14th C Iconography Pisano Martini Duccio Giotto Lorenzetti cc

Gothic and Late Gothic Paintings
The transition from the Byzantine or "Greek Manner" to the Late Gothic and Renaissance Styles.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Virgin and Child in Majesty (Maestà)
main panel from the Maestà Altarpiece, from Siena Cathedral
1308-11 Tempera and gold on wood, 7'x13'  (214 x 412 cm) 
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Virgin and Child in Majesty (Maestà)
Stories of the Passion (Maestà, reverse of the top panel called "verso")
1308-11Tempera on wood, 212 x 425 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

  • Links to more about this altar

  • Form:  Before you read this section, read in Stokstad the section called, Technique, Cennini on Panel Painting. Form:  The overall composition of this work is symmetrical.  The largest figures of Mary and Jesus are at the center of the composition and they are flanked by two rows of angels and Saints overlapped as if they are standing on bleachers.  In order to create space, Duccio uses the same convention of vertical perspective we saw in Pisano's pulpit.  The figures that are highest up in the picture plane are furthest back.
    This painting was rendered with tempera paint and gold leaf.  Tempera is a medium which is made from egg (sometimes just the yolk sometimes the whites) glue and ground up minerals that serve as pigment or colorant.  The egg actually glues or binds the pigments to the surface.  The paint is applied in small distinct brush strokes that show the brushwork when looked at closely. 
    The background is gold leaf on a wooden panel that has been painted with a a combination of glue and marble dust or chalk referred to as gesso.  The gold leaf is then incised and punctured with designs (Stokstad calls this punchwork.)  Gold leaf has also been added to the drapery as a means to highlight the folds. 
    The rendering of color and value in this painting is fairly limited.  There is no distinct source of light and very little tonal variation on the faces or drapery of the individual figures and there are no real differences of character or appearance from one face to the next.
    Duccio's rendition of the Virgin is very similar to the one from Auvergne and Cimabue's.  This painting, like the sculpture, is both naturalistic and stylized.  Again the rendering of the face and hands was an attempt by the sculptor to represent convincing human forms however, the faces show no real expression and the bodies are completely covered with an almost Byzantine style of drapery that almost completely conceals both figures' bodies.  The child Jesus is not rendered as a child buy rather a stiff looking miniature adult.  The poses of both figures are stiff and fairly wooden but in the case of Mary, this is appropriate if you look at her role in  terms of the work's iconography.
    Iconography:  As in the French Gothic sculpture Mary is depicted as the "Throne of Wisdom."   The arrangement of the composition places Mary at the center of the image and in the most important location.  So the use of symmetry and the placement of figures can indicate their status.  Notice that Mary is framed and as such "backed up" by the angels.  The less important figures of the prophets are literally beneath her and Jesus. Color and the gold leaf used also serve as iconographic reminders of Mary and Jesus' status.  Gold leaf and red and blue pigments were made from precious stones and materials and are symbols of there status.
    Context: According to the Brittanica,
    Maestà (Italian: "Majesty"), double-sided altarpieces executed for the cathedral of Siena by the Italian painter Duccio. The first version (1302), originally in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, is now lost. The second version (Oct. 9, 1308-June 9, 1311), painted for the cathedral of Siena and one of the largest altarpieces of its time, consisted of a wide frontal panel with the Virgin and Child adored by the patrons of Siena and surrounded by saints and angels. Beneath was a predella with seven scenes from the childhood of Christ; above were pinnacles with scenes from the life of the Virgin; and on the back were scenes from the life of Christ. The main panel and the bulk of the narrative scenes are now in the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana, Piazza del Duomo, Siena, but isolated panels from the altarpiece have found their way to the National Gallery, London; the Frick Collection, New York City; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    The work in which the genius of Duccio unfolds in all its brilliant fullness and the one to which the painter owes his greatest fame, however, is the "Maestà," the altarpiece for the main altar of the cathedral of Siena. He was commissioned to do this work on Oct. 9, 1308, for a payment of 3,000 gold florins, the highest figure paid to an artist up to that time. On June 9, 1311, the whole populace of Siena, headed by the clergy and civil administration of the city, gathered at the artist's workshop to receive the finished masterpiece. They carried it in solemn procession to the accompaniment of drums and trumpets to the cathedral. For three days alms were distributed to the poor, and great feasts were held. Never before had the birth of a work of art been greeted with such public jubilation and never before had there been such immediate awareness that a work was truly a masterpiece and not just a reflection of the religious fervor of the people. Duccio himself was aware of the work's significance; he signed the throne of the Virgin with an invocation that was devout yet proud for the time: "Holy Mother of God, grant peace to Siena, and life to Duccio because he has painted you thus." The "Maestà" is in the form of a large horizontal rectangle, surmounted by pinnacles, and with a narrow horizontal panel, or predella, as its base. It is painted on both sides. The entire central rectangle of the front side is a single scene showing the Madonna and Child enthroned in the middle of a heavenly court of saints and angels with the four patron saints of Siena kneeling at their feet. The back is subdivided into 26 compartments that illustrate the Passion of Christ. The front and back of the predella contain scenes of the infancy and the ministry of Jesus, and the pinnacles, crowning the entire work, represent events after the Resurrection. In all, there are 59 narrative scenes.
    The rigorous symmetry with which the groups of adoring figures at the sides of the Virgin are arranged in the imposing scene of the central panel is inspired by compositions of the Byzantine tradition and gives evidence of Duccio's keen architectural sensibility by its power to draw attention to the "Maestà" as the true focal point of the cathedral's spatial and structural organization. Like elements of a living architecture, the 30 figures, through the slightest of gestures and turnings of the head, are intimately related, their positions repeated to give a feeling of intense lyrical contemplation. The consonance of feeling that arises from this contemplation gives the facial features of each a distinct, spiritual beauty, reminiscent, especially the faces of the angels, of the more idealistic creations of Hellenistic art. The Madonna, slightly larger than the other figures, seated on a magnificent and massive throne of polychrome marbles, inclines her head gently as if trying to hear the prayer of the faithful. Duccio thus succeeds in reconciling perfectly the Byzantine ideal of power and dignity with the underlying tenderness and mysticism of the Sienese spirit. The scenes in the predella, pinnacles, and back are filled with the Byzantine iconographic schemes from which Duccio finds it difficult to detach himself, and they are developed with a deeper concern for their narrative significance. The scenes are not, however, merely descriptions or chronicles. They include many touches from daily life, which provide a lyrical synthesis that harmonizes the character and gestures of the figures with their landscape and architectural surroundings.
    Briitanica Encyclopedia
    At this time the altarpiece for the high altar was finished and the picture which was called the "Madonna with the large eyes" or Our Lady of Grace, that now hangs over the altar of St. Boniface, was taken down. Now this Our Lady was she who had hearkened to the people of Siena when the Florentines were routed at Monte Aperto, and her place was changed because the new one was made, which is far more beautiful and devout and larger, and is painted on the back with the stories of the Old and New Testaments. And on the day that it was carried to the Duomo the shops were shut, and the bishop conducted a great and devout company of priests and friars in solemn procession, accompanied by the nine signiors, and all the officers of the commune, and all the people, and one after another the worthiest with lighted candles in their hands took places near the picture, and behind came the women and children with great devotion. And they accompanied the said picture up to the Duomo, making the procession around the Campo, as is the custom, all the bells ringing joyously, out of reverence for so noble a picture as this. And this picture Duccio di Niccolò the painter made, and it was made in the house of the Muciatti outside the gate a Stalloreggi . And all that day persons, praying God and His Mother, who is our advocate, to defend us by their infinite mercy from every adversity and all evil, and keep us from the hands of traitors and of the enemies of Siena. This account reminds us how we should remember the integral role of a major work like this in the civic life of the city. Notice also how the adoration devoted to this new image is comparable to that shown the relics of a patron saint of a community. It is important to remember that the Virgin was the patron saint of Siena, and as such she was the center of the civic and religious life of the city. Kneeling beside the throne of the Virgin are the other patron saints of Siena: Ansanus, Sabinus, Crescentius, and Victor. The order of the altarpiece and the privileged position given to the Sienese saints, especially the Virgin, would have been clearly understood to reflect the ideal order of the city of Siena which would stand before it in the Duomo. The civic implications are further brought out by the original inscription: HOLY MOTHER OF GOD BESTOW PEACE ON SIENA AND SALVATION ON DUCCIO WHO PAINTED THEE.
    The reference in the account above to the Madonna with the Large Eyes , or in Italian --Madonna degli Occhi Grossi-- relates to a painting done about 1200:
    This work was seen to be a miracle working image. The Sienese appeals to this image of their patron saint were believed to have lead to the salvation of the city from the Florentines in the Battle of Montaperti in 1260. Why do you think the Sienese would have wanted to have replaced such a revered image with the Duccio altarpiece?
    Quoted directly from:

