Chapter 16 Renaissance and Baroque Europe Superimposed perspective lines illustrating the use of 1-point linear perspective in "View of an Ideal City", a painting by Piero della Francesca. The point of convergence is called the vanishing point.
The Italian Renaissance was an artistic movement that began in the 14th century in Italian cities such as Florence and Venice. The term Renaissance referred to a re-birth or revival of the Classical arts and learning. The Renaissance was characterized by the concept of naturalism inspired by a renewed interest in the classical art of Ancient Rome. Renaissance art involved the absorption of Classical patterns and compositions and a conscious return to the values and standards of Classical art. The most notable artists of the Italian Renaissance are – Giotto Brunelleschi Masaccio Piero della Francesca Donatello Andrea Mantegna Botticelli Leonardo da Vinci Michelangelo Raphael Masaccio’s Adam and Eve
The Medici family of Florence can be traced back to the end of the 12th century. Cosimo Medici spent a considerably part of his huge wealth on charitable acts, lived simply, and cultivated literature and the arts. He amassed the largest library in Europe, brought in many Greek sources, including the works of Plato, from Constantinople, founded the Platonic Academy and patronized Marsilio Ficino, who later issued the first Latin edition of the collected works of Plato. The artists supported by Cosimo included Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Alberti, Fra Angelico, and Ucello. During his rule and that of his sons and grandson, Florence became the cultural center of Europe and the cradle of the new Humanism. Humanism was an artistic, literary, and philosophical movement that challenged the religious fervor of the Middle Ages. The focus gradually shifted from God and the hereafter to humankind and the here and now. Leading scholars pursued intellectual and scientific inquire and rediscovered the classical literature and art of Greece and Rome.
de’ Medici Family The most significant accomplishments of the Medici were the sponsorship of artists mainly during the early and High Renaissance in art and architecture. The Medici were responsible for the majority of Florentine art during their reign. Their money was significant because during this period, artists generally only made their works when they received commissions and advance payments. Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the first patron of the arts in the family, aided Masaccio and commissioned Brunelleschi for the reconstruction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence in 1419.
Cosimo the Elder’s notable artistic associates were Donatello and Fra Angelico. (Fra Angelico’s Annunciation below) The most significant addition to the list over the years was Michelangelo, who produced work for a number of Medici, beginning with Lorenzo the Magnificent. Lorenzo commissioned him often, even as a child, and was extremely fond of him. Lorenzo also commissioned da Vinci for seven years.
Later, Pope Leo X would chiefly commission Raphael. Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the altar wall of the Sistene Chapel; the de' Medici family oversaw the construction of the Sistine Chapel as well. Under Savonarola’s fanatical leadership, many great works were "voluntarily" destroyed in the Bonfire of the Vanities in 1497. The following year, 1498, Savonarola and his two young supporters were hanged in the public square, the same location as his bonfire. In addition to commissions for art and architecture, the Medici were prolific collectors and today their acquisitions form the core of the Uffizi Museum in Florence, Italy.
In architecture, the Medici are responsible for some of the most notable features of Florence; including the Uffizi Museum, the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, the Belevedere, and the Palazzo Medici.
Giotto (1267-1337) is considered the "Father of the Renaissance". Characterized as a Proto-Renaissance painter, his work is a transition from the late medieval Gothic period. His innovations were the use of approximate perspective, increased volume of figures, and a depth of emotion which suggests human feeling instead of static and passive icons.
Filippo Brunelleschi (1337-1446) was a Florentine architect and engineer; the first to carry out a series of optical experiments that led to a mathematical theory of perspective. Brunelleschi devised the method of perspective for architectural purposes, but once the method of perspective was published in 1435 by Alberti, it would have a dramatic impact on the depiction of 3-dimensional space. The Dome of the Florence Cathedral was designed and built by Brunelleschi in 1425. He developed the system known as linear perspective which was quickly adopted by artists in Italy and throughout Europe.
Masaccio (1401- 1428) was the one of the first artists to apply the new method of linear perspective in his fresco of the Holy Trinity . The barrel vaulted ceiling imitates with precision the actual appearance of the architectural space as it would appear from the viewer's point of view. His figures are accurate in their description of human anatomy, influenced by the artist's study of sculpture. In this painting, the vanishing point resides below the feet of Jesus. The illusion of the architecture is so real that one feels as if the wall has been opened up to reveal the scene. Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Ghost (symbolized by the dove) are joined by Mary and St.John the Evangelist. Flanked on the sides are the donors (whose tomb was discovered beneath the mural). A painted skeleton lies on an illusionary sarcophagus below the inscription: "What you are, I once was; what I am, you will become". The Holy Trinity, church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, fresco, 1425
Masaccio includes three different moments in the story in the same scene, a technique known as "continuous narrative“. At center, Peter asks Jesus why he should have to pay the tax collector since his allegiance is only to God and not the Romans. Jesus's response is to "give to the Romans what is due to them and to the Lord what is due to Him. He instructs Peter to find the money by going fishing (at the left, Peter extracts a coin from the fish's mouth); and, to the right, Peter hands the tribute money to the tax collector in front of his house.
