WTF Art History

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  1. The Borgias: Part II

    Showtime’s The Borgias continues to impress me with each episode.  I am particularly drawn to the set design, which often teases art lovers by including famous paintings in imaginative settings.  Today I’ve brought together some of my favorite screen shots with the actual art works depicted.  Enjoy!

    [Thanks to my dear friend, Christine, for watching the show with me!]

    Thus far in the season we have seen a few portraits being painted.  Below on the far left is a portrait of la bella Giulia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek) painted by Pinturicchio but the portrait refers to one painted years later by Raphael.  Compare below for the similarities.  The second portrait from the left is of Juan Borgia (David Oakes) on horseback.  In the series, Juan disdainfully says that Leonardo da Vinci never finishes paintings and so Pinturicchio must show him how to paint true highlights.  The writers had to work Leonardo in somehow…

    The Borgias screen shot

    Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn, 1505-1506, oil on canvas.  Galleria Borghese, Rome Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn, 1505-1506, oil on canvas.  Galleria Borghese, Rome

    Some of the most luxurious scenes were devoted to the entertainment of Djem/Cem (Eyles Gabel), brother to the Sultan in Constantinople.  In the fresco below, many scholars speculate that the turbaned figure next to Saint Catherine may be a portrait of Djem (and Catherine herself may be a portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, played by Holliday Grainger).

    Prince Djem / Prince Cem, The Borgias, Showtime  Pinturicchio, The Dispute of Saint Catherine (detail), 1492-1494, fresco.  Borgia Apartments, VaticanDjem/Cem, brother to the Sultan in Constantinople (Bayezid I); Pinturicchio, The Dispute of Saint Catherine (detail), 1492-1494, fresco.  Borgia Apartments, Vatican

    The Borgias screen shot

    My first post on the Borgias discussed the paintings in the room above in detail.  Here again we see Pope Alexander in his bedroom followed by his son, Cesare Borgia (François Arnaud).

    Paolo Uccello’s famous painting, The Battle of San Romano, made its appearance when Cardinal della Rovere (Colm Feore) went to Florence to ask the “non-action” of the Medici in the imminent French invasion.

    The Borgias screen shot

    Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano, c. 1438-1440, tempera on panel.  National Gallery, London Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano, c. 1438-1440, tempera on panel.  National Gallery, London

    Below, Della Rovere visits the fiery apocalyptic preacher Girolamo Savonarola in the friar’s cell at San Marco, Florence.  [BTW, excellent job on the casting of Savonarola, played by Steven Berkoff.]

    The Borgias screen shot

    The Borgias screen shot

    Fra Angelico, Last Judgment, 1431-1435, tempera on wood.  Museo di San Marco, Florence Fra Angelico, Last Judgment, 1431-1435, tempera on wood.  Museo di San Marco, Florence

    Fra Angelico’s Last Judgment actually includes an incredible representation of Hell, with some special WTF moments, like a fire-breathing Hellmouth and a very hungry demon.  Enjoy them below.

    Fra Angelico, Last Judgment (detail of Hell), 1431-1435, tempera on wood.  Museo di San Marco, FlorenceFra Angelico, Last Judgment (detail of Hell), 1431-1435, tempera on wood.  Museo di San Marco, Florence

    Fra Angelico, Last Judgment (detail of Hell), 1431-1435, tempera on wood.  Museo di San Marco, FlorenceFra Angelico, Last Judgment (detail of Hell), 1431-1435, tempera on wood.  Museo di San Marco, Florence

    Here’s a great screen shot with Savonarola (left) prophesying to Della Rovere (right), with a Fra Angelico crucifixion in the background.

    The Borgias and Fra Angelico Fra Angelico, Crucifixion with Saint Dominic, c. 1427, fresco.  Museo di San Marco, Florence

    In another scene, an Amerindian is brought before Pope Alexander in the Sistine Chapel.  However, the view behind the man, through the doorway, reveals a Pinturicchio fresco from the Piccolomini Library in Siena Cathedral!  But I give the designers props for going to such lengths to refer to works of art that were commissioned during the historical scope covered by The Borgias.

    The Borgias screen shot  Pinturicchio, Scenes from the Life of Pope Pius II: Eneas Silvio Piccolomini Leaves for Basel in the Bishops Retinue, 1502-1508, fresco.  Piccolomini Library, SienaPinturicchio, Scenes from the Life of Pope Pius II: Eneas Silvio Piccolomini Leaves for Basel in the Bishop’s Retinue, 1502-1508, fresco.  Piccolomini Library, Siena

    Here’s a view of the library today, the fresco in question being in the right background.

    Finally, we end back in the Pope’s bedroom but from another angle.  This time, Juan Borgia (David Oakes) has just been chastised by his father.  The painting behind Juan and to the left is by Pinturicchio and did in fact decorate one of the Borgia apartments in the Vatican.

    Pinturicchio, Saint Anthony Abbot and Saint Paul the Hermit, fresco, 1492-1494.  Borgia Apartments, Vatican

     
     
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