Italian Renaissance painting
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Italian Renaissance painting - Wikipedia
The work has a consistent and notorious favour of Florentines and tends to attribute to them all the new developments in Renaissance art—for example, the invention of engraving. Venetian art in particular, let alone other parts of Europe, is systematically ignored. John Symonds claimed in that, "It is clear that Vasari often wrote with carelessness, confusing dates and places, and taking no pains to verify the truth of his assertions" in regards to Vasari's life of Nicola Pisano , while acknowledging that, despite these shortcomings, it is one of the basic sources for information on the Renaissance in Italy.
Vasari's biographies are interspersed with amusing gossip. Many of his anecdotes have the ring of truth, although likely inventions. Others are generic fictions, such as the tale of young Giotto painting a fly on the surface of a painting by Cimabue that the older master repeatedly tried to brush away, a genre tale that echoes anecdotes told of the Greek painter Apelles. He did not research archives for exact dates, as modern art historians do, and naturally his biographies are most dependable for the painters of his own generation and the immediately preceding one.
Modern criticism—with all the new materials opened up by research—has corrected many of his traditional dates and attributions. The work is widely considered a classic even today, though it is widely agreed that it must be supplemented by modern scientific research. Vasari includes a forty-two-page sketch of his own biography at the end of his Vite , and adds further details about himself and his family in his lives of Lazzaro Vasari and Francesco de' Rossi.
Vasari's Vite has been described as "by far the most influential single text for the history of Renaissance art"  and "the most important work of Renaissance biography of artists". The Vite formed a model for encyclopedias of artist biographies. In Florence, at the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella , Andrea Bonaiuti was commissioned to emphasise the role of the Church in the redemptive process, and that of the Dominican Order in particular. His fresco Allegory of the Active and Triumphant Church is remarkable for its depiction of Florence Cathedral , complete with the dome which was not built until the following century.
During the later 14th century, International Gothic was the style that dominated Tuscan painting.
It can be seen to an extent in the work of Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, which is marked by a formalized sweetness and grace in the figures, and Late Gothic gracefulness in the draperies. The style is fully developed in the works of Simone Martini and Gentile da Fabriano , which have an elegance and a richness of detail, and an idealised quality not compatible with the starker realities of Giotto's paintings.
In the early 15th century, bridging the gap between International Gothic and the Renaissance are the paintings of Fra Angelico , many of which, being altarpieces in tempera, show the Gothic love of elaboration, gold leaf and brilliant colour. It is in his frescoes at his convent of Sant' Marco that Fra Angelico shows himself the artistic disciple of Giotto. These devotional paintings, which adorn the cells and corridors inhabited by the friars, represent episodes from the life of Jesus , many of them being scenes of the Crucifixion.
They are starkly simple, restrained in colour and intense in mood as the artist sought to make spiritual revelations a visual reality. The earliest truly Renaissance images in Florence date from , although they are not paintings. That year a competition was held amongst seven young artists to select the artist to create a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistry of St.
John , the oldest remaining church in the city. The competitors were each to design a bronze panel of similar shape and size, representing the Sacrifice of Isaac. Two of the panels from the competition have survived, those by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. Each panel shows some strongly classicising motifs indicating the direction that art and philosophy were moving, at that time.
Ghiberti used the naked figure of Isaac to create a small sculpture in the Classical style. The figure kneels on a tomb decorated with acanthus scrolls that are also a reference to the art of Ancient Rome. In Brunelleschi's panel, one of the additional figures included in the scene is reminiscent of a well-known Roman bronze figure of a boy pulling a thorn from his foot.
Brunelleschi's creation is challenging in its dynamic intensity. Less elegant than Ghiberti's, it is more about human drama and impending tragedy. Ghiberti won the competition. His first set of Baptistry doors took 27 years to complete, after which he was commissioned to make another. In the total of 50 years that Ghiberti worked on them, the doors provided a training ground for many of the artists of Florence.
Being narrative in subject and employing not only skill in arranging figurative compositions but also the burgeoning skill of linear perspective , the doors were to have an enormous influence on the development of Florentine pictorial art. The first Early Renaissance frescos or paintings were started in when two artists commenced painting a fresco cycle of the Life of St.
