Art Dictionary Q - S


a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

quadrature
A type of illusionistic decoration in which architectural elements are painted on walls and/or ceilings in such a way that they appear to be an extension of the real architecture of a room into an imaginary space. It was common in Roman art, was revived by Mantegna in the 15th century, and reached its peaks of elaboration in Baroque Italy. The greatest of all exponents of quadratura was probably Pozzo, in whose celebrated ceiling in S. Ignazio, Rome, architecture and figures surge towards the heavens with breathtaking bravura. Unlike Pozzo, many artists relied on specialists called quadraturisti to paint the architectural settings for their figures (see Guercino and Tiepolo, for example).
quatrefoil
decorative motif in Gothic art consisting of four lobes or sections of circles of the same size.
Quattrocento (It. four hundred)
The 15th century in Italian art. The term is often used of the new style of art that was characteristic of the Early Renaissance, in particular works by Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, Fra Angelico and others. It was preceded by the Trecento and followed by the Cinquecento.
r
Reformed churches
Churches that rejected the authority of the Pope from the 16th century. In 16th century Europe, the two main denominations were the Lutherans and the Calvinists, with the Anglican Church developing in England.
relic (Lat. relicquiae - remains)
< dd>a part of the body of a saint, or some item connected with a saint, the object of particular veneration.
relief (Lat. relevare - to raise)
A sculptural work in which all or part projects from the flat surface. There are three basic forms: low relief (bas-relief, basso rilievo), in which figures project less than half their depth from the background; medium relief (mezzo-rilievo), in which figures are seen half round; and high relief (alto rilievo), in which figures are almost detached from their background.
religious orders and congregations
An order is a body of men or women bound by solemn vows and following a rule of life, e.g. the great orders of monks, hermits, canons regular, friars and nuns, or the Jesuits. A congregation may be either a subsection of an order, or a body of persons bound by simple vows and generally having a looser structure than an order. Among the old orders there was both fusion and fission. Among the contemplative orders, originally autonomous houses tended to group themselves into congregations, presided over by chapters general. A major stimulus to such reform movements was concern for mutual defence against the abuse of commendams, i.e. the grant of abbacies 'in trust' to non-resident outsiders to the order. At the same time, there was dissidence and fractionalization in almost all of the old orders and congregations, the great issue of contention being the strict observance.
Religious Peace of Nuremberg
A temporary settlement of Germany's religious conflicts agreed in 1532 between Emperor Charles V and those German princes who supported the Reformed Churches. Though it merely postponed the final settlement of the issue until the next diet, the settlement was in effect a formal recognition of Lutheranism.
Renaissance
A French label given to an Italian cultural movement and to its repercussions elsewhere; also, on the assumption that chronological slices of human mass experience can usefully be described in terms of a dominant intellectual and creative manner, a historical period. For Italy the period is popularly accepted as running from the second generation of the 14th century to the second or third generation of the 16th century. Though there is something inherently ridiculous about describing a period of 250 years as one of rebirth, there is some justification for seeing a unity within it, if only in terms of the chronological self-awareness of contemporaries.
retable
Ornamental panel behind an altar and, in the more limited sense, the shelf behind an altar on which are placed the crucifix, candlesticks, and other liturgical objects. The panel is usually made of wood or stone, though sometimes of metal, and is decorated with paintings, statues, or mosaics depicting the Crucifixion or a similar subject. Although frequently forming part of the architectural structure of the church, especially in the High Gothic period, retables can be detached and, sometimes, as in the case of the famous retable by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, The Adoration of the Lamb" (1432, Cathedral of Saint-Bavon, Ghent), consist merely of a painting. Probably the most well-known retable is that in the Basilica of St Mark in Venice, which is one of the most remarkable examples in existence of the craft of the jeweler and goldsmith. Originally commissioned in 976, the St. Mark's retable was enlarged and enriched in the 13th century. With the development of freestanding altars, retables have become extinct.
rilievo (It. relief)
In painting, the impression that an object is three-dimensional, that it stands out from its background fully rounded.