Piero della Francesca (1416-1492) was another early Renaissance artist who expressed an obsession with perspective. His work is characterized by carefully analyzed architectural spaces, a sensitivity to geometric purity of shapes, and a sculptural understanding of the figure. He was so obsessed with perspective and geometry, that he wrote several treatises on the subject. The true cross is identified by its power to bring a dead youth back to life. Piero della Francesca, The Discovery and Proving of the True Cross, fresco, 1452-59
Donatello (1386-1466) brought a new sense of naturalism to sculpture. His were some of the earliest pieces to come off of the walls of cathedrals, occupying three-dimensional space. His figures use the classical contrapposto stance (relaxed and not rigid). His David is also believed to be the very first full-scale nude sculpture since ancient times. David is the biblical youth who conquers the giant, Goliath. Though difficult to see in this photograph, David stands with his left foot on top of Goliath's head. It is interesting to compare this sculpture with Michelangelo's later version. David, cast bronze, 1444-46
Andrea Mantegna (1430-1506) created unusual vantage points in his paintings, often looking at figures from below or, in Lamentation Of the Dead Christ, from the feet of the subject, requiring deep foreshortening. The position was very effective in placing the viewer at the scene, adding to one's sense of empathy. Lamentation of the Dead Christ, tempera on canvas, 1466
Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) was the first artist to paint a full-length female nude in his Birth of Venus. The figure actually recalls the exact pose of a Greek sculpture (the Venus de Medici, which he had access to under their patronage), though he has added flowing hair and elongated limbs. The figure occupies the center of the canvas, traditionally reserved only for the subject of the Virgin. Referring to classical mythology, this is perhaps the most pagan image of the entire Renaissance. The Birth of Venus, tempera on canvas,1485
Evolution in the History of Paintings of the Virgin A consistent subject throughout the Renaissance was the depiction of the Virgin Mary, depicted on her throne with the infant Jesus. By taking a short survey, it is easy to follow advances in technical innovations as well as design. Early representations of this subject tended toward a very centralized location of the figure of Mary, surrounded by her attendant angels. The gold background and "stacked" appearance of the angels accentuates the flattened effect.
With Masaccio , the Virgin finally becomes flesh and blood, her figure defined as a sculptural model of form. The throne becomes solid and 3-dimensional, and the angels begin to have a sense of liveliness. Though the tradition of gold-gilding is still present, it doesn't overwhelm the composition. An early Giotto Madonna, above, adds a little bit more 3-dimensionality and a more personalized (human) face, but the angels continue to be a repetition of the same features, and the Christ child appears formal and stiff. The gold background continues to serve as an indication of her "holy residence", but it also serves to keep the image locked in 2-dimensional space.
Fra Filippo Lippi , a friar who was rumored to give up his monastic life for the love of his model, was one of the first artists to fully humanize the image of the Virgin. With his paintings, there is no doubt that the artist is looking at a flesh and blood woman as the inspiration for his devotional image. The tender expression, studied anatomy, and clear sense of light and shadow create a believable image of the Christ mother. Jesus also appears to have the proportions of a real child, instead of that of a tiny adult. The winged child holding him is the only supernatural element.
Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings of the Mary always feature her out-of-doors. The goddess is removed from her throne to become more integrated with the natural world. The composition becomes increasingly complex. Anne, Mary's mother, holds the Virgin in her lap as Mary reaches for Jesus, who holds a young lamb an allusion to his role as the redeemer of man, "the sacrificial lamb".
Raphael is known as a master of Madonna painting, and probably painted hundreds of different variations. "Madonna of the Chair" is a lovely example. It's masterful design incorporates a series of rhythmic curves which echo the circular frame. The chair post serves to stabilize the composition. It is considered by many to be the most popular of all Raphael Madonna's, and was probably painted for Pope Leo X, or one of the Medici. Of particular interest is the circular design. All of the interlocking arms and legs, and the directional gazes within the picture serve to emphasize the circular composition.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) also employed linear perspective in paintings which contained architecture, and was one of the first artists to make note in his writings about the existence of atmospheric perspective . To give the illusion of receding depth in nature, he painted with warm tones in the foreground, and cool tones in the distance. He also employed a sfumato effect in his figures, one of the trademarks of his Mona Lisa. In addition, he created mathematical formulas for human proportions. This is exemplified in his famous drawing of the human figure inside of a square and a circle, expressing the perfection of the harmony between mathematics and nature. Combining science and art, he was the prototype of a Renaissance Man .
