Visual Analysis Essay

hi this is Professor Melissa Hall and this is a tutorial on writing a visual analysis essay in this assignment you will expand on the skills you learned in the basic visual analysis assignment you’ll use research skills to search the art store digital library to locate a work that exemplifies the characteristics of Flemish Italian Renaissance or high Renaissance art or you can use the Metropolitan Museum collection database you will then conduct an analysis of the work that places it in historical context begin by describing the work in detail using the skills you learned in the basic visual analysis essay so here’s a start there are David’s the Annunciation is a small panel depicting the story of the Annunciation the Virgin Mary is placed in an ordinary interior and is visited by an angel who tells her that she will be the mother of Jesus now I think you will agree this description is lacking in descriptive detail how can we make this description more detailed here are some things to think about appearance clothing how do the figures appear what are they wearing objects and symbols there’s lots of objects in this room some of them are symbolic actions and gestures how are the figures relating to one another and finally the setting and space where are they and what kind of space is it so here’s a rewrite era of David’s the Annunciation is a small panel depicting the Annunciation to the Virgin the scene takes place in a well furnished bedroom that seems too small to contain its inhabitants Mary is placed in the foreground kneeling in a small wooden stool with an open Bible placed on top a decorated vase with lilies symbolic of the Virgin’s purity is placed prominently on the floor next to her and a blue sac which probably protected the Bible she’s reading is strewn casually on the floor diminutive in size Mary appears youthful with her long locks of blond hair and serene expression she wears a simple red dress with a voluminous blue cloak that gathers in heavy folds on the floor around her with one hand placed gently on the open Bible she raises the other to her chest in a gesture of surprise hovering above her head is the dub of the Holy Spirit surrounded by a golden halo now I want you to notice the organization of this description the writer begins with a description of the setting that’s really almost a full paragraph and then moves to a paragraph where the focus is on the description of Mary and then in the next paragraph a description of the angel you’re going to want to think about organizing your description as well the angel floats weightlessly in the small cramped space casting a distinct shadow onto the ground his great wings span the width of the room and his drapery flutters about him as if swept by a great wind like Mary the angels hair is golden and seems to glow like a halo while Mary gestures in surprise of the Angels unexpected visit she does not look directly at him but instead gazes off into space as if she can only sense his disguise divine presence now this was a really nice description but it could have been written by anybody who hasn’t taken an art history class this description needs to demonstrate our historical knowledge why or any of these observe details significant why should we care so you need to show your knowledge of art history by placing this work in historical context placing the work in context will also help your reader understand why it’s so extraordinary to see Mary and the angel depicted in this way I think you know why it’s significant that Mary is being shown in this typical Flemish interior but your reader doesn’t and so that’s the part that you need to work on is to place your description in context and demonstrate art historical knowledge this is what’s going to give your description a sense of purpose as well so let’s now draft an introduction that places this work in historical context in the Middle Ages religious images were often unrealistic holy figures were depicted as abstract icons lacking physicality and weight floating against a flat gold background symbolic of heaven they were further distinguished from earthly beings by the use of higher attic scale and golden halos this should all be familiar to you you learn this in class there are David’s the Annunciation is a small panel depicting the Annunciation to the virgin unlike medieval images that portrayed religious subjects as unrealistic symbols David humanizes the story by portraying Mary in the angel as believably human characters and by placing them in an earthly setting we can relate to do you see a thesis in that introduction now this essay has a thesis and this thesis will guide and ground the description so let’s look at a rewrite at this description that is now being guided by a thesis that the description is going to support the next paragraph begins now with a transition sentence instead of using the flat gold background common in medieval religious paintings Gharib David places his figures in a believable earthly setting using the newly discovered oil medium the objects in the room are rendered in such vivid detail that they’d seem tangible tangible and real while the use of empirical perspective creates a convincing illusion of depth but the room seems too small to contain its inhabitants now the description of the setting that we’ve read before where we talked about all of these different details now it has a context and purpose it’s showing the reader how this setting is believable tangible and real and different from the abstract unreal setting of medieval art and the writer is also demonstrating knowledge of artistic techniques in this than this highlighted sentence the artist is explaining to the reader that oil medium is what’s making this vivid detail possible and empirical perspective is something that we learned about in class as well now in the section describing Mary the writer has added a new sentence to the description about her appearance that really grounds it back in relation to the to the thesis remember in the description it was describing how Barry was diminutive in size that she appears youthful with her long walks of blonde hair and serene expression but now to really sort of drive home the point of this description no longer distinguished by a halo or higher attic scale she is portrayed as a flesh-and-blood woman and here again so now we have a context for understanding this description of Mary and once again the writer demonstrates knowledge of techniques and how they contribute to meaning the artist uses subtle gradations of light and shade to give her body volume in what volume and weight this is how the artist is making her scene fleshing blood real instead of flat and abstract remember the description of the angel the writer and I actually borrowed that from a student who wrote an essay on this and notice that wonderful detail of the shadow cast by the angel okay but that needs to be placed in context so whoops there we are the angel floats weightlessly in the space casting a distinct shadow onto the ground as if to emphasize the physicality of this spiritual apparition that added little sentence relates this observation back to the thesis that era David is taking the flat abstract icons of medieval art and making them physical and real so the angel is now casting a shadow so all we need now is a conclusion and a list of resources so here’s a conclusion Garro David’s the Annunciation exemplifies the humanist approach to religious subjects that became common in the Netherlands in the 15th century departing from the unrealistic style of the Middle Ages he portrays Mary in the angel as believably human characters occupying a space that seems to be an extension of our own world by bringing the divine down to earth in this way he made religion something real that people could relate to in a direct and personal way and here’s a list of resources much like the resources that we did in the basic visual analysis you are not required to do additional research for this essay you will have plenty of resources just from the class itself and be sure to look at the two sample student essays that I posted to get an idea for the expectations for this assignment so good luck and thanks for

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