Watch the Renaissance Painting, The Battle of San Romano, Get Brought Beautifully to Life in a Hand-Painted Animation

Before the advent of the motion pic­ture, human­i­ty had the the­ater — but we also had paint­ings. Though phys­i­cal­ly still by def­i­n­i­tion, paint on can­vas could, in the hands of a suf­fi­cient­ly imag­i­na­tive mas­ter, seem actu­al­ly to move. Arguably this could even be pulled off with ochre and char­coal on the wall of a cave, if you cred­it the the­o­ry that pale­olith­ic paint­ings con­sti­tute the ear­li­est form of cin­e­ma. More famous­ly, and much more recent­ly, Rem­brandt imbued his mas­ter­piece The Night Watch with the illu­sion of move­ment. But over in Italy anoth­er painter, also work­ing on a large scale, pulled it off dif­fer­ent­ly two cen­turies ear­li­er. The artist was Pao­lo Uccel­lo, and the paint­ing is The Bat­tle of San Romano.

“The set of three paint­ings depicts the har­row­ing details of an epic con­fronta­tion between Flo­ren­tine and Sienese armies in 1432,” writes Meghan Oret­sky at Vimeo, which select­ed Swiss film­mak­er Georges Schwiz­ge­bel’s short ani­mat­ed adap­ta­tion of the trip­tych as a Staff Pick Pre­miere. Com­plet­ed in 2017, the film’s begin­nings go back to 1962, when Schwiz­gebel was a gallery-tour­ing art stu­dent in Italy.

“Even though I wasn’t nor­mal­ly moved by old paint­ings, this one made a strong impres­sion on me and still does today,” he tells Vimeo. “I was also inspired by the use of cycles, or loops, which suit­ed a mov­ing ver­sion of this image per­fect­ly.” Schwiz­gebel exe­cut­ed the ani­ma­tion itself over the course of six months, fore­go­ing com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy and paint­ing each frame with acrylic on glass.

Scored by com­pos­er Judith Gru­ber-Stitzer, Schwiz­ge­bel’s “The Bat­tle of San Romano” con­sti­tutes a kind of shape-shift­ing tour of the paint­ing that first cap­ti­vat­ed him half a cen­tu­ry ago. But what he would have seen at the Uffizi Gallery is only one third of Uccel­lo’s com­po­si­tion, albeit the third that art his­to­ri­ans con­sid­er cen­tral. The oth­er two reside at the Lou­vre and the Nation­al Gallery, and you can see the lat­ter’s piece dis­cussed by Direc­tor of Col­lec­tions and Research Car­o­line Camp­bell in the video above. Schwiz­gebel is hard­ly the first to react bold­ly to The Bat­tle of San Romano; in the 15th cen­tu­ry, Loren­zo de’ Medici was suf­fi­cient­ly moved to buy one part, then have the oth­er two stolen and brought to his palace. If that’s the kind of act it has the pow­er to inspire, per­haps it’s for the best that the trip­ty­ch’s union did­n’t last.

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Edvard Munch’s Famous Paint­ing “The Scream” Ani­mat­ed to Pink Floyd’s Pri­mal Music

13 Van Gogh’s Paint­ings Painstak­ing­ly Brought to Life with 3D Ani­ma­tion & Visu­al Map­ping

William Blake’s Paint­ings Come to Life in Two Ani­ma­tions

Late Rem­brandts Come to Life: Watch Ani­ma­tions of Paint­ings Now on Dis­play at the Rijksmu­se­um

10 Paint­ings by Edward Hop­per, the Most Cin­e­mat­ic Amer­i­can Painter of All, Turned into Ani­mat­ed GIFs

Dripped: An Ani­mat­ed Trib­ute to Jack­son Pollock’s Sig­na­ture Paint­ing Tech­nique

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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