Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici 1524-31 Marble, 630 x 420 cm Sagrestia Nuova, San Lorenzo, Florence
The chapel was built between 1475 and 1483, in the time of Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere. A basic feature of the chapel itself, so obvious that it is sometimes ignored, is the papal function, as the pope's chapel and the location of the elections of new popes. The Chapel is rectangular in shape and measures 40,93 meters long by 13,41 meters wide, i.e. the exact dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, as given in the Old Testament. It is 20,70 meters high and is surmounted by a shallow barrel vault with six tall windows cut into the long sides, forming a series of pendentives between them. The walls are divided into three orders by horizontal cornices; according to the decorative program, the lower of the three orders was to be painted with fictive "tapestries," the central one with two facing cycles - one relating the life of Moses (left wall) and the other the Life of Christ (right wall), starting from the end wall, where the altar fresco, painted by Perugino, depicted the Virgin of the Assumption, to whom the chapel was dedicated. The wall paintings were executed by Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and their respective workshops, which included Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and Bartolomeo della Gatta. The ceiling was frescoed by Piero Matteo d'Amelia with a star-spangled sky. Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II della Rovere in 1508 to repaint the ceiling; the work was completed between 1508 and 1512. He painted the Last Judgement over the altar, between 1535 and 1541, being commissioned by Pope Paul III Farnese.
In planning the architectural design Michelangelo first had to accommodate his program to the pre-existing building, including the windows, which were the source of light for his decoration. The wreath of openings still provides the principal viewing light. Michelangelo devised a long central area framed by a fictitious marble cornice and separated into nine sections by broad pilaster strips bent across the ceiling, also in imitation white marble. Sections of alternating dimensions are framed between wider and narrower bands. Within them Michelangelo varied the size of the actual narratives, giving only the smaller ones a marble frame. Four ignudi (male nudes), among the most admired elements of the ceiling, ostensibly support ribbons attached to large medallions painted to look like bronze. Twenty in all, they are in different poses, producing, together with the Prophets and Sibyls, a "handbook" of alternatives for the seated figure for later artists. At the corners of the ceiling Michelangelo has painted four salvation subjects, including David and Goliath and Judith and Holofernes. Triangular-shaped compartments are repeated in a continuous band along the entire border of the ceiling; they contain bronze-colored nudes that alternate with the renowned Prophets and Sibyls set into marble thrones which, in turn, have paired marble putti in a variety of poses and positions that expand upon the tradition of Donatello and Luca della Robbia. The ancestors of Christ are painted on the flat side walls, the only section of the decoration that did not require the visual adjustments posed by painting on a curved surface.
This fresco was commissioned by Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) shortly before his death. His successor, Paul III Farnese (1534-1549), forced Michelangelo to a rapid execution of this work, the largest single fresco of the century. The first impression we have when faced with the Last Judgment is that of a truly universal event, at the center of which stands the powerful figure of Christ. His raised right hand compels the figures on the left-hand side, who are trying to ascend, to be plunged down towards Charon and Minos, the Judge of the Underworld; while his left hand is drawing up the chosen people on his right in an irresistible current of strength. Together with the planets and the sun, the saints surround the Judge, confined into vast spatial orbits around Him. For this work Michelangelo did not choose one set point from which it should be viewed. The proportions of the figures and the size of the groups are determined, as in the Middle Ages, by their single absolute importance and not by their relative significance. For this reason, each figure preserves its own individuality and both the single figures arid the groups need their own background. The figures who, in the depths of the scene, are rising from their graves could well be part of the prophet Ezechiel's vision. Naked skeletons are covered with new flesh, men dead for lengths of time help each other to rise from the earth. For the representation of the place of eternal damnation, Michelangelo was clearly inspired by the lines of the Divine Comedy: Charon the demon, with eyes of glowing coal/Beckoning them, collects them all,/Smites with his oar whoever lingers. According to Vasari, the artist gave Minos, the Judge of the Souls, the semblance of the Pope's Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, who had often complained to the Pope about the nudity of the painted figures. We know that many other figures, as well, are portraits of Michelangelo's contemporaries. The artist's self-portrait appears twice: in the flayed skin which Saint Bartholomew is carrying in his left-hand, and in the figure in the lower left hand corner, who is looking encouragingly at those rising from their graves. The artist could not have left us clearer evidence of his feeling towards life and of his highest ideals.
