Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo: A Study in Magnificence

Fig. 1
The Church of San Lorenzo in Florence, stamped everywhere with the power and authority of the Medici, constitutes one of the family’s great co-optings of their city’s public sphere. Before it was rebuilt in the 15th century, the institution and place of the Church of San Lorenzo had been one of some importance to the city of Florence; it was the earliest church consecrated in the city, blessed by one of the church fathers, Ambrose, in 393. Its reconstruction, however, opened the venerable church to a new set of meanings, and families clamored to institute their legacy on this spot, with ultimately the Medici prevailing over them all. The Old Sacristy (fig. 1, 2, 3), adjoining the Church at its transept, was the site from which the family began to stake their own claim. Functioning as a dynastic mausoleum and personal chapel for the Medici, while intersecting with a locus of such public significance, the Old Sacristy reveals something about the nature of the intercourse between one family’s magnificence and the pride of the larger Florentine republic. In its forms and decorative programme, the Old Sacristy situated the magnificent ethic in a wider framework of civic pride, and ultimately proselytizing on behalf of the Medici’s assumption of political preeminence within their city. 

Fig. 3
Fig. 2
First there is a matter of architectural form. Built between 1422 and 1428, The Old Sacristy represented the most comprehensive summation of designer Brunelleschi’s vision up until then, the harmony, logic, and forms he found poring over the classical architecture distilled into an idiosyncratic take on the sacristy that, as Manetti, his biographer remarks, was “of such character that it amazed everyone due to its new style,” [1] and that moreover, ultimately proved conducive to the pretensions of his Medici patrons, housing two generations of their dead. The exquisite balance achieved within the Old Sacristy is of note itself, but more meaningful, and as likely a cause for the awe registered by Manetti, is Brunelleschi’s deployment of the dome and its emulation of the all’antica mausoleum. This is all in accord with the Medici’s deep humanism, especially Cosimo Medici’s, steeped as he was in ancient texts.[2] But did Brunelleschi intend just a generic all’antica form, or did his dome not signify something more specific and localized? On the question of an ultimate prototype for Brunelleschi’s Sacristy, and whether reference to a certain prototype was intended as evident to all or just the keen and learned, there are a number of conjectures; here I think might be warranted some degree of potential compatibilism – that motivating the Sacristy’s form was possibly more than one source, with two in particular that correspond to the civic/private magnificence thematic, and accounts for the rare tholos (fig.4) lantern atop the dome.

Fig. 4
Howard Saalman has proposed two inspirations for the Old Sacristy, the tomb of Constantine and the Florentine Baptistry, each embodying a set of connotations that would have been in keeping with the Medici’s aspirations, and would both account for the tholos lantern, a detail otherwise found on no extant ancient mausoleum.[3] Likewise corresponding to the Sacristy in its domical plan, inclusion of the apostles in its decorative scheme, and raised, catalfaque platform of Giovanni di Bicci de Medici’s tomb at the center of the mausoleum, is Constantine’s original tomb in the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople. Available to Cosimo Medici and Brunelleschi only through Eusebius’ description of it, the text describing the lost sepulcher admits of an interpretive ambiguity that could have very well suggested to them that a lantern had sat atop its dome. Then, closer to home, there was the tholos lantern atop the Florentine Baptistry (fig. 5, 6), which had already provided bestowed on Brunelleschi a wellspring of ideas and formal principles, many of them applied to the Old Sacristy.  
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
These two possible inspirations, the Tomb of Constantine and the Florentine Baptistery, roughly correspond to poles of private and public association. The linkage to the tomb of Constantine on the one hand suggests that the Medici at this point already (and perhaps audaciously) conceived of themselves, the oligopolists turned oligarchs they were quickly becoming, on the model of the famous Christian Emperor, occupying a position of political leadership integrally tied to, indeed bulwarking, the authority of the Church. And whether or not the connection to the tomb of Constantine is to be believed, the all’antica classification remains valid, with all its attendant splendor. On the other hand, the correspondence with the Florentine Baptistery, connecting one family’s domicile for their dead to one of the Florence’s most potent emblems, suggests the dovetailing of one family’s private glories with the honor of the city. Whatever might be thought of the relatively esoteric connection to the tomb of Constantine, the emulation of the Florentine Baptistery, of a feature, the tholos lantern, unique to it, is all but undeniable.
The connection to the Florentine Baptistry is echoed in another of the Sacristy’s features, its bronze doors flanking the sacrasella and designed by Donatello (fig. 7, 8). This was a curious choice: an anomaly within a private chapel, the novelty was noted by contemporary Filarete in his account, who otherwise pays no mind to Donatello’s other work, the stucco reliefs over the aedicule and along the dome, for the Sacristy.[4] Where rich bronze doors like these, with figurated relief work, were typically situated in Quattrocento Florence were public spaces, not private chapels[5] – to name only the most poignant example, Ghiberti’s doors for the Florentine Baptistery.