LEONARDO'S MANUSCRIPTS Leonardo's notebooks are the chief claim to his genius, since many of his paintings are unfinished or in poor repair. The sheer quantity of over 5000 drawings has not been approached by any other Renaissance artist, and few things escaped the range of his interests. Among his subjects were men, women, horses, dogs, trees, flowers, fruit, moving water, monsters, caricatures, anatomy, architecture, mechanical diagrams, and maps. These incredible records were almost lost .
Old Man and Water Studies : One of Leonardo's pioneering interests were his studies of the patterns of flowing water. Long before slow-motion photography, he was probably the first to grasp the geometrical swirling of currents. In his notes, he even makes mention to its similarity with the curls of hair. It is unknown who the old man in this drawing is.
Leonardo's design for a helicopter employed the use of a giant screw to displace the air. Leonardo's design for an armored car. The idea became actualized only centuries later
Flying Machines It was from Leonardo's studies of the flight of birds that he was able to devise his inventions of flying machines. It is known that he created models from some of these drawings, though he was never actually able to make any of them fly. Some of them have since been recreate into models by the Leonardo Museum in the town of Vinci.
Anatomical Studies Leonardo was one of the first artist/scientists to systematically map the human body in his drawings. This work began as a preliminary understanding for the purpose of creating art, but once he entered this field (like so many other of Leonardo's pursuits) it brought him into a whole new world of study. Leonardo claimed to have dissected more than 30 cadavers of both sexes and all ages. He also made notes on comparative studies between the larger animals. Notice that this embryonic drawing is accompanied by smaller images of seeds, thus comparing human anatomy with botany. Probably the first image of an embryo which is still in the womb, it is one of his most famous studies.
Grotesque Old Men Leonardo was equally interested in images of beautiful youths and ugly, toothless men. He felt that it was important to study all human characteristics for their expressive potential. His ability to render anything that captivated his interests creates a beautiful drawing, though the subject may be a caricature of grotesque features.
Horses The numerous studies of horses which Leonardo created are probably related to the Colossal Horse statue that he was commissioned to create as a memorial for the duke of Milan. He created a gigantic clay sculpture of the horse and gave detailed instructions for how it was to be cast in bronze. The drawing at right is a diagram for an armature that was to hold the separately cast pieces together. Horse sculpture at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI.
Leonardo had intended to combine all of his notebooks into encyclopedic volumes, connecting all of the observed sciences. As he aged, he probably realized that this work was never to be finished. He had also witnessed the beginnings of deterioration of his most important work, the Last Supper, and the total destruction of his colossal horse. Though still esteemed a great painter, the reputation of his younger contemporaries, Michelangelo and Raphael were succeeding his own, and he was no longer called upon to create great commissions. He may have been concerned that the world would soon forget him when he sat down to create his famous self-portrait. His magnificence and sadness are recorded in his expression.
LEONARDO'S PAINTINGS As a result of his varied interests, Leonardo only completed a handful of paintings in his lifetime. The authenticity of those which scholars are certain of relate primarily to his working sketches. "The Annunciation" (1473), for example, is authenticated by a drawing of Mary's sleeve and upraised hand. It is only in such an early example which Leonardo would paint halos for both figures and wings on the angel.
The Virgin of the Rocks is a rare finished work which has been attributed to Leonardo's hand. Mary has been placed in a grotto, instead of an architectural setting. The identification of the individuals are known through their gestures. Mary raises her hand over the infant Jesus' head in an expression of protection. Jesus raises his hand symbolic of his sovereignty and grace. St. John assumes a position of blessing. The most curious gesture is that of the angel (this time without wings), who points at St. John. It is suggested that only a Florentine would understand this, as St. John was the patron saint of Florence.
Lady With Ermine is a portrait of Cecilia Gallerani. It is interesting to note that the lady was the mistress of the Duke of Milan, and that the ermine was at the time considered an emblem of chastity. Another note is that the word for the animal in Greek is "galee", which may be a pun on Ms. Gallerani's name.
The Last Supper Leonardo painted the image of Jesus among his disciples in the refectory of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie between 1495-1497. This was by commission of the Duke of Milan, who also had him paint a Crucifixion on the opposite wall. Instead of using the traditional fresco technique, Leonardo experimented with a mixture of tempera and oil on the stone wall. Fluctuations in humidity caused the paint to crumble off the wall within 15 years of its completion.