    Duccio di Buoninsegna
    The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, 1308/1311
    This panel in the National Gallery, Washington DC
    Form: In general the composition is fairly symmetrical yet it is very crowded and almost seems disorganized.  Most of the figures are placed in the foreground of the picture plane and the space created is not very illusionistic.  Space is created by placing the figures in the foreground lower in the picture plane.  In order to show the recession of space, the figures are layered and the placed in a vertical perspective.  The rendering of each of the figures is fairly naturalistic and the clothing, drapery and poses are somewhat reminiscent of Nicola Pisano's Nativity, from the Baptistery Pulpit panel and carvings such from the Parthenon's pediment.  Several of the figures, such as the main one which depicts Mary and the child (Jesus) are repeated because several scenes are simultaneously being represented.  This kind of continuous narrative is common in Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance art. 
    Iconography:  This is a nativity scene that at first appears to take place in a manger but it also contains the baptism of Christ as well.  The center of the scene Mary reclines in a pose very reminiscent of the Goddesses from Parthenon.  In the lower left foreground of the image is the baptism of Christ. The next major difference is in the style and amount of artwork. In general, the Gothic style is extremely organized, diagrammatic, and stylized. It tends to take cues from Byzantine and Romanesque art, in which the figures' relative size to another figure is based upon its' importance in the spiritual hierarchy. For example, when Jesus or an Angel is shown, they are relatively larger than all the other figures whom are depicted in a particular scene. This shows how important they are, they loom above the mere mortals, faithful and sinners alike.
    Context:  It is easy to guess that Duccio probably used, almost directly Nicola Pisano's Nativity, from the Baptistery Pulpit panel as his schema.  This was not considered plagiarism by the Gothic artists but rather a compliment and a continuation of a time honored Byzantine tradition.  Her pose and drapery almost exactly mimic Nicola Pisano's Nativity, from the Baptistery Pulpit panel but the drapery is somewhat less lifelike.  This also demonstrates the desire to continue older visual traditions and to not always have a revolutionary and innovative stylistic break with earlier traditions.