Fig. 7
Fig. 8


The iconography of Donatello’s doors mirrors the marriage of private and public suggested by their very presence within the chapel. The door to the left of the sacresella is known simply as the Martyr’s Door due to its figures all holding palm branches, traditional symbols of martyrdom.[6] Only the identity of four amongst them is discernible: St. Stephen with stone in the crown of his head, St. Lawrence with gridiron, and Sts. Cosmas and Damian with their small medicine boxes.[7] Like the thematic cycle of the St. John along the tondi, the ranks of martyrs and elect would have been appropriate subjects for a funerary chapel,[8] and the Sts. Cosmas and Damian not only invoked the Medici family by way of patronymic (they were the medici, or doctor saints), but served as surrogate saints for Cosimo and Lorenzo Medici, who by this point had taken over the decoration of the Sacristy following their father, Giovanni’s death.
It is the other door, however, to the right of the sacrasella, the so-called “Apostle’s Door,” and its uppermost two panels that belies the contemporary circumstances motivating the Sacristy’s decorative program. To the left are St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist (fig. 9). This was an unusual pairing: John the Baptist had never made an appearance in any Medici imagery until now, but his introduction, and concurrently, the implications of Florence’s own patron saint, conjoined with the Medici’s patron saint is clear enough.[9] To the right of the two Johns, are Sts. Peter and Paul, traditional symbols of the papacy (fig. 9).[10]

Fig. 9
The contiguity of on the left side, an image that joins Medici and Florence through the representation of their respective saints, with, on the right, a symbol of the papacy, bears in turn on decoration of the Sacrasella ceiling, attributed to Pesello, situated behind the doors (fig. 10), the astronomic map memorializing then the perhaps most momentous achievement of the Medici within the annals of Florence. The date mapped out – according to one school of interpretation – is that of July 6, 1439, the Day of Union, when Florence was thronged with festivities following the conclusion of the Council of Ferrara-Florence when the Articles of Union were signed. These events had largely been made possible through the patronage of the Medici; Pope Eugenius IV, who presided over the attempt to renew union with the Greek Church, had fetched Cosimo from exile in 1434 when the Pope had fled his enemies in Rome for Florence. The Council, begun in 1438, dragged on to little effect over a year in Ferrera, and the provision of amenities for the representatives of the Greek Church had gone over budget; subsequently Cosimo negotiated the Council’s relocation to Florence, where he took on the task of bankrolling it. In doing so Cosimo was fulfilling the aspirations and hope apparently held by many for their city. A prophecy written by Fra Antonio de Rieti in 1422 reads “. . .The Florentine lily is seen putting out ever more beautiful branches, flwoers and leaves until it covered all of Italy . . . [and] the Pope would fly to the protection of the lily, that is, of Florence.”[11] Just below the sacrasella dome, vines and lilies threaten to overgrow their borders, likely a nod to Rieti’s then-famous words. Considered in conjunction with the scheme of the rest of the Old Sacritsty, the sacrasella dome thus completes the dialectic of magnificence espoused therein: private and public forms and functions intertwine the family's personal, dynastic glory with the honors that their power  bestowed upon the whole city, articulating that magnificence did not just consist in personal virtue, a keen and discerning eye for expenditures, but was a civic virtue as well, that would hoist Florence to a position of international significance. 

