Compare and Contrast of 2 Art Pieces

1 January 2017

Jean Fouquet and James Tissot depict Joshua’s conquest of Jericho in very different ways owing to the facts that they lived in different times, and therefore led very different lives. I intend to highlight the ways in which their different experiences influenced their artwork. Using a variety of sources, I intend to embark on a comparison contrast of two pieces of artwork: The Taking of Jericho, by James Tissot (c. 1896-1902) and Prise de Jericho by Jean Fouquet (c. 1470-75). I will give further details about the two artists to explain why they depicted the conquest of Jericho in their respective styles.

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The first noticeable difference between the two artworks is that Jean Fouquet draws the Israelites as a mob of people as opposed to an organized, trained army. This is made most clear by the fact that Fouquet does not distinguish the majority of the Israelites from each other. Jean Fouquet clearly draws Joshua, as well as the Ark of the Covenant and most of the entourage that accompanies it (the guards and the priests). However, Fouquet illustrates the majority of the Israelites with very little detail, depicting them as a sea of faces and weapons.

One explanation for this lack of differentiation could be that Fouquet saw the Israelites as the extension of God’s power; not necessarily unique on their own, but empowered and granted victory by the Lord. James Tissot, on the other hand, does the opposite, making it very clear in his painting that the Israelites are an army. Unlike Jean Fouquet, James Tissot depicts the Israelites in a very detailed fashion. Tissot draws the soldiers in individual bands and makes sure all the soldiers are distinguishable from one another.

For example, even when looking at the Israelites that are supposed to be far off in the distance it is still possible to distinguish one soldier from another, or one soldier’s helmet from his uniform. In other words, everything is clear and organized, as an army should be. James Tissot’s detailed depiction of the Israelites in the foreground also communicates an organized battle. For example, the soldiers are all in their own small groups, most of these groups are facing the same direction, and if you look closely at some of the soldiers’ feet you will see the distance between them is fairly wide, all of which implies marching.

Marching is obviously characteristic of an army and is a common association with the military. This difference between the two works of art is most likely due to the fact that James Tissot had military experience, having participated in the Siege of Paris, siding with the Prussians (citation). There is no record of Jean Fouquet having served with any military. In both pieces of art, Joshua is relatively easy to locate, but for different reasons. In Jean Fouquet’s miniature, it is clearly Joshua who is holding the baton and pointing into the city of Jericho.

This is interpreted as Joshua commanding the siege to begin. Furthermore, the way in which Joshua is pointing into the city is congruent with the idea that the Israelites are a mob instead of an army. The multitude of weapons that are highly raised by the undifferentiated Israelites which comprise the mob, and the inclusion of the Covenant of the Ark, in addition to Joshua’s posture as he points into the city of Jericho imply to the viewer that this is a situation of very high energy and that Joshua is simply directing that energy in a particular direction, in pursuit of a particular goal (I. . the taking of Jericho).

The Israelites appear to be in frenzy, heavily anticipating their new conquest. I liken this to the way bees defend their hive from a perceived threat; they swarm. Jean Fouquet has effectively romanticized the taking of Jericho by introducing this element of angry, manic excitement. However in James Tissot’s painting, Joshua is standing off to the side, more or less on his own, watching the siege that has already begun. Joshua is also facing in a different direction than most of the other Israelites in the foreground.

This is characteristic of James Tissot, who often imbues his art work with a feeling of isolation and alienation. Everyone aside from Joshua is part of a line of soldiers or is moving into the city of Jericho with other soldiers. Indeed, this sense of isolation is further embedded in Tissot’s depiction by the fact that the soldiers appear to be individually entering the city of Jericho, disappearing into the ‘unknown’ in single file. This is clearest in the foreground.

It seems odd that James Tissot would depict a single file insurgence by the Israelites into Jericho, since this would make it easier for the inhabitants of Jericho to defend themselves. As a man who had served in battle, he would have known this; however, this simply suggests his motivation to instil a sense if solitude into his painting was stronger than his motivation to be realistic. In fact, this theme of seclusion even permeated James Tissot’s life, resulting in his living as a recluse while he worked on his Old Testament paintings.