    Duccio di Buoninsegna, (Maestà)
    detail Christ Entering Jerusalem
    (Maestà, reverse of the top panel called "verso")
    1308-11Tempera on wood
    Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena
    Form:  Probably the most significant stylistic and formal element of note is the awkward construction of space.  Here, Duccio attempts to create some sort of space but is a bit confused as to how to do it.  He uses vertical perspective to create space initially.  He places the figures that are closest to the viewer the lowest in the picture plane and those further back higher up.  The use of vertical perspective seems to tip the ground plane up and places the viewer in a helicopter or tower in which they are about 15 feet off the ground looking down on the scene. He also uses overlapping and a size scale difference between foreground and background.  Some of the figures in the crowd overlap and hide the figure's behind them but this really doesn't happen with the figures of the apostles, probably because he wanted to make sure the viewer was able to see all their faces.  The figures in the background are significantly smaller but the scale of the building and the way in which the apostles who follow Jesus are bunched up is a bit illogical.  There is not enough space on the ground for all the apostles nor the crowds to be standing together. 
    Context:  In order to understand the iconography of this scene one needs to go to the Bible passage on which it is modeled first:
    Matthew Chapter 21
    When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
    saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me.
    And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, 'The master has need of them.' Then he will send them at once."
    This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
    "Say to daughter Zion, 'Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"
    The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
    They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them.
    The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.
    The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest."
    And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?"
    11     And the crowds replied, "This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee."
    Iconography:  Most of the iconography is fairly standard in this image.  Jesus is depicted in he usual manner, he has a beard and is depicted, as his apostles with a beautiful nimbus of gold around his head.  His halo is literally the light of divine knowledge which radiates from him.  The royal red and blue colors he wears and the gold leaf are all meant to emphasize his status, however, he is also humble.  He rides a common beast of burden to show his connection to all men. Links to more about this altar
    Duccio paints with tempera paint.  According to the Brittanica.
    A tempera medium is dry pigment tempered with an emulsion and thinned with water. It is a very ancient medium, having been in constant use in most world cultures, until in Europe it was gradually superseded, during the Renaissance, by oil paints. Tempera was the original mural medium in the ancient dynasties of Egypt, Babylonia, Mycenean Greece, and China and was used to decorate the early Christian catacombs. It was employed on a variety of supports, from the stone stelae (or commemorative pillars), mummy cases, and papyrus rolls of ancient Egypt to the wood panels of Byzantine icons and altarpieces and the vellum leaves of medieval illuminated manuscripts. True tempera is made by mixture with the yolk of fresh eggs, although manuscript illuminators often used egg white and some easel painters added the whole egg. Other emulsions have been used, such as casein glue with linseed oil, egg yolk with gum and linseed oil, and egg white with linseed or poppy oil. Individual painters have experimented with other recipes, but few of these have proved successful; all but William Blake's later tempera paintings on copper sheets, for instance, have darkened and decayed, and it is thought that he mixed his pigment with carpenter's glue.
    Distemper is a crude form of tempera made by mixing dry pigment into a paste with water, which is thinned with heated glue in working or by adding pigment to whiting, a mixture of fine-ground chalk and size. It is used for stage scenery and full-size preparatory cartoons for murals and tapestries. When dry, its colours have the pale, mat, powdery quality of pastels, with a similar tendency to smudge. Indeed, damaged cartoons have been retouched with pastel chalks.
    Egg tempera is the most durable form of the medium, being generally unaffected by humidity and temperature. It dries quickly to form a tough film that acts as a protective skin to the support. In handling, in its diversity of transparent and opaque effects, and in the satin sheen of its finish, it resembles the modern acrylic resin emulsion paints.
    Traditional tempera painting is a lengthy process. Its supports are smooth surfaces, such as planed wood, fine set plaster, stone, paper, vellum, canvas, and modern composition boards of compressed wood or paper. Linen is generally glued to the surface of panel supports, additional strips masking the seams between braced wood planks. Gesso, a mixture of plaster of paris (or gypsum) with size, is the traditional ground. The first layer is of gesso grosso, a mixture of coarse, unslaked plaster and size. This provides a rough, absorbent surface for ten or more thin coats of gesso sotile, a smooth mixture of size and fine plaster previously slaked in water to retard drying. This laborious preparation results, however, in an opaque, brilliant white, light-reflecting surface, similar in texture to hard, flat icing sugar.
    The design for a large tempera painting traditionally was executed in distemper on a thick paper cartoon. The outlines were pricked with a perforating wheel so that when the cartoon was laid on the surface of the support, the linear pattern was transferred by dabbing, or "pouncing," the perforations with a muslin bag of powdered charcoal. The dotted contours traced through were then fixed in paint. Medieval tempera painters of panels and manuscripts made lavish use of gold leaf on backgrounds and for symbolic features, such as haloes and beams of heavenly light. Areas of the pounced design intended for gilding were first built up into low relief with gesso duro, the harder, less absorbent gesso compound used also for elaborate frame moldings. Background fields were often textured by impressing the gesso duro, before it set, with small, carved, intaglio wood blocks to create raised, pimpled, and quilted repeat patterns that glittered when gilded. Leaves of finely beaten gold were pressed onto a tacky mordant (adhesive compound) or over wet bole (reddish-brown earth pigment) that gave greater warmth and depth when the gilded areas were burnished.
    Colours were applied with sable brushes in successive broad sweeps or washes of semitransparent tempera. These dried quickly, preventing the subtle tonal gradations possible with watercolour washes or oil paint; effects of shaded modelling had therefore to be obtained by a crosshatching technique of fine brush strokes. According to the Italian painter Cennino Cennini, the early Renaissance tempera painters laid the colour washes across a fully modelled monochrome underpainting in terre vert (olive-green pigment), a method developed later into the mixed mediums technique of tempera underpainting followed by transparent oil glazes.
    The luminous gesso base of a tempera painting, combined with the accumulative effect of overlaid colour washes, produces a unique depth and intensity of colour. Tempera paints dry lighter in value, but their original tonality can be restored by subsequent waxing or varnishing. Other characteristic qualities of a tempera painting, resulting from its fast drying property and disciplined technique, are its steely lines and crisp edges, its meticulous detail and rich linear textures, and its overall emphasis upon a decorative flat pattern of bold colour masses.
    The great Byzantine tradition of tempera painting was developed in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries by Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto. Their flattened picture space, generously enriched by fields and textures of gold leaf, was extended by the Renaissance depth perspectives in the paintings of Giovanni Bellini, Piero della Francesca, Carlo Crivelli, Sandro Botticelli, and Vittore Carpaccio. By that time, oil painting was already challenging the primacy of tempera, Botticelli and some of his contemporaries apparently adding oil to the tempera emulsion or overglazing it in oil colour.
    Following the supremacy of the oil medium during succeeding periods of Western painting, the 20th century saw a revival of tempera techniques by such U.S. artists as Ben Shahn, Andrew Wyeth, and George McNeil and by the British painter Edward Wadsworth. It would probably have been the medium also of the later hard-edge abstract painters had the new acrylic resin paints not proved more easily and quickly.