Fig. 10


[1] Howard Saalman, Filippo Brunelleschi: The Buildings (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 1993), 123.
[2] For another interpretation of the Old Sacristy, as it relates to Cosimo’s impressive body of Hermetic knowledge see Gabirel Blumenthanl, “Science of the Magi: The Old Sacristy of San Lorenz and The Medici,” Notes in the History of Art  6, no. 1 (Fall 1986): 1-11.
[3] Ibid., 128, 140.
[4] John T Paoletti,"Donatello's Bronze Doors for the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo," Artibus Et Historiae 11, no. 21 (1990): 58.
[5] Ibid., 53, 58.
[6] Ibid., 44
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid., 61
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid..
[11] Patricia Fortini Brown, "Laetentur Caeli: The Council of Florence and the Astronomical Fresco in the Old Sacristy," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 44 (1981): 180.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Is Isis still Egyptian in Greece and Rome?


Isis (seated right) welcoming the Greek Heroine, Temple of Isis, Pompeii
Two very important aspects of Ancient Egyptian culture is art and the gods. Ancient Egyptians used art to portray their rulers, show their everyday lives, and to worship their gods. When most people think of Ancient Egyptians their minds usually go to the pyramids. While the pyramids are architectural masterpieces; what is even more intriguing is the art found inside the pyramids in my opinion. The insides of most pyramids, which are in essence tombs, often have depictions of the deceased and of the gods. Ancient Egyptians, throughout the majority of their history, practiced a polytheistic religion. The gods and goddesses were pivotal influences in their lives. Much of the Egyptian traditions and deities have been borrowed by the Greeks and the Romans. Isis in particular has many temples dedicated to her in Greece and Rome, including the Temple of Isis in Pompeii and the Temple of Isis in Delos. The Greeks moved into Egypt around 332 BC. They were immediately awed by the Egyptian monuments and architecture. The Romans entered Egypt much later, around 30 BC. They both entered Egypt towards the end of the Late Period. By this time, Isis was a well established goddess and widely worshipped. The Greeks and the Romans were fascinated by the Egyptian gods and goddesses. They created many paintings and sculptures honoring Egyptian deities. The Egyptian goddess Isis was very popular with the Greeks and Romans and they adopted her as one of their own deities. When they did this, they happened to make several key changes to her appearance. 

Isis' appearance is quite different from how she was traditionally depicted in Egypt. Some of the most noticeable changes is that her skin tone lightened considerably, and she wears Greek/Roman dress. What would be the purpose of the ancient Greeks and Romans adopting a foreign goddess and then completely changing her appearance? Now, the Greeks did start this new tradition. The Greeks were in Egypt first, and the Romans were known to copy Greek paintings and sculptures. Also, some would argue that there is no ill intent when one culture changes the appearance of another cultures' adopted deity. Perhaps the Greeks and Romans changed her appearance to better fit into her society. The Ancient Greeks and Romans were huge fans of aesthetics. They often depicted Isis as an ideal Greek/Roman woman. They could have depicted her this way to better assimilate her into their society. Another option is that they found her appearance too primitive and wanted to make her appear more “civilized”. Regardless of the reason, the real question is whether or not these images of Isis, in the Greek and Roman context, should be considered depictions of her at all.

Isis did not start to truly gain popularity until the New Kingdom. However, by the Late Period Egypt she was still very relevant. Her widespread popularity is most likely one of the reasons the Greeks and Romans became so interested in her. One of the reasons Isis is so influential is because she is the sister-wife of Osiris. According to mythology, Osiris and Isis, along with their siblings Seth and Nephthys, are the children of Geb and Nut.  Isis is considered a powerful mother goddess in Egyptian mythology. She is also associated with mourning and magic. Isis was associated with being the mother of the pharaohs as well. 

