Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Art and Love in the Italian Renaissance

In the world we live today, we often ignore what is surrounding us, even if it’s free of charge. I had the opportunity to visit the exhibition Art and Love in the Italian Renaissance, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though the Renaissance occurred hundreds of years ago, the values of marriage and family were preserved through the paintings and jewelries at the exhibition. Though I had limited knowledge of the culture during that time period, the exhibition guided me to learn the culture not from words but with my own eyes.

From the Portrait of a Woman and a Man at a Casement, painted by Fra Filippo Lippi, I noticed a common trend among all the paintings. They were not only about the artificial life of the upper class; instead the Italian Renaissance focused on the private life as well the customs of marriage. The portrait of a couple was one of the earliest surviving double portraits, and it emphasized the details of the  clothing of the newlyweds as well as the element of the unknown.  The woman was covered in gold accessories, with the word loyalty placed on her flowing drapery.  Contrasted to the clear usage of the clothing to symbolize the importance of marriage, the portrait left many questions that continued to puzzle me. While the painter placed the woman in the middle of the portrait, he intentionally placed the man in the left corner, with his head sticking out of the window. Though I did not what the painter intended to achieve by placing the woman in the middle, I believed that it represented the fidelity of the wife to the husband. With the wife occupying more space than the husband, I believed that the painter was trying to show that the husband, on the contrary, was unfaithful to the wife. While the wife looked at the husband, he looked away at something else.

With keen observation, I found the paintings at the exhibition to be engaging. For most of my time at the exhibition, I focused on a few paintings and tried to interpret the real essence behind them. I think what makes history special is that we can always have a different interpretation on of it.