Multiplicity and Unity
Focal points are the objects in
images which catch our eyes and draw us in. Multiplicity means that there are
many objects attracting or competing for our attention, and our eye
constantly bounces from one to another. They compete for our attention due to
high value, color, scale, or other spatial issues. Unity refers to a
composition where there is one principal focal point. There is one
protagonist or key object to which our eye continually returns.
Bellini’s St. Francis, Renaissance,
contains many objects intriguing to look at. Our eye constantly travels from
object to object across and into space: the saint, the ass, the weeds, the
geological formations, shepherd tending to his flock, and castle up on the
hill. As each is represented in a linear style, each is so perfectly and
sharply defined so that each can stand of its own as an object to be looked
at. Perhaps the eye does continually return to Francis, but only momentarily.
Entombment, Baroque, is an example of unity. Even though the detailing
in each face is the naked truth and the muscles and movement beautifully
correlate to the narrative, our eye continually returns to the body of
Christ. He is the focal point with the high value spotlight on His body,
large scale, and location closest to us, near the baseline. We focus on His
face, arms, legs, and flesh. No matter what else is in the painting, Christ
steals the show.