Iconographically speaking, Isis was a very prominent figure. Isis is often represented in her anthropomorphic form. She is seen as a woman with a long white sheath dress. She is also often seen crowned with the sign for throne in hieroglyphs. She sometimes wears a necklace and is seen with an ankh. Also, in many reliefs and images, Isis is seen in her mourning state, with her hands upraised in lamentation, or outstretched across the deceased. One of the most common ways Isis is depicted in art is with her wings. Her arms turn into wings, and she often seen half kneeling with her wings outstretched on either side of her. This image is one that has often be popularized and used to describe the goddess.This association with wings could be due to Isis’ status as an avian goddess. However, the Ancient Greeks and Romans depict Isis in a very different manner. Honestly, she is almost unrecognizable. She is often depicted in long white robes and perhaps a snake. What is most shocking is her skin tone difference. She is always white with Greek/Roman features. Traditionally, Isis’ complexions ranges from olive to a deep brown; which is a definite difference to how the Greeks and Romans depicted her.

One important question, that a lot of art historians don’t think about, is whether or not we should acknowledge these depictions of Isis in the Greek and Roman context. It is important to consider that most art historians would argue that this is merely a depiction of Isis. However, when the transformation is so drastic it does raise question. In my opinion, I appreciate the Greek and Roman depictions of Isis as works of art and vital pieces of ancient history. However, I do not think these depictions should be glorified or even acknowledged as actual depictions of Isis. There needs to be a clear distinction that they are Greek and Roman depictions of her, and not traditionally accurate representations of this great Egyptian goddess. 

References:
Aldred, Cyril. Egyptian Art. New York: Oxford UP, 1980. 

Robins, Gay. The Art of Ancient Egypt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997.

“Roman Egypt”, accessed October 19, 2016, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/regy/hd_regy.htm

"When the Greeks Ruled Egypt”, accessed October 19, 2016, http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/when-greeks-ruled-egypt

Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. New York: Thames 
& Hudson, 2003.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What Lies Beneath: the Urban Excavation of Tenochtitlán


         The relentless summer heat is finally abating and pumpkins have surreptitiously started making their appearances around town. An entire cemetery seems to have sprouted overnight on my neighbor's front lawn. In the spirit of Halloween, my thoughts, along with half of Birmingham's, have turned towards the beloved horror flicks of my youth. In particular, I've been thinking about the classic (and somewhat offensive) movie trope: Indian Burial Ground. If you grew up watching Pet Sematary, The Shining, or pretty much any other scary movie from the 1980s, then you probably decided at an early age that checking for an Indian Burial Ground under the foundation should be an integral part of any home inspection. While we may have moved on in recent decades, both in movie premises and in terminology (I'm thrilled the ambiguous misnomer, “Indian,”is finally leaving the vernacular), the fear of what lies beneath may have only solidified, particularly if you live in Mexico City.

          Those of us in the United States are no strangers to the controversy involved with developing sites that are already home to precious archaeological resources. However, for most of us, the frequency of coming across these issues just isn't enough to become a practical concern when planning a renovation or construction project. On the other hand, if you own property in Mexico City's Centro Histórico, you might think twice before calling that contractor over to take a look at the cracks forming in your basement. The magnitude of buried archaeological remains is incomparable to any urban center in the United States, possibly in the world. They're taking it seriously, too. Before any major work can be approved, you're legally obligated to allow archaeologists to inspect the site. If any remains are found, it's up to you, the property owner, to fund the excavation.