Rococo
A style of design, painting, and architecture dominating the 18th century, often considered the last stage of the Baroque. Developing in the Paris townhouses of the French aristocracy at the turn of the 18th century, Rococo was elegant and ornately decorative, its mood lighthearted and witry. Louis XV furniture, richly decorated with organic forms, is a typical product. Leading exponents of the Rococo sryle included the French painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), and the German architect Johann Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753). Rococo gave way to Neo-classicism.
Romanesque
Style of art and architecture prevailing throughout most of Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries, the first style to achieve such international currency. The dominant art of the Middle Ages was architecture, and 'Romanesque', like 'Gothic', is primarily an architectural term that has been extended to the other arts of the period. As the name suggests, it indicates a derivation from Roman art, and sometimes Romanesque is used to cover all the developments from Roman architecture in the period from the collapse of the Roman Empire until the flowering of the Gothic roughly AD 500-1200. More usually, however, it is applied to a distinctive style that emerged, almost simultaneously, in several countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain - in the 11th century. It is characterized most obviously by a new massiveness of scale, reflecting the greater political and economic stability that followed a period when Christian civilization seemed in danger of extinction. Romanesque painting and sculpture are generally strongly stylized, with little of the naturalism and humanistic warmth of classical or later Gothic art. The forms of nature are freely translated into linear and sculptural designs which are sometimes majestically calm and severe and at others are agitated by a visionary excitement that can become almost delirious. Because of its expressionistic distortion of natural form, Romanesque art, as with other great non-naturalistic styles of the past, has had to wait for the revolution in sensibility brought about by the development of modern art in order to be widely appreciated.
Romanist
Name used to describe Northern artists of the early 16th century whose style was influenced by Italian Renaissance painting, usually as a result of a visit to Italy. Mabuse, B. van Orley, M. van Heemskerk, Q. Massys and M. van Reymerswaele are important Romanists.
romanticism
A term loosely applied to literary and artistic movements of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Resulting in part from the libertarian and egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution, the romantic movements had in common only a revolt against the prescribed rules of classicism. The basic aims of romanticism were various: a return to nature and to belief in the goodness of humanity; the rediscovery of the artist as a supremely individual creator; the development of nationalistic pride; and the exaltation of the senses and emotions over reason and intellect. In addition, romanticism was a philosophical revolt against rationalism.
Rome, school of
School of Italian painting of importance from the mid-15th to the late 19th centuries. Both Michelangelo and Raphael worked in Rome, making it the centre of the High Renaissance; in the 17th century it was the centre of the Baroque movement represented by Bernini and Pietro da Cortona. From the 17th century the presence of classical remains drew artists from all over Europe including Poussin, Claude, Piranesi, Pannini and Mengs.
rosette
A small architectural ornament consisting of a disc on which there is a carved or molded a circular, stylized design representing an open rose.
Rubenist (French Rubéniste)
Any of the artists and critics who championed the sovereignty of colour over design and drawing in the "quarrel" of colour versus drawing that broke out in the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris in 1671 (see also Poussinist). The dispute raged for many years before the Rubenists emerged victorious. The aim of painting, they maintained, is to deceive the eye by creating an imitation of life or of nature and by manipulating colour. The colourists pointed to the art of Peter Paul Rubens (whence their name) as one in which nature and not the imitation of Classical art predominated.
ruddle
Any red-earth pigment, such as red ochre.
s
Sack of Rome
Climax of the papal-Imperial struggle and a turning point in the history of Italy, the Sack of Rome resulted from Clement VII's adhesion to the League of Cognac (1526). Imperial troops under the Duke of Bourbon left Milan and joined an army of mainly Lutheran landsknechts (January 1527). The Duke of Bourbon marched on Rome, hoping to force Clement to abandon the League and to provide money for the pay of the Imperial army. A truce made by the Pope and Lannoy failed to halt this advance, and Rome was attacked and taken on 6 May, the Duke of Bourbon being killed at the first assault. Clement escaped into Castel S. Angelo but for a week Rome itself was subjected to a sacking of a peculiarly brutal nature. Although the army was then brought back under some kind of control, it continued to occupy Rome until February 1528, when it finally left the city it had devastated, gutted, and impoverished.