Furthermore, Joshua’s posture implies that he is calm and confident; his back is straight, with one hand on his hip, and the other on his spear. Joshua’s spear is extended away from his body, and the tip is pointing upward, which implies Joshua is feeling very secure at that moment. This, in addition to the fact that the soldiers are grouped into small bands, and appear to be marching in a common direction all implies that this battle is executed in a very calculated and efficient manner.

I believe this is due to James Tissot’s military experience. It is easier for someone without combat experience to romanticize certain aspects of it, whereas those who have experience understand that combat is about stopping your enemy as efficiently as possible when there is no other recourse (citation – personal experience). Additionally, the two artists either interpreted the Hebrew bible story differently or decided to choose specific aspects to include in their artwork, while omitting others.

However, Jean Fouquet follows the details of the Hebrew bible more literally than James Tissot does. Fouquet includes the Ark of the Covenant being carried by four men as well as the rear guard that is walking behind the Ark. All of these details are included in the Hebrew bible. There is also one spear that is more prominently drawn, and appears to be directly in front of those carrying the ark. This may be meant to represent the vanguard mentioned in the Hebrew bible, but that is open to interpretation.

The one detail that Fouquet purposely changes to be more in tune with his near-royal, French identity is that he replaces the seven rams horns that seven priests were supposed to have been blowing as they circled the walls of Jericho with seven trumpets (citation). This modification by Fouquet is very appropriate since the trumpet was originally a military instrument until it was improved in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and became just as common in royal court as a symbol of “princely might” (Downey, 26).

As I just illustrated, the trumpet was doubly fitting for this Fouquet miniature since it originated as a military tool and the Prise de Jericho depicts the moments directly before war. Moreover, Fouquet would have been accustomed to the use of trumpets since they were used in the court as well, a place where someone with a status as high as Fouquet’s was sure to have been present on at least one occasion. In fact, Jean Fouquet was such a popular artist that in 1475 he was given the title “peintre du roy” (painter of the king) under King Charles VII.

Tissot, on the other hand, does not include the Ark of the Covenant, the guards, or the priests at all. Perhaps he felt they should not be the focal point of the depiction. It is possible, since he participated in the ‘Siege of Paris’ that his focus was simply on the conquering, and invading force; the act of war. Another explanation may simply be that he did not want to include too many different aspects of the story in his painting so as to avoid visual clutter.

Such clutter can impede one’s ability to locate visual stimuli in regards to response time (how long it takes to locate specific aspects of a scene or painting), and rate of error (how many significant aspects of a scene or painting are missed by the viewer) (Henderson et al. 2/3). Moreover, Fouquet and Tissot take very different approaches in the way they depict the clothing of the Israelites. Fouquet draws them with an exotic style, as stated by *insert author’s name* in *insert title of book* “their faces are Eastern and their costumes also definitely Oriental. Fouquet might have portrayed the Israelites as exotically oriental in order to emphasize the difference between their culture and French culture.

Another explanation for Fouquet’s choice of orientalism is that Rene, Duke of Anjou and Lorraine, was an important patron of the arts in fifteenth century France. Rene was a man of cosmopolitan tastes; he enjoyed having artworks representing many different countries and cultures in his personal collection. Fouquet might have been trying to appeal to these “cosmopolitan tastes. Tissot, on the other hand, invested much more time and energy, going to Palestine for the first time in 1885 to gather information about historical locations and details of the period. He based the costumes and clothing in his biblical paintings on what the Jews and Arabs in Palestine were wearing in 1885, thinking their choice of clothing hadn’t changed since the time of Christ. Additionally, although it is difficult to see exactly what kind of footwear the Israelites are wearing in James Tissot’s picture, in Fouquet’s miniature they are clearly wearing close toed shoes.