Zócalo, a pedestrian square in the Centro Histórico of Mexico City
         Furthermore, cracks and buckling aren't uncommon sights. Dozens of feet beneath the surface of Mexico City lies the remains of Tenochtitlán, a magnificent metropolis and the center of the Aztec universe. Tenochtitlán was originally built on an island in Lake Texcoco, complete with an intricate system of canals and causeways. Tenochtitlán's Templo Mayor, a pyramid which towered over the city at 197', now rests its remains under the Zócalo, a bustling pedestrian square and one of the most recognizable places in Mexico City. Over time, the massive pyramid and its surrounding structures sank into the area's soft clay subsoil. The lake was filled in, the remainder of the pyramid dismantled, and the Spanish conquistadors built their new capital directly over the old one (a politic decision, rather than a pragmatic one). Today, at the Zócalo, sits the The Metropolitan Cathedral, a beautiful Spanish-colonial building which took over two centuries to construct and is a historic gem in its own right. However, the presence of the Sacred Precinct directly underneath presents more than just an archaeological conundrum. As water is pumped from wells running beneath the city, the clay contracts, but the density of the buried stone structures remains constant. Consequently, streets buckle and curl atop them. Foundations are compromised. The largest cathedral in the Americas is at peril, not to mention countless other structures. As Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, the lead archaeologist of the project and a local hero, poetically put it, “It’s the vengeance of the gods. The cathedral is falling and the monuments to the ancient gods are what’s causing it to fall.”

Artist's rendering of the Templo Mayor
“It’s the vengeance of the gods. The cathedral is falling and the monuments to the ancient gods are what’s causing it to fall.”  

         Under the direction of Matos, serious excavation of the area began in 1978. Despite decades of excavation and 45 Aztec buildings discovered, there's still a long way to go. Sometimes, optimal sites are identified on a small scale, like in the basement of a tattoo parlor. Other times, events, like the earthquake of 1985 or the expansion of the subway system, unearth expansive areas all at once. Only last year, the huey tzompantli (the "Great Skull Rack," mentioned in the Codex Duran) was discovered during a dig beneath a building on Guatemala Street. While typical excavation sites elsewhere are identified by GPS coordinates, Tenochtitlán's digs get street addresses. Even though it slows the process, maintaining the structural integrity of the buildings above has to be a priority. Often, archaeologists find themselves in narrow shafts, dozens of feet beneath the surface, suspended on their stomachs (I believe this scenario was featured in my last nightmare). Despite the challenges, the work will continue.
Excavating the huey tzompantli
Would you like to find this in your basement?

         Whether grand or humble, famous or ordinary, each building you pass in the Centro Histórico hides a secret beneath its foundation.

“That whole part of the city is like a graveyard of people and of significant cultural objects,” David Carrasco said. “And they awaken every time Mexico reaches for its future.”

         In conclusion, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the wisdom of our younger selves; and, as if you needed another reason, I hope the structural and regulatory complications have persuaded you to never, ever build your home on top of Indian Burial Grounds...

Picture This: Women in 18th-Century France

Louis Tocqué, Portrait of Madame de Livry, ca. 1744/55,
oil on canvas, Hitt Collection, Birmingham, AL.
Through globalization and advances in communication, the eighteenth century witnessed incredible changes, particularly on the social front. With a thirst for knowledge and personal improvement, this society ushered in an era of great awareness. Along with this newly cultivated interest in learning and development came theories of how different sexes should behave and how they should stimulate their minds. Here, I focus on a product of this period, the Portrait of Madame de Livry (1745/55) by Louis Tocqué, in the Hitt Collection, in the Birmingham Museum of Art.1 In this portrait, the subject matter and stylistic elements work together to emphasize the femininity and class of the sitter. Focusing on the subtle rendering of this portrait, Louis Tocqué showcases his signature style, and highlights the sitter’s feminine appeal and status in society through features such as makeup and clothing, along with the addition of a closed fan.2

The style of Louis Tocqué is perfectly exhibited in Portrait of Madame de Livry. In this painting, Tocqué chooses subtlety over pomp and grandeur. The figure of Madame de Livry is accentuated by the dark tonality found throughout the background. There are no objects or distractions in this dark space at first glance, but upon further inspection, the barely visible outline of a chair becomes apparent. However, the darkened gold glimmer of the chair frame with the jewel-tone coloration of the fabric, only act as visual emphasis for the sitter. As the eye is drawn to the center of the canvas and the female figure is observed, the work becomes more than just a portrait; it becomes a deeply intimate look into the life of Madame de Livry.

