Italy's Renaissance 01: Introduction cover

Italy's Renaissance 01: Introduction

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The Art of the Italian Renaissance was influential throughout Europe for centuries. In this introduction, we'll cover some key points and define some of the specific techniques used. Upon completion, you'll be able to discuss the work and influence of Botticelli and generalize the art and periodization of the Italian Renaissance.
Oh - and there's a three question quiz at the end to make sure you got it! Good luck!


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Italy's Renaissance 01: Introduction

Introduction

Learning Objectives

1.) Discuss the work and influence of Botticelli.

2.) Generalize the art and periodization of the Italian Renaissance

Key Points

1.) Renaissance artworks depicted more secular subject matter than previous artistic movements.

2.) Michelangelo, da Vinci and Rafael are among the best known painters of the High Renaissance.

3.) The High Renaissance was followed by the Mannerist movement, known for elongated figures.

Terms

Fresco In painting, the technique of applying water-based pigment to wet or fresh lime mortar or plaster.

sfumato In painting, the application of subtle layers of translucent paint so that there is no visible transition between colors, tones, and often objects.

Mannerism A style of art developed at the end of the High Renaissance, characterized by the deliberate distortion and exaggeration of perspective, especially the elongation of figures.

The Last Judgement

Detail of Michelangelo's "The Last Judgement" (Sistine Chapel)

The Last Judgement

Saint Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The face of the skin is Michelangelo's.

Date: between 1535 and 1541

Cultural Legacy

The Italian Renaissance was a broad intellectual movement, best known for its cultural achievements.

Italian Renaissance painting exercised a dominant influence on subsequent European painting for centuries afterwards, with artists such as Giotto di Bondone, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Titian. The same is true for architecture, as practiced by Brunelleschi, Leone Alberti, Andrea Palladio, and Bramante. Their works include Florence Cathedral, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini.

New Techniques

At the turn of the 16th century, especially in Northern Italy, artists began to use new techniques in the manipulation of light and darkness, such as the tone contrast evident in many of Titian's portraits, and the development of sfumato and chiaroscuro* by Leonardo da Vinci and Giorgione.

The period also saw the first secular themes. Botticelli is known for producing works in a curvilinear** style and with mythological themes, notably The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

*chiaroscuro - An artistic technique popularized during the Renaissance, referring to the use of exaggerated light contrasts in order to create the illusion of volume.

**curvilinear - Having bends; curved; formed by curved lines.

The Birth of Venus

Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510)

The Birth of Venus

Botticelli's Birth of Venus was among the most important works of the early Renaissance.

An Anomoly

This work, commissioned by the Medici family, depicts the goddess Venus emerging from the sea as a fully grown woman, and arriving at the seashore.

Illustrating a curvilinear style, the painting is thought to be an allegorical depiction, though historians disagree as to its source and interpretation.

Aside from this famous work, Botticelli was also deeply religious (becoming a follower of Savonarola) and the great majority of his output was of traditional religious paintings or portraits .

The High Renaissance

The period known as the High Renaissance represents the culmination of the goals of the earlier period, namely the accurate representation of figures in space rendered with credible motion and in an appropriately decorous style.

The most famous painters from this phase are Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Their paintings and frescoes are among the most widely known works of art in the world. Da Vinci's Last Supper, Raphael's The School of Athens and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel Ceiling are the masterpieces of the period.

Marriage of the Virgin, by Raphael

Marriage of the Virgin, by Raphael

Raphael was one of the great artists of the High Renaissance.

Mannerism

High Renaissance painting evolved into Mannerism*, especially in Florence.

Mannerist artists, who consciously rebelled against the principles of High Renaissance, tend to represent elongated figures in illogical spaces. Modern scholarship has recognized the capacity of Mannerist art to convey strong (often religious) emotion where the High Renaissance failed to do so. Some of the main artists of this period are Pontormo, Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino, Parmigianino and Raphael's pupil, Giulio Romano.

*Mannerism - A style of art developed at the end of the High Renaissance, characterized by the deliberate distortion and exaggeration of perspective, especially the elongation of figures.

Question 1

Which of the following descriptions accurately captures elements of High Renaissance Italian art?

A) sfumato and chiaroscuro, secular themes, the accurate representation of figures in space

B) sfumato and chiaroscuro, secular themes, elongated figures in illogical spaces

C) sfumato and chiaroscuro, religious themes, the accurate representation of figures in space

D) sfumato and chiaroscuro, religious themes, elongated figures in illogical spaces

Question 2

Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" is based on which concept most explicitly related to subject matter?

A) Allegory

B) Portraiture

C) Classical sculpture

D) Religious narrative

Question 3

Of the choices given, which best describes Botticelli's style?

A) Volumetric

B) Curvilinear

C) Geometric

D) Asymmetry

Answers

Question 1: D - Sfumato and chiaroscuro, secular themes, the accurate representation of figures in space

Question 2: C - Allegory

Question 3: B - Curvilinear

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