Compare the Renaissance art
The rise of Renaissance culture was predetermined by the assortment of disparate events and ideas surfacing during the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries - Compare the Renaissance art introduction. The most important concept to come out of all the innovative developments of the late fourteenth century was a renewed belief in the power and the majesty of the human being. An interest to individuality was a line of demarcation between the medieval period, where God was the center and the epoch of Renaissance. Through the invention of single vanishing-point perspective, the study of anatomy and the analysis of proportion, and the study of light and shade, the Renaissance artist created a new reality. There was a constant interchange of ideas between sculptors, painters, and architects.
Florence was the main centre of humanism and of the new art. The changes that occur in the arts relate to that increased interest to human. For instance, the human nude makes an undeniable resurgence in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries after being absent from Western art since antiquity. The issue of a body as a symbol of sexuality became equated no so much with sin as with nature. Giotto di Bondone (1266 – 1337) is the artist who initiated the decisive pictorial break. Many of the most important attributes of the Renaissance culture are inextricably linked to Giotto’s attempts at constructing more convincing sense of space on a painted surface. The most common way to produce an illusion of volume is to convince a viewer that elements within the scene exist in light and shadow. Giotto’s successful use of light enabled the inner space of painting to recede. According to Vasari it was Giotto who first attempted the device of foreshortening to produce an illusionistic space within the plane of painting (Vasari 1998, 254). This technique mimics everyday perception as things closer to us appear larger than those in the distance. This technique came to be referred to as linear perspective also used by Brunelleschi. However, Brunelleschi’s discoveries in architecture were even more revolutionary. In construction The Dome of Florence Cathedral Brunelleschi after thorough study of ancient building projects in Rome suggested that a dome can be build without buttressing and implemented classical vaulting techniques.
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One of the results of the perspectival rendering was the development of volume in painting. Masaccio (1401 – 1428) was one of the early masters who assimilated the complementary notions of volume and perspective. He used the new perspective to create a convincing illusionistic space, unified by directed light; his solid figures, influenced by the Antique, convey a rare gravity of feeling. Later generations united his discoveries with an interest in colour, in landscape, in atmospheric perspective, and in the figure, especially the male nude, in movement. Demand grew for mythological pictures to decorate palazzi and villas, such as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera. Portraits, initially in profile, but later in three-quarter or full face, were a popular new form, inspired by a new interest in man’s individuality.
In the early years of the 16th century, traditionally labelled the High Renaissance, the concept of the creative genius was born, above all in the lives and works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Sculptors and painters became supremely confident, and 15th-century scientific naturalism yielded to an idealizing art, characterized by a new softness of colour and atmosphere, by grace, ease, and harmony, and by a new grandeur and psychological complexity. (Murray, Murray 1963, 247)
During the period of High Renaissance the art center shifts from Florence to Rome and Venice. The period is identified with the quest for scientific precision and greater realism combined in the balance of harmony of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling in Vatican and colossal David in Florence Accademia are displays of the heroic power and awesomeness of the male nude, while Raphael’s frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in Vatican epitomize High Renaissance symmetry and balance. In the final phase of the Renaissance, Mannerism became the dominant style. The sources of Mannerism, a style distinguished by a display of virtuoso skill and a formally sophisticated treatment of the figure and of space, lie in the late Roman works of these artists. The influence of Humanism is reflected in the increase of secular subjects.
From the middle of the sixteenth century Venice competed with Rome as Italy’s artistic centre. Venetian art was more painterly than the sculptural art of central Italy, and artists used light and colour more dramatically; Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese developed the expressive power and illusionism of oil painting. (Berenson 1953, 171) Venetian painters were important to the development of landscape painting, creating idyllic pastoral scenes, and studying the dramatic effects of dusky light on the waters of the lagoon, or the play of dark foliage against sunset skies. The theme of the female nude, and the erotic mythology are special contributions of Venetian art.
