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Heathen Review: Piero di Cosimo’s Renaissance Art

February 16, 2015
The Visitation with Saints Nicholas and Anthony Abbot c.1489 by Piero di Cosimo

The Visitation with Saints Nicholas and Anthony Abbot c.1489 by Piero di Cosimo

Renaissance artist and Florentine Piero di Cosimo’s first major exhibit in 500 years is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., which means it’s time for a heathen review.

Heathen Observations:

This exhibit contains 44 of Piero di Cosimo’s paintings. Glimpses of just a few show that Renaissance distribution networks were not sufficient to provide all members of society with adequate shirtwear. While most men, as long as they weren’t drunk or half-beasts, were consistently able to acquire shirts from Medici, Inc, only women in close proximity to electrostatic head netting were permitted shirtwear that completely covered their bosom. The bosoms of most women were partially exposed during the Renaissance. In the presence of water but no electrostatic head netting, a woman’s bosom was fully exposed.

Allegory c.1500 by Piero di Cosimo.jpg

Allegory c.1500 by Piero di Cosimo.jpg

Liberation of Andromeda c.1500 by Piero Di Cosimo

Liberation of Andromeda c.1500 by Piero Di Cosimo

Heathen Questions:

Does the electro-static head netting create a force field that helps Renaissance women keep their shirts on? Why don’t all women wear the electrostatic netting? What unsung Renaissance genius learned to harness electricity before William Gilbert made his careful study of electricity and magnetism in 1600?

Heathen Concerns:

  • Temperature control – In January, the average temperature of Florence, Italy, is 34 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s too cold not to be wearing a scarf much less to have your decollatage exposed.
  • Sunburn and cancer risk – During the summer, the city of Florence experiences as much as fifteen hours of sunlight daily. If distribution networks couldn’t accomplish shirtwear for all, it’s extremely unlikely women had access to SPF 40 and above sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Giving credit where credit is due – One woman’s true shirt-retention genius has gone unacknowledged for too long.
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Elizabeth of Hungary, Catherine of Alexandria, Peter, and John the Evangelist with Angels c.1493 by Piero di Cosimo

Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Elizabeth of Hungary, Catherine of Alexandria, Peter, and John the Evangelist with Angels c.1493 by Piero di Cosimo

Heathen Conclusion:

The first person to discover the miracle of electrostatic head netting has been hiding in plain sight for 500 years. Often holding a baby, she features prominently in many Renaissance images and is usually referred to as “Mary.” Careful observation of di Cosimo’s work makes clear “Mary” discovered that rubbing a child against her clothing generated an electrostatic charge that powered her head netting and helped keep her shirt on. It’s not clear how “Mary” acquired her first shirt, but that’s a mystery for another heathen researcher to solve. Sadly, “Mary’s” discoveries were not adequately disseminated, and millions of women were unable to stay warm and sunburn-free through use of the acquired shirt / rubbed child / electrostatic hair netting / keep-your-shirt-on cycle. Luckily, like the transit from proto-bacteria to complex organisms with 37 trillion cells, knowledge of how to keep your shirt on evolved via other pathways. We should all take a moment to acknowledge the unsung genius of “Mary,” an early electricity pioneer.

Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence is in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art through May 3, 2015. I may have missed a few things, so you might want to check it out yourself.

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