Salome
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Salome

Renaissance and Baroque Old Masters are one of my biggest source of inspiration at the moment.
Analising the paintings of masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio or Guido Reni (and many, many more… I could talk about them for hours and hours!) has allowed me to learn how they used light, colours, composition and expressions to create their timeless pieces.

Photograph of Salome, by Karolina Skorek. Young woman holding a head of John the Babtist on a golden tray.

Lets talk about light for a moment.
Chiaroscuro (italian for chiaro- light and scuro- dark ) is a technique showing strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition with light coming from the left. While the first use of chiaroscuro-style shading is attributed to Apollodoros, the greek painter of 5th century Athens. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci named the technique when he was paining his Virgin of the Rocks (1483–1486).

The key element to this technique is one strong light source, usually coming from the top left of the image. This allows to create a strong play between light and shadows, creating a strong contrasts and three ditmentional illusion. In his journals da Vinci described this technique with some advice for his students.

I would remind you O Painter! To dress your figures in the lightest colors you can, since, if you put them in dark colors, they will be in too slight relief and inconspicuous from a distance. And this is because the shadows of all objects are dark. And if you make a dress dark there is little variety between the lights and shadows, while in light colors there will be greater variety.

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Baroque artists fell in love with Chiaroscuro technique. Caravaggio, Guido Reni, and Rembrandt van Rijn, just to name few of the painters who mastered it. If we look at works of Guido Reni and Caravaggio, they used deep, dark backgrounds for many of their paintings. The high contrast in those paintings made for intensely powerful and dramatic works of art.

Having this in mind I started planning the image. I needed to know everything, from light dress to all the props and headpiece. Fortunately I was preparing for my workshop in Gdańsk, Poland, so I asked guys from GSA to help me with this task, and oh my they done the job!

This one is filled with details and symbols. I will briefly talk about whats there, sometimes hiding in plane view. Lets start with Salome herself – a young woman, daughter of Herodias, who danced before Antipas at his birthday celebration, and in doing so gave her mother the opportunity to obtain the head of John the Baptist. Salome is commonly used in art as a depiction of dangerous female seductiveness. My Salome is looking straight at the viewer, holding Johns the Baptist head on a golden tray.

Salome, detail, 2019

With dried blue, purple and red hydrangea crown on her head, she looks at the viewer calmly with a hint of smile on her lips. If you look closely enough you can notice a dark blood streaks staining the silver dress under the tray.

I added few symbols of my own. On the left , a human skull, an homage to the Memento Mori theme so popular theme in the Baroque art, reminding us of our mortality and that we will indeed all die in the end. She placed her bare foot on old books and the skull. Next to her on a floor I placed a large glass bottle with milk. Milk, a powerful symbol within most cultural traditions. It is the fluid of eternal life, fertility, abundance; it is the food of the gods, the first human diet, it flows freely in the “promised land of Canaan”.

On the right side a simple metal bucket, small pot and an oil lamp made from clay.

And here is a quick pull back and a back stage photo, so you all see how this been done. I used studio lights that the Gdansk Art School had, with a large octabox, I asked one of the students that attended the workshop to hold a large silver reflector on the right from my models to bring back some of the light onto that side of the image.

The rest was post production… As Photoshop together with my trusty Canon are my new brush and paints,.. but that is a totally separate subject.

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