Monday 18 February 2013

Liberazione di Andomeda (Piero di Cosimo 1461) - they don't make art like this anymore!

They don't make art like this anymore. Partly because no one would take a sea monster that looked like the grandfather of the Luckdragon from the Never Ending Story seriously. And partly because our expectations have been raised by the ubiquity of fairly decent physics to represent fluids in computer games and animated film.

Just look at the water: there are several easily identifiable fluid processes: symmetrical radiation, turbulent vorticity and wave breaking. No attempt is made to render these as realistically as the human subjects. Nor do they give us any sensible information about the behaviour of the monster: they suggest that a five tonne monster which is a few leaps away from its dinner, and is being attacked by a man balancing precariously on its back, reacts by bounding up and down gently (1-5cm), once a second or faster, while furiously paddling and scrabbling with its flippers.

Yet ask any child to identify 'ripples', 'splashes' and 'churned up water' and they'll have no problem identifying the sea monster as the culprit. Of course I'm being very silly suggesting that the painter was interested giving clues about the motion of the monster. Of course the purpose of the waves is to aid story telling to a broad and largely uneducated audience: they tell us the monster is moving. This makes it clear that the maiden is in mortal peril, and that the hero is performing a dangerous feat. 

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