Michelangelo set the seal on his plan by removing the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which the Romans had long believed to be Constantine the Great, from the Lateran, and placing it on a pedestal of his design in the centre of the Capitoline hill. As emblem of the Imperial power of Rome, the Caesar holding sway over a limitless area rises from the center of the sun, whose twelve rays branch out into a linear pattern of multiple dimensions; by means of intersecting lines six times twelve concentric fields are obtained. It is clear that in conjunction with the twelve-pointed sun upon which he rides, they represent the planets (which designation includes sun and moon), passing through the twelve mansions of the Zodiac. As an assiduous reader of the Divine Comedy Michelangelo may have come by these ideas, familiar to other medieval minds, Dürer among them. The monarchic idea, too, derives from Dante. The whole design fits into an ellipse which represents the earthly correspondence to the divine sphere, but it is an oval which contains two focal points because dualism in the world had displaced the true center. It is no accident or artist's whim that the number seven is the key theme of the Capitol. It is found in the mystical speculation of all ages. Capitoline Hill Piazza Campidoglio, Rome
All extant documents and the results of modern research attest that the Old Basilica of Saint Peter's was a beautiful church and the joy of every pilgrim. But it was falling to pieces, and the prevalent taste for the spectacular determined the Popes to pull down the venerable building and replace it by a new and more imposing church. Many plans were advanced and discarded; many changes made. Each Pope and each newly appointed architect criticized, chopped and changed the earlier plans. What emerged were bits and fragments, the most excellent being those left by Bramante, though artists like Raphael, Baldassare Peruzzi and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger had made their contributions. Weighty tomes were compiled recording the complicated history of this building. In 1547 Pope Paul III entrusted Michelangelo with the supervision of the plans, but years went by before he managed to introduce some order into them and impose unity on the inchoate mass of designs and materials. He reduced Bramante's elaborate plans to a central edifice and a mighty dome. This dome, finished after his death, became the largest in the world. Bramante had envisaged a square dome with four towers and a light, balanced arrangement of aisles and cloisters, the whole made up of autonomous and coordinated parts. Michelangelo's plan was grander and more simple, with an elliptical parabolic cupola dominating the whole design. The internal structure of the church is cruciform, with barrel vaulting in Bramante's manner, while the castle-like façade suggests worldly rather than spiritual dominion. The gallery at the base of the cupola is almost Gothic in character. The walls below, broken by superimposed windows in groups of two and three, wedged between steeply rising pilasters with angulate Corinthian capitals, support the architrave, the cornice and the powerful attic story. All this is but a basis for, and a prelude to, the great dome which dominates and blesses the Campagna Romana, or what is left of it today. Michelangelo Dome of St. Peter’s
Corregio Deposition c. 1528 Oil on wood, 313 x 192 cm
The Deposition can perhaps justly be described as the artist's masterpiece. The compositional idea is extravagant and totally unprecedented: an inextricable knot of figures and drapes that pivots around the bewildered youth in the foreground and culminates above in the two lightly hovering figures emerging from vague background. The compositional complexity is accompanied by a significant and probably deliberate ambiguity in the representation of the subject, which may be interpreted as halfway between the theme of the Deposition and that of the Pietà or Lamentation over the Dead Christ. The painting appears to represent the moment in which the body of Christ, having been taken down from the cross, has just been removed from the mother's lap. The Virgin, visibly distraught, and perhaps on the point of fainting, still glazes longingly towards her Son, and gestures with her right arm in the same direction. In the centre of the painting, the moment of the separation is underlined by the subtle contact of Mary's legs with those of Christ, now freed from his Mother's last pathetic embrace. An intense spiritual participation in the grief of the event profoundly affects the expressions and attitudes of all the figures present, even that of the woman turned away from the onlooker, probably Mary Magdalene, who communicates her anguished psychological condition by reaching out sympathetically towards the swooning body of the Virgin. Some scholars have interpreted the two young figures holding up the deceased's body as angels in the act of drawing Christ away from the main group and leading him finally into the arms of his Father. The general direction of the movement is, in fact, a rising one, and is created by the ethereal quality of the weightless figures, and their slow, almost dance-like rhythm. The two presumed angelic presences, moreover, seem to be unaffected by the weight of the lifeless body, and the figure in the foreground appears to be in the act of raising himself up by lightly pressing down on the front part of his foot.
