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Raphael Seated man with bare legs, dressed in a shirt , study for the Alba Madonna , Red chalk on white paper, Two sketches, on the front and back of a single sheet, show how Raphael planned and perfected the figure composition of the Alba Madonna. To capture the complex and foreshortened pose of the Virgin, he or, some believe, his student Guilio Romano sketched a workshop assistant in the pose of the classically inspired Madonna.


Once a student had graduated to painting, he would usually spend time executing less important parts of a composition, such as sections of landscape background. The records Neri left of his workshop activity indicate that he produced an average of more than three altarpieces each year. Over the twenty-two-year span covered by his account, one scholar counted seventy-three altarpieces, eighty-one domestic tabernacles , and sixty-nine miscellaneous jobs.

The master might paint only the central figures or simply the faces in a work—or he might not paint any of it at all. Attributions of some paintings from the studio of Verrocchio, for example, have gone back and forth between the master and various assistants. Although contracts sometimes specified that the master himself execute certain parts of a composition, guild rules allowed him to sign as his own any work that emerged from his shop.

Andrea del Verrocchio was primarily a sculptor—in bronze and marble—but also worked as a goldsmith and painter. He ran one of the most successful studios of the Italian Renaissance, and some of the most important artists from the next generation trained with him, including Perugino , Lorenzo di Credi , and Leonardo da Vinci. Other painting assistants included Ghirlandaio and Botticelli. This small panel, just over six inches tall, continues to invite debate. Or did Leonardo? Current thinking gives the nod to Credi. After a period of training in a shop, a student could proceed to journeyman status.

Following submission and acceptance of a piece that demonstrated his mastery—the masterpiece—an artist could then open a shop and take on students of his own. Some artists never became independent masters themselves but continued to work, sometimes as temporary help for large commissions, in the shops of others.

HISTORY OF IDEAS - The Renaissance

A few artists, including Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio , formed joint workshops. We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Oftentimes we find ourselves a little or a lot behind by this point in the semester and it is hard to quickly move through the Renaissance section because it is usually covered in great detail in traditional survey texts, sometimes two to three chapters are devoted to it! Furthermore, students may recognize these works and want to spend a good amount of time on them.

With these challenges in mind, what follows offers a way to navigate some of the most famous works of this period in an efficient manner. This lecture material combines Italian art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in one lecture, with suggested opportunities to expand on the material should you find you have more time. Counter Reformation — the response of Roman church to the Protestant Reformation wherein beliefs were clarified, reaffirmed, and justified.

Renaissance In Italy by Symonds, John Addington

A few main themes that can guide your discussion of all the major Italian Renaissance works include: The revival of classical styles and ideas specifically humanism , return to the naturalistic style 3D objects and space , and the rising status of the individual both artist and patron. An important point of contrast here is the fact that earlier large-scale sculpture decorated architecture. As such, there was less danger of it generating idol worship and violating the third commandment forbidding graven images.

One rarely finds life-sized, naturalistic sculpture in early Christian art or early medieval art. It was not until the Renaissance, when Europe was firmly Christian and comfortably distanced from pagan idols that naturalistic sculpture in the round made a large-scale comeback. I find this a good time to make or reiterate the point that societies construct different ideas about gender, social roles, ideals of beauty, etc. Donatello was intentionally pushing social boundaries here with his provocative pose and his use of nudity—that is, his combination of a lack of clothing and the presence of boots and a hat—in order to challenge his viewers.

The fact that he revived the lost-wax bronze technique was also very innovative for the time and enhances the sensuality of his surface texture. Donatello was able to be so experimental, because he had the support and protection of the Medici family, a wealthy and influential banking family that operated as the de facto rulers of Florence and who saw themselves as great patrons of the arts.

For more specific descriptions of these see the above mentioned resource from National Geographic. Other references to classical architecture include the use of columns, minimal decoration, symmetry, and rationalized proportions. This work is also illustrative of the rising status of the artist, because Brunelleschi had to win the commission through a competition. His ideas were his own—he kept them secret until he was awarded the victory—and his victory brought with it fame and celebrity. Vasari claimed that Brunelleschi and Masaccio were friends, and that the former taught the latter the technique of perspective.

