For a Desert Island

The web-site that I value probably above all others is the Web Gallery of Art. This site belongs to the new genre of "virtual museums." It covers individual works of art, both painting and sculpture, by European artists during the period 1150 - 1750, or roughly the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods.

You can catch just a glimpse of the site's riches by examining its offerings on a minor artist such as Spinello Aretino. First you are taken to a page of thumbnails. You may, if you wish, also consult the brief biographical sketch, where you learn that Aretino was an Italian artist of the 14th century who specialized in frescoes and murals.

But the real glory of this site lies in its enlargements. They come in reproductions of extraordinary color and detail.

Aretino painted, for example, several frescoes in the sacristy of the S. Miniato al Monte church in Florence, Italy. One wall fresco represents scenes from the life of St. Benedict. A ceiling fresco in the same sacristy portrays four doctors of the early Church.

Another example is Aretino's fresco portraying Pope Alexander III receiving an ambassador. The artist's rendering of the sumptuousness of the papal surroundings is memorable indeed.

(Note: As always, to derive the full effect of any highly visual web-site, let the pictures load on a first tour of the page, and then enjoy them as they load much more quickly the second time around.)

January 31, 2001