THE BUILDING OF A PALACE
Esther Schuerman 3/14/00
Description for visitor.
What we see as we look at this painting is a large expanse of space. There are numerous figures and animals scattered about. We see an impressive building with decorative landscape in the background.
Looking closely at the figures, we see that many are engaged in building activities. These two men are using a saw. Here we see two figures using a chisel and a mallet. These men are unloading stonework from an oxcart and various other figures are engaged in building activities.
The building appears to be nearing completion. Notice it has two wings and a central courtyard. Each wing of the building has the same number of doors, windows, and columns. You can readily see from this that it shows balance and harmony. Along the roofline we see numerous statutes of a classical style.
The Ringling museum has been built in much the same style. This building we are in also has two wings with a central courtyard with classical statuary around the roofline. Notice the hoist raising one of the statues up to the roof. A similar hoist was used to raise the statues on the museum's roof.
As you look from the front to the back of the painting the illusion of a triangle is suggested by the sides of the building, the point of the triangle being somewhere off in the distance behind the courtyard. In other words, the artist is showing us his knowledge and skill in using perspective. But yet as you look at some of the figures, you will notice they are larger or smaller than one would think in relationship to other figures. For instance, look at the tiny figure under the saw and how big the horse and riders are. The proportion of the figures is not to scale. The artist was noted for being very inventive and imaginative and often put unexpected things in his paintings such as the children swinging from the rope and woman holding a baby at the side of the painting.
The painting is on oil on a wood panel. And from the size and subject matter we can guess that it was painted for a wealthy patron's home.
The title of this painting is "The Building of a Palace", and it seems to represent an ideal structure, not a real one. During the Italian Renaissance, ideal beauty and classical art held a central place in society, and this painting is a good example.
For the more knowledgeable visitor, I would probably include some of the following information depending on the interest and time factor:
Artist -Piero di Cosimo was an unsalaried apprentice ofCosimo Rosselli. Roselli was summoned to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV, and Piero di Cosimo went with him and spent two years there. By the late 1480's, Piero di Cosimo was established as an independent artist in Florence as one of the most original and imaginative artists in that city. About half of his work consists of religious subjects. In addition, he painted portraits, made a significant contribution to landscape painting, was a marvelous painter of animals and is known for his mythological scenes and naturalistic style. There are no signed, documented, or dated works by Piero de Cosimo.
Subject -There have been several differing opinions on what the subject matter is based. It may be part of a series of other works which depict important episodes from early history such as the "Golden Age". It has also been proposed that it may represent the origins of architecture or an allegory on the art of building. It does seem clear that the painting represents on ideal structure, not a real one.
Provenance -This painting was in the Emile Gavet collection in Paris. Later it was owned by William K. Vanderbilt and inherited by Mrs. Oliver Belmont of Newport, R.I. It was acquired by John Ringling through Duveen in London in 1928-1929. Bequest of John Ringling 1936.