Monday, July 30, 2012

Savonarola


Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) was a Dominican friar who led a puritanical campaign against clerical corruption in Renaissance Florence.

His prophecies and protests led to him being excommunicated, hanged, and burned. 


I did this pencil drawing in London from a terracotta bust sculpted in the 19th century in imitation of a 1496 original. 


I was struck by the rugged vigor of his profile. I tried to imagine I was looking the real man instead of an echo in clay.

10 comments:

Federico Pancaldi said...

It's amazing, he seems so live in your sketch! Here in Ferrara, where Savonarola was born, there is an interesting statue of him at the center of the town. With its height, gesture and the strong facial features, this statue appears quite disturbing when you walk near it, but it is also very interesting at the same time. http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ferrara,_statua_girolamo_savonarola.JPG

Scorchfield said...

In `The Agony and the Ecstasy`,
by Irving Stone, Savonarola is very good printing!

Rich said...

Wow! Savonarola - the epitome of a zealot.
These fervent features - you really brought them out.

This is an art in itself: To sit in front of a lifeless statue, sketching, and bringing out and revive "the real man, out of a distant echo in clay", to quote James Journey;.)

vlad74 said...

It look as you drew a live model James. Wonderful sketch!

JeanTraveling said...

I love this perspective. It brings him alive in a way the frontal view of the statue doesn't; that rough profile speaks of his inner demons. Thanks.

Craig Wilson said...

Terrific sketch, James.

I've got 'Color and Light' and 'The Artist's Guide to Sketching' on loan from the library. I raced through 'Color and Light' this past weekend, and it was fantastic. I don't work in color all that often for a number of reasons, but perhaps I'll be more inclined to do so more often now. In any case, I've found some of the concepts contained to be helpful for non-color work. I'm not very far into 'The Artist's Guide to Sketching' but I like what I've read so far. I have to admit, I was never really all that fond of Kinkade's paintings that I've seen, but I really like his sketches that are in the book.

James Gurney said...

Federico, thank you. What a nice surprise to hear from Savonarola's home town.

Thanks, Vlad, Rich and Scorchfield. Credit to the sculptor, who stopped me in my tracks in the Victoria and Albert, which is filled with incredible works.

Jean, I can't remember why I chose the profile view, because I find it's sometimes harder to convey emotion in a side view of a face. I do remember thinking: How does a person's life change his or her face? If Sav had a twin brother who became a mild-mannered accountant, would he look different?

Craig, I'm so glad you're finding the books useful. Someday when I get around to it, I want to do a series of blog posts on the early Tom Kinkade, before he became the "Painter of Light." That's when I knew him best. You're right: his work was very different, a lot grittier and closer to nature. It would be a side of him that most people aren't too familiar with.

etc, etc said...

That's some serious looking underbite that does not appear in Fra Bartolomeo's profile portrait.

Vicki said...

So how did the sculptor, who was from the 1800's, get the face of Savonarola? That hook nose is famous, but you can't build a face from just the nose...

Vicki said...

oops. I should have read the Wikipedia article before I published my comment. There is a painting there of Savonarola that was done the year he died.