Pietro da Cortona was a painter whose art flourished during the High Baroque period, the 17th century. He was a painter whose greatest talent lay with fresco painting. Cortona was also an architect, designing and completing several architectural projects in his time as well. Like all active artists, Cortona had a large studio where he brought on many young artists to train and work under him, many of whom grew to become great, prominent artists in their own right.
Like all baroque works, Cortona’s pieces are full of action, even in scenes which are normally depicted as static in nearly any other time period, the characters stoic and unmoving. One example of this is Cortona’s piece Venus as Huntress Appears to Aeneas. Aeneas is the hero of the Aeneid, an ancient Roman work that is still much read today. Venus is the goddess of love, the Roman equivalent to the Greek goddess Aphrodite. All of the characters are in motion in the painting. Aeneas and his companion are in mid stride as they happen upon Venus disguised as a huntress. The great warrior has just come off his boat which can be seen resting on the shore in the bottom left corner of the painting. Venus stretches out her hand in greeting, also in mid stride. Above them we find Cupid ready to string his bow with an arrow he holds in one small hand. Aeneas doesn’t seem to see that he there at all, though his companion stares at him as if he knows who the small flying being is.
A painting which shows this action of the baroque even better is another painting by Cortona titled The Rape of the Sabine Women. This is a scene from the mythological beginnings of Rome when the Roman men kidnapped Sabine Women to take them home with them to Rome in order to have them as brides. There is a great amount of action in this scene as people scream, cry, and struggle against one another. Though this mythological scene has been depicted many times throughout most of history, Cortona’s version gives the viewer a real sense of turmoil and struggle to the painting, bringing more of a realistic sense to this mythological tale.Cortona was a fantastic artist of the baroque age. Not only did he master painting but architecture as well, something he focused on more and more in his old age. Many of his frescoes last today and can be seen throughout Italy in the original locations they were intended for.