In the paper “Adoration of the Shepherds and The Holy Family with the Shepherds” the author compares two artworks. High precision details are a hallmark of the two works. This obsessive attention to detail is a signature of both painters.
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This obsessive attention to detail is a signature too of the Mantegna style and imprint, already fully formed at the time of the commissioning of the painting, completed when he was barely out of his teens. The descriptions of the painting include precision, hardness, a sense of clarity of the image and of the vision that was unique and spectacular during its time, and the refinement and the purity in the colors that were employed. In the Adoration of the Shepherds the clarity of the detail, the use of colors that are pure, and the sharpness and the overall sense of exactness of the composition is said to extend all the way to the background, where even the landscape far away from the scene in focus is described in such a level of detail that critics then and now consider with awe and astonishment. The emphasis on detail reflects tool, an aesthetic that focuses on reality, realistic depictions, even if in the case of the shepherds there is a lack of a tendency to idealize and beautify their presences, and instead they are depicted in the painting in the full reality of the coarseness of their appearance and the drabness of the colors of their clothing. In contrast, Joseph's clothing, and his presence and appearance, are vibrant and serene at the same time, starkly in opposition to everything else, especially with regard to the yellow garb of Joseph. Mary's muted blue and red garb blends more with the surrounding environment, meanwhile, and it is noteworthy that the focus of attention of the shepherds is not Jesus and Mary, but in the painting it is Joseph they are facing and bowing to (Kren and Marx; Louvre; Abrahams). The Holy...
See in the painting the shepherds look more like angels than human beings, in the handsome quality of their faces, the serenity and lack of human sin in the way their faces are depicted, and in the way their smiles and their presences encouraged further intimacy of spirit among the shepherds and the holy family. There is nothing at all that is course or reflecting toil and hardship in this painting. The composition is idealized too, in the way the lighting is so crafted so that the virgin mother and the infant Jesus take center stage in the painting, with the baby Jesus as the focal point of the attention of all the people in the painting, a deliberate staging of the painting so that mother and child, and child in particular, are the most important figures in the painting. The child Jesus is the focus of the love and attention of the shepherds, as well as of the virgin mother Mary. In contrast to the softness and the idealization that are the hallmarks of the painting by Jordaens, the painting of Mantegna puts sharp focus on the outward physical reality of the scene, with the shepherds depicted not as idealized, angel-like figures but as very human, and as shepherds who toil and who are nomadic in their ways are expected to look at. Where Jordaens idealizes and softens the scene to evoke warmth and closeness, Mantegna offers stark reality, and detailed depictions of that reality. There is nothing at all that is course or reflecting toil and hardship in this painting, angel-like figures but as very human.
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