Until I turned nineteen, I was so sure my love for art, design, and architecture would lead me on a pilgrimage through Italy. Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci, Brunelleschi. Even before going I had decided I would settle in Florence and study whilst working at an art gallery or museum. I had it all figured out.
Fast-forward to today and my little sister is on her way to living that dream. She fell through the same rabbit hole I did. The difference, Barcelona and Gaudí distracted me on my way down. Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dalí distracted me further, followed by fantastic illustrators discovered via Instagram, like Malika Favre. My sister on the other hand, is still delving deeper and deeper into the Italian Renaissance with pilgrimages of her own being planned out in meticulous detail.
You can feel Gurpreet’s passion and excitement when she talks about the art and history of Renaissance Italy, her unwavering love for Lorenzo de’ Medici and Cesare Borgia. You should have seen the glee on her face when I was finally able to pronounce, without tripping over my tongue, Sigismondo Malatesta (who I now know as the Lord of Rimini, a condottiere and patron of the arts). At every given opportunity she will share her intrigue and fascination. How the Sforza, Montefeltro, Gonzaga and Este families captured her attention from whatever it was she was reading at that moment. Like a bumblebee, she flitters from subject-to-subject pollinating and birthing new inspirational blog posts and plans for the future.
Inspired in part by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Albrecht Dürer, Gurpreet decided she wanted to make her own Renaissance stamp, literally and symbolically. She wanted a stand-alone logo for her website, which she could then use as an email signature and a wax seal style stamp to represent her focus on the art and history of Renaissance Italy.
The pattern I designed is reminiscent of old Renaissance designs with a strong focus on the circle. The circle is central in art and architecture of the time. It represents harmony, balance and logic. With no corners, complete symmetry and no weak points, it was considered to be divine. Rather than repeating the pattern multiple times, I chose the number four to represent the 15th Century condottiere families she loves so much, dissected with sword hilts.
Despite originally being my five-year-old’s Jumanji joke, the rhinoceros has cleverly become Gurpreet’s personal emblem. Clever in that:
– The personality traits of a rhinoceros match those of Gurpreet’s; loyal, engaging, determined, courageous, aggressive, not to mention being an herbivore, and having African roots.
– Salvador Dalí, one of my favourites, was obsessed by the rhinoceros and its horn, considering “the horn a perfect logarithmic spiral; the perfect form present in nature.” Dalí even had a woodcut xylograph entitled “Rhinoceros” by Albrecht Dürer hanging in his childhood home which is how his obsession came about.
– The rhinoceros is also the pinnacle of so much of Gurpreet’s research. Genda (the word for Rhino in Hindi), was the name of a rhinoceros that connects Renaissance history, Dürer, Raphael and even the first Medici Pope, Leo X together.
In 1515, Genda was gifted by the Sultan Muzafar II of Gujarat to the Portuguese Governor in India. Deciding he needed a favour from the King of Portugal, the Governor sent Genda to Lisbon for King Manuel I. The King later decided he needed a favour from Pope Leo X and had Genda shipped to Rome. En route, she stopped off in France to meet King Frances, though she sadly died in a storm before she could reach her final destination. Raphael is known to have seen Genda and included her likeness in his pieces at the Loggia di Raffaello. Never having seen a rhino before, many scholars also visited her and wrote out careful descriptions. It was from these descriptions that Dürer created his sketch.
Look carefully, and you can see that Gurpreet’s Genda has a horn on the back of its neck in honour of Dürer and Dalí.
It was also important for me to incorporate the Medici Palle (the balls on the family coat of arms) in the design as a reference to where Gurpreet’s journey really began. It was realising the Medici connected everything she had grown up loving– from the art of Leonardo da Vinci to cartoons Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to literature like Dumas’ Three Musketeers – together, that pushed her down the rabbit hole.
I focused on a one-colour design purely for the purpose of the brief. I wanted it uncomplicated so not to distract from the image itself, especially as the G was to remain bold and central. Little did I know this, too, played into a Renaissance debate about what was more important – design or colour? I’m sure, Gurpreet will write a blog post concerning this too.
The key to this design brief for me was paying attention to the subtle nuances of Gurpreet’s tone when she speaks about the Renaissance. This was how I was able to pick out key elements that represented Gurpreet and what she loves.
WHAT GURPREET HAD TO SAY
‘Like a rhino, I don’t do well with change, and the idea of moving my focus from Film and Television to the Italian Renaissance was extremely difficult for me… Until I saw Ranj’s design for Genda.
Ranj didn’t just take parts of the Renaissance, stick them together and hand them off. She carefully considered each piece of the tapestries that make up Renaissance Art and History, fashioned jigsaw pieces from them and built them up. Through one design, she showed me that this change wasn’t really an alteration. It was a shift of perspective.
It’s such a truthful representation of the era, and of me, that fascinatingly, the more I look at it, the more I see. I see a Book of Hours, I see Giotto, I see the Borgia Bull. She really has outdone herself.’