Mona Lisa Painted in Florence, the sitter's name was Lisa di Noldo Gherardini. At the time of the portrait, she was recently married to Francesco del Giocondo, a merchant who was twice widowed. It is mentioned that she is wearing the colors of mourning, though it is unsure who's death she may be grieving. It has also been mentioned that Leonardo had to hire musicians to keep her amused and to prevent her from looking too sad. Perhaps this is the appeal of her so-called "mysterious smile"... that her smile is mixed with sadness. She also seems to be both confident and shy. Leonardo is known for his attraction to such contradictions. Perhaps her fame is overblown, but it is known that this was one of Leonardo's favorite paintings... and its commissioner had a difficult time getting Leonardo to part with it. It was rumored that da Vinci carried the portrait around for many years. It was found in the Versailles Palace during the French revolution, and was subsequently placed in the Louvre, in Paris.
Michelangelo Buonarroti Unlike Leonardo, Michelangelo was of noble birth. His father, Ludovico di Buonarotti, sent his son to be raised by a stone carver and his wife, since his mother was too ill to nurse him. It was because of this arrangement that the young boy learned to carve. Michelangelo later wrote, "When I told my father that I wished to be an artist, he flew into a rage, saying that 'artists are laborers, no better than shoemakers.' " His father wanted him to be a man of letters, a scholar of higher learning. When Michelangelo finally convinced him to allow him to apprentice to be an artist, his talent emerged in very little time. He went on to study at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens, and when Lorenzo de Medici recognized his talent, was invited to live in the Medici household. In this environment, he was introduced to the great humanist thinkers of the day, who were frequent visitors to the Medici court. He would soon travel to Rome, witnessing the great marble statues that would have a lasting impact on his art. 1475-1564
One of first sculptures Michelangelo created upon his return from Rome was the Pieta. It is one of his most famous works, finished before Michelangelo was 25 years old. The youthful Mary is shown seated majestically, holding the dead Christ across her lap. Instead of revealing extreme grief, Michelangelo's Mary is restrained, and her expression is one of resignation. The theme was a compositional challenge, as previous versions of the same subject always looked awkward, with the dead Jesus practically falling off of Mary's lap. Michelangelo adjusted the composition by enlarging Mary's figure. We fail to notice her size because we are distracted by the folds in her drapery, the realistic portrayal of flesh and muscles, and its harmonious composition. St. Peter's, Rome 1500
Just days after it was placed in Saint Peter's, Michelangelo overheard a visitor remark that the work was done by another artist. That night Michelangelo sneaked into the Cathedral and carved an inscription on the sash running across Mary's chest: "Michelangelus Bonarotis Florent Facibat" (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this). This is the only work that Michelangelo ever signed. He later regretted his passionate outburst of pride and determined to never again sign a work of his hands.
David Having secured his reputation as one of Florence's greatest sculptors, Michelangelo won another commission for an important project. The statue of David was meant to commemorate the liberty of Florence, a republic which had recently won its independence. The biblical youth who slays a giant becomes a symbol for their this liberty, demonstrating that inner spiritual strength can prove to be more effective than arms.
David is pictured before the fight, gazing into the distance at his opponent. Since Goliath is not present, the story can be perceived in David's intense gaze, as well as in his powerful hands. His left hand holds a slingshot, and his right holds a rock. Carved from an 18 ft. tall block of marble which had been abandoned by an earlier sculptor, the finished size is over 14 feet tall. David is represented as athletic, very concentrated and ready to fight. Though his body appears to be relaxed emulating the contrapposto pose of classical Greek sculpture, the tension of the conflict is evident in his worried look.
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling The Vatican, Rome (1508-1512) The Creation of Adam By far the most famous section of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Michelangelo depicts Adam in his full physical form. The act of creation is in the touch of the Creator's hand with that of Adam's. Behind God is the image of Eve, as yet unborn, and other figures representing their descendents. The child, which God touches with his other hand, probably refers to the later birth of Christ.
Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to repaint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel after removing him from another project which Michelangelo was concentrated upon finishing, that of Pope Julius' tomb. At first, he tried to turn down the commission, stating that he was a sculptor and not a painter. The pope, however, was insistent. The Temptation and Expulsion From Garden of Eden
Despite his initial reluctance, the sculptor's plans far exceeded the original order of 12 painted figures on the 44 x 128 foot ceiling. When he finished the painting four years later, he had painted over 300 figures. Working high above the chapel floor, on scaffolding, these are some of the greatest images of all time. On the vault of the papal chapel, he devised an intricate system of decoration that included nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, beginning with God Separating Light from Darkness and including the Creation of Adam and Eve, the Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Flood. These centrally located narratives are surrounded by alternating images of prophets and sibyls on marble thrones, other Old Testament subjects, and by the ancestors of Christ. The Creation of Eve
Michelangelo sketched all of the images before the project of painting was begun. Some of these he altered. Such is the case with the Libyan Sybil (a sybil is a female prophet, or seer). The original cartoon shows that he studied the pose from a male figure, but he decided to transform him into a female. This practice accounts for the extremely muscular physique of his portrayal of women in general. One thing that is not evident in the central photo is the curved surface on which it is painted. Michelangelo's mastery of perspective and foreshortening allows the viewer to see the figure at a distance without the distortion.
