Posts Tagged ‘Rogier van der Weyden’


Leonardo was about eighteen when he made this study of drapery.  Doesn’t matter how old he was.  He was making drapery studies when he was forty-DraperyStudyLeonardoDetaileight, too.  It’s not something you master and then you’re done with it.  Drapery is mesmerizing, both for the artist working on it and for us, the viewers.  It draws you into a universe that envelopes you and at the same time feels utterly alien.

The Leonardo drawing activates your sense of touch, convincing you that you’re inhabiting a real world, as if you were feeling your way through a cave with a bizarre topography that nevertheless completely seduces your senses.

DraperyStudyLeonardoAnalysisYou can snap out of the trance, however.  And when you do, you’ll notice that some passages are unreal.  He just made some crinkles up—out of whole cloth, so to speak.  With your (momentarily) sober mind you can look at this passage, for example, (pink circle) and realize that cloth does not behave this way.

Leonardo lied.  He created this fiction. Why?  Because it’s fun to create fiction.  He creates the illusion of reality but he’s actually playing with form.

Look at Rogier van der Weyden, who’s about fifty years earlier than Leonardo.

Full title: The Magdalen Reading Artist: Rogier van der Weyden Date made: before 1438 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Are these green folds hammered out of aluminum?  You know very well, cloth does not drape, fold and crinkle this way.  Yet, here it is, captivating us, compelling us to its rhythms like a fierce drummer.  (Ha, I’m looking at 15th century drapery and thinking of Gene Krupa and Art Blakey.)

Drapery, in other words, is a wild thing.

Linné Dosé, whose love of form and composition lead to daring omissions in his choice of still life elements, came up with this cloth floating in space.  No table to rest on.  He apparently saw that shape, found it compelling and that was enough.


Now, when you see this thing sitting there on the page, it harmonizes with the Drapery15%behavior of drapery, but it also becomes something in itself.  Your imagination kicks into the surreal.  What is this?  It looks like a critter, doesn’t it.  You’re now in that cave with Leonardo and Rogier.

Leonardo and Rogier worked for clients who were all-powerful and dictated the subject matter to be depicted.  The artist then set out to work as if he were saying, fine, I’ll give you your mythological characters, but I’ll go wild with the drapery. You can have your Magdalen, but the drapery is mine.

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 – 1519

Rogier van der Weyden, 1400 – 1464

Linné Dosé, graphite on paper, ~12” x 18”



All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.





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