Peter in the chapel of the Brancacci family, at the Carmelite Church in Florence. More than any other artist, Masaccio recognized the implications in the work of Giotto. He carried forward the practice of painting from nature. His frescos demonstrate an understanding of anatomy, of foreshortening, of linear perspective, of light, and the study of drapery.
In the Brancacci Chapel , his Tribute Money fresco has a single vanishing point and uses a strong contrast between light and dark to convey a three-dimensional quality to the work. As well, the figures of Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden , painted on the side of the arch into the chapel, are renowned for their realistic depiction of the human form and of human emotion.
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They contrast with the gentle and pretty figures painted by Masolino on the opposite side of Adam and Eve receiving the forbidden fruit. The painting of the Brancacci Chapel was left incomplete when Masaccio died at 26 in The Tribute Money was completed by Masolino while the remainder of the work in the Chapel was finished by Filippino Lippi in the s.
Masaccio's work became a source of inspiration to many later painters, including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. During the first half of the 15th century, the achieving of the effect of realistic space in a painting by the employment of linear perspective was a major preoccupation of many painters, as well as the architects Brunelleschi and Alberti who both theorised about the subject.
Brunelleschi is known to have done a number of careful studies of the piazza and octagonal baptistery outside Florence Cathedral and it is thought he aided Masaccio in the creation of his famous trompe l'oeil niche around the Holy Trinity he painted at Santa Maria Novella. According to Vasari, Paolo Uccello was so obsessed with perspective that he thought of little else and experimented with it in many paintings, the best known being the three Battle of San Romano paintings completed by s which use broken weapons on the ground, and fields on the distant hills to give an impression of perspective.
In the s Piero della Francesca , in paintings such as The Flagellation of Christ , demonstrated his mastery over linear perspective and also over the science of light. Another painting exists, a cityscape, by an unknown artist, perhaps Piero della Francesca, that demonstrates the sort of experiment that Brunelleschi had been making. From this time linear perspective was understood and regularly employed, such as by Perugino in his Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter in the Sistine Chapel. Giotto used tonality to create form.
Taddeo Gaddi in his nocturnal scene in the Baroncelli Chapel demonstrated how light could be used to create drama. Paolo Uccello , a hundred years later, experimented with the dramatic effect of light in some of his almost monochrome frescoes. He did a number of these in terra verde or "green earth", enlivening his compositions with touches of vermilion.
The best known is his equestrian portrait of John Hawkwood on the wall of Florence Cathedral. Both here and on the four heads of prophets that he painted around the inner clockface in the cathedral, he used strongly contrasting tones, suggesting that each figure was being lit by a natural light source, as if the source was an actual window in the cathedral.
Piero della Francesca carried his study of light further. In the Flagellation he demonstrates a knowledge of how light is proportionally disseminated from its point of origin. There are two sources of light in this painting, one internal to a building and the other external. Of the internal source, though the light itself is invisible, its position can be calculated with mathematical certainty.
Leonardo da Vinci was to carry forward Piero's work on light. The Blessed Virgin Mary , revered by the Catholic Church worldwide, was particularly evoked in Florence, where there was a miraculous image of her on a column in the corn market and where both the Cathedral of "Our Lady of the Flowers" and the large Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella were named in her honour. The miraculous image in the corn market was destroyed by fire, but replaced with a new image in the s by Bernardo Daddi , set in an elaborately designed and lavishly wrought canopy by Orcagna.
The open lower storey of the building was enclosed and dedicated as Orsanmichele. Depictions of the Madonna and Child were a very popular art form in Florence. They took every shape from small mass-produced terracotta plaques to magnificent altarpieces such as those by Cimabue , Giotto and Masaccio. In the 15th and first half of the 16th centuries, one workshop more than any other dominated the production of Madonnas.
They were the della Robbia family, and they were not painters but modellers in clay. Luca della Robbia , famous for his cantoria gallery at the cathedral, was the first sculptor to use glazed terracotta for large sculptures. Many of the durable works of this family have survived.
The skill of the della Robbias, particularly Andrea della Robbia , was to give great naturalism to the babies that they modelled as Jesus , and expressions of great piety and sweetness to the Madonna. They were to set a standard to be emulated by other artists of Florence. The custom was continued by Botticelli who produced a series of Madonnas over a period of twenty years for the Medici ; Perugino , whose Madonnas and saints are known for their sweetness and Leonardo da Vinci , for whom a number of small attributed Madonnas such as the Benois Madonna have survived.
