Analyzing Salvator Rosa's 'L' Umana Fragilita

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L’Umana Fragilita (Human Frailty) by Salvator Rosa, created in 1656, painted in oil on a canvas standing at an imposing 77 inches high and 51 inches wide. Presently, the piece is located in The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK. Not only does the painting serves as a harrowing look at the human condition and the fragile line between life and death, it is also an intensely personal piece for Rosa. A common theme of the 17th century was mortality; however, this painting provides an intimate look at the artist’s psyche following the death of his son, brother and other close relatives from the devastating plague. The scene depicted shows the Angel of Death visiting a young child. Death is guiding the child’s hand as he signs a scroll, while the…show more content…
The pillar on the left tilts slightly, forming a diagonal slant; furthermore, creating a line which points directly towards the figures, vocalizing the children who’re creating bubbles. To the far right, a pillar jets vertically up behind the mother, creating an asymmetrical balance, as well as essentially boxing in the characters, which creates more of a focus to the entire scene. Another element that helps aid in creating visual asymmetry to the piece; the two spherical shapes on both sides of painting. One is the rounded cradle beneath Death; the other is to the left, the mother is seated upon a curious orb-like…show more content…
Among the obvious symbols of life and death are lesser discernible icons; for example, the bubbles being blown are symbolic of the delicacy of human life. Like Death, the young child creating the bubbles seems to be of supernatural origin, going unnoticed by the mother; the child bears a strong semblance to a putto (a frequent icon in Italian Renaissance and baroque art, having mythological or religious origins.) and has no interactions with the rest of the cast, the childlike figures are simply there to fulfill their roles as allegorical symbols. Below the childlike figures is a blade, a representation of brutality and death. The knife has also been theorized by scholars as symbolizing the severance of a loved one by death; the symbol made more personal by the artist’s initials carved into the

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