Thomas Diego Armonia celebrates the Italian Renaissance

Oil on Canvas and gold, 740x330mm

The “Eighth Wonder of the World” can be described as Armonia’s most majestic work for importance and dimensions: the aspiration was to represent the greatness of the golden society of the 16th century re-elaborating the visual scheme of Veronese’s “Marriage of Canaan” encouraging the viewer to observe the precise symbolism that pervades the masterpiece.
The painting is adorned with a thousand sheets of gold leaf, with bas-reliefs that surface through the paste of color and it covers 27 square meters. All this lavishness is still only developed in two colors, black and white, in the desire to remove completely from the canvas the emotional charge that the language of color inevitably brings. The underlying idea is that color, when perceived implies perception and communication of feelings, of cultural connotations that can partially distort the interpretation of the viewer. The use of two colors frees the observer of irrational infl uences, guides him towards a more independent, clear comprehension of the painting and improves his capability of understand the scholarly concepts hidden in innumerable details.

The painting pays homage to the splendid style of Venetian Mannerism, especially to its veneration of female fi gure in history, of dames and powerful women, saints and queens, who in virtue of their authority and prestige came to be seen as “fi gures of Church and Crown.” In the original work of art from where Armonia draws inspiration, many of the portrayed characters are men of the court. The reinterpretation of the artist transposed it in feminine and feminist key: it is fundamental for the artist to honor the role women have always held in the social structure of bygone times as well as of today and in the future. Woman is therefore the Eighth Wonder, physical architecture of thought and emotions. On the two sides of the painting, two young women on horseback follow and protect the group gathered around Christ. The lady on the left proudly wears the Papal Tiara and gown, and her features remind us of the beautiful Lucretia Borgia, charismatic and powerful woman who substituted her father twice in offi cial papal functions. On the right hand side, the lady in knight’s clothes reminds us of the story of Joan of Arc, the “Maid of Orleans”, who led France in the victory against the English army. Both of these fi gures are in stark contrast to the naked maiden in the foreground, ecstatic of being in front of Christ, but shameful of her condition.

The swath of cloth that covers her is tugged by a putto, almost as if he wanted to uncover her dirty and vile past, and her necklace, the only jewelry she wears, breaks and lets loose a shower of pearls. She is renouncing her sinner’s life to embrace the spiritual life proposed by Jesus, just like Mary Magdalene. The theme could be inspired by the parable of the ten virgins, and its representation almost reminds us of the Adoration of the Three Kings by Gentile da Fabriano. They abandon everything to run and be with Christ, and the ladies gather, accompanied by their court of putti, horses and dogs, monkeys and squirrels. The presence of Jesus becomes a fable, the homage of the women becomes a court celebration. Everything slows down and is enjoyed. And the light that showers the forms celebrates all that is beautiful in nature and things. It is the fi gure of Christ that breaks the mundane aspiration of the composition. The man, immobile in his candor, at the center of the scene, appears almost extraneous to the atmosphere of celebration that surrounds him. The rope around his neck and his unfocused eyes are reminiscent of suffering and pain. It is this contrast that helps us interpret the painting as a mirror for human psychology. Every character is an allegory, the incarnation of a human sentiment, down to the most shameful and low: compassion, envy, patience, ignorance, greed or courage. Each one of us is offered a sort of display case of numerous feelings, even those that are hard to accept because they are unpleasant and diffi cult to include in the prevailing moral enviroment.
Armonia embodies sins and good qualities of men in the allegories and symbols of an era: he enchants the observer in a dreamlike atmosphere, and represents through the eye of a lover the golden life of the courts of the 1500s.
His search for balance between dress and jewelry contributes to highlighting the shapes of the human body while respecting its natural form. Pearls in the elaborate hairstyles underline the purity of young maidens, precious furs and embroideries encrusted with gems turn fi gures in worldly goddesses. Hair uncovers faces so luminescent as to appear ethereal, in stark contrast with clothes manufactured in heavy fabrics with opulent prints.
The painting was created to celebrate the 5th Centenary of Palladio, and it obeys the canons of symmetry of architecture and prospective of the time. The 1500s were the time of ideal cities, characterized by a regular geometric plan in contrast with the “disorganization” of medieval cities. Some of the details in the painting recall the magnifi cence of Palladio’s basilica and confi rm the classical trend of Armonia’s work. The presence of fi gure from different times and places of the antique world confi rm the openness to the human and political dialog always present in the artist’s work.

Giulia Grandi