Peter Paul Ruben lived and painted from 1577 until 1640, catching the Protestant Reformation throughout the Netherlands. During this transitional period, Baroque became the emphasized artistic style which utilized color, movement, and sensuality to convey the pictures and themes. Ruben is characterizes by landscapes, historical paintings, portraits, and Counter-Reformation pieces which were part of the new artistic movement during the sixteenth century. During the sixteenth century he traveled throughout Italy where the artistic movements impacted his future work including the Venus and Adonis painting. Paolo Veronese was part of the Renaissance period in Italy from 1528 until 1588. He was part of the Late Renaissance period in Italy during the sixteenth century known for his colors and illusionistic decorations. His Mannerist style was indicative of elaborate stores, pageantry, architectural settings, and dramatic color. Both of their popular pieces—Ruben’s Venus and Adonis as well as Veronese’s Mars and Venus United by Love—are indicative of the new attention to detail which was taking place across Italy and Europe during the sixteenth century. They are symbolic of love and sensuality. The main difference between the two is that Ruben was a devout Catholic who subscribed to religious ideals while Veronese was quite the opposite.
The High Renaissance in Italy influenced the changing generation of artists who incorporated the technical expertise, compositions, and themes of the older generation. Italy during the sixteenth century reflected the Late Renaissance and Mannerism. The Protestant Reformation was spreading and the Roman Catholic Church sought to hold on to power as long as possible by throwing out all artwork which was too Protestant or not religious at all. Likewise, Protestants removed artwork which was too Roman Catholic. Roman-based artists were spread throughout Rome and Europe and responded to the conflict with Mannerism. Mannerism emphasized technical virtuosity, beautiful figures, erudite subject manner, and compositions which were deliberately complex in order to appeal to the remaining sophisticated tastes of the middle class. Refinement became synonymous with Mannerism for the emerging middle class who desperately wanted to emphasize their new wealth and social status as well as the aristocrats who were desperately holding on to theirs. Instead of focusing on clarity and unity, grace, virtuoso, and variety were displayed. New definitions of beauty were explored by conscious artists which meant experimenting with ideal figure types, proportions, and unusual compositions. Since these artists were considered privileged, it was a requirement to still to integrate originality and personal expression just as the High Renaissance had done.
Both Ruben’s Venus and Adonis as well as Veronese’s Mars and Venus United by Love are pieces clearly defined by the Late Renaissance and the Baroque tendencies to emphasize the relation between then-current political, economic, and social atmospheres. They were each part of great transitional periods in artistic history and utilized the new components of flawed human features with gods as well as natural beauty and love.
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