contextual analysis

For this exercise, you are each asked to write a succinct explanation of contextual significance of one of this week’s key artworks. You may chose one of the works listed below. Each post should not simply be a citation of historical details but a focused analysis of the artwork itself for instance how did the use of oil paint contribute to this particular painting what does that particular medium add to the artist’s communication of wealth in this painting?

A contextual analysis considers the historical time and place of an artwork’s making while still focusing on the work itself. This assignment asks you to review the information provided in your assigned readings and videos and then locate this information in your chosen work by looking closely and evaluating (analyzing) the visual evidence. A strong post will start with the basic question of “why is this artwork culturally/historically/artistically important?” and then simply ask yourself “how?” or “why?” after your statement to complete the thought. Be careful to locate your answer in the artwork and push a single line of analysis as far as possible – if you can answer the questions “how?” or “why?” after each sentence, then you haven’t completed the thought.

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Any sources used should be cited properly using whatever manual of style you are most comfortable with (MLA, Chicago, APA) – failure to cite sources will result in the automatic grade of zero on this assignment.

For an example of a focused, contextual analysis, see: Bryan Zygmont, “Examining visual evidence,” in Smarthistory, September 20, 2018.

Key Artworks (select one):

Peter Paul Rubens, Arrival of Marie de’ Medici at Marseilles (1622-1625)
Clara Peeters, Still Life with Flowers, Goblets, Dried Fruit, and Pretzels (1611)
Judith Leyster, Self Portrait (ca. 1630)
Rembrandt, Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632)
Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance (ca. 1664)
Rachel Ruysch, Flower Still Life (after 1700)
Your post must include:

an introductory paragraph in which you clearly identify the artwork you are discussing [Artist Name, Title (Date)] and state your thesis or line of inquiry. This will only be approximately two sentences.
a body – this is a brief-but-succinct summation of the artwork’s contextual significance (ten sentence minimum).
a very brief conclusion – approximately two sentences – succinctly summarizes your findings (this is not the place for a surprise ending).

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