[ISSN 1974-028X]








filosofia & religione


storia & sport


turismo storico





















N. 128 - Agosto 2018 (CLIX)


How These Artists Were Simultaneously Similar and Different

by Angelo Viglioglia


The basic differences between the Renaissance and Romanticism are noticeable through history. While the Renaissance art was popular in Italy, the Flanders, and the Nether Lands, Romantic art was instead popular in England, France, and Germany.


15th century artists were engaged by aristocrats, traders, bankers, and Popes, but 19th century artists became more and more independent of patronage. On the one hand, 15th century artists formed at artisans’ workshops. On the other hand, 19th century artists instead formed at academies and their own ateliers. While 15th century artists only depicted reality as a scientific and unitary imitation of nature based on the harmonic relationship of its elements, 19th century artists also depicted the hostile aspects of nature and human problems. Renaissance artists imitated Greco-Roman art in order to recover, match, and overtake the artistic manifestations of Ancient Rome.


Unlike Renaissance artists, Neoclassic artists imitated Classical art as a metaphor of the simplicity and rationalism promoted by bourgeoisie. On the one hand, Italian Renaissance artists knew about Classical art by exploring Ancient Roman buildings, such as Domus Aurea.


On the other hand, Neoclassic artists knew about Classical art after Napoleon’s battle in Abukir and Winckelmann’s discovery of the ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum. 19th century artists competed at great expositions. Until 1789, only the members of the Academy could take part in the Salon of Louvre. The French Revolution put an end to such prohibitions. After the failure of the Academy, private schools and evening courses started to teach drawing. In France, drawing was included in the curricula of high schools.


In 1792, The Musée du Louvre was inaugurated. It allowed artists to explore all aspects of more ancient art. In museums, the artistic heritage of all cultures lived together “as sisters.” By the way, the lives and luck of Raphael and Ingres were very different from one another. At the age of 20, Raphael was already recognized as “master.”


Many churches and oratories strongly desired his altarpieces. Instead, Ingres played a long internship at David’s academy in order to be recognized as an artist. While Raphael had embellished Italy, Ingres instead saw Italy as a coveted paradise related to Renaissance artists, the symbols of a more ancient age.


Raphael’s work was unanimously appreciated by both critics and audience, but Ingres’ work has often been undervalued. According to Le Brun, Neoclassic artists were inspired by Raphael because of the purity of his lines. Ingres admired Raphael for this reason.


According to Rosenberg, painters’ admiration for Raphael was due to the epochal shifts of attitudes and values that characterized the change from Neoclassicism to Romanticism. Ingres tried to assert himself as a historical painter. This aim was quite popular among the painters of the Napoleonic Age. He tried to overtake David as a historical painter. Actually, Ingres even became a better portraitist than his master.


From their viewpoints, Raphael and Ingres painted nature, women, and love. They also investigated Beauty and God. Raphael saw nature as a paradigm of divine Revelation and humanity itself as a part of nature.


In Madonna del Cardellino, Madonna del Prato, and La Belle Jardinière, Raphael depicts the Virgin Mary as one with nature. He sees both humanity and nature as manifestations of God’s creations and emanations.


According to Raphael, human rationality was capable of discovering divine within natural and eternal forms within transforming substances. Like Raphael, Ingres saw creations as manifestations of divine. Therefore, the pretension to refine it by art would be a presumptuous deed. In spite of his Neoclassic training, Ingres agreed with Romantic artists that art should faithfully reproduce reality. Beauty is within Nature, a coincidence of essence and existence.


Both Raphael and Ingres saw human physicality as a manifestation of beauty, identified with the naturalness of expressions. Both painters appreciated the reality they experienced and saw it as a divine gift. Both Raphael and Ingres carefully preserved the balance between real and ideal. For instance, Ingres was blamed to paint too sensual Madonnas. Lenoir argues that Madonna della Seggiola seduces viewers by its glance.


Studying nature was fundamental to both artists in order to create absolute beauty in art. Beauty is placed within not only artists’ souls, but also reality. As a result, artists must not overestimate themselves, but observe the world. Raphael agreed with Neo-Platonism. The Platonic conception of beauty and ideas was different.


Marsilius Ficinus, a Renaissance Platonic thinker, asserts that both ideas and forms are metaphysical. Whatever is related to the idea of beauty is beautiful. The idea of beauty exists as a “real substance,” and material things are just imagines. Platonism mistreated art as a mere copy of reality. Instead, Neo-Platonic thinkers believed beauty had its own worthiness and existence within material reality. As an aesthetical manifestation of the idea of Good emanated within nature, beauty justified its material existence.


Unlike Platonism, Raphael believed in another role of nature. As a moral heir of Neo-Platonism, he believed nature revealed divine beauty. This beauty could also be inferred by human beauty. In his paintings, matter lets forms transpire. According to aesthetical theories, just art can depict visions in which soul and nature neither conflict, nor counteract. In the visions cited, ideas, drawn from experiences, agree with them and fall into nature improving it.


Actually, Raphael’s genius consisted of turning reality into ideal beauty and seizing the latter within natural phenomenal reality, mutually. From the Aristotelian viewpoint, natural reality can be depicted as a formed matter. According to Argan, actuated perfection is Raphael’s main peculiarity. Raphael’s art demonstrates that ideal is within real.