    Nicola Pisano. Nativity, 
    Pulpit from Pisa's Baptistry c1259
    Italian Gothic,
    Nicola Pisano. Nativity, 
    Detail of Pulpit from Pisa's Baptistry c1259
    Italian Gothic,
    typological exegesis
    continuous narrative

    Simone Martini, (central panel) 
    Annunciation, 1333 
    10'x8'  Lippo Memmi, (Wings)
    Frame 19th C Anonymous
    polyptych, diptych and triptych



    DUCCIO di Buoninsegna, Annunciation 1308-11
    Tempera on wood, 43 x 44 cm  National Gallery, London
    predella Maesta Altar



    Giotto, Christ Entering Jerusalem c1305
      Duccio, Christ Entering Jerusalem c1308-11
    Part of a Larger panel called the "Maesta Altar"

    DUCCIO di Buoninsegna, Maestà (Madonna with Angels and Saints) 1308-11
    Tempera and gold on wood, 7'x13'  (214 x 412 cm) Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

    DUCCIO di Buoninsegna, Stories of the Passion (Maestà, verso)1308-11
    Tempera on wood, 212 x 425 cm Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

    Pietro Lorenzetti, 
    The Birth of the Virgin, 
    from Siena Cathedral, 1342.
    Tempera and gold on wood, frame partially replaced
    6'x5' Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena apochryphal


    “Hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated.” George Bernard Shaw


    CONTEST: Win this preliminary drawing of two bears kissing by writing a short story. Deadline 7/10/2015

    The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Post it here on this page as a comment please.

    Here's the painting that the drawing is a study for.

    Two Bears Kissing, oil paint on canvas panel 16x20 inches by Kenney Mencher  $128.00

    Dealing with Haters

    So I posted something about Obama and how much I like him and I got a whole bunch of hateful comments about him. These were from "haters."  Lately the more active I am on FB and Linked I am the more this happens. I seethed, got pissed, responded, and blocked, but I thought, how do others deal with this?  I found a wonderful article and here's the cheat sheet. Here's an excerpt from http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2014/03/the-ultimate-cheat-sheet-for-dealing-with-haters/:


    This is a bit of a cliche but it’s true. Behind every Anger is a Fear.

    Whoever hates, is also afraid of something. This doesn’t mean you say, “poor baby, he’s just afraid.” But it’s just worth noting.

    For instance, in the above review, the reviewer said, “the poor miserable audience”. Maybe her fear is of being poor and miserable and so she hears someone saying that to her no matter who is talking. This is her problem in life right now.

    Often people say, “oh, don’t worry, they are just jealous.” Maybe they are. Maybe they aren’t. We can never read their minds.

    It’s none of my business why someone thinks something of me.

    But something is going on in their lives that is bringing up a fear. And they indulge the fear by having an anger towards you. By projecting their own fear onto you. For a brief moment, you become the monster that has been hiding onside of them.

    Anger is just fear indulged.


    Most people who hate me I never even think about. But some haters push buttons. Some accidentally know how to get under my skin.

    Or not accidentally. Like when a family member hates you and knows EXACTLY what buttons to press (“you never bathe”, etc).

    When someone pushes a button, I get angry and maybe even defensive. But it’s NOT because they said something horrible.

    It’s because under the fleshy armor of rage, I’m afraid they might be right.

    I might not even admit this to myself. They put the knife in, after all, so I can accuse them. But the reality is I might be twisting the knife in even further.

    Take the above example again. I pulled it out from 100s I could’ve used. Not because it was particularly mean. But I just realized I then told you a story of what happened to me in seventh grade when a girl made fun of my voice.

    So maybe I really am afraid I have some weird sort of voice. I don’t know. It’s just worth noting to myself.

    When all you do is “note” something to yourself, it at least separates it out from the non-stop chatter in the head. It lets you identify it and put it in it’s own special cage. This makes it easier to identify and deal with and maybe even learn something about yourself.


    If someone attacks you in any way, you might get bad feelings. If it’s a public attack then others might get bad feelings. People will say, “Jane said this about James so he must be an idiot.”

    Or it might an office politics attack. Or an attack in a relationship.

    The 24 Hour Rule works in almost every case. If you never respond to the initial attack, it goes away in 24 hours. If you respond EVEN ONCE, then reset the clock. It’s another 24 hours as it spreads through the spider web of human interaction.

    This is why some battles go on for years. Nobody stops responding. The attack continues until one person dies. And as the Onion states: World Mortality Rate Holds Steady At 100%.

    IV) THE 30/30/30 RULE

    I had a few posts where I stole the same image of a woman doing yoga poses on a beach. I got some criticism for always using images of a sexy woman. I also got criticism for taking the images and not giving credit.

    Then the woman in the images actually wrote me. I told her I was getting this criticism.

    She told me her whole beautiful story which I included in my last book. But one thing she said was that for every creative thing you do: 1/3 will love you, 1/3 will hate you, and 1/3 won’t care.

    Which means you should do what you love. You should do the best you can. You should try to do the things that will help you improve every day. And when bad comments come, just put them in that 1/3 bucket where it belongs.