Madonna dal Collo Lungo (Madonna with Long Neck) 1534-40 Oil on panel, 216 x 132 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence This was painted for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi at Parma. It is the masterpiece of the culminating period in the art of Parmigianino, done almost the same time as the frescoes of the Steccata at Parma. The painter worked upon the picture for six years, but this notwithstanding, it remained unfinished. It is a work of intense if somewhat aloof poetical feeling, this effect mainly arising from the splendid abstraction of the forms, so smoothly rounded under the cool and polished color.
This is one of Bronzino's greatest portraits. It is exemplary of the mannerist style of portraiture. The self-possessed aloofness of the sitter and the austere elegance of the Palace interior are hallmarks of the courtly style of portraiture he created for Medicean Florence. Although the sitter cannot be identified, he is likely a member of Bronzino's close circle of literary friends. The book held by the sitter in the portrait, the fanciful table and chair, with their grotesque decorations, introduce intentionally witty and capricious motifs: visual analogues to the sorts of literary conceits enjoyed by this cultivated society . Bronzino Portrait of a Young Man c. 1540 Oil on wood, 96 x 75 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Most of Vasari’s account of his visit to the Anguissola family is devoted to Sofonisba, about whom he wrote: ‘Anguissola has shown greater application and better grace than any other woman of our age in her endeavors at drawing; she has thus succeeded not only in drawing, coloring and painting from nature, and copying excellently from others, but by herself has created rare and very beautiful paintings’. Sofonisba’s privileged background was unusual among woman artists of the 16th century, most of whom, like Lavinia Fontana , were daughters of painters. Her social class did not, however, enable her to transcend the constraints of her sex. Without the possibility of studying anatomy, or drawing from life, she could not undertake the complex multi-figure compositions required for large-scale religious or history paintings. She turned instead to the models accessible to her, exploring a new type of portraiture with sitters in informal domestic settings. The influence of Campi, whose reputation was based on portraiture, is evident in her early works, such as the Self-portrait (Florence, Uffizi). She was employed as the court painter for Phillip II of Spain. Sofonisba was one of the first women to gain a international reputation as a painter. She studied under Campi until he moved away and this established a precedent of encouraging male painters to take on female students. Michelangelo even sent her some drawings, which she copied and sent back to him for criticism. She was a prolific painter: more than 30 signed pictures survived from her years in Cremona, with a total of about 50 works that have been securely attributed to her. Late in her life she was visited by a young painter Anthony van Dyck. A drawing of her appears in his sketchbooks, along with excerpts of the advice she gave him about painting. Nevertheless it is clear that she was an innovative portraitist, whose international stature inspired many young women to become painters. Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)
Charming portrait of her siblings showing an insight into their personalities. Very much like a studio pose today.