The Tomb of Pope Julius Before the assignment of the Sistine Ceiling in 1505, Michelangelo had been commissioned by Julius II to produce his tomb, which was to include more than 40 figures. Due to a mounting shortage of money, however, the pope ordered him to put aside the tomb project in favor of painting the Sistine ceiling. When Michelangelo went back to work on the tomb, he redesigned it on a much more modest scale. The muscular patriarch, Moses, sits alertly in a shallow niche, holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments, his long beard entwined in his powerful hands. He looks off into the distance as if communicating with God. Moses, c. 1515, church in Rome
Two other statues that were meant to hold up the pope's tomb are the Bound Slave , on the left and the Dying Slave , on the right (c. 1510-13). Both are considered to be unfinished, but the Captive Slave, in particular , demonstrates Michelangelo's approach to carving. Michelangelo often referred to the process of carving as one in which he discovers the form which is already imprisoned in the stone. He believed that his job was to release what was already there. It is also his belief that the human soul is a prisoner who strives to be released from its bodily form.
Raphael Sanzio 1483-1521 Raphael was a painter of the Italian "High Renaissance", considered one of the greatest and most popular artists of all time. Unlike Leonardo and Michelangelo, Raphael was to live a very short life, dying at the youthful age of 38. He was born Raffaello Santi or Raffaello Sanzio in Urbino on April 6, 1483, and received his early training in art from his father, Giovanni Santi. In 1499 he went to Perugia, in Umbria, and became a student and assistant of the painter Perugino. Raphael imitated his master closely, and their painting styles are so similar that art historians have found it difficult to determine which were painted by Raphael, and which were by his master.
St. George and the Dragon, 1505 St. George and The Dragon, 1504-6
Madonnas Raphael is best known for his many images of Madonnas. An interesting irony for these scenes of quiet faith is the notion that Raphael was an atheist and that he painted what would be acceptable, not what he felt to be true. Alba Madonna Madonna of the Meadow Madonna in the Garden Madonna of the Goldfinch Madonna d' Orleans
It is believed that Raphael’s Madonnas were particularly influenced by Leonardo, with whom he came under direct influence when he moved to Florence. The small Cowper Madonna , with its softness of contour and perfection of balance, has been noted for its resemblance to some of Leonardo's paintings of the subject. Cowper Madonna, 1504
Raphael’s Portraits For many years, historians believed that youth at left was Raphael himself. He was said to be unusually handsome, pensive, and fair, but it is now agreed that it is Bindo Altoviti at 22. The portrait of Baldassari Castiglione is a particularly sensitive rendition of a well-known Renaissance humanist writer. La Donna Velata is possibly the same woman who is portrayed in many of his Madonna images, and is believed to have been the painter's mistress. All three portraits are exquisite examples of Renaissance temperance and style.
Last Works Sistine Madonna Raphael's final paintings are some of his most powerful religious works. The Sistine Madonna is his last image of the heavenly mother. It is much more supernatural than his previous works, as Mary treads on pillowy clouds and is surrounded by musing angels. The return of such supernatural images will influence the works of the Mannerist painters, who emulate the dramatic style of Raphael's later works.
The Transfiguration of Christ The Transfiguration of Christ is the final work of Raphael's life, and is believed to have been unfinished and completed by one of his students. Raphael's art has fallen out of favor in contemporary times. Many art historians believe that it lacks the dynamic power of Leonardo or Michelangelo's works. However, Raphael was a great artist, who exemplified the tastes of his time. During his lifetime, he was perhaps as famous as the great Michelangelo and received so many commissions that he had a difficult time keeping up with them. He had a tremendous impact on artists that were to follow him which is especially significant given his short life.
Northern Renaissance The Renaissance in the north has a distinctively different character than that of Italy and the southern countries. Though the styles of Northern artists vary according to geography, one characteristic that is fundamental to all northern art of this period is a fondness for meticulous rendering of details. In addition, there is generally less of the classical ideal apparent in the figures, which can be partly explained by their lack of access to Greek and Roman statues. Instead, remnants of Gothic influences are apparent in their compositions.
Jan Van Eyck Flemish Jan van Eyck was important not only to the northern Renaissance, but to the entire Renaissance. He is credited with the invention of the oil-glazing technique, which replaced the earlier egg-tempera method. In the early years of the Renaissance, the artist generally began with a monochromatic drawing using egg tempera on a wood panel, and then layers of oil-glazes were painted on top of it. This allowed for rich details and luminous colors. Later artists would work directly in oils on canvas, allowing the paintings to become larger and lighter, without warping or insect infestation. Whether or not Van Eyck was actually the first person to use this new medium may be of secondary importance to the achievements of his work, for he was truly a master of meticulous detail and well-planned compositions.
