Term Paper: Romney and Raphael the Portrait

Pages: 3 (1234 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Both are painted in oils, and they are even of a roughly similar size, both being approximately 3 feet tall by 2 feet in width. If we look a little deeper we can find further relationships between the two. Both artists were clearly setting out in these works to create pictures of women that emphasized their physical attractiveness (from a male point-of-view, and both artists were, of course, men). There is a similar visual vocabulary of physical/sexual allure in each picture: large eyes, full lips, smooth skin, finely contoured oval face, straight nose, long neck, full bosom. The nudity of the Raphael allows for a fuller display of the subject's bodily attractions, but Romney's Emma, although clothed, is represented in a powerfully alluring way, with a large percentage of bare skin on display and the low neckline of her dress emphasizing the curves of her body. The natural setting of each figure, with green leaves much in evidence, further suggests the notions of fertility associated with the depiction of woman.

There are also notable and significant points of contrast between the pictures. The stylistic approach in each case is representative of the era in which the artist was working. The Raphael was painted over 260 years before the Romney; Raphael was working within the tradition of the Italian Renaissance, with its formalism, its idealization of forms, and classicizing context. Romney was at work in the late eighteenth century, the period of romanticism, individualism, and the worship of 'nature'. 'La Fornarina' is a much more formal composition than Romney's work. The subject is posed stiffly in the center of the picture, her body turned at a slight angle to the picture plane, her posture upright and symmetrical. The formality of her pose is in contrast to her nakedness, and the cool distance Raphael has created between the subject and the viewer seems paradoxical given the frank appeal of her physical presence, emphasized by the warm tones of her flesh and the alluring sideways glance of her large dark eyes. There is a tension between the female figure as a classical goddess, against a background of evergreen laurel, and the human appeal of the young attractive woman who was Raphael's model, and perhaps his intimate companion. In the case of Romney's 'Lady Hamilton' there is no such tension -- the whole image is in harmony with the conception of Emma Hamilton as a spirit of nature itself. Her off-center positioning, the suggestion of movement the position of her body and the tilted poise of her neck reveal a living, lively figure at one with the windblown romantic landscape behind her. She is not a threatening presence, however; she beckons the (male) onlooker with her bright eyes, direct gaze and laughing mouth to a realm of the delights of nature, apprehended through the delights of the senses. In a way, the onlooker is invited to become her companion in the same way as her little dog, who also looks straight at the viewer and seems poised to leap into the natural landscape. The woman in 'La Fornarina' is static, inward-looking, self-contained, inviting distant admiration but no close engagement. Emma Hamilton, by contrast, invites the onlooker with her mobile, vital pose, manner and expression to follow her into the ideal scene of verdant hills and billowing sky created around her by George Romney.

Sources used

Jones, R. And Penny, N. (1983). Raphael. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Kidson, A. (2002). George Romney 1734-1802. London: National Portrait Gallery.

Shawe-Taylor, D. (1990). The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society. London: Barrie and Jenkins.

Tinagli, P. (1997).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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