    I’m always happy when someone disagrees with me. I don’t mind that.

    But often people are incapable of expressing disagreement and it comes out in a way that is obnoxious or hateful.

    When I can, I delete them. I can put “delete” in quotes. Sometimes its not a blog commenter but someone in real life. I delete them also. I don’t speak to people who are bad for me.

    What if it’s a boss or someone you have to speak to? Well, I don’t engage with them. I let them do their thing. I nod hello in the hallways. I don’t kiss anyone’s ass to get them to like me, not even my daughters. Everyone gets their time in the “time out” box. And eventually, they can come out again if they behave.

    What if it’s someone screaming at you on the phone? Just do this: “I have to go”. That’s worked against me, particularly when I was younger and wanted to scream more. “Why are you DOING THIS TO ME!?” And it felt very painful.

    But it made me behave better next time.


    Someone tweeted awhile ago: “James Altucher = #humangarbage”. I don’t know why he tweeted it. I didn’t know who he was. But I got angry for a second. I didn’t follow any of the above commandments.

    I looked him up. He works at AOL. I tried to figure out how to get him fired. He made his one tweet but then it gave me maybe 1000 thoughts.

    The worst thing you can do to your body is stab it. Anger is an emotional stab at your emotional body. Some religions say you should show compassion to your enemies. I don’t know. This is really hard to do.

    The best I can do is recognize that I don’t know this person, and that every additional thought is another way for me to stab myself. Then the infection spreads inside of me, consumes me.

    I don’t like to stab myself.


    I could’ve contacted the guy and said, “I just need to know: why do you think I am human garbage.”

    But this is one of those death bed moments.

    People have said, “I am really glad I found out why that random stranger called me human garbage” on their death bed exactly zero times in the history of the universe.

    There’s no need to know. And even if you do finally know…it will always turn out there was no good reason.


    Let’s say someone does actually have a reason for hating you. And it’s easy to refute. Like they hate you because you are from Rhode Island but actually you are from Canada. You can say, “But I’m from Canada” and they will say, “Ugh, that’s even worse.”

    Nobody ever changes their mind. Change is hard. Quitting cigarettes is very hard, almost impossible for many people.

    Hating is even more addictive so imagine how hard it is to change someone’s mind. Facts don’t matter. Defending yourself makes it worse (see the 24 Hour Rule).

    Even a history of friendship doesn’t matter. You can say, “We’ve been friends for 20 years. Are you really going to let this get in the way of that?”

    And the answer is “Yes.” Because they can’t help themselves. Because it’s about some fear they have. Because it’s about some fear you have. And never the twain shall meet.


    That’s all you ever really need to know about your haters. They all grunt and drool and look stupid.

    If all you do is think of this rule about someone who hates you, then you can ignore all of the other rules.


    Hate can’t last forever. Often it turns into a dull simmer. The sun that was so bright at noon, becomes a haze of purples and deep orange by twilight.

    This doesn’t mean that you and the hater are now friends. It just means that the wound that was opened will eventually close up, and leave a tiny scar, a reminder but nothing more. Whether it was a betrayal. An ex-partner. An ex-lover. A commenter on a blog.

    The key is to practice shortening the time.

    You do this with the other nine commandments above. You do this with the daily practice of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health I recommend in my book.

    I say “the daily practice” not because I want you to buy my book. Don’t buy it. It’s so easy you don’t need to read anything other than the above paragraph.

    Do all this and the hate passes right through you. It’s hard to avoid all the haters. They are in your face sometimes. But you can do these methods.

    For some people hate and anger and bitterness and regret last for years. Sometimes the time it takes to heal a wound lasts longer than a lifetime.

    This is a waste of a lifetime.That’s ok also. Nobody is requiring you to have a fulfilling life. It’s totally your choice to waste your life.

    And since many people will hate you as you stick your head out of the sand again and again (as I hope you do), you will have many opportunities to ruin your life. Enjoy them.

    Sometimes (not every time) the more people who hate you, the more it means you are getting out of the comfort zone. You are creating and growing.

    But hopefully your woulds heal more and more quickly. I say “your” but I really mean “me”. I hope my wounds every day heal more quickly than the day before. I wrote this post for me.

    When a hater takes his or her stab, I try to use the above techniques to maybe learn about myself. And if I can’t learn a lot then maybe I can learn a little.

    And if I can’t learn a little, then at least I will try to avoid getting sick.

    And if I don’t get sick, then I will try to be thankful. And I move onto the next thing I can do. The next place where I will try to find love, creativity, and fulfillment.



    16th C Netherlandish Renaissance Art of Bosch cc


    BOSCH, Hieronymus. 
    Death and the Miser c. 1490 
    Oil on wood, 93 x 31 cm 
    National Gallery of Art, Washington
    Context:  Even though the Reformation doesn't officially start until Luther publishes his writings around 1516-20 there are strains of the ideas and Luther and his writings are probably the result of years of moving in that direction in the North.  Many of Luther's ideas can be seen to evolve in the Northern art of the mid 1400's.  It makes sense that the critical and often sarcastic imagery we saw in Metsys' The Moneylender and his Wife, 1514 and the ideas expressed in Petrus Christus. Saint Eloy (Eligius) in his Shop.  1449 evolve into a critical point of view about the main religious institution controlling their lives.
    Hiëronymus Bosch, 
    b. c. 1450,, 's Hertogenbosch, Brabant [now in The Netherlands]
    d. Aug. 9, 1516, 's Hertogenbosch 
    also spelled JHERONIMUS BOS, pseudonym of JEROME VAN AEKEN, also spelled AQUEN, OR AKEN, also called JEROEN ANTHONISZOON, brilliant and original northern European painter of the late Middle Ages whose work reveals an unusual iconography of a complex and individual style. Although at first recognized as a highly imaginative "creator of devils" and a powerful inventor of seeming nonsense full of satirical meaning, Bosch demonstrated insight into the depths of the mind and an ability to depict symbols of life and creation.
    Bosch was a pessimistic and stern moralist who had neither illusions about the rationality of human nature nor confidence in the kindness of a world that had been corrupted by man's presence in it. His paintings are sermons, addressed often to initiates and consequently difficult to translate. Unable to unlock the mystery of the artist's works, critics at first believed that he must have been affiliated with secret sects. Although the themes of his work were religious, his choice of symbols to represent the temptation and eventual ensnarement of man in earthly evils caused many critics to view Bosch as a practitioner of the occult arts. More recent scholarship views Bosch as a talented artist who possessed deep insight into human character and as one of the first artists to represent abstract concepts in his work. A number of exhaustive interpretations of Bosch's work have been put forth in recent years, but there remain many obscure details.
     "Bosch, Hiëronymus."   Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   December 3, 2002. 
    Notice that Bosch's iconography is a problem for art historians and each one attempts to interpret it according to what they know.  Below you will find several points of view as to what the iconography may or may not mean.  Read these different accounts and decide for yourself.