Different was the situation with the development of Spanish art of the same period. In the 14th and 15th centuries Christians spent new wealth on the decoration of churches. At this point the Spanish art underwent various influences like Franco-Gothic, Italo-Gothic, and Hispano-Flemish. Royal marriages linked the children of Ferdinand and Isabella with the courts of Burgundy and Vienna; the kings of Aragon ruled Sardinia, Sicily and Naples, and the Italian connection is visible in Ferrer Bassa’s Giottoesque frescos (Gudiol 1941, 15). Yet fresco in Spain gave way to panel painting, which was better suited to the demands of the increasingly popular retable. This very Spanish altarpiece, which could be enormous in scale and often housed both painting and sculpture, was to become the cornerstone of church decoration until the 18th century. In Catalonia 15th-century retable panels were made by Borrassà, Martorell, Dalmau, and Jaume Serra; in Valencia and Tarragona, by Baço and Huguet. (Murray, Murray 1963, 176) The close relations with northern Europe are visible in Bermejo’s S. Domingo de Silos and in Hispano-Flemish panels by Gallego. The subject matter of Spanish art during the Golden Age, which lasted from 1516 to the end of the Habsburg dynasty in 1700, would remain overwhelmingly Catholic. Isabella was the more active patron, and when Juan de Flandes executed panels for her retable of Isabella the Catholic, his exquisitely detailed scenes exhibit doctrinal correctness via scrupulously traditional iconography. In many ways Isabella simply continued the conservative policies of ecclesiastical commissions of the Middle Ages. Furthermore, during the crusading years of war, princely patrons were more interested in funding military ventures than commissioning art; as a result Renaissance Spain never developed secular imagery on the scale seen in Italy. Although Spaniards occasionally collected mythological scenes, they were more likely to import them than to buy them from local painters.
In the early sixteenth century situation changed and patrons lavished funds on sculpture as well as painting and this fact attracted a new wave of foreign artists from Burgundy and Italy: Vigarny, Juni, Fancelli, and Torrigiano sculpted tombs and retables from Castile to Granada. The optimistic sense of a grand professional future also encouraged Spaniards to travel. Alonso Berruguete, El Greco, Diego de Siloe all spent time in Italy and obtained substantial commissions upon their return, such as Berruguete’s retable of S. Benito. El Greco was sometimes referred to as Titian’s disciple (Gudiol 1941, 61) but of all Venetian painters Tintoretto influenced him most, with his sense of movement and dramatic lighting. Greco’s style has certain common features with Italian Mannerism in its use of elongated figures and non-rational space, but his flamelike forms, electric colors, and ecstatic emotion are intensely personal. Although he was primarily a religious painter, El Greco excelled also as a portraitist. His sitters were mainly ecclesiastics or gentlemen, although one of his most beautiful works is a portrait of a lady, traditionally identified as a likeness of Jerónima de las Cuevas, his common-law wife. (Gudiol 1941, 66)
Spanish sculpture continued to be executed in the traditional medium of polychromed wood and at the turn of the century, sculptors joined painters in communicating a new naturalistic sense of corporeal presence. While sculpture in Italy was increasingly aesthethicized, in Spain it remained deeply devotional. Nowhere is this more visible than in the pasos or processional statues of bleeding Christ and sorrowing Virgin by Martinez Montanes, Juan de Mesa and Pedro Roldan which provoked intense religious exaltation. Unlike Italy Spain lagged behind in the pursuit for Renaissance response to the need for outlets through which some basic human desires, generally denied in the medieval order of things, could be expressed and find fulfillment. In Italy one sees during the Renaissance a marked increase in individual freedom and autonomy, and the acceptance of physical existence and of the desire to pursue a happy, practical life, while in Spain these issues remained beyond artists’ attention. However among the significant novelties of the Renaissance, both in Italy and in Spain, was that for the first time in almost thousand years, both artists and their painted figures became individuals. Today we know the names of these artists unlike those anonymous contributors to the glory of Church of medieval age.
The Renaissance has historically held a prominent position in Western art. The status of art and the artist shifted significantly and our contemporary views on both are based very much on certain assumptions about the role and rationale of art in culture that were first developed during the Renaissance. It was in the Renaissance that the role of artist went from simple maker to that of creator. As a consequence, art took on even greater significance becoming not only an expression of its age and its means of production but also the very embodiment of genius. In this way the Renaissance has played a fundamental role in shaping the way we think about art.
Berenson, Bernard. The Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York: Phaidon Publishers,1953
Chilvers, Ian. “Greco, El” The Oxford Dictionary of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Gudiol, José. Spanish Painting. Toledo, OH: Toledo Museum of Art, 1941
Murray, Linda, Murray, Peter. The Art of the Renaissance. New York: Praeger, 1963
Osmond, Susan Fegley. “The Renaissance Mind Mirrored in Art” World and I. 13.12: December 1998.
Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Artists. Transl. by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998