(Alas, don't despair- this will be fun, and there is no test or long essay to hand in afterwards. You will neither be judged nor mocked for not knowing or remembering.)
I have an entire list of funny art history, but I will start you out easy. This is one of my favorites:
These dudes are from the Cornaro chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. They are the male patrons from the Cornaro family. The chapel is pretty famous for housing a super famous Bernini sculpture of The Ecstasy of St. Theresa.
I'm not Catholic, so I don't really understand the saints and all the culture that surrounds that practice. But basically the gist of this work is that Theresa, a Carmelite Nun, had a vision where she was overcome by the Spirit of the Lord, embodied here as an angel (left). He is holding an arrow, poised to pierce her heart with the transcendent love of God.
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it...
This chapel was one of the things I was the most excited to see when I was in Rome in 2010. I remembered learning about this work in high school, and, I am somewhat of a nerd. I had done extra research to know what the exterior of the building looked like and how exactly it was that Bernini (the sculptor) had gotten the light to shine so directly and beautifully onto the marble. Remember, this was sculpted in the mid 1600's, so there was no way to direct electrical lights like we could in museums today. When we came around the street corner and I saw the ingenious portico that Bernini had created to capture daylight, I was overjoyed and inspired... and literally RAN ahead of the group to get the first glimpse inside.
But the focus I would like to maintain today is not Theresa's somewhat sexualized ecstasy nor my utter unabashed zeal for seeing things in person. No; I want to focus today on the Cornaro family and how completely hilarious they are.
Image via Nina Aldin Thune (with fancy Paint effects by Me!)
Here's a reasonably decent image to show you how all the sculptures are related in the space to one another. The family portraits are to the far left and right of the image, seemingly seated in balcony or box seats in a theater.
Besides the fact that I find their spectarorial presence a wee bit voyeuristic and the idea of them watching this woman perform her devotions to God as slightly creepy (not to mention the somewhat sexual nature with which she has characterized her experience), I cannot help but remember the Cornaro as the muppet commentators, Slater and Waldorf.
Just go there for a minute. The idea is HILARIOUS.
if/when I am ever called upon to teach this work to a classroom, this is how I will teach it.
See- that wasn't so bad, was it?