“Thanks to transparency, all occasional appearances discover ideal forms”. As a result, the dualism between matter and soul is unified. While Raphael solved the issue of imperfection by art, Romantics instead did not know how to completely face it. Ingres defended from imperfection by looking for perfection within art, too. The principle cited related Ingres to Raphael, but the former’s more emphasized tension makes him less moderate and elegant than the latter.


Stendhal observes that the relativism of the idea of beauty has always been related to historical changes. According to Stendhal, the Romantic concept of beauty necessarily differed from the ancient and Renaissance one for the reasons cited. Although Stendhal valuated Renaissance ideals, he believed they were anachronistic. Stendhal argues that Renaissance painters were “quality standards” to later artists.


Renaissance artists must not be slavishly imitated. Romantics believed finite could not depict infinite, and ideal forms could not be contained by the imperfection and relativity of material and human condition. Hegel talked about the reasons why the Classical balance between forms and matters disappeared in Romantic art. In Romantic art, balance transformed into unbalance because of the excess of contents.


The concept of nature changed in the 19th century. Immanuel Kant was one of the first thinkers to distinguish “pictorial” from “sublime” beauty. One century earlier, Illuminist optimism had thought about controlling nature. The balance between humanity and nature would have allowed people to feel integrated in a natural hospitable benevolent world. The nature of “social” moods does not belong to the poetics of “sublime.”


In spite of his Classical readings, Giacomo Leopardi has never seen nature as balance and harmony, and “infinite” is the paradigm of his sufferance. According to Leopardi, whatever can be perceived by humanity is just a tiny part of time and space. Nature hides uncontrollable the menacing forces it sometimes shows. “Whatever is visible to people does not coincide with total existing. Whatever is not visible, supposedly existing, imposes and frightens people because of its infinity. The infinity of invisible reality evokes the anguish of human limits. This transcendental reality is ‘sublime’”.


Romantic aesthetics enriched and became more complex than Renaissance aesthetics with regard to the relationship of humanity to nature and artists to the depiction of beauty. Human limits, imperfection, anguish, and death started to be depicted by art.


Ingres’ viewpoint about these issues was very contradictory and complex, almost undecipherable. Ingres initially believed in the coincidence between natural and ideal beauty like Raphael. Ingres gradually modified the images of nature in order to make them more real and expressive. The shift cited made Ingres’ art more restless and characterized his artistic evolution. Ingres was similar to Mannerists rather than cold rational Neoclassic artists. Like the former, Ingres looked for the coincidence between “making art” and his “inner drawing.”


According to Argan, Ingres tried to free from the irreconcilability of extremely opposing viewpoints of his age by art. All these positions made 19th century aesthetics as more variegate as possible. Ingres refused siding with respect to his topics. Instead of adhering to an official artistic movement, he tried to know about the figures around him.


The figures cited were linked to the reality to depict. Ingres saw them as “well seen by absolute clarity.” Thanks to his numerous paintings, he demonstrated that art creates aesthetics. Ingres observes that art reveals the meanings of forms, not the explication of contents. Argan recognizes Ingres’ centrality and interest in art rather than its subjects. Ingres himself liked beauty as the extreme synthesis of the signs he depicted.


According to Argan, The Valpinçon Bather is the symbol of the painting way cited, which does not have formal predetermined ideals. This painting way manifests itself during the creation of paintings, which can synthesize disparate contrasting elements. The flighty broken lines on the turban of The Valpinçon Bather contrast with the continuous regular shape of her body.


Ingres sees art as a contrast of shapes, colours, tones, lines, elegance, and refinement to synthesize. Beauty and forms are not within single elements. They are instead in the relationship of elements. Classicism was just Ingres’ starting base. “Making” art was his main aim. From this viewpoint, his centrality as an artist recalls Mannerist subjectivism.


According to both Ingres and Mannerists, art testifies artists’ particular way to perceive reality. Argan sees Ingres as a very modern painter. The modernity of the latter allowed him to reduce the issue of art to that of vision. As a result, both Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were inspired by Ingres. Beyond Ingres’ painting style, Palma Bucarelli sees his “making art” as an ethical task and a moral need. According to Ingres, only artistic beauty survives history, nature, and life.





Ettore Camesasca, L’Opera Completa di Ingres (Milan: Rizzoli Editore, 1968), 10, 14.

Charles Baudelaire, Selected Writings on Art & Artists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 32, 127.

Martin Rosenberg, Raphael and France: The Artist as a Paradigm and Symbol (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University, 1995), 163-182.

Giulio Carlo Argan, Il Rinascimento: Storia dell’Arte Italiana (Florence: Sansoni, 2000), 13, 48, 283.

Erwin Panofsky, IDEA: Contributo alla Storia dell’Estetica (Turin: Universale Bollati Borlinghieri, 2006), xxviii-xxix, 42.

Gary Tinterow and Philip Conisbee, Portraits of Ingres: Image of an Epoch (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000), 22.




scrivi per InStoria



GBe edita e pubblica:


- Archeologia e Storia


- Architettura


- Edizioni d’Arte


- Libri fotografici


- Poesia


- Ristampe Anastatiche


- Saggi inediti




pubblica con noi








by FreeFind