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Such an activity demonstrates how one can make a 3-D space by simply making the orthogonals lines perpendicular to the picture plane converge at the vanishing point. This will help them realize that Trinity is effectively a real altarpiece depicting a fictive chapel that allowed one to occupy sacred real estate inside the church and prepare for their afterlife through artistic patronage. As was the case with Medici sponsorship of Donatello, patronage was also an important issue here. The donor portraits provide an opportunity to talk about the rise of portraiture, its commemorative aspect, and the fact that the donors hoped later visitors would pray on their behalf to help them in the afterlife. Through the inscription, which can be seen as something akin to a speech bubble, the skeleton proclaims that what you now are alive , I once was and what I am now dead , you will one day become.

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Sometimes students struggle with this because the foreshortened edges of the sarcophagus and the capitals are very small and they converge upwards towards the same vanishing point, that is, they converge in an opposite manner than those in the upper portion of the fresco. This would have made the viewers feel as if the painted reality was an extension of their own, an aspect of the work which is reinforced when one considers how people actually used this room.

Seats were not arranged at large tables in the center of the room. Rather, it was common practice in monastic settings to arrange seats in a single row with their backs to the wall and the table running in front of them. Such an arrangement prevented conversations during mealtime and fostered a more meditative, prayerful experience for the monks. When seated in this way, the monks could contemplate the scene of the Last Supper before them, imagining how they might have reacted if they were there.

There are important points to make about technique and the artist as innovator here. Leonardo felt restricted by the fast-drying tempera paint used in the traditional fresco technique. At this point, he had become interested in capitalizing on the qualities of oil paint and tried to incorporate this medium into his fresco. This work is also characteristic of Renaissance humanism because it explores the psychological state of those depicted.

Every apostle reacts differently to the news that Christ will be betrayed, turned over to authorities, and crucified. He anchors the composition with his pyramidal pose and the viewer is drawn to him because the vanishing point directs one toward him. Another way this work is characteristic of Renaissance naturalism is the fact that the artist did not depict the holy figures with bright, gold disks to symbolize halos. Although Giotto was interested in developing naturalistic figures and space, his depiction of the halos led him to overlap some of the faces, effectively obscuring his depictions of the adjacent holy figures.


Leonardo resolved this tension with his move away from symbolic elements and embraced a more naturalistic scene. These aspects of the work are characteristic of the High Renaissance, because they signal a shift towards a more humanistic subject matter and indicate that the artistic center has moved to Rome, where the Pope was the most sought-after patron of the arts.

Working for the Pope at the Vatican was the most prestigious commission an artist could obtain at that time and provided them with an international stage for their works. Such a notion is visually represented in the fact that the architecture of the space in which the thinkers gather was similar to the contemporaneous view of the new St. To be sure, the Renaissance outlook is one of revival, but not solely in order to pay homage to the past.

The greatest artists and thinkers of Renaissance Italy aimed to surpass their cultural ancestors. This aspect of the work is seen through the lens of portraiture. Raphael based the figure of Aristotle on Leonardo, the figure of Heraclitus on Michelangelo who was working on the Sistine Ceiling a short walk away while Raphael painted this , and Raphael painted his own self-portrait looking out at the viewer from the far right.

However, because Michelangelo viewed himself as sculptor first and painter second, he was not pleased with this commission. He did not want to paint the chapel ceiling and even wrote a poem about unpleasant this work was see PowerPoint slides for more on this. Despite his reluctance, this commission demonstrates the rising status of the artist, not through self-portraiture but rather through the idea of artistic license.

When depicting The Creation of Adam , Michelangelo significantly modified the biblical story to suit his own artistic and ideological position. After giving Adam a body, God prepares to give him a soul. To get a sense of Michelangelo as a sculptor, we turn to one of his most famous works, the David.


Michelangelo was very selective with his blocks of marble, believing that the spirit of the sculpture resided within the stone and his artistic intuition was necessary for selecting the right portion of marble from the quarry. That he was still able to achieve his ideal form is evident when one compares the male nude of Adam from the Sistine Ceiling and his sculpture of David.

As in the Sistine Ceiling, Michelangelo took artistic license here.