Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Blue of Distance

In chapter two of A Field Guide to Getting Lost Solnit is talking about the color blue: Blue as the color of the sky and of the water, the horizon, and remote mountains, blue as the color of everything far away... Blue is the color of where you are not - the color of where you can never go - .

In the fifteenth century European painters began to paint the blue of distance. Here is an early example: 

Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de' Benci, c. 1474/1478, oil on panel.
Leonardo painted this portrait of Ginevra de' Benci, a young Florentine noblewoman who, at the age of sixteen, married Luigi Niccolini in 1474. The work may have been an engagement or wedding portrait, or it may have been commissioned by Bernardo Bembo, the Venetian Ambassador to Florence and Ginevra's close friend and admirer.

In this portrait we can see a narrow band of blue trees and blue horizon at the back (echoing also the bodice laces). Leonardo wrote: that which you wish to show at a distance make blue; that which is five times more distant make five times more blue.

Solnits thoughts on the color blue are interesting, and well founded in the material she uses as examples. Her knowledge of art history makes it possible to choose images from a wide span of time. From Leonardo she wanders on to Henry Bosse and his late nineteenth century photographs:


aafke7 said...

>>> ... and blue (and its connotations of any kind) is the vocal point in all my blog posts! What a surprise to see your post! Very interesting.
Just the other day I reflected on books as a kind of 'personal branding' and linked your blog.

Sigrun said...

Thank you Vera!
I really have to work on my language skills ...