The now infamous photograph of world leaders towering over a sitting President Donald Trump has sparked an unusual debate among art historians, and we've learned something today.
The body language in the picture is remarkable, and very telling, with world leaders appearing exasperated at Trump's embarrassing behavior and disrespectful treatment of our allies over what he feels are unfair trade agreements.
In the center of the image is German Chancellor Angela Merkel looming over Trump, who has his arms folded and sports a look of quiet self-righteousness on his face. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears frustrated, too.
The dynamic captured by photographer Jesco Denzel has art historians sparring over whether it more resembles Renaissance art, or Baroque art.
This picture is a piece of art. Title: 'Body Language'. https://t.co/Kev6SswPdh— Arnór Dan (@Arnór Dan)1528563034.0
Esquire's Pete Forester said the picture "looks like a Renaissance painting."
This is a Renaissance Painting. https://t.co/vNOJOFLLTl— Pete Forester (@Pete Forester)1528561070.0
One of the signature traits of Renaissance art is the incorporation of a Fibonacci pattern, which can be observed with an expanding spiral, within the work. The Denzel image appears to conform to a Fibonacci sequence. In case you're wondering, Fibonacci spirals occur throughout nature, such as in flowers and sea shells. In mathematics, a Fibonacci sequence is a pattern of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two previous numbers, such as 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and so on.
To those saying it looks like a renaissance painting. There does appear to be a clear Fibonacci Spiral evident wi… https://t.co/FxRcFj4p7Q— James Herring (@James Herring)1528614215.0
But one art historian disagrees, despite the aforementioned pattern. Twitter user @Palle_Hoffstein thinks it better resembles a Baroque period piece.
Ok, because I'm feeling pedantic as fuck, I need to point out that this photo does not look like a Renaissance pain… https://t.co/CcVARl7X0M— The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein (@The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein)1528644895.0
Why? It's all related to the spacing of the subjects within the painting. Renaissance art had people evenly spaced, as if on a stage, creating a symmetrical line of sight for the observer. Essentially, the images were created to look staged.
This is a Renaissance Painting. The subjects are evenly spaced across the canvas, equidistant to the viewer as if o… https://t.co/o3L3IucSrl— The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein (@The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein)1528644952.0
Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" showcases this effect rather well.
In Denzel's photo, however, the subjects are not evenly spaced. Rather, they appear in a natural formation, captured as they were in that moment. It is this characteristic, according to Hoffstein, that makes the photo appear Baroque.
Notice how in the Caravaggio, it looks like something is going on, or as Hoffstein put it, there is "energy between the subjects."
Now here is a Baroque piece. The subjects are positioned naturally in the room, some have their backs to viewer, an… https://t.co/AorVhzvd1j— The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein (@The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein)1528645347.0
Also, notice how in the Baroque period art, subjects within the painting have their backs turned toward the audience, just like in the G7 picture.
Hoffstein also said that the Denzel photograph reminded him of a Rembrandt, in which people surround one subject, engaged in an activity in which the subject is the focus. This is what we see in the picture of the G7 leaders, except instead of dissecting a cadaver, we have a room full of people desperately trying to understand the President of the United States.
An even better example from another favorite of mine, Rembrandt. When I saw that photo I thought of Rembrandt. Espe… https://t.co/ReF5XIPzGO— The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein (@The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein)1528645416.0
Thanks for this. Mom must be proud!
My parents 30 years ago: Why are you taking art history? Me: It will come in handy. *30 years later* Me: Mom, you'l… https://t.co/bt0iQVs84J— The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein (@The Internet Proudly Presents: Palle Hoffstein)1528645639.0