The Rape of the Sabines marked the climax of Giambologna's career as an official Medici sculptor. This great marble was unveiled in the Loggia dei Lanzi in January 1583 in place of Donatello's Judith. The group is indebted to Giambologna's study of Hellenistic sculpture, particularly in the voids which penetrate the three interlocked figures. On a technical level it represents the fulfillment of an aspiration from antiquity. Ancient sources record sculptures made from a single block, a claim which the Renaissance discovered was not true. Giambologna intended to surpass antiquity by sculpting a large group from a single block that also involved a complicated lift. The result is the first sculpture with no principal viewpoints, it forms a spiral that is the culmination of the "figura serpentina". This sculpture, in contrast, was designed with the intention of making the viewer examine it from every direction. When the face of the Roman is visible, the expressions of either of the Sabines are not, and visa versa; thus, the viewer is forced to take in the sculpture from all 360 degrees. According to this story, there were originally two groups of people in the region of Rome: the Sabines and the shepherd-warriors who followed Romulus. Thus, Romulus invited the neighboring Sabines to a festival, in which he and his men stole their women and made them their wives. Depending on the source of the story, the Sabines either agreed directly to make Romulus their king, or else a few more wars ensued, all of which the Sabines lost, and then the Sabines agreed to support Romulus as their king. Giovanni da bolgna Rape of the Sabines 1581-83 Marble, height: 410 cm Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence It is known from various documents that one of Giambologna's goals was to surpass Michelangelo as a great sculptor; however, it is difficult to ascertain whether he eventually did or did not surpass him. It is known that over his lifetime Giambologna did produced many magnificent works of art, but whether or not he eclipsed Michelangelo is disputable. Nevertheless, it can be determined from many of Giambologna's works of art that he did was very influenced by the works Michelangelo produced; oftentimes, his sculptures slightly imitate the postures and the positions found in Michelangelo's sculptures.
Giambologna designed the Appenine, a fountain of sorts set in a garden of titillating marvels at the Medici Villa at Pratolino. The theatrical work combined several Mannerist themes: the colossus, the fountain, the interaction between art and nature. It was carved partly out of living rock and embellished with dripped stucco, lava and other materials to appear organic. Appenine 1570-80 Rock, lava, brick, etc., height: 10 m Garden of the Villa Medici, Pratolino
Situated on the top of a hill just outside the town of Vicenza, the Villa Capra is called the Villa Rotonda, because of its completely symmetrical plan with a central circular hall. The building has a square plan with loggias on all four sides, which connect to terraces and the landscape. At the center of the plan, the two story circular hall with overlooking balconies was intended by Palladio to be roofed by a semicircular dome. However, after his death, a lower dome was built, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi and modeled after the Pantheon with a central oculus originally open to the sky. The proportions of the rooms are mathematically precise, according to the rules Palladio describes in the Quatro Libri. The building is rotated 45 degrees to south on the hilltop, enabling all rooms to receive some sunshine. The villa is asymmetrically sited in the topography, and each loggia, although identical in design, relates to the landscape it enfronts differently through variations of wide steps, retaining walls and embankments. Thus, the symmetrical architecture in asymmetrical relationship to the landscape intensifies the experience of the hilltop. The northwest loggia is set recessed into the hill above an axial entry from the front gate. This axis is flanked by a service building and continues visually to a chapel at the edge of the town, thus connecting villa and town The Villa Rotunda is a product of simple geometries arrayed around a central dome. The residence can be split into four nearly-identical quadrants
Giovanni Bellini The Feast of the Gods 1514 Oil on canvas, 170 x 188 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington The Feast of the Gods was Giovanni Bellini's last great painting and one of only a few that he executed on canvas. The artist, whose career began in the 1450s, was trained to paint on wooden panels, which require a very meticulous application of pigment. When he worked on canvas late in his career, Bellini retained his tight, precise brushwork. The flesh tones, iridescent silks, and even the foreground pebbles here demonstrate his delicate touch. According to the current interpretations, the scene illustrates a passage from Ovid's Fasti (The Feasts), a long classical poem that recounts the origins of many ancient Roman rites and festivals. Ovid (43 B.C. - A.D. 17), describing a banquet given by the god of wine, mentioned an incident that embarrassed Priapus, god of virility. The beautiful nymph Lotis, shown reclining at the far right, was lulled to sleep by wine. Priapus, overcome by lust, seized the opportunity to take advantage of her and is portrayed bending forward to lift her skirt. His attempt was foiled when an ass, seen at the left, "with raucous braying, gave out an ill-timed roar. Awakened, the startled nymph pushed Priapus away, and the god was laughed at by all." Priapus, his pride wounded, took revenge by demanding the annual sacrifice of a donkey. The ass stands next to Silenus, a woodland deity who used the beast to carry wood, thus wears a keg on his belt because he was a follower of Bacchus, god of wine. Bacchus himself, seen as an infant, kneels before them while decanting wine into a crystal pitcher.
