Giovanni 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

 

Gegraphy: 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.

However, 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.