    BOSCH, Hieronymus. 
    Death and the Miser c. 1490 
    Oil on wood, 93 x 31 cm 
    National Gallery of Art, Washington
    Form and Iconography: The use of oil paint to create an incredible level of realism is quite evident in this image.  Here, the artist shows off again by showing how well he is able to paint the textures and surfaces but he is also demonstrating his ability to create space. In some ways, this scene is a genre scene.  It takes place in what looks to be a domestic setting and the central character is one that the viewer would be expected to identify with.
    Bosch often worked with almost incomprehensible or bizarre iconography.  It seems, like the submerged symbolism of Robert Campin's  Merode Altarpiece c. 1425 he is inventing or using a now lost lexicon of iconography.
    The interior of this composition is formed to look almost as if the scene is taking place within the nave of a vaulted cathedral.  This is probably done almost as a sarcastic reference to the Gothic style Church.  To the left of the doorway in which a skeleton is entering is a Romanesque or Gothic capital and column.
    This image seems to be a sarcastic play on the iconography associated with annunciation scenes such as those by Robert Campin's  Merode Altarpiece c. 1425.  Almost as in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, in this scene, a miser is being visited on his death bed by a variety of fantastic creatures.  Death stands ready in the door to fling his last arrow and take the man to his fate while his soul is wrestled over.  God is represented by the apparition of the crucifixion in the window.  The light that shines through the window is represented similarly to the soul of Jesus being delivered to Mary in the Merode Altarpiece c. 1425.   Above the bed, on a canopy, a demon shines a fake sparking lamp to misguide him.
    At the misers back is an angel.  Again the angel is similar to representations of Gabriel in annunciation scenes but the miser pays no attention and seems torn, even on his deathbed, between the glory of god and the vain gloria of his avarice represented by the evil frog like demon tempting him with the money bag.
    Overall the composition is a vertical one and this plays into the iconography.  God is represented at the top of the image and as we descend through the image we can also see that the iconography descends into the common world of man.
    Beneath the deathbed is a rather red nosed and almost drunken looking man who has a key and a rosary hanging from his robes.  According to the the National Gallery's website, "At the foot of the bed a younger man, possibly the miser at an earlier age, hypocritically throws coins into a chest with one hand as he fingers a rosary with the other." 
    I think they may have it wrong though, to me it looks like he is placing money into an alm's bowl held by a demon while another demon passes up what looks to be a letter or a papal indulgence.  Could this be St. Peter and the chest represent the holdings of the Catholic Church?  Perhaps then, the letter is an indulgence that is an attempt to pay his way into heaven.
    Beneath the chest and at the very bottom of the picture plane lies a suit of discarded armor.  Perhaps a representation of the miser's discarded faith.  Notice that the sword is rusted.  He is no longer the good Christian soldier depicted in Durer's print.
    Here's another point of view but I'm not sure if it's correct:

    Bosch's depiction of a dying miser lying in his high narrow bedchamber features a number of details pointing out the consequences of a life devoted to avarice. The figure of death stands in the doorway indicating that the miser's end is rapidly approaching. And while the miser's guardian angel vainly tries to draw his attention to the crucifix in the window at the upper left, the demonic influence is overpowering. Many commentators have noted that Bosch's work here seems to be of a type which may have been influenced by the Fifteen Century devotional work Ars Moriendi (Craft of Dying) which describes how a dying man is exposed to a series of temptations by demons surrounding his deathbed. At each temptation an angel comforts him and strengthens him and in the end the angel is successful, the soul is carried to heaven and the devil's howl in despair. Here, however, the outcome is much less certain.
    The fact that the miser's path was established long before his death is apparent with the inclusion of an image of his younger self placing a coin into a bag held by a demon. Underneath the chest other demons await. in the forefront a winged demon handles the red robes which indicate the miser's earthly rank. While at bedside another creature offers a bag of gold which provides a final distraction to the dying man. The message appears to be that despite God's willingness to provide salvation most people will persist in their sins until the point of death.
    Here's the National Gallery of Art, Washington point of view:

    Of all fifteenth-century artists, Hieronymus Bosch is the most mysterious. His puzzling, sometimes bizarre imagery has prompted a number of false assertions that he was, for example, the member of a heretical sect, a sexual libertine, or a forerunner of the surrealists. What can be said is that he was a moralist, profoundly pessimistic about man's inevitable descent into sin and damnation. In this slender panel, probably a wing from a larger altarpiece, a dying man seems torn between salvation and his own avarice. At the foot of the bed a younger man, possibly the miser at an earlier age, hypocritically throws coins into a chest with one hand as he fingers a rosary with the other. In his last hour, with death literally at the door, the miser still hesitates; will he reach for the demon's bag of gold or will he follow the angel's gesture and direct his final thoughts to the crucifix in the window?
    Avarice was one of the seven deadly sins and among the final temptations described in the Ars moriendi (Art of Dying), a religious treatise probably written about 1400 and later popularized in printed books. Bosch's painting is similar to illustrations in these books, but his introduction of ambiguity and suspense is unique.
    This panel is thinly painted. In several areas it is possible to see in the underdrawing where Bosch changed his mind about the composition. His thin paint and unblended brushstrokes differ markedly from the enamellike polish of other works in this gallery.
    also see