Reading from left to right, the principal figures are: Silenus, a woodland god attended by his donkey Bacchus, the infant god of wine crowned with grape leaves Faunus or Silvanus, an old forest god wearing a wreath of pine needles Mercury, the messenger of the gods carrying his caduceus or herald's staff Jupiter, the king of the gods accompanied by an eagle An unidentified goddess holding a quince, a fruit associated in the ancient world with marriage Pan, a satyr with a grape wreath who blows on his shepherd's pipes Neptune, the god of the sea sitting beside his trident harpoon Ceres, the goddess of cereal grains with a wreath of wheat Apollo, god of the sun and the arts, crowned by laurel and holding a Renaissance stringed musical instrument, the lira da braccio, in lieu of a classical lyre Priapus, the god of virility and of vineyards with a scythe, used to prune orchards, hanging from the tree above him Lotis, one of the naiads, a nymph of fresh waters who represents chastity. These deities are waited upon by three naiads, nymphs of streams and brooks, and two satyrs, goat-footed inhabitants of the wilderness. On the distant mountain, which Titian added to Bellini's picture, two more satyrs cavort drunkenly and a hunting hound chases a stag
This work is one of the mysteries of European painting: in spite of its undeniable quality and epochal importance, opinions are divergent concerning both its creator and its theme. It is the outstanding masterpiece of the Venetian Renaissance, the summit of Giorgione's creative career, so much so that according to some it may have been painted, or at least finished, by Titian rather than Giorgione. The painting has been interpreted as an allegory of Nature, similar to Giorgione's Storm, which was undeniably painted by him; it was even viewed as the first example of the modern herdsman genre. Its message must be more complex than this. It is likely that the master consciously unified several themes in this painting, and the deciphering of symbols required a degree of erudition even at the time of its creation. During the eighteenth century the painting was known by the simple name of "Pastorale" and only subsequently was it given the title "Fête champêtre" or "Concert champêtre", owing to its festive mood. Modern research has pointed out that the composition is in fact an allegory of poetry. The female figures in the foreground are the Muses of poetry, their nakedness reveals their divine being. The standing figure pouring water from a glass jar represents the superior tragic poetry, while the seated one holding a flute is the Muse of the less prestigious comedy or pastoral poetry. The well-dressed youth who is playing a lute is the poet of exalted lyricism, while the bareheaded one is an ordinary lyricist. The painter based this differentiation on Aristotle's "Poetica". The scenery is characterized by a duality. Between the elegant, slim trees on the left, we see a multi-leveled villa, while on the right, in a lush grove, we see a shepherd playing a bagpipe. Yet the effect is completely unified. The very presence of the beautiful, mature Muses provides inspiration; the harmony of scenery and figures, colors and forms proclaims the close interrelationship between man and nature, poetry and music. Pastoral Symphony Girgione
Titian was neither such a universal scholar as Leonardo, nor such an outstanding personality as Michelangelo, nor such a versatile and attractive man as Raphael. He was principally a painter, but a painter whose handling of paint equaled Michelangelo's mastery of draughtsmanship. This supreme skill enabled him to disregard all the time-honored rules of composition, and to rely on color to restore the unity which he apparently broke up. It was almost unheard of to move the Holy Virgin out of the center of the picture, and to place the two administering saints - St Francis, who is recognizable by the Stigmata (the wounds of the Cross), and St Peter, who has deposited the key (emblem of his dignity) on the steps of the Virgin's throne - not symmetrically on each side, but as active participants of a scene. In this altar-painting, Titian had to revive the tradition of donors' portraits, but did it in an entirely novel way. The picture was intended as a token of thanksgiving for a victory over the Turks by the Venetian nobleman Jacopo Pesaro, and Titian portrayed him kneeling before the Virgin while an armored standard-bearer drags a Turkish prisoner behind him. St Peter and the Virgin look down on him benignly while St Francis, on the other side, draws the attention of the Christ Child to the other members of the Pesaro family, who are kneeling in the corner of the picture. The whole scene seems to take place in an open courtyard, with two giant columns which rise into the clouds where two little angels are playfully engaged in raising the Cross. Titian's contemporaries may well have been amazed at the audacity with which he had dared to upset the old-established rules of composition. They must have expected, at first, to find such a picture lopsided and unbalanced. Actually it is the opposite. The unexpected composition only serves to make it gay and lively without upsetting the harmony of it all. Titian Madonna with Saints and Members of the Pesaro Family 1519-26
