Commentary
3:08 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Art Review: Turtle Power

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, those turtles in a half shell have taught a whole generation that ooze gives you powers, turtles love pizza,  and the four names of Renaissance artists. Though maybe we didn’t know it at the time, this cartoon introduced kids to Donatello, Michealangelo, Leonardo and Rafael – four awesome turtles and four renowned artists.

Donatello is the oldest of the ninja turtles—I mean renaissance artists—doing much of his work in the early 15th century. It is bit misleading that these four turtles battled evil together because Donatello died when Leonardo was only six years old.

Leonardo, da Vinci that is, is the quintessential Renaissance Man. What is less known about Leonardo was that he was notorious for leaving work incomplete and moving on to the next project before the previous one was finished – which endlessly tested the patience of his patrons.

The turtle with the orange bandana was Michelangelo – but for the renaissance sculptor the name is pronounced Mick-elangelo. The sculpture that brought him fame as a young artist was his Pietà. When his marble sculpture was mistaken for the work of another, he chiseled a sash across Mary’s chest that reads: “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this.”

Among the turtles, this defiant attitude was represented by the fiery Rafael. Yet, Rafael the Renaissance painter was celebrated for the serenity and balance he brought to his compositions. In Rafael’s School of Athens, he represents the Greek philosophers and mathematicians with the faces of Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and a small self-portrait that peeks in from the edge of the scene. Only in this fresco are these four Renaissance artists seen together.

Until the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that is.

Area museums featuring Renaissance art:

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Spencer Museum of Art
Philbrook Museum of Art
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art