    BOSCH, Hieronymus,  Haywain 1500-02
    Oil on panel, Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial

    Oil on panel, 147 x 66 cm


    Context: The subject of sin and its punishments was central to all of Bosch's art. A famous triptych, The Haywain, contains a progression of sin, from Eden to hell, across its panels. In the central panel sin is represented through the metaphor of a large wagonload of hay for which a greedy world grasps. All the while, the wagon is being pulled by demons towards the right panel - which shows one of Bosch's earliest depictions of hell. Form:  Interestingly enough, Bosch again is collaging together elements from images by Giotto in his Last Judgement and Masaccio's Expulsion as well as various elements and compositional devices one might find in the Tympanum of Gothic and Rmanesque Churches such as those found at Autun.
    In the sky we see an image of God almost as if he is in a Last Judgement scene.  The composition is very similar to Giotto's Last Judgment.  The arrangement and scale of the angels or possibly even some demons is in a semi- circular form as in Giotto's.
    Beneath, in the garden, we the arrangement of the figures in this continuous narrative scene is based on various standard compositions for each story.  For example, the creation of Eve uses the same poses as Michelangelo does about ten years later in his Sistine Chapel panel.
    Iconography:  The arraangement of this panel is hierarchical.  The scene at the top, may represent creation but the weird bug like demons grouped at the bottom coupled with the angels who are higher up in the picture plane, may indicate that this is the fall of the angels which is echoed by Adam's expulsion at the very bottom.   An interesting, Catholic icon is represented by God the father as he pulls Eve from Adam's rib.  God is wearing the papal crown.


    BOSCH, Hieronymus,  Haywain 1500-02
    Oil on panel, Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial
    Form: The composition of the center scene is fairly symmetrical.  The hay wagon that sits in the center of the image creates the bottom of pyramidal shape that is completed by the figure who sit atop the wagon and God in heaven who looks over the scene. Iconography:  The overall scene is one that represents our unavoidable journey to damnation.  It is a bit pessimistic.
    Atop the Hay wagon, angels pray for us and demons also vie for our attention.  A vessel, possibly representing the holy vessel is atop a pike, while opposite this is an owl, representing knowledge and death, sits atop another branch surrounded by blackbirds (death?).
    Below the wagon are scenes of chaos, murder, lust and avarice.  Basically all the seven deadly sins are represented in one guise or another and even the clergy are not immune to gluttony in the lower right hand corner.


    BOSCH, Hieronymus.
    Garden of Earthly Delights (closed triptych) c. 1500
    "Creation of the World"?
    Oil on panel,  (86 5/8 X 76 1/4) 220 x 195 cm
    Museo del Prado, Madrid
       The outer panels of Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights betray little of the wonders which lie within. Here we see the earth as Bosch envisioned it to be on the third day of creation. Light has been separated from the darkness, the waters have been divided above and below the firmament and trees are beginning to grow across the face of the earth. Overlooking this pale and watery earth composed primarily of subtle grays and green-grays is the Creator who is pictured as sitting passively on his throne holding a book which represents the creative Word. And lest we miss the allusion to the effortlessness of the Creator's act, Bosch has added an inscription from Ps. 33.9, "For he spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood forth." http://www.artdamage.com/bosch/gardenex.htm
    BOSCH, Hieronymus.
    Garden of Earthly Delights
    (central panel of the triptych) c. 1500
    Oil on panel, 220 x 195 cm
    Museo del Prado, Madrid
    The "Garden of Earthly Delights," representative of Bosch at his mature best, shows the earthly paradise with the creation of woman, the first temptation, and the fall. The painting's beautiful and unsettling images of sensuality and of the dreams that afflict the people who live in a pleasure-seeking world express Bosch's iconographic originality with tremendous force. The chief characteristic of this work is perhaps its dreamlike quality; multitudes of nude human figures, giant birds, and horses cavort and frolic in a delightfully implausible, otherworldly landscape, and all the elements come together to produce a perfect, harmonious whole.  "Bosch, Hiëronymus."   Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   December 3, 2002. 
     Various attempts have been made to relate these fantasies to the realities of his own day. For instance, some of the sexually related visions have been related to the  creed of the Adamites, a hereticel sect of the day advocating, at least in theory, sexual freedom like that in Eden. But the most promising line has been to recognize many of them as illustrations of proverbs: for instance, the pair of lovers in the glass bubble would recall the proverb 'Pleasure is as fragile as glass'. This approach  also provides a link between these fantasies and Bosch's other work, such as the Cure of Folly or Haywain, and between Bosch's later work and Bruegel's in the  middle of the sixteenth century: though without Bosch's satanic profusion, Bruegel also made illustrations of proverbs in this way.  http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/b/bosch/painting/triptyc1/delightc.html
    At the time of his death, Bosch was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. During his lifetime Bosch's works were in the inventories of noble families of the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain, and they were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. 
    Bosch's most famous and unconventional picture is The Garden of Earthly Delights which, like most of his other ambitious works, is a large, 3-part altarpiece, called a triptych. This painting was probably made for the private enjoyment of a noble family. It is named for the luscious garden in the central panel, which is filled with cavorting nudes and giant birds and fruit. The triptych depicts the history of the world and the progression of sin. Beginning on the outside shutters with the creation of the world, the story progresses from Adam and Eve and original sin on the left panel to the torments of hell, a dark, icy, yet fiery nightmarish vision, on the right. The Garden of Delights in the center illustrates a world deeply engaged in sinful pleasures. 


