OPTICC 3: Fire in Borgo

This painting depicts the scene of the chaos during a fire in the Renaissance. The far left of the painting shows the origin of the chaos, only revealing a small scene of the fire, mostly covered by a large wall that people are climbing over to escape the fire, focusing the attention of the audience on the varying characters. Citizens are running around in colorful robes, there are people fetching water, mothers herding their children, and people helping strangers out of the fire, with pillars and powerful buildings in the background.

The intricately carved and designed arch that the whole scene takes place under seems to be of importance to the time period, the meaning or the artist. Each character seems to hold a lot of importance when focused upon; A strong man with minimal robes is carrying a skinny, sickly looking man with a red hat on. There is also a strong looking and gleamingly white man climbing down the wall, clearly escaping from the fire. Through observing other characters in the painting, the audience can assume that the artist is implying people in the fire were mostly wearing white robes which were mostly burned off, and the other citizens are wearing very colorful robes. The people are also very realistically depicted, a consistent development in art during the Renaissance, due to advances in knowledge of human anatomy.

The title is, “Fire in Borgo.” The title implies that this painting portrays a significant event, and that people at the time most likely knew about this fire to appreciate the artistic depiction of it. This title also confirms that the meaning of the painting is literally about a fire that happened and the chaos that followed. Whereas without this title, it could be interpreted as a metaphor for political fragmentation, social destruction, or another cause for chaos.

Historical background research has revealed that this painting was painted for the sole purpose of being one of the many paintings on the walls of a dining room for the Pope. The paintings on these walls all told stories taken from the lives of two previous Popes. One of which, Leo IV, heroically extinguished this fire, saving the citizens and the church.

With that background, the meaning is more easily interpreted. This painting was made to honor Leo IV as a previous Pope in an artistically beautiful and meaningful painting. Perhaps a deeper meaning is that this event is a metaphor for multiple instances in which Leo IV- or more broadly, the Popes of the Renaissance- saved the people and the church from disasters.

This is important to what we are learning right now because it shows how valued the Popes were during the Renaissance. “Fire in Borgo,” is a great representation of the artistic skill and development of the Renaissance, with more realistic human depictions and direct meanings. It could be interpreted to honor a specific Pope for a specific event, or it could represent the Popes of the Renaissance acting as a healing force for the church and its people.


Victim of the Fire

My cleanliness is not worth

The life of a man

Even one whose I am not

Familiar with

His weakness reminds me of my strength

His misfortune is a reminder of my luck

The chaos before me

Is art to my wicked eyes

An offering of a story to tell

A moment to keep in time

The man of kindness and bravery

Another of unluck and a limp body

Colored robes hurriedly mixing

Paint, splattered on a canvas

The fire began unnoticed

An artist, not yet recognized

No longer contained,

Lives become endangered

Mothers worried about their children

Children worried about themselves

Citizens worried about others

In the rush, it is only sensible

To worry about yourself first