Early Renaissance in 15th c. Italy
• Intellectuals in 15th c. Italy thought of
themselves as living in a NEW AGE.
• Believed they could improve their culture
by reviving the best features of
antiquity…Greek and Roman culture.
• Rebirth of classical learning, literature and
• Study of texts from Greece and Rome for
moral content and style (medieval
university—prized theology) but
Renaissance humanism aimed for
practical use—for lawyers, bureaucrats,
politicians, diplomats and merchants
• Humanists’ analytical approach and
empirical observations inspired new
thinking in many fields
• Florence Medici
• Urbino Montefeltro
• Mantua Gonzaga
• Milan Sforza and Visconti
• Ferrara Este
15th c. Republic of Florence (ala Roman Republic)
• Signoria—governing council—officials
elected from members of the guilds and
• Milan threatened to invade in
1401…Florence was able to defy Milan…a
comparison was made between Athens
defeat of the Persians…praised for piety
and devotion…Renaissance humanists
wished to reconcile the lessons of antiquity
with their Christian faith.
Across the piazza from
the Florence Cathedral
facade was the
baptistery. Every child
born in Florence
was baptized into the
Church there. It was
decided that the
baptistery needed new
The city fathers of
Florence held a
competition to solicit
plans for the dome's
completion and for door
designs in bronze.
Florence Baptistery Competition
Guild-sponsored competition in 1401 for the east doors of the
Ghiberti. Sacrifice of Isaac
competition panel for east
doors, baptistery of Florence
Brunelleschi. Sacrifice of Isaac.
Competition panel for east
doors, baptistery of Florence.
• After losing the competition…Rome with
• Studied ancient structures
• Discovered linear perspective
• Won competition for dome of Florence
cathedral—wool merchants guild
The Cathedral of Florence was begun in 1298. Santa Maria del Fiore
(our Lady of the Flower, the lily was a symbol of Florence) was the
third cathedral built on the site.
Brunelleschi submitted the winning plan for the dome in 1420. He combined his
knowledge of Roman engineering principles with innovative building techniques
to construct a 100’ dome w/o any visible means of support.
Brunelleschi, dome of Florence
• Brunelleschi placed
dome over 140’
designing a thin
double shell that
was ogival (pointed
arch) in section.
• The dome’s weight
is borne by 8
marble ribs that
span the dome
form base to
lantern. These ribs
by 16 concealed
ribs radiating from
Brunesslechi, Hospital of the Innocents, 1421…1st Ren. bldg.
Patron: Silk Merchants Guild and Goldsmiths
The commission enabled him to apply the principles of:
balance, harmony and proportion
he discovered during his study of ancient Roman buildings.
Arcade—series of columns spanned by arches
Pedimented windows—triangular treatment
balance, harmony and proportion
Andrea della Robbia - Glazed terra-cotta reliefs of
swaddled babes (added about 1487)
Interior of the church
Santo Spirito, Florence
Mathematical ratios and
graceful rhythm embody the
new Renaissance style of
applied these principles to
the interior of Santo Spirito.
Pazzi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence, begun after 144 (Brunelleschi).
• Attributed to
• Michelozzo di Bartolomeo,
• Palazzo Medici-
Riccardi, Florence, begun
• Courtyard with sgraffito (decoration produced by
scratching through plaster or glaze).
Or San Michele
• Each guild was responsible to fill a niche
on the exterior of this guild building.
Or San Michele, Florence (early 14th c.)
1406—dictum to fill niches
1414—K. Ladislaus, Naples threatened Florence
Nanni di Banco. Four Saints.
Or San Michele, Florence,
Four martyred sculptors who
refused and order from the
Roman emperor Diocletian to
carve a pagan deity.
Early example of Renaissance
artists’ attempt to liberate statuary
form its architectural setting.
Patron: Wood and Stone Carvers
Donatello, St Mark, 1411, Marble, 7’9”
As Giotto had succeeded
his master Cimabue, so
Ghiberti produced a student
whose fame exceeded his
Donatello was the great
master of the Early
His skills as a sculptor were
almost a century later. He
commissions for the city of
His St. Mark was
commissioned by the Linen
S. George. Or San Michele.
Guild of Armorers’ and Swordmakers’
Continues Gothic tradition (depicting
warrior saints on church facades) but here
it plays a civic role…ready to defend
Two years later Donatello was commissioned to install this relief…marks
a turning point in Renaissance sculpture…painterly
approach…atmospheric effect…a window onto an infinite vista.
Siena Cathedral and Duccio’s
Donatello fame brings him to
Siena and Padua
Donatello. Feast of Herod, baptismal font of the Siena baptistery. c.1425
Donatello. Feast of Herod, baptismal font of the Siena Cathedral. c.1425
Reflects Brunelleschi’s linear perspective and recalls his architecture—
rounded arches and fluted columns and pilasters.
(military leader of
on marble plinth
Piazza del Santo,
Erasmo da Narni (nicknamed Gattamelata)
Venice honored him for his military successes.
Donatello recalled the Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius
The horse is so large that the rider must dominate by force of
person rather than size.
• Donatello spent most of his career in
Florence and worked for important families
like the Medici.
Y OF SAN
Deep space is convincing
through one-point linear
perspective, aerial or
atmospheric perspective and the
receding sizes of figures.
Ghiberti is almost painting in
Recalls Donatello’s relief below
his statue of St. George and his
Siena Baptistry relief of 1427.
Noah (flood/drunkenness) and
Abraham sacrificing Isaac
Isaac (story of Jacob and Esau) and Joseph
sold into slavery by his brothers
Moses on Mt. Sinai (Ten Commandments) and
Joshua and the fall of Jericho
David and Goliath and
Soloman and the Q of Sheba
Ghiberti placed his own portriat as a signature in the frame at the lower right
corner of the Jacob and Esau panel.
He wrote (c.1450) “I strove to imitate nature ans clearly as I could, and with all
the perspective I could produce, to have excellent compositions with many
The door panels
commissioned by the
wool guild depicts
scenes from the
Hebrew Bible (Old
Ghiberti. PANEL ON THE DOOR, GATES
OF PARADISE. 1425-52
Donatello, David, c.1446 bronze, 5’2 ¼”
Medici Palace (1469)
The victor is whoever defends the fatherland.
All-powerful Gold crushes the angry enemy.
Behold, a boy overcomes the grat tyrant.
Conquer, O citizens!
Verrocchio. David. C.1465-1470.
One of the most important sculptors in
the 2nd half of the century…reaffirms
the Medici family’s identification with
His David contrasts strongly in its
narrative realism with the quiet
classicism of Donatellos’s…he knew
the psychology of brash young men.
Another Medici appropriation of civic imagery can be seen in a small table
bronze of Hercules and Anteus made for the Medici by Antonio del
Pollaiuolo (1433-98). Hercules had been represented on the state seal of
Florence since the end of the thirteenth century—"to signify that
Hercules, who was a giant, overcame all tyrants and evil lords as the
Florentines have done.”
Antonio del Pollaiuolo.
Hercules and Antaeus.
C.1475 bronze, 18”
preference…stress and strain of
human figure in violent action.
The Medici desired to associate
their family with Florence’s
symbolic heroes. They identified
with the Greek hero and even
placed his image on their state
Antaeus…giant and son of Earth
ANDREA EL VERROCCHIO.
The condottiere and his horse
have become the embodiment
of will power, and a purposeful
and ruthless machine.