Francisco de Hollanda on Michelangelo

ARTS 1A: Week 1 Document Analysis
Francisco de Hollanda on Michelangelo
Read the following excerpt from a primary source document, and address the questions
which follow in your notebook.
An excerpt from Four Dialogues on Painting, completed in 1548 by Portuguese artist
Francisco de Hollanda, in which he recounts the following conversation between Vittoria
Colonna and Michelangelo
. . . Michelangelo said: “Your Excellency has only to ask for something that I can give and
it is yours.” And smiling, she said: “I very much wish to know, since we are on the
subject, what Flemish painting may be and whom it pleases, for it seems to me more
devout than that in the Italian manner.”
“Flemish painting,” slowly answered the painter, “will, generally speaking, Signora, please
the devout better than any painting of Italy, which will never cause him to shed a tear,
whereas that of Flanders will cause him to shed many; and that not through the vigor and
goodness of the painting but owing to the goodness of the devout person. It will appeal to
women, especially to the very old and the very young, and also to monks and nuns and to
certain noblemen who have no sense of true harmony.
“In Flanders they paint, with a view to deceiving the sensual vision, such things as may
cheer you and of which you cannot speak ill, as for example saints and prophets. They
paint stuffs and masonry, the green grass of the fields, the shadow of trees, and rivers and
bridges, which they call landscape, with many figures on this side and many figures on
that. And all this, though it pleases some persons, is done without reason or art, without
symmetry or proportion, without skillful selection or boldness and, finally, without
substance or vigor. Nevertheless there are countries where they paint worse than in
Flanders. And I do not speak so ill of Flemish painting because it is all bad but because it
attempts to do so many things well (each one of which should suffice for greatness) that it
does none well.
“It is practically only the work done in Italy that we can call true painting, and that is why
we call good painting Italian; were it produced elsewhere we should give it the name of
that country or region. And at its best nothing is more noble or devout, since with discreet
persons nothing so calls forth and fosters devotion as the difficult perfection which
approaches and nearly equals the divine. For good painting is nothing but a copy of the
perfections of God and a recollection of His painting; it is a music and a melody which
only intellect can understand, and that with great difficulty. And that is why painting of
this kind is so rare that not many may attain it.”
* * *
In your notebook, write a response to each of the following questions. As part of each
your response, practice quoting from this document—that is, literally place “quotation”
marks around something that is stated, as part of your answer each question.
After completing your written responses to the questions below, keep them in your notes
portfolio, to use during this week’s quiz, as well subsequent exams and the analysis paper.
1. Why did Michelangelo tell his patron, Vittoria Colonna, that Flemish painting was
2. To whom did Michelangelo say that Flemish painting would appeal, and why?
3. How did Michelangelo describe the subjects painted by Flemish painters?
4. How did Michelangelo describe Italian painting, in comparison to Flemish
5. What was Michelangelo’s definition for good painting?
ARTS 1A: Document Analysis 2
Nicolas Poussin
Read the following excerpt from a primary source document, and address the questions
which follow in your notebook.
Excerpts from an unfinished treatise by seventeenth-century French artist Nicolas
The first thing that, as the foundation of all others, is required, is that the subject matter
shall be grand, as are battles, heroic actions, and divine things. But assuming that the
subject on which the painter is laboring is grand, his next consideration is to keep away
from details to the best of his abilities, lest he offend against the dignity of historical
painting by passing over with a hasty brush things magnificent and grand, and lingering
amid vulgar and slight ones.
. . . the painter is required to exercise not only art in giving form to his matter, but
judgment in appraising it, and he must choose a subject that will naturally admit every
ornament and perfection. Those who choose offensive subjects take refuge in them
because of the weakness of their talents. But good painters shall avoid crude and lowly
subjects. . . .
As for the thought, it is but an offspring of the mind laboring on things. . . . The design of
a scene shall be such as will bring out the thought embodied in the scene. . . . The
structure or arrangement of the parts shall not be farfetched, not strained, not laborious,
but lifelike and natural. . . .
Color in painting exists as pleasure for persuading the eyes.
* * *
In your notebook, write a response to each of the following questions. As part of each
your response, practice quoting from this document—that is, literally place “quotation”
marks around something that is stated—as part of your answer to each question.
After completing your written responses to the questions below, keep them in your notes
portfolio, to use during this week’s quiz, as well subsequent exams and the analysis paper.
1. Which three subjects did Poussin include in his definition of the “grand manner”?
2. Poussin suggested that artists who paint grand subjects should “keep away from
details”. Why?
3. Poussin believed that painters who chose offensive subjects did so for what reason?
4. To Poussin, what was the function of design when constructing a painting?
5. To Poussin, what was the function of color in a painting?
* * *

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