Thesis: Mentioned in Details

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Team Leadership

Art and Astronomy

In contemporary life, the values embodied in art are often seen as existing in opposition to science. This sense of opposition seems even harsher when pairing the values of science and religion. Yet "The Adoration of the Magi," a religious fresco by Giotto that depicts the Nativity of Jesus and his adoration by the Three Kings from afar openly embraces naturalism and the importance of astronomy in spiritual life. Unlike astronomers who view the cosmos as impersonal and indifferent to the human condition, for Giotto, as was characteristic of his era, the importance of the natural world and its ability to influence or reflect the human world takes the forefront.

Giotto's "Adoration of the Magi" is located in the Scrovegni in Padua, and is part of a series of frescos depicting the life of the Virgin Mary and Christ. His series has one hundred scenes in compressed but "naturalistic settings often using forced perspective devices ("Giotto and the Comet," Smashyourbrain, 2006). In the specific fresco of "The Adoration," the human figures of the Magi and the infant, divine Christ take the forefront, while the star foretelling the coming of the Messiah whizzes across the sky, looking more like a ball of light than a star. The painting is subtitled that it is set during the year of the comet, stressing that Giotto saw the star talked about in the Bible as something huge and seismic in nature, reflecting the importance of Christ in human history. But the placement of the comet in the background indicates the importance of God first, then human beings, and only then the natural world in Giotto's ranking of importance. Not only does the natural, material world reflect rather than directly impact human life in the painting, all eyes of the observers are on the baby. No one looks at the comet. The natural world is an instrument of the divine will, not powerful by itself. The comet may lead the Magi to Christ, but now that the Three Kings are before the Baby Jesus, he is the object of their adoration and the comet is forgotten. After all, to worship or fear the comet would be idolatry, and Christ has come, in part, to end idolatry of false gods and objects in the world. Giotto wishes to make clear that although astrology's note that the year of the comet was approaching might counsel individuals to watch the sky, the comet is a portent, not something to be worshipped like an idol.

Giotto, however, does make innovative artistic use of the light of the comet in his work. The shades of gold in the fiery comet bring out the colors used to depict the light in the halos of the sacred Biblical personages. The positive associations between light and the divine in Western culture are given importance in the fresco despite the fact the work is set during the evening. The comet makes the night seem like day, a metaphor for Christ's arrival. It is also true that despite his acceptance of the role of nature in the Christian worldview, Giotto as a painter depicted the Holy Family in a far more naturalistic fashion than many of his contemporaries, and this particular scene was seen as innovative, even shocking, in rejecting many of the conventional forms and symbolism used in painting the Nativity. Giotto's figures are realistic, rather than idealistic, as befitting their location in a stable.

Giotto also likely turned to the natural world as his model for the comet as well as the individuals in his painting. Astronomers have noted, upon observing Giotto's fresco that the Nativity scene comet is so startlingly realistic that it is likely that it was based on his first-hand observations of Halley's Comet in October 1301. In homage to Giotto's observational abilities in "The Adoration of the Magi," the European Space Agency named the spaceprobe designed to study Halley's Comet 'Giotto.' On March, 13, 1986, Giotto approached at a 596-kilometer distance from Halley's nucleus and obtained our first direct images of a comet nucleus. Giotto's images showed the nucleus to be an irregular object, something like a potato, with dimensions 15 km long and up to 10 km wide" ("Giotto and the Comet," Smashyourbrain, 2006). This image from the spaceprobe Giotto is very different from the image of the comet by the artist of the same name, but its name was a fitting tribute to Giotto's artistic melding of his observational gifts… [END OF PREVIEW]

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/mentioned-details/298501.