Belliniís St. Francis in the Desert, 1485, evidences much scientific
awareness. Human anatomy: Francisí skull, temples, eye sockets, hands, and
feet are biologically correct. His bodily proportions are accurate. He wears dress,
not drapery, clothing as worn which hangs with weight and gravity. Botany:
the weeds in the foreground are so detailed that they may be species specific.
Zoology: the mule and goose are naturalistically rendered. Geology: the rocky
plateau and face of the cave in which Francis lives properly reflect the
geological formations in the artistís area of Italy.
THIS IMAGE NEEDS TO BE TILTED A LITTLE AND LIGHTENED
the lay of the land as it recedes across a field and up to a castle upon a
distant hill is believable. Physics: the light and shade is beautifully done,
defining each hill and valley. Mathematical Perspective: there are
orthogonals which stretch along the mountain, through the edge of the plateau
toward the left into the distance.
for all of this scientific awareness, Bellini must also demonstrate his
awareness of his faith. This painting depicts a Catholic saint experiencing
his stigmata, his supernatural marking with the wounds of Christ. If the
painting were totally obsessed with science, it would have been considered
too earthly and disrespectful. And so, how did Bellini preserve the spiritual
component? A supernatural golden glow touches every object in the painting, from
the saintís robe to the surface of the rocks, the animals, and each weed.
This golden glow symbolizes Godís love for all creatures and things on Earth.
Therefore, if we were to judge this painting as to what percentage is science
and what percentage is spiritual, we could conclude that Belliniís St.
Francis is 80% science and 20% spiritual, which would have demonstrated
contemporary trends in academic intellectualism as well as respect for the
Catholic faith. This balance represents the local Geist.