The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini, 1434, commonly called the Arnolfini Wedding, is van Eyck's most famous work. The subject is obvious, given the pose of the couple. It may, however, be confusing to the modern viewer that he chose to portray them in their bed chamber, instead of in a church.
Here, it is necessary to keep in mind that everything portrayed in this picture has symbolic meaning. The fact that the woman appears to be pregnant is symbolic of the holy purpose of their matrimony of bringing children into the world. This also explains the choice of the color of her dress (green representing fertility), and the fact that she is pulling her dress up in the front (signifying that she is willing to bear children). Other specifically symbolic imagery includes the dog who stands between them (fidelity to each other; loyalty to God), the sandals which have been removed (signifying that they are standing on holy ground), and the single candle in the candelabra (the presence of Christ in their union). A detail of the back wall reveals a convex mirror which reflects their backs and two other persons (probably the priest and the artist). A signature above which says "Jan van Eyck was here" testifies to the artist's presence during the ceremony, and it is possible that the purpose of the painting is partly a matter of documenting the legality of their matrimony.
The Madonna and child appears to a contemporary figure in the Renaissance church, who shows his devotion in his praying hands. Architectural details are sumptuously rich, including the carved figures on the capitals of columns and the patterning in the tiles and glass. Outside, there are two persons enjoying the view of the landscape. Every hair on the Virgin's head is clearly delineated, and the crown which the angel places there is elaborately detailed. Detail, Madonna and Chancellor Rolin
Albrecht Durer German These two images represent the diversity of Durer's talents. The watercolor study of a hare shows his intimate interest in nature, for he, like Leonardo, believed that it was necessary for an artist to study all aspects of his world. He was one of the first artists to use the medium of watercolor. The self portrait reveals Durer's mastery with the oil painting medium, and especially interesting in its Christ-like pose.
Though the imagery of his Knight, Death and the Devil is influenced by his travels to Italy, the rich iconography is an element of his Northern upbringing. The knight represents the "good Christian soldier", who is traveling through the "forest of darkness" to arrive at the "kingdom of light". On his way, he encounters Death, the old man with serpents for hair, and the Devil, the single-horned goat, but he does not even give them a moment's glance. He is steadfast in his aim, accompanied by his faithful dog representing loyalty. There is a small lizard below the hind legs of his horse going the opposite direction. Anything reptilian generally connotes evil in Christian iconography, and also serves to emphasize that he is going the right direction. In the left corner is a skull, symbolic of the fate of all mankind, just above Albrecht Durer's signature, "A.D."
Hans Holbein German Another important northern Renaissance artist was Hans Holbein, who, like Durer, did a considerable amount of traveling throughout Europe. He is known primarily as a court painter, for he was at one point employed by the English King, Henry VIII. Holbein pays careful attention to portraying a faithful likeness and the richness of details and surface textures exhibits his northern upbringing. His understanding of personalities is apparent in his renderings. Henry appears unapproachable and powerful.
Holbein's Ambassadors. These men were members of King Henry VIII's court and are portrayed with objects relating to their worldliness and higher learning: two globes, a lute, books, and navigational instruments. The fur robes and silk sleeves also illustrate their great wealth. Even the tapestry, the floor tiles, and the textured silk curtain illustrate their status and refinement. Amid all of this, a slurred image is presented across the bottom of the painting. If you were to look at the painting from the extreme right, an image of a skull becomes apparent. This type of twisted perspective is called "anamorphic art". Its meaning in relationship to the painting is probably related to the idea that death comes to us all, no matter what one's status in life. Another possibility is that it makes reference to Holbein's name, which in German means "hollow bone".
Another portrait by Holbein of a prosperous merchant reveals a slight timidity. The surrounding details also reveal something of the man's personality, as well as objects regarding his trade.
Pieter Brueghel Netherlands Pieter Brueghel is an extremely interesting character in northern Renaissance painting. His work is perhaps the most fun to look at and at first glance, seems much less serious than most artists of his time. He is one of few artists who focuses his eyes on the lives of peasants instead of the church or royalty. Despite its seeming frivolity, much of his work has serious moral undertones. The Wedding Dance , at left, is one of a series on the subject of such celebrations. Everything seems innocent enough here but details reveal the bawdiness of activities within the scene.
Hieronymous Bosch Netherlands Another extremely interesting artist of the northern Renaissance is Hieronymous Bosch. He was the creator of many paintings but his Garden of Earthly Delights is by far his most famous. As with Brueghel's work, everything appears to be pretty frivolous at first until you recognize the moral of the story. There is a sequence, which can be read from left to right. First, there is the creation of the garden, which is represented by a paradised landscape: Adam and Eve are joined by God (or Jesus?), and surrounded by fantasy animals. Triptych, left panel, Garden of Earthly Delights
The central panel represents life on earth, complete with its carnal delights and vices. Everyone seems to be having a pretty good time, as they eat fruit and there are a lot of details related to sexual play.