Sacra Conversazione (It. holy conversation)
A representation of the Virgin and Child attended by saints. There is seldom a literal conversation depicted, though as the theme developed the interaction between the participants - expressed through gesture, glance and movement - greatly increased. The saints depicted are usually the saint the church or altar is dedicated to, local saints, or those chosen by the patron who commissioned the work.
sacra rappresentazione
A dramatic form that flourished particularly in Quattrocento Tuscany, supported by lay confraternities. Written primarily in ottava rima, the sacra rappresentazione was staged in an open space with luoghi deputati, multiple sets used in succession. Subjects were nominally sacred, from the Old and New Testaments, pious legend and hagiography, but the injection of realistic vignette and detail from contemporary local life or of romantic elaboration was considerable. There were no limits on time; a single rappresentazione or festa could begin with the Creation and end with the Final Judgment, and available techniques of elaborate scenery made such subjects desirable. Many compositions were anonymous, but others were the work of well-known figures, among them Feo Belcari (1410-84), author of La rappresentazione di Abram ed Isac (1449), and Lorenzo de' Medici, whose Rappresentazione dei SS. Giovanni e Paolo (1491) was performed by the children of the Compagnia del Vangelista. The rappresentazioni were often printed in the Cinquecento and continued to be performed on municipal occasions, but eventually they became fare only for monasteries and convents.
sacraments
The interpretation and number of the sacraments vary among the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Eastern independent, and Protestant churches. The Roman Church has fixed the number of sacraments at seven: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, holy orders, matrimony, and anointing of the sick. In the early church the number of sacraments varied, sometimes including as many as 10 or 12. The theology of the Orthodox Church, under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, fixed the number of sacraments at seven. The classical Protestant churches (i.e., Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed) have accepted only two sacraments - i.e., baptism and the Eucharist, though Luther allowed that penance was a valid part of sacramental theology.
Salt War, the
Exasperated by the overriding of their privileges by papal governors, and hit by the rise in price of provisions after two disastrous harvests, the Perugians seized on Pope Paul III's order of 1540, that the price of salt should be increased, as an excuse to revolt. They were still seeking aid, notably from Florence and in Germany, when a papal army forced the city to surrender and swear allegiance to the legate sent to govern it. The chief focus of discontent, the area containing the houses of the old ruling family, the Bentivoglio, was buried under a new fortress, the Rocca Paolina, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
sanguine
Red chalk with a rownish tinge, used for drawing.
Saracens
During the Middle Ages, the Arabs or Muslims, particularly those who fought against the Christian Crusades.
sarcophagus, pl. sarcophagi (Gk. flesh eating)
A coffin or tomb, made of stone, wood or terracotta, and sometimes (especially among the Greeks and Romans) carved with inscriptions and reliefs.
satyr
In Greek mythology, human-like woodland deities with the ears, legs and horns of a goat. Often depicted as the attendant of the Bacchus, the god of wine.
scalloped niche
A real or painted niche which has a semi-circular conch in the form of a shell.
Scepticism
This generic term covers several different anti-dogmatic tendencies in ancient and modern philosophy. The founder of the school is traditionally considered to be Pyrrho of Elis (c. 360 - c. 270 BC), whose writings, along with all the other original works of the formulators of the tradition, are lost. Information about the movement is contained in later writings such as Cicero's Academica (c. 45 BC), Diogenes Laertius' Life of Pyrrho (3rd century AD), and especially the works of Sextus Empiricus (c. 160 - c. 210 AD). The central thesis of the Sceptics is that certitude is impossible, owing to the many obstacles preventing valid empirical knowledge, in particular the absence of a criterion by which to distinguish truth from falsity. Rather than establishing a system of positive philosophy, the Sceptics emphasized the critical and negative nature of philosophy in questioning what was taken as legitimate knowledge by dogmatic schools such as Platonism and Stoicism.