Louis Tocqué depicts Madame de Livry with perfectly coifed hair. The painting is rendered in such a hyper realistic manner, it is as if each strand of powered hair can be discerned. In the center of her scalp are five roses; two pink, one yellow and one blue. Their size is quite small and tasteful. To the left of these highly symbolic flowers are two pale leaves that gently guide the eye down to the delicately flushed face of Madame de Livry. The colors of the roses and leaves help to further accentuate the slightly rouged tone of her flawless complexion. Madame de Livry has soft brown eyebrows that highlight the calm gaze she casts upon her viewer. The rouge on her cheeks matches the pink glow of her nose and lips. As the eye moves downward, the viewer is introduced to her fur lined cloak. The soft gray fur surrounding her collar and moving down the bodice of her dress is complimented by the blue fabric that comprises the cloak, itself. Tocqué expertly handles the look of the fabric, transmitting the sound and feel of the very threads. The cloak masterfully reflects the light and accentuates the dips and bends of her clothing, manipulating the presence of light. Touches of white lace peek out from underneath the cloak, suggesting the sleeves of a gown. Her skirt is a beautiful mixture of plum and dark brown and it, too, appears to be made of the same material as her cloak. The hands of Madame de Livry are perfectly poised, like her slightly turned posture. Her right hand is gently supporting the top of a fan, while her left hand cradles the bottom. The fan is an intriguing addition to the work as it is unusually displayed in a closed form.

The Portrait of Madame de Livry is a magnificent addition to eighteenth-century French portraiture, as it serves as a contrast to other contemporary portrait examples. Tocqué expertly embraces the unique facial features of his subjects and applies only the slightest amount of rouge to their faces to help bring attention to their youthful, almost translucent appearances. The rouged effect, during Tocqué’s time, implied that the social status of this individual belonged to the highest of classes.3 However, this was not the case for long. Rouge was soon readily available to all levels of class and was fairly inexpensive, so many women wore this “accessory” and tried to project the image of high social standing.  Another component to the rouged look, was the contrast of white skin. White was considered to be the color of feminine virtue.4 The way in which Madame de Livry is pictured is not only indicative of the Tocqué style, but also of the declining need to use rouge to distinguish social rank. 

The roses found in Madame de Livry’s hair, were commonly viewed upon Tocqué’s female sitters. This floral accessory accentuates the youth and overall health of the sitter and is associated with fertility.5 The dark tonality of her expensive, yet modest, clothing is stylistically typical of Tocqué’s works, as this darkness helps to highlight the subject’s face. Madame de Livry is dressed like members of the upper nobility in order to establish her social status, wearing luxurious clothing made from rich textiles like animal fur. This depiction not only reveals her social position, but also emphasizes her husband’s rank and success.6 Each of these details reference her loyalty and devotion to her husband, as this portrait is intended to be a companion piece with that of Monsieur de Livry.

Lastly, Madame de Livry appears with a fan in her hands. For women, it was looked highly upon to hold something in their hands while sitting. This act kept the fingers busy, but the mind free from distraction and ready for conversation.7 This seemingly benign addition to the portrait holds more significance than most may realize. Imported from Asia, the fan soon began appearing throughout Europe in the early eighteenth century. Fans encouraged new forms of gestural expression and worked to focus the gaze and enhance the experience of social encounters.8 The role of the fan in the work of Madame de Livry might be interpreted as an accessory to assert her social status through communicative gracefulness. In the portrait, Tocqué chose to depict her with a closed fan. If it were open, it could be argued that its function is to capture the gaze of the observer. However, since her fan is closed the mystery of the figure of Madame de Livry lives on, drawing the observer in, but also keeping her inner-most thoughts carefully guarded.

References
  1. “18th Century”. Birmingham Museum of Art. 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd. Birmingham, AL 35203.
  2. Paul Vitry, “Pictures," The Burlington Magazine 2, no.6 (August 1903): 342-345.
  3. Melissa Hyde, “The Makeup of the Marquise: Boucher’s Portraits of Pompadour at Her Toilette," Art Bulletin 32, no. 3 (2000): 453-474.
  4. Angela Rosenthal, “Visceral Culture: Blushing and the Legibility of Whiteness in Eighteenth Century British Portraiture," Art History 27, no. 4 (September 2004): 563-592.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Kate Retfield, The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in 18th Century England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).
  7. Rosenthal, The Other Hogarth: Aesthetics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).
  8. Ibid.