This contradicts the Hebrew bible which usually refers to footwear as sandals (citation from exodus). It seems likely that Jean Fouquet simply drew the footwear he was familiar with in his day. As previously stated, in Jean Fouquet’s picture, the Israelites are all wearing different coloured robes. This leads the viewer to see them as a mob of individuals. In contrast, James Tissot depicts all the Israelites as wearing similar coloured clothing, with identical shields and spears. Upon first glancing at James Tissot’s painting it is clear you are looking at an army. This uniformity is, no doubt, a result of Tissot’s military experience.

Tissot had experienced battle, so a logical assumption can be made that he understood if you cannot easily distinguish your ally from your enemy you will not be as effective in battle. Further differences can be seen in the way the two artists choose to depict the settings of their pieces. Jean Fouquet draws from the landscape of his area of birth. He depicts the city of Jericho as a small French town in the Loire Valley.

This is clearly demonstrated by the types of trees and shrubs in the background, as well as the general greenness of the land, as you can see in this aerial picture of a section of the Loire Valley landscape. See bibliography for exact GPS coordinates) A quick comparison between the green, rolling hills, the plant-life and the water (the Loire River bank) in this satellite photo of the Loire Valley and the depiction of such features in Jean Fouquet’s miniature will make this very clear (see Appendix A for the photo Prise de Jericho) Tissot, on the other hand, went to Palestine, and painted the background based on his research of the landscape.

This is evident by of the presence of a desert as well as the many hills, as you can see in this next Google Earth picture: This is a satellite photo of the current city of Jericho. I chose to show a very broad picture of the entire region so as to display the makeup of the landscape. Notice the colour of the land and the many hills when you compare this photo the James Tissot’s The Taking of Jericho (See Appendix A for The Taking of Jericho) Furthermore the two artists used very different strategies when deciding how to depict the buildings of Jericho.

The homes that are supposed to have been housed within the walls of Jericho are clearly not Middle Eastern in Jean Fouquet’s miniature. They appear to be very European, as you can see by comparing the architecture in the following Google Earth satellite photograph of a street in the Loire Valley to Jean Fouquet’s miniature (See Appendix A). The similarities can be seen immediately. James Tissot, once again, drew upon the research he gathered from his three trips to Palestine to draw the uildings that were behind the walls of Jericho.

The buildings he depicts are very light in colour, as is typical in the middle east since “in many desert regions, adobe bricks can be produced on-site from local soil and dried in the sun” (citation). These bricks can then obviously be used to construct buildings. Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain a street level satellite photo of Jericho from Google Earth in order to emphasize how realistic Tissot’s depiction of the Middle-Eastern structures is.

However if you refer back to the photo encompassing Jericho and the surrounding area you will see that it is in a desert region, thus adobe bricks are likely used to construct buildings. In terms of accuracy, both Fouquet and Tissot strayed from the Hebrew bible, however to varying degrees. I personally found it interesting that both Fouquet and Tissot left small fractions of the wall still standing in their depictions.

This may have been based on some knowledge of architecture, but it seems to slightly contradict the Hebrew bible which states that “The people rushed into the city, every man straight in front of him… (citation) If there were fragments of wall still left standing then everyone would not have been able to run straight ahead of them and into the city. The wording in the Hebrew bible implies the wall fell completely, with no segment of it left standing. So in this aspect it seems they both veered from their source. In regards to James Tissot, this a further deviation from the Hebrew bible story, since he had decided to omit the Ark of the Covenant, the priests, the vanguard, and the rearguard.

After reviewing the similarities and differences between the two artists depictions of the conquest of Jericho, it seems the differentiating factor between the their depictions is that James Tissot actually went to Palestine to conduct research and gather information, whereas Jean Fouquet chose to draw from his own native surroundings. The two pieces of artwork: The Taking of Jericho, and Prise de Jericho are results of their time and the individual decisions of their respective artists. If these artists were not born into their specific circumstances the pieces of artwork would likely be very different, if they even existed at all. the

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