Schildersbent (Dutch: 'band of painters')
A fraternal organization founded in 1623 by a group of Netherlandish artists living in Rome for social intercourse and mutual assistance. Its members called themselves Bentvueghels or 'birds of a flock' and they had individual Bentnames - for example Pieter van Laer, one of the early leaders, was called Bamboccio. In 1720 the Schildersbent was dissolved and prohibited by papal decree because of its rowdiness and drunkenness.
Schism, the Great
It began 20 September 1378 when a majority of the cardinals, having declared their election of the Neapolitan Bartolomeo Prignano (Urban VI) 5 months previously to be invalid because of the undue pressure exerted by the Roman mob, elected the Frenchman Robert of Geneva (Clement VII). Although the schism was caused by acute personal differences between Urban and the cardinals, most of whom, being Frenchmen, were deeply unhappy over the return of the Papacy from Avignon to Rome, Christendom divided along political lines once the double election had taken place, with France and her allies Aragon, Castile and Scotland supporting Clement, while England, the Emperor and most other princes remained loyal to Urban.
scholasticism
The term is ambivalent. It describes the characteristic method of instruction and exposition used in medieval schools and universities: the posing of a case (quaestio), arguing (disputatio) and settling it (sententia). It also describes the subject matter that was particularly shaped by this method: philosophy, with its strong connection with Christian theology and its dependence on Aristotelian texts and commentaries, and theology, with its assumption that spiritual truths can be seized with the tools of formal logic. 'Scholasticism' has thus become almost synonymous with medieval thought. As such, it can appear the antithesis of Renaissance thought, especially as writers like Petrarch and Valla poured scorn on both the methods and the content of medieval scholarship.
secco (Italian: dry)
Term applied to a technique of mural painting in which the colours are applied to dry plaster, rather than wet plaster as in fresco. The colours were either tempera or pigments ground in lime-water; if lime-water was used, the plaster had to be damped before painting, a method described by Theophilus and popular in northern Europe and in Spain. In Italian Renaissance art the finishing touches to a true fresco would often be painted a secco, as it is easier to add details in this way; because the secco technique is much less permanent, such passages have frequently flaked off with time. Thus in Giotto's Betrayal in the Arena Chapel, Padua, the details of many of the soldiers' weapons are now missing. (See also: fresco.)
seraph (plural seraphim)
In Jewish, Christian, and Islamic literature, celestial being variously described as having two or three pairs of wings and serving as a throne guardian of God. Often called the burning ones, seraphim in the Old Testament appear in the Temple vision of the prophet Isaiah as six-winged creatures praising God. In Christian angelology the seraphim are the highest-ranking celestial beings in the hierarchy of angels. In art the four-winged cherubim are painted blue (symbolizing the sky) and the six-winged seraphim red (symbolizing fire).
sfumato
A technique, largely developed by Leonardo da Vinci, in which the transitions from light to dark are so gradual they are almost imperceptible; sfumato softens lines and creates a soft-focus effect.
sibyls (Gk. sibylla, prophetess)
In antiquity, women who could prophesy. The many Sibylline prophecies were kept in Rome and consulted by the Senate. In Christian legend, Sibyls foretold the Birth, Passion and Resurrection of Christ, just as the male prophets of the Bible did. Originally, in the period of classical antiquity, there was only one Sibyl; the number gradually rose to ten. In early Christianity it was further raised to 12, in analogy to the 12 prophets of the Old Testament.