It is in the final panel that the message is conveyed: hell is played out in all of its gruesomeness. The punishment for sinners is that they will be tortured by whatever was their vice. The apocalyptic scenery is the clear opposite of what is portrayed in the Garden of Paradise. Bosch's rich imagination and elements of fantasy will directly inspire artists of the 20th century who will be part of the Surrealist movement.
Mannerism and Baroque The death of Michelangelo will mark the end of the High Renaissance. A transitional period, called "Mannerism" will take place for the next 50 years, before the beginning of the Baroque era. By the late 16th century, there were several anti-Mannerist attempts to reinvigorate art with greater naturalism and emotionalism. These developed into the Baroque style, which dominated the 17th century. Charity, Andrea del Sarto, c.1530, oil on wood
Mannerism Mannerism is a term which is used to describe art which is transitional between the High Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Renaissance ends around 1550, and the Baroque begins around 1600, so Mannerism takes place in the 50 years intervening. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate from either, since both the High Renaissance and the Baroque reflect a higher degree of drama and emotion than does the early Renaissance. In general, Mannerist artists emulated the later works of Michelangelo and Raphael moving towards extreme drama and exaggerated compositions. Sometimes this has an almost surreal, absurd effect, Both elongated and distortion of the figures have irrational compositions and a confusing sense of space. However, there were some great masters of the Mannerist period. Parmigianino: Madonna of the Long Neck
Bronzino “Venus, Cupid, Time, and Folly” elongated limbs, decadent in nature, dramatic, very emotional Piero de’ Medici portrait
Titian The Annunciation Repentant Magdalen Madonna and the Pesaro Family Still emotional and dramatic but less distortion
Tintoretto St. George and the Dragon Origins of the Milky Way
El Greco Dominikos Theotokopoulos The Holy Trinity The Death of Count Ornaz
Italian and Spanish Baroque Baroque literally means distorted or grotesque. The term was used to discount or slander the art which dominated the seventeenth century. However it came into widespread use and more or less lost it negative connotations. The Baroque was born in the first years of the seventeenth century in Rome and was primarily associated with Catholic, as opposed to Protestant, art. But as the century progressed the style made inroads into the Protestant countries, although it tended to be used in a more secular (less religious) way in the north. Gianlorenzo Bernini, The Ecstacy of St. Theresa, Florence
Bernini’s David Bernini's depiction of David contrasts strongly with Michelangelo's more classical pose. Its focus on the action and drama of the event is an uniquely Baroque characteristic. It is widely believed that Bernini used his own face for David's tense expression and that the Cardinal who commissioned the piece held up a mirror for the artist while he carved it.
Caravaggio Caravaggio traveled to Rome in 1592 he soon attracted the attention of some of the most influential members of Roman society, especially cardinals in the Church, who would commission his most important paintings. Caravaggio's works are particularly innovative in their down-to-earth realism, dramatic style, and chiaroscuro lighting effects (using stark, dramatic lighting against a dark background). He was known to have used street people as the models for his religious paintings, giving religious scenes a sense of mundane reality. This practice often attracted the hostile criticism of his contemporaries. His painting of the Death of the Virgin was famously rejected by its patron because the figure of Mary had apparently been modeled on the corpse of a prostitute dragged from the Tiber river.
Caravaggio's portrayal of biblical subjects as down-to-earth persons wearing tattered clothing was an aspect of his rejection of the artifices of the Mannerist style, which portrayed the same subjects in silk robes and elegant surroundings. Though mundane in appearance, the drama of the events comes through the dramatic gestures of the figures and the chiaroscuro lighting. He also created secular paintings on occasion, such as the Card Sharps . The story told is in the nature of a genre painting.