Daubigny’s voyage on his boat studio and how it’s great to get away from the traditional studio and be part of the landscape.


 The weather is cool enough to go outside and enjoy the great outdoors and the changing of the season. Instead of sitting inside and letting the day pass you by, you can go fishing, biking, walking, bird watching, and even play Pokémon Go. It’s important to enjoy your surroundings and the beauty of nature. So go view the landscapes around you and the change of the hour in the day like Charles-François Daubigny.

Charles-François Daubigny created a boat studio in 1857. He called it Le Botin (Little Box) and it was furnished with a bed, kitchen, and painting materials. While it allowed him to stay on the river and paint, it also provided a way for him to visit friends or patrons in different places. Daubigny traveled on the Oise and Seine near the Auvers.
  
Charles-François Daubigny, Washerwomen, (c.1861) oil on panel,
9 5/8 x 18 3/8 inches, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Edward C. and Mary Walker Collection


As an artist, it allowed him to view landscapes from different perspectives. These perspectives were consisted of human and animal activities on the banks of the rivers, boats on the river, the contrasting angles, and the hours in the day. 
Charles François Daubigny, Boats on the Oise, (c.1865) oil on wood
38.5 x 66.5 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Collection RMN
 Daubigny was an Impressionist painter, who caught the ephemeral moment like many other Impressionists. However, he created a way to stay on the site where he would not have to leave and carry his supplies back to his studio. Le Botin gave him the opportunity to stay on location, no matter the weather, and overnight since it provided shelter.
Charles-François Daubigny, Setting Sun over Oise, (c.1865) oil on
mahogany flooring, 39x67 cm, Musée d'Orsay
Collection RMN
Scholars like Michael Duffy, state that Daubigny’s boat studio took him directly into the country, where it was not accessible except by river. Observing nature firsthand became a symbol to the Paris art world and contributed to his originality as an artist. Daubigny painted from the water instead of off the riverbank. It was more like a pioneering composition of stripping away the conventional background and having more of an observance of nature. Nature gave a new composition of framing his work. Duffy also mentions how Daubigny’s paintings changed in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s. During this period, Daubigny delved in deeper into Impressionism with his greater spontaneity of execution, strong physical presence of paint, and broader chromatic range in color. Daubigny showed strong contrasts in sunlight, shadows, and difference of distance from the river. 

When Daubigny sailed the Seine and remote places near the Seine Valley, his landscapes started to convey more water than they previously did. To Daubigny, the river became an interesting and important subject. Not only, did it give a new idea of conducting painting, but a new structure of the studio that can be part of the landscape itself. Besides contributing to his landscapes, the river offered fertility and trade to the provinces. Daubigny depicted several sketches of life on the Le Botin, such as fishing, sleeping on the boat and communicating with someone on shore. 


 
Charles-François Daubigny, Le Mousse a la peche, (c.1862)
Charles-François Daubnigny, Bedtime in Boat, (c.1862)

Charles-François Daubigny, Cambronne's Word, (c.1862)
 Duffy states that Daubigny believed that the boat studio brought freedom. By depicting life on the river in his work, he was able to show this freedom to Parisian viewers and other artists. Daubigny’s friends believed that the boat studio was an untiring commitment to his craft.

His studio created a connection with his viewers and inspired young artists, in particular, Monet. Monet kept a small landscape by Daubigny in his studio for inspiration. He also constructed his own boat studio in 1873. He was mostly in Argenteuil, depicting international merchant ships, fishing vessels, and old dories, which is a boat with a narrow, flat bottom, high bow and flaring sides. While Monet had a boat studio, he never had the chance to paint or meet on the river with Daubigny.  In taking in consideration of Daubigny, we all should go out and enjoy nature and observe it by outside activities or just admiring it’s beauty for we are changing the landscape.