The Venus of Urbino was painted for Guidobaldo della Rovere, the heir of Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. Titian's Venus has nothing to do with Giorgione's idealized image of female beauty, it is normally interpreted as an allegory of marital love. There have been some suggestions that there might be a connection with the wedding of Guidobaldo della Rovere and Giuliana Varano in 1534. This is an extremely fine composition. It invites us to dwell on more than just the warm, golden figure of this young woman with her cascading curls and the attractive, carefully studied movement of her arm. Observe the way the sheet has been painted, with masterful blends of color, the small dog lazily curled up asleep, the amusing touch of the two maids rummaging in the chest, the world outside the window, and the malicious, but at the same time ingenious expression of the young Venus. There is an intimacy of this scene of almost domestic simplicity which places the whole composition in a warm, human, temporal reality Titian The Venus of Urbino 1538
The church of San Giorgio Maggiore was built on the San Giorgio Island between 1566 and 1600 using the design of Palladio. After 1590 the workshop of Tintoretto was commissioned to paint big canvases for decorating it. Due the large number of commissions, Tintoretto in his late years increasingly relied on his coworkers. However, three surviving paintings placed in a chapel consacrated in 1592 - The Harvest of Manna, The Last Supper and Entombment - were certainly painted by Tintoretto himself. Tintoretto painted the Last Supper several times in his life. This version can be described as the fest of the poors, in which the figure of Christ mingles with the crowds of apostles. However, a supernatural scene with winged figures comes into sight by the light around his head. This endows the painting with a visional character clearly differentiating it from paintings of the same subject made by earlier painters like Leonardo. Tintoretto The Last Supper 1592-94 Oil on canvas, 365 x 568 cm S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
This immense canvas was executed for the refectory of the convent of S. Giorgio Maggiore at Venice. It was removed in 1799 and taken to the Louvre. The picture portrays a sumptuous imaginary palace with about a hundred and thirty guests, portraits of celebrities of the period, of Veronese himself and of his friends dressed in richly coloured costumes.
Originally titled The Last Supper of Christ , the room-sized painting depicts a strange collection of near-life-size figures either seated or milling about near Jesus at a long banquet table. In addition to garden variety Apostles, Veronese kicked it up a notch with a few dwarfs, some armed German soldiers, drunks, dogs, and clowns, among other things. It was the fifth Last Supper he had painted in his career to that point, and maybe he was getting a little tired of the subject. Why not have a little fun? The friars of Santi Giovanni and Paolo didn't see it that way. It wasn't the painting they commissioned or wanted. When Veronese refused to change it, they had him hauled before the McCarthy Commission of the day: the Inquisition. What follows is an edited transcript of that appearance. It's quite funny, though I doubt Veronese saw the situation that way. You can imagine the stern, crabby, hyper-serious Inquisitors in their 30-pound wigs and gaudy silk outfits glaring down at the artist. And you can hear Veronese wriggling and sweating. But what's really interesting is the epic, eternal struggle between humorless authority and a youthful artistic spirit. And you can hear the collision of two very different views of art, one literal and reason-bound, the other highly intuitive and imagination-driven. There was a happy ending. The Inquisition ordered him to make changes. He agreed, but amazingly, in the end, the only thing he did was to paint the words "FECIT D. COVI. MAGNVS LEVI- LVCAE CAP. V" on the canvas, effectively retitling the work Feast At The House of Levi , after a more party-friendly event that found in the Gospel of Luke.