Even Michelangelo who was primarily a sculptor, was persuaded to paint the Doni Tondo , while for Raphael , they are among his most popular and numerous works. One of the most influential painters of northern Italy was Andrea Mantegna of Padua , who had the good fortune to be in his teen years at the time in which the great Florentine sculptor Donatello was working there.
Donatello created the enormous equestrian bronze, the first since the Roman Empire, of the condotiero Gattemelata , still visible on its plinth in the square outside the Basilica of Sant'Antonio. He also worked on the high altar and created a series of bronze panels in which he achieved a remarkable illusion of depth, with perspective in the architectural settings and apparent roundness of the human form all in very shallow relief.
At only 17 years old, Mantegna accepted his first commission, fresco cycles of the Lives of Saints James and Christopher for the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of the church of the Eremitani , near the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Unfortunately the building was mostly destroyed during World War II, and they are only known from photographs which reveal an already highly developed sense of perspective and a knowledge of antiquity, for which the ancient University of Padua had become well known, early in the 15th century.
Mantegna's most famous work is the interior decoration of the Camera degli Sposi for the Gonzaga family in Mantua , dated about The walls are frescoed with scenes of the life of the Gonzaga family, talking, greeting a younger son and his tutor on their return from Rome, preparing for a hunt and other such scenes that make no obvious reference to matters historic, literary, philosophic or religious. They are remarkable for simply being about family life. The one concession is the scattering of jolly winged cherubs who hold up plaques and garlands and clamber on the illusionistic pierced balustrade that surrounds a trompe l'oeil view of the sky that decks the ceiling of the chamber.
In Alfonso V of Aragon became ruler of Naples , bringing with him a collection of Flemish paintings and setting up a Humanist Academy. Antonello da Messina seems to have had access to the King's collection, which may have included the works of Jan van Eyck. Antonello painted mostly small meticulous portraits in glowing colours.
But one of his most famous works, St.
Jerome in His Study , demonstrates his superior ability at handling linear perspective and light. The composition of the small painting is framed by a late Gothic arch, through which is viewed an interior, domestic on one side and ecclesiastic on the other, in the centre of which the saint sits in a wooden corral surrounded by his possessions while his lion prowls in the shadows on the floor.
The way the light streams in through every door and window casting both natural and reflected light across the architecture and all the objects would have excited Piero della Francesca. In Florence, in the later 15th century, most works of art, even those that were done as decoration for churches, were generally commissioned and paid for by private patrons. Much of the patronage came from the Medici family, or those who were closely associated with or related to them, such as the Sassetti, the Ruccellai and the Tornabuoni.
In the s Cosimo de' Medici the Elder had established Marsilio Ficino as his resident Humanist philosopher, and facilitated his translation of Plato and his teaching of Platonic philosophy , which focused on humanity as the centre of the natural universe, on each person's personal relationship with God, and on fraternal or "platonic" love as being the closest that a person could get to emulating or understanding the love of God. In the Medieval period, everything related to the Classical period was perceived as associated with paganism.
In the Renaissance it came increasingly to be associated with enlightenment. The figures of Classical mythology began to take on a new symbolic role in Christian art and in particular, the Goddess Venus took on a new discretion. Born fully formed, by a sort of miracle, she was the new Eve , symbol of innocent love, or even, by extension, a symbol of the Virgin Mary herself. We see Venus in both these roles in the two famous tempera paintings that Botticelli did in the s for Cosimo's nephew, Pierfrancesco Medici, the Primavera and the Birth of Venus. Meanwhile, Domenico Ghirlandaio , a meticulous and accurate draughtsman and one of the finest portrait painters of his age, executed two cycles of frescoes for Medici associates in two of Florence's larger churches, the Sassetti Chapel at Santa Trinita and the Tornabuoni Chapel at Santa Maria Novella.
In these cycles of the Life of St Francis and the Life of the Virgin Mary and Life of John the Baptist there was room for portraits of patrons and of the patrons' patrons.
Related A New History of Painting in Italy: From the II to the XVI Century [ V.1 ]
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