Last Updated 02 Aug 2020

The Italian Renaissance Art

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The Italian Renaissance was one of the most prolific periods in the history of art, with large numbers of exceptional artists to be found in painting, sculpture, and architecture. These leaders included Masaccio in painting, Brunelleschi in architecture, and Donatello in sculpture. Renaissance Art is divided into two main periods. The first period is known as Early Renaissance which took place in the fifteenth century during the Golden Age of Florence. This time included largess buildings, sculptures, and paintings, all of which questioned the rules of art.

The next period is known as the High Renaissance, which was created mostly in the sixteenth century as it essentially built up upon and mastered the artwork created in the previous era. Art of this time period was marked by greater realism and the natural depiction of the human form. Humanism played a major part in Renaissance art as individualism that humanism cultivated led to a greater attention to the power of the individual. The Baptistry in Florence is known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. During this rebirth of culture, a banking system was invented in Florence, largely thanks to the wealthy Medici family.

The Baptistry is an octagonal dome with a Florentine Romanesque style. The Baptistery is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. Michelangelo called the doors on the eastern side, “The Gates of Paradise. ” The Golden Age of Florence is known as The Early Renaissance with considerable artistic achievements. Sculpture was very important during this time, and Donatello’s statues David and Gattamelata. Donatello's bronze statue of David is notable as it is the first unsupported standing work in bronze cast during the Renaissance period.

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It depicts the young David with an enigmatic smile, posed with his foot on Goliath's severed head just after killing the giant. Most scholars assume the statue was commissioned by the Medici Family around 1440. Gattemelata by Donatello depicts the realism, humanism, and individualism of the Renaissance. Bronze like Donatello’s David, this statue is the first Renaissance equestrian statue and it served as a model for later sculptures honoring military heroes. Renaissance painting began with The Holy Trinity by Masaccio.

This painting is also the first to invent perspective, in which a two-dimensional image has the appearance of being three-dimensional with the help of a barrel-vaulted chamber. This piece shows the intimacy of religion during this time as God is descending Jesus from the cross. Madonna and Child, likely the most popular painting in Italy during its time, further shows how religion is a central theme in the Renaissance. The most well known Renaissance painting today, however, is the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. It depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a full grown woman, arriving at the sea-shore.

Botticelli rarely gave weight and volume to his figures and rarely used a deep perspective space. In this painting, Venus' body is anatomically questionable, with elongated neck and torso. Venus is an Italian Renaissance ideal as she is blonde, pale-skinned, and voluptuous. High Renaissance Artwork is dominated by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo is famous for mostly paintings, while Michelangelo worked in a wider range of mediums which included sculptures and frescos. Leonardo created Madonna on the Rocks, which shows his interest in geology.

One of his better-known paintings is The Last Supper. It represents the scene of The Last Supper from the final days of Jesus as narrated in the Gospel of John 13:21, when Jesus announces that one of his Twelve Apostles would betray him. The Mona Lisa, another one of da Vinci’s masterpieces, encompasses the Italian Renaissance. The painting is a wedding portrait that depicts a seated woman whose facial expression is frequently described as enigmatic. The ambiguity of the woman’s expression, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusion were new qualities that make the work fascinating.

The image is so widely recognized, caricatured, and sought out by its visitors that it is considered the most famous painting in the world. Donato Bramante also created fine work during the High Renaissance, especially in architecture. In the year 1502 in Rome, Bramante build a church called Tempietto. Originally patronized by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, the Tempietto marks the traditional location of St. Peter's crucifixion where he was crucified upside down. Inside, Michelangelo supplied some of the figure drawings, which further shows his significant role in the Renaissance.

Michelangelo, unlike the painter da Vinci, created both paintings and statues. Pardon the pun; he truly was a Renaissance Man as he mastered a bevy of skills. He only piece Michelangelo ever signed was his Pieta. The Pieta, done in 1499, is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture that is housed in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. This famous marble sculpture depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. It is an important work as it balances the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty with naturalism.

The statue is one of the most highly finished works by Michelangelo, and may be one of his favorites as it is the only one he signed. Another one of Michelangelo’s well-known statues is David. Michelangelo breaks away from the traditional way of representing David. He does not present us with the winner, like with the giant's head at his feet and the powerful sword in his hand. Rather, he portrays the youth as tense as he gathers power immediately preceding the battle. Unlike Donatello’s depiction of the biblical hero David, some say Michelangelo’s version does not say much about the legend.

Rather, Michelangelo seems to be proving to the population that he can create and master a Greek Style statue. He seems to perfect the traditional contrapposto knee flexion, as many Greek heroes are represented. We can see further Greek elements, as David is a standing male who is nude. Michelangelo continues the High Renaissance with his Statue of Moses. Moses is depicted with horns, which may strike up a red flag to some viewers. However, before the bible was translated, horns were the symbol for halos. This is a significant theme of the wisdom of the Enlightenment.

This marble sculpture was commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II for his tomb as Moses is holding the Ten Commandments under his arm. Oil paints were perfected in the Renaissance and allowed much advancement in many mediums, especially in frescos. Michelangelo’s first famous painting was likely his Lybian Sibyl from 1510 located on the Sistine Chapel. In this work, colors start to become much brighter than previously used, which gave the chapel a heavenly feel. His paintings are so detailed and bold that they actually look as if they were statues.

The serpentine figure presents itself with a snake-like twist. Michelangelo showed his painting talents in a fresco in the Sistine Chapel known as the Creation of Adam. Michelangelo tries to tell a story on the entire ceiling of the church and does so with marvelous creations. In fact, this ceiling took a total of four years to created, in which Michelangelo worked on it every day. However, it ought to be noted that looking up at a ceiling for an extensive period of time can be very bothersome, so viewers sometimes lay on their backs to attempt to understand and appreciate the beauty of the frescos.

This work specifically was the most condemned work of art after the Council of Trent because of all of the nude figures Michelangelo depicted. The Last Judgment by Michelangelo is the altarpiece at The Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo began working on it three decades after having finished the ceiling of the chapel. The work is massive and ps the entire wall behind the altar and it is a depiction of the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse. The souls of humans rise and descend to their fates, as judged by Christ surrounded by his saints. Shortly after the creation of this painting, the Jesuits began to spread.

Michelangelo was accused of immorality and intolerable obscenity, having depicted naked figures, with genitals in evidence, inside the most important church of Christianity. The Fig-Leaf Campaign began to protest and give sensors to such art. Michelangelo does a self-portrait depicting himself as St. Bartholomew after he had been skinned alive. This is reflective of the feelings of contempt Michelangelo had for being commissioned to paint The Last Judgment. Michelangelo took his talents to architecture in the final stages of his career.

He created the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the highest dome in the world, and is also the third widest. This was created with the intention of looking very classical. One of Michelangelo’s motifs is his double columns along the outside of the dome for decoration. Uniquely, Michelangelo's dome is not a hemisphere, but a parabola: it has a vertical thrust, which is made more emphatic by the bold ribbing that springs from the paired Corinthian columns, which appear to be part of the drum, but which stand away from it like buttresses, to absorb the outward thrust of the dome's weight.

It would not do the Italian Renaissance justice to leave out Rafael’s masterpiece The School of Athens, created in 1510. This painting represents the philosophical inquiry of classical times. Ancient Greek architecture and clothing can be seen in the painting It was painted as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate with frescoes the rooms in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, so today it is a nice fresco on the wall of the Pope’s office. The picture has long been seen as Raphael's masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the High Renaissance.

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