Signoria (It. lordship)
from the late Middle Ages, the governing body of some of the Italian city states, usually presided over by individual families.
silverpoint
metal pencil made of copper, brass, or bronze with a silver tip fused to it. Silverpoint drawing must be done on a specially prepared surface. Silverpoint was already in use as a drawing instrument in the 14th century, and the delicate, light-gray lines produced by the silver tip, which were all identical in thickness, made it a particularly popular artistic tool throughout the course of the 15th century.
single-leaf woodcuts
the earliest works in linear book printing which were produced between 1400 and 1550 as single sheets with black lines in high relief. They first appear in alpine monasteries, were at first used to spread information of all sorts and were later used as leaflets and visual polemics.
sinopia
The preparatory drawing for a fresco drawn on the wall where the painting is to appear; the red chalk used to make such a drawing.
soft style
A name given to the style found principally in Germany (where it is called Weiche Stil), at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries. It is very closely related to International Gothic, and, as the name implies, is characterized by soft and gentle rhythms, especially in the flow of drapery, and by a sweet and playful sentiment. The principal subject is the Madonna playing with the Christ Child and these are sometimes called Schöne Madonnen - 'Beautiful Madonnas'. Sculpture and the earliest woodcuts show the style even more clearly than painting.
sotto in sů (It. up from under)
Perspective in which people and objects are seen from below and shown with extreme foreshortening.
spandrel
(1) The triangular space between two arches in an arcade.
(2) The curved surface between two ribs meeting at an angle in a vault.
staffage
This word, pronounced as French, is used in both English and German to describe the figures and animals which animate a picture intended essentially as a landscape or veduta; in other words, figures which are not really essential and could be added by another painter. In the highly specialized world of the Dutch painters of the 17th century this was very often the case, so that a landscape painter like Wynants rarely did his own staffage; whereas Canaletto or Guardi always did.
Stanze (Ital. rooms)
The suite of rooms in the Vatican decorated by Raphael.
stigmata, sing. stigma (Gk. mark, brand, tattoo)
The five Crucifixion wounds of Christ (pierced feet, hands and side) which appear miraculously on the body of a saint. One of the most familiar examples in Renaissance art is the stigmatization of St. Francis of Assisi.
stucco
A type of light, malleable plaster made from dehydrated lime (calcium carbonate) mixed with powdered marble and glue and sometimes reinforced with hair. It is used for sculpture and architectural decoration, both external and internal. In a looser sense, the term is applied to a plaster coating applied to the exterior of buildings, but stucco is a different substance from plaster (which is calcium sulphate). Stucco in the more restricted sense has been known to virtually every civilization. In Europe it was exploited most fully from the 16th century to the 18th century, notable exponents being the artists of the School of Fontainebleau and Giacomo Serpotta. By adding large quantities of glue and colour to the stucco mixture stuccatori were able to produce a material that could take a high polish and assume the appearance of marble. Indeed, sometimes it is difficult to distinguish from real marble without touching it (stucco feels warmer).
studiolo, pl. studioli (It.)
A room in a Renaissance palace in which the rich or powerful could retire to study their rare books and contemplate their works of art. The studiolo became a symbol of a person's humanist learning and artistic refinement. Among the best known are those of Duke Federico da Montefeltro in Urbino, and Isabella D'Este in Mantua.
Sublime
Term that came into general use in the 18th century to denote a new aesthetic concept that was held to be distinct from the beautiful and the Picturesque and was associated with ideas of awe and vastness. The outstanding work on the concept of the Sublime in English was Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). This book was one of the first to realize (in contrast with the emphasis on clarity and precision during the Age of Enlightenment) the power of suggestiveness to stimulate imagination. The cult of the Sublime had varied expressions in the visual arts, notably the taste for the 'savage' landscapes of Salvator Rosa and the popularity among painters of subjects from Homer, John Milton, and Ossian (the legendary Gaelic warrior and bard, whose verses - actually fabrications - were published in the 1760s to great acclaim). The vogue for the Sublime, with that for the Picturesque, helped shape the attitudes that led to Romanticism.
supremacy
Historically, the supremacy of the English king over the English Church, i.e. the king not the Pope is acknowledged as the supreme head of the Church of England. Established legally by the Act of Supremacy in 1534.
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