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Portrait of a Lady

This paper is focusing on comparing and contrasting the elements of line, color and composition of two artworks: Portrait of a Lady. Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1455, and Zambezia, Zambezia, Wifredo Lam, 1950. Both artworks are different in either elements, as well as the time periods in which they were conceived. Although the progress of change has changed the art world drastically, the female form cannot be mistaken as the central figure in either artist’s work. Rogier’s work exhibits line through human form.

This approach allows his subject to be presented in a natural form. His rather stiff approach to the gossamer fabric atop of the woman’s head, as well as the seemingly straight lines of her bodice and other clothes can be comparable to Lam’s work for both use diagonals in order to attract the viewers attention to where the diagonal line ends. In the case of Rogier, the diagonal line emphasizes the woman’s face. In the case of Lam, the diagonal emphasizes the woman’s breast.

This significance of the diagonal and its difference uses may be attributed to the timeframe in which each artwork was rendered: the face as being important and the breast as being important in either era’s culture. For Lam, the main difference in line is its wild application in representing the female form. Indeed, the only female parts of the body that the lines choose to emphasize are the breast and the vagina. In the element of color, either artist uses bright colors in order to attract attention to either line’s emphasis of the female form.

The colors used on Rogier’s female is brightest around the face: the warm colors, the red lips (although not as red as the sash around her midsection) and the skin tone all attribute to a feeling of this woman being a mother (it’s those warm colors that are so welcoming). Counter to this, Lam’s portrait uses bright colors in order to emphasize the female reproductive parts in a Willendorf type of importance. The bright colors, the yellow around the vagina also point toward a warm place, a warm feeling, something that isn’t necessary motherly, but distinctly how a mother is made (through her womb).

The startling colors of vibrancy on the back of the woman, the tangle of lines that could be hair or dreadlocks is most attractive to the viewer’s eye. The composition of either artist’s work is the female form. In Lam’s rendition he used a type of magical realism, “Lam depicted an iconic woman partly inspired by the femme-cheval (horse-headed woman) of the Santeria cult. He frequently used the device of transmogrification of body parts to suggest magical metamorphosis, inspired by indigenous American and African ritual objects.

In this painting it is manifested in the testicle “chin” of the figure” (Guggenheim). This myth of the female form is done often in artwork; Lam suggests a type of hybrid joining of male and female parts, as seen with the testicle ‘chin’ and the breast and vagina (Stoller 220). The transmogrification of the horse-headed woman in this composition adds an element of fairy tale to the painting. The dreadlocks, the emphasis of yellow around this fairy tale element in the portrait are distinctly what define the painting overall.

That Lam manages to combine these three elements of male and female and horse is well orchestrated. Conversely, in Rogier’s portrait the female presented seems regal in comparison to Lam’s more tribal intentions. Rogier’s woman folds her hands in calm supplication, her eyes half lowered away from the painter’s view point. In Lam’s work, there are no eyes distinguishable in the woman. Rogier’s work gives a viewpoint of the female form as humble and regal, “Although the identity of the sitter is unknown, her air of self-conscious dignity suggests that she is a member of the nobility.

Her costume and severely plucked eyebrows and hairline are typical of those favored by highly placed ladies of the Burgundian court” (National Gallery of Art). In either artist’s viewpoint of women, it is clear their intentions emphasize their cultures and time periods (White 545). Whereas their twined use of line draws attention to the female form through diagonals, those same lines portray very different women. Works Cited Lam, Wilfredo. Zambezia Zambezia. (1950).

Guggenheim Museum. 24 March 2009. < http://www. guggenheim. org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show full/piece/ search=Zambezia%2C%20Zambezia&page=&f=Title&object=74. 2095> Stoller, Paul. Circuits of African Art: Paths of Wood: Exploring an Anthropological Trail. (Spring 2003). Anthropological Quarterly. Vol. 76, No. 2. Pp. 207-234. White, Randell. Beyond Art: An Understanding of the Origins of the Material Representation In Europe. (1992). Annual Review of Anthropology. Vol. 21. Pp. 537-564. Wyden, van der Rogier. Portrait of a Lady. (1455). Online. National Gallery of Art. 24 March 2009. < http://www. nga. gov/cgi-bin/pinfo? Object=54+0+none>

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