Analytic Techniques I: Origins of Artwork

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25 lire St. Clare of Assisi single
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1.03 euro "Stoning of St. Stephen" single

Many Vatican City stamps use original religious works of art for illustration. Those works of art communicate a main message that can be assessed through visual literacy.

By using comparison and contrast, students will decipher the main message of the artwork by examining artistic styles. “Stoning of St. Stephen” and “St. Clare of Assisi” have two different messages and artistic styles.

  • Before reading the stories of St. Clare of Assisi and St. Stephen using written sources in the classroom, have students look at the stamps and create their own stories based on their observations.
  • After reading the stories, discuss the subjects, settings, plot, and main message of the artworks. What art elements are used to add content to the message? One image has a more complex composition whereas the other relies on a flat composition with symbolic objects to communicate the main message.
  • Which painting reproduced on the stamp would seem to be older? Ask why students would think that way and to use examples. The image of St. Clare of Assisi is flat and uses at least five colors. St. Clare’s body does not look proportionate with her head. St. Stephen’s image has a wide-range of colors and shades, portrays atmospheric perspective effectively, and looks three-dimensional.
  • In conclusion and based on artistic techniques, the artwork for the St. Clare of Assisi stamp is older than St. Stephen because the painting is flatter and does not have strong depth as compared to the painting of St. Stephen.