The violent themes in many of Caravaggio's paintings easily reminds one of the artist's famous skirmishes with the law. He was reported to have killed a man in a brawl in Rome. A cardinal of the Church devised an escape for his favorite artist, but he was prevented from re-entering Rome, which was the best place for him to receive commissions. After a few years on the run from the law, the pope issued a pardon and Caravaggio was on his way back to the city, but was mistakenly arrested for another crime he did not commit. He died just days after his release, having contracted an illness while in prison. David with Head of Goliath, 1601-02 David with Head of Goliath, 1610
Artemisia Gentileschi Artemisia Gentilleschi was a contemporary of Caravaggio, and one can easily see his influence on her painting style. The daughter of a well-known artist, Orazio Gentilleschi, Artemisia was one of few women to overcome the obstacles preventing women from becoming artists during this period. Her father was her first teacher, but would not allow his daughter to study the nude figure, which was necessary for an artist's education in that day. The only way to receive a full artist's training was to attend the art academies as an apprentice to a master artist, but this was not an option open to women. When she finally convinced another artist to train her, she was raped by her teacher. Self-portrait
One cannot help but wonder if her many depictions of Judith Slaying Holofernes is not somehow related to her personal experiences. Judith is derived from a biblical story. A Jewish maiden seduces and slays the general of a conquering army, aided by her maidservant. Judith Slaying Holofernes Judith and the Maidservant Judith and Maidservant with Head of Holofernes
Diego Velazquez Diego Velazquez is the most famous artist of Baroque Spain. He became the court painter to King Philip IV. His greatest painting is his most complex: Las Meninas includes portraits of the Infantata Marguerita, her chamber-maids, a dwarf, the King and Queen, and a self portrait. The subject of the painting is the royal couple's daughter, the Infantata, who is surrounded by her ladies-in waiting. On the back wall one can see an image of the King and Queen reflected in the mirror. One explanation is that the artist was painting their portrait when the princess and her attendants walked in. The canvas which the artist works on approximates that of the one we see before us, and our position upon viewing it is exactly where the King and Queen would be standing.
Dutch Baroque The Nightwatch is one of Rembrandt's most famous paintings, and marks a turning point in the artist's career. He was at this time the most famous and wealthy artist in Holland, but personal circumstances would alter his fate. Though he created images of many subjects, it was primarily as a portrait painter that he gained his notoriety. Anyone who had the means wanted the great artist to create their portrait, so most of the portraits which he created were of members of the new upper class. Rembrandt, "The Nightwatch ", 1642
Rembrandt van Rijn 1606-1669 Throughout his life, Rembrandt created nearly 100 self portraits. These are, in my opinion, some of his most expressive paintings, and a great documentary of the changes in his psychological life. It is easy to see his life biography reflected in his countenance. Beginning in his youth, he appears brash and confident. You then see the bearing of his wealth and dignified status emerge. Towards the middle of his career, his worries begin to show in his face. At the end, a very sad, yet still dignified elderly man gazes out at the viewer.
Jan Vermeer Jan Vermeer was also from Holland, but never ventured from the small town of Delft where he was born. Unlike Rembrandt, he was not famous during his own lifetime. When Vermeer died, his widow sold most of his paintings to pay creditors, as she was left with several children to raise. His genius for creating intimate compositions based on domestic activities was not even discovered until the 19th century. When an art historian bought one of his works, he made it his mission to find out more about the artist. Only 35 paintings have been attributed to Vermeer's hand, yet he is now considered one of the greatest artists of the Baroque period. Weighing of the Pearls
The Girl With Pearl Earring, 1665, on the right. Though simple in subject, the way that the woman turns to look at the viewer conveys a sense of immediacy. The way the light reflects off of her face has an almost photographic sense of realism. Her oriental turban and silk garments also remind the viewer of how the Dutch attained most of their wealth through merchant trade with the east. Girl Reading a Letter
French Baroque George de la Tour is a French Baroque painter. He seems to combine the best characteristics of Italian and Northern art of the period. For example, the painting at the left has the dramatic lighting effects similar to Caravaggio and his followers, as well as the somewhat somber religious themes. Repentant Magdalene
George de la Tour The Fortune Teller , is more of a genre-scene, similar to a Dutch artist such as Vermeer. The brighter colors and atmospheric lighting also reminds me of this artist. An interesting story is told through the imagery. A young man has been lured by a pretty young woman to see a fortune teller. While he is being distracted, his new "friend" cuts the chain to his purse, while her companion picks his pocket.
Baroque Architecture Michaylovskiy Church, Ukraine Baroque church interior
French Rococo Rococo was the favored style of French aristocracy and royalty. It is characterized by frivolous themes, mostly pictures of the upper class enjoying their life of ease and privileged status. Though delicate and elegant, it is largely out of favor these days, as it represents a very unrealistic and superficial view of the world. King Louis XIV was one of the greatest supporters of this type of painting, and the architecture of his palace, the Versailles, also follows the Rococo ideal, which is extremely elaborate, decorative, and even decadent in its richness. Jean Fragonnard, The Bathers, 1765 The Swing, 1766
The Rococo style is an excellent documentary on the priorities of the royalty and aristocratic class in France. At this time there was large underprivileged classes who were forced to pay high taxes to the King, but were given nothing in return. This brings about the French Revolution. Along with a debunking of the previous powers, the new art will also reflect their political and ideological concerns. The nineteenth century brings about many new styles, and art patronage shifts from that of the Church and royalty to galleries that sell art to members of the upper and middle classes. France especially Paris becomes the center of artistic activity and its influence will be felt all across Europe and America. At left, Palace of Versailles, Hall of Mirrors At right, Francois Boucher, Marquise de Pompadour 1756