spaces with some objects (Scrovegni Chapel). Still life with eucharistic objects. Art of the inlay, illusionism of furniture. Custodian objects of various knowledges, such as music, geography ...
Renaissance. Search of the representation of reality as it is but still with Christian symbolism, as flowers related to Christ and the Virgin. In Florence there are other types of representations that are getting closer to that still life. We see instruments of studies, books, clocks, notes ... At the end of the fifteenth century begins a search to capture nature as it is, even that nature that is alive. At this moment the still life is beginning to develop, since the painters already have that level of studies with which to elaborate the works. Some painters begin to paint prototypes of what would be still life in the future.
Baroque. The still life as such was born in the early seventeenth century in Rome. They begin to sell these types of paintings, still life simply, without being included in other scenes. Caravaggio is the first to start selling these works to the bourgeoisie, who are starting to look for new works. The first still life, and the only one that Caravaggio paints is his Basket with Fruits, which was so successful that the other painters began copying. It is a wicker basket with a selection of fruits of the summer. Cardinal Federico Borromeo acquires it.
There are several types of still life, including still life with food, hospitality with sweets, cooking with dead animals and cooking utensils, vase and garlands, and finally vanitas, which is a metaphor for how fast That passes the life and the memory of the death.


Juan Sánchez Cotán | Cristoforo Munari


Clara Peeters | Margarita Caffi

Edwaert Collier

The Parturient - Relation between art, science and history

The Parturient

When on a trip to Madrid where I go to see art, the interest to see the Prado or other art museums that we can call classic is in the background is for some reason. The exhibition Arte y carne, inaugurated months ago, was a goal to be achieved. I had to attend this exhibition, and if possible, as it finally was, to be able to acquire its publication. The trip to Madrid proposed by the subject of Painting of the Spanish Golden Age was the opportunity that I finally had to be able to see this exhibition. It was the main reason I went on the trip. Just knowing this, it is already evident why I have selected this artwork.
The fact that this artwork, and the exhibition itself, draws so much attention to me, is due to my interest in what I once called the Scientific Art. Scientific art is the set of artworks where science and technology is necessary for its execution, and I do not refer to the science of perspective or technology of materials, to put examples, but to properly scientific matters, as it can be physics, chemistry, astronomy, paleontology, robotics, or in this case, biology. It is impossible to perform this kind of artworks without a knowledge of the various scientific subjects, and this artwork is no exception.
It is a sculpture in wax that would not have been possible without a sculptor, but also without the help of someone who knew of anatomy, in this case, a dissector, named Ignacio Lacaba. Thus, under the direction of this dissector, the sculptors Juan Cháez and Luigi Franceschi made this artwork, which depicts a dead woman with an open abdomen, where it can be seen that the fetus has already reached nine months. These types of artworks were done with didactic function, and are very realistic. Apart from the anatomical details of the interior of the body, there are also details such as hair.
Based on these data I consider that this artwork must be confronted from a scientific perspective. The artwork shows the human anatomy with great realism, and for this it is necessary the previous knowledge of this matter. The fetus is observed with the umbilical cord, and also the intestines of the dead woman are seen.
The artwork fulfills its didactic function, but says more than that. Taking into account the period, late eighteenth century, at this time medical knowledge was not very advanced, and the fact that this was created shows a great interest in this field. The modeling was based on a real corpse, which although it is unknown who the model is, it is thought to be a young woman who died in an accident. Both sculptors, or modelers, worked with the body, while the dissector directed the steps.
If we consider that the woman who is represented comes from a real corpse, I want to mention that for some reason, seeing the face of the woman reminded me of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Bernini. It really has nothing to do with space, time or subject, but the position reminded me of that sculpture. Although the Parturient is dead, the position is quite similar to my opinion.

For me the union between art and science is the best that can offer the human being in its creative side. Science is necessary for life, and I consider this type of art a way of getting this knowledge in a way that is in a way less abstract as can be mathematics. With this artwork, and the rest, we also see something that if we see in reality it would produce fear or disgust: a corpse. When seeing these artworks we see corpses, but they are false, they are made of wax. If these corpses were real we would have another sensation. In fact, there is such an exhibition, called Bodies: The Exhibition, which are dissected human bodies, obviously from donors. I have never visited it but I would like to, and I am quite sure that the feeling will be different from those of these wax sculptures.
But even so, I think it could not be compared at one point either. To see the Parturient in that position, exactly like the artwork of wax, being a real corpse, would be more shocking. It is precisely because of this fear of seeing a corpse, fear of death. And there are some people who feel disgusted to see how we are inside. But it is what we are, whether we like it or not, and these sculptures are proof of it, they remind us of how we are. We are mortal, and someday we will be less than what is shown in these sculptures.