    Left Detail Heaven/Paradise 
    with Adam and Eve
        The subdued gray earth of The Garden of Earthly Delight's exterior panels gives way to an explosion of vibrant color within. With the felt panel we move to the final three days of creation when life burst forth on the earth with all of its abundance. Swarms of living creatures inhabit the fertile garden with many gathering near a tall, slender Fountain of Life which occupies a small island in the lake at the center of the panel. To the right of the fountain a group of animals are climbing a bank which transforms itself into a face.      In the foreground, near the Tree of Knowledge we see God presenting Eve to an astounded Adam who seems amazed at this creature who has been brought forth from his rib. It is notable that here God is much more youthful that we have seen in previous representations in that Bosch sets aside his earlier convention and presents the Deity in the Person of Christ. This follows a frequent convention in Fifteenth Century Dutch literature where the marriage of Adam and Eve is performed by a Youthful Deity.
         As is usually the case with Bosch, however, no paradise exists entirely free from at least a foreshadowing of evil and this foreshadowing appears as a pit in the extreme foreground, out of which a variety of creatures are emerging.

    Right Detail
        The dreamlike paradise of the center panel gives way to the nightmare of Hell in which the excitement of passion is transformed into a frenzy of suffering. Here the lushest paradise Bosch will ever produce leads to the most violent of his always violent hells. As is generally the case in Bosch's vision of Hell a burning city serves as a backdrop to the various activities carried out by Hell's citizens, but here the buildings don't merely burn, rather they explode with firey plumes blasting into the darkness as what appears to be a wave of refugees flee across a bridge toward an illuminated gate house.      As is always the case in Bosch's Hells the general theme is a chaos in which normal relationships are turned upside down and everyday objects are turned into objects of torture. And, given Bosch's use of musical instruments as symbolic of lust it is not surprising that in the Hell musical instruments as objects of torment are prominently featured. From the left we see a nude figure which has been attached by devils to the neck of a lute, while another has been entangled in the strings of a harp and a third has been stuffed down the neck of a great horn.
    The picture shows a detail of The Hell. Several huge musical instruments figure prominently in Bosch's conception of hell. They are shaped similarly to the ones used at that time, but their positioning is unrealistic (for example, a harp grows out of a lute). Their relationship to each other bears strongly fanciful elements, and they have been adapted in form. What is more, the use of these instruments is wholly fantastic. There is a human figure stretched across the strings of a harp; another writhes around the neck of a flute, intertwined with a snake; a third peers out of a drum equipped with bird-like feet, the next one plays triangle while reaching out from a hurdy-gurdy, and even the smoking trumpet displays an outstretched human arm. It is difficult to conceive that the group of damned souls would sing a hymn from the musical score fixed to the reverse of the reclining figure in front of them - although this has been proposed by some scholars. The ensemble, lead by an infernal monster, could more likely be a parody.  http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/b/bosch/painting/triptyc1/delights.html
    According to Dr. Bruce Lamott, a music historian, the depiction of the individual crucified on the harp, the image of the trumpet shoved up the rear end of one of the figures, and the ears sliced by the knives could be a reference to the ideas that were being debated by the Council of Trent.  Many individuals felt that music was too sensuous and the work of the devil and that the new traditions of playing music in Church was a mistake. There are also some very Giottoesque elements in this painting.  In the lower right hand of hell is an image of a pig dressed in a nun's habit which obviously is a jab at the greedy nature of the Catholic Church.  It is very similar to Giotto's inclusion of the Bishop who is taking money for indulgences and pardoning people in hell.

      BRUEGEL, or  Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

    Pieter Brueghel the Elder 
    Netherlandish Proverbs 
    1559 Oil on oak panel, 117 x 163 
    cm Staatliche Museen, Berlin
    Form:  This is a realistic yet cartoonish rendering.  In general the rules of perspective are adhered to and there is some chiaroscuro.  Each object and individual are clearly rendered using the glazing techniques that Van Eyck perfected nearly a century before, however, the carefully glazed rendering of the surfaces and objects are secondary to the message. Iconography and Context:  The iconography relates to the Northern habit of creating and using parables.  A parable is a kind of adage which Webster's dictionary describes as a "saying often in metaphorical form that embodies a common observation."
    This painting contains nearly more than twenty proverbs and each is designed to provide some sort of moral direction in visual form.  This painting probably served two purposes.  The visual depiction of proverbs as symbols was probably created both as a form of instruction but also as a clever conversation piece.
    Below is a diagram that identifies some of the proverbs in the painting.

    1. Daar zijn de daken met vladen gedekt.
    There the roofs are tiled with tarts!
    The image is one connoting a plentitude or a state of wealth.
    2. Daar steekt de bezem uit.
    There the broom sticks out.
    This signifies that the head of the household is not at home which in turn indicates that a party is in progress or soon will be.

    3. Onder het mes zitten.
    Sitting under the knife.
    A severe testing under great pressure.

    4. 't is naar het vallen van de kaart.
    It depends on the fall of the cards.
    So much of life is a matter of luck.

    5. Een pilaarbijter.
    A pillar biter.
    A religious hypocrite.

    6. Zij draagt water in de eene, en vuur in de andere hand.
    She carries water in one hand and fire in the other.
    Someone who is two-faced.

    7. Men kan met het hoofd niet door den muur loopen.
    One cannot walk headfirst through a wall.
    A man foolishly trying to ignore the hard realities of the natural world.

    8. De een scheert de schapen, de ander de varkens.
    The one shears the sheep, the other the pigs.
    In life some individuals have opportunities for material success while others do not.

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