Visual analysis: Tabernacle
Tabernacle, a 20 x 29 inched marble sculpture, was made by Italian artist Domenico Gagini in Sicily during the 15th century. According to the didactic brief introduction, it was designed for the church of San Paolino at Sutera. It was used for the wall near the altar as a place that stores the consecrated communion wafers. It’s details and the depictions on the surface not only showed the holy purpose and religious used of this artwork but also provided the opportunity for the viewers to associate the story and the history contact behind it.
Looking at the Tabernacle from a few steps away, the smooth white marble surface is shining under the yellow light that is cast down from the ceiling. The rectangular empty space in the middle is the first thing that grabs viewers’ attention. It looks not only like a huge black hole but also like a picture frame compared to the shiny marble surface. Obviously the empty space is the center of this object and it reaches the purpose of pulling viewer’s attention by giving them an illusion that something will come out from it. On both sides of the opening space, there are three archangels in the front and three angelets in the back. The angelets are hiding behind the pillar and look like they are trying to squeeze out of the pillar so that they can stand next to the empty space. Moreover, all the archangels have their hands together in a prayer gesticulation and all the angelets have their arms crossed in front of their chests, which once again indicated the holy purpose of this object. However, there is one detail that is not hard to notice and also raises the viewers’ curiosities at the same time: an angelet on the left backside has its hands in a prayer position instead of crossed. It casually raised some curiosities of the viewers that whether this is difference is meaningful.
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The details of the angels’ hair and the decoration they are wearing on their head make the object looks very delicate and exquisite. On the left side, 2 of the angels have a headband on their heads. All the angels have long hair except the archangel hiding on the left has short hair. On the right side, all the archangels have a bun on their head, which make them look more like females angels. The details that the artist made on the hair of the angels look so meticulous and elaborate that it is even sending a soft touching feeling to the people who are looking at it.
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The size and lifelikeness of the archangels on both sides is one of the strongest parts of this artwork that pulls people’s attention to it. Both sides of the archangels in the front look more mature than the angelets on the back; not only because of the size but also their wings stretched into the sky in different directions and make them look more powerful and stronger. Moreover it is very obvious that the two archangels on the outside of both sides are wearing long ropes with ribbons around their shoulders that are fluttering and the angelets on the inside are wearing similar clothes but hanging normally. The flying ropes and ribbons and the stretching wings provide viewers a vision of Angels flying around the opening. However, the bottom of the Tabernacle raised another curiosity for viewers. The bottom is covered with trusses of leaves that are intertwined together and obviously there are some interaction between the archangels’ feet and the leaves. This detail brings out another question that whether the angles are floating on the sky or standing on the leaves.