Just the Red Garments From 16th and 17th-Century Painting











JUST THE RED (2014)
Conceptual/Multi-Media
10800x1800 pixels, 36x6 inches at 300ppi

Reproduction licensing available. Contact me.

Photo study in red: A montage of my own macro photographs of just red garments in 16th and 17th-century paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, made from swatches of history, that contains some of its essences, memorialized through its use in photographs. Essentially it is a "remix" of art history using samples, similar to samples from sound recordings. It provokes contemplation of its ontological aspects: what the original cloth was made of, the sitter that wore the garment, and so on. Technology facilitates the continual re-contextualization of art and music history at the micro-level: just one note or one bar in music, or one element in a painting.

The scarf is really a kind of photograph. Like photographs, they encapsulate the essences of the time, regardless of the media itself. Even Polaroids or snapshots taken from a cheap Instamatic camera in the 1960s can have tremendous intrinsic value and need to be cherished through the generations. And captions can help: The caption, in this case, is my description of what I was trying to achieve with this particular project. 

Also, over time, new metaphors emerge, and older ones are resurrected. One example would be Tennyson's phrase "nature, red in tooth and claw'"--"A reference to the sometimes violent natural world, in which predatory animals unsentimentally cover their teeth and claws with the blood of their prey as they kill and devour them."

There's a deep history in all the red paint in those paintings. Like photographs, they are a snapshot of the time in which they were applied to the canvas. Like pottery, they are a snapshot of the earth's magnetic field at the time the pottery was fired.

Dyes used in the time of the paintings: insect red cochineal, iron and alum mordants. Fabrics: felted wollens, silk, cottons. Similar: Nouvelles Draperies.

Works by: Allori, Manfredi, Rubens, Murillo, Guercino, Crespi, Janssens, Jordaens

Isolation of elements in artwork is certainly nothing new. Recently I stumbled upon this devotional painting from 18th century Columbia, in which the artist isolated the foreground figures and excluded the landscape background. The artist signed his name on the back of the painting noting that the work was "touched in the original", i.e. brought into contact with the source painting and thereby invested it with its mystical powers. Like musical samples, or swatch samples from garments, their powers can traverse through time and embed themselves in the present.


The initial printing was in an edition of 10, printed on silk, to be worn as a scarf.

I watched the Civilizations documentary last night. In a segment, the 'Disrobing of Christ' painting by El Greco was discussed in the context of the advent of globalization. (~19:00)


The red garment is the focal point of the painting. Almost 10 feet in height, the robe itself is about the size of a male in the 16th century. If cropped to the ratio of the scarf, it would look like this:


Red itself can become a focal point in any context that makes it calls attention to itself.

May 8, 2018

The "Just" Series:

Just the Clouds in Dutch Painting
Just the Red Garments
Just the Clouds in a Turner Painting

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