Italian Renaissance Art

Italian renaissance period was one of the most productive periods in the history of art. Most outstanding art pieces in various fields such as architecture, sculpture and also painting were created. It is in this period that great artists came up with wonderful innovations in various fields making the beginning of an era in the history of arts.

Major aspects in Italian renaissance art development

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The works of art that were created during this period were a clear indication of the level of creativity that existed among the artists. The works have had several understandings by both historians and critics bringing out the level of mystery that was involved in art works. Renaissance developed through three major stages with each stage having its own unique aspects. The first level was the Early Renaissance, followed by high renaissance and finally late renaissance. Early renaissance occurred between the years 1400-1475 AD, after which high renaissance followed from 1475 to 1525 AD and finally the late renaissance period that existed from 1525 to 1600(Hampton 2003, p.19).

Early renaissance period

Artistic works during this period were not stagnant because of the efforts from artists who believed that art shouldn’t remain static but instead it should always be improved. They studied various styles that had been used by previous artists in prehistoric Rome and Greek after which they assembled the ideas and came up with contemporary art. These artists were mostly concerned with the human body and as a result, they painted realistic figures about it. This concept of painting was later called realism. Most of the drawings in renaissance art were drawings of individuals who were involved in their daily activities such as eating and dancing (Barnes 2006, p.50).

Artists came up with another concept that was referred to as linear perspective. This perspective developed into a major obsession in majority of painters. It helped in giving paintings a more practical space effect. A lot of studies about square and octagonal baptistery had been undertaken by Brunelleschi after which he used the idea in helping Masaccio come up with his trendy trompe l’oeil niche. This idea was so interesting to some artists until it prompted some of them into experimenting it in many of their works. It’s through this works that popular paintings such as “Battle of San Romano” that enlisted the help of hills together with broken weapons to express the concept of linear perspective were created. Through use of this concept, painters were able to express the fantasy of space with distance using a flat surface (Jacobs 1999, p. 52).

According to Crewe (2002, p.200), the modern-day ideas were embraced and focus changed from worldly ideas through the influence of the church, although other artist became curious about the church with believe in religion diminishing and started reflecting the same in their creative works. One of the examples of such works is a portrait that was done by Jan Van Eyck called Arnolfini portrait in which there was a couple who were getting married in a room with the bride pregnant. This was unusual as it was ridiculous in those days for a marriage ceremony to be undertaken outside the church with the bride pregnant (Connors 2004, p.99).

High renaissance Art period

During the period, a lot of concentration was put on paintings of human anatomy. They were determined to bring out the human image in the natural possible way. Principles like secularism were encouraged which made people to focus more on ways of improving self by doing things in their preferred ways. Majority of paintings that were painted during the period were paintings of people learning instead of worshiping (Seidel 2002, p.97).

Late renaissance Art

They were mainly focused on style/manner compared to substance. Because the artists’ major aim was to out do those in High renaissance, they were not innovative. Their themes were strange with loud colors. They portrayed human beings with abnormal features such as limbs and came up with paintings that were tormenting to people. Some paintings were clumsy with painting of naked people. This formed one of the aspects of Italian renaissance art. Giorgio and also Giovanni were some of the most admired artists of the time although Michelangelo who was an artist in the high renaissance period also did the paintings (Luchs 2001, p. 48)

Renaissance Art and science

They were closely related as they were both striving to have an understanding of the physical world. Paintings that were done by artists helped a great deal in understanding science with paintings of the human body simplifying the study of human anatomy. They also helped in the study of mathematics where by they helped in developing a three dimensional fantasy over a place that was two dimensional. Although previously similar effect had been achieved by use of empirical ways, it was simplified and became an important tool in art creation (Massi 2006, p. 503).

Leonardo da vinci’s Last supper painting

This painting was painted by Leonardo da Vinci for his employer Duke who had requested him to sketch the spiritual scene in question. He did it on a wall of a dinning area. The painting’s measurements were 460 by 880 cm and it took three years to finish the drawing. The painting appeared outstanding as a result of human and certain emotions that were displayed from the paintings of disciples and the delightful thought of the last supper. The painting represented activities that happened an evening prior to betrayal of Jesus by Judas where he had congregated all his disciples at the table and explained to them of the events that were about to occur (Jacobs 1999, p. 52).


In the picture were the disciples of Jesus together with him. The picture divides them into four groups with the first one containing Bartholomew, Lesser and James. James appears surprised while Andrew’s hand is up with a frightened look on his face. The 2nd group is composed of Judas, peter together with John. Judas is holding a silver bag while is using another hand to take bread. Simon is having a knife on the right hand while leaning towards John a symbol of his defense for Christ.

Thomas, James and Philip form the third group. They look shocked with the hand of Thomas up and Philip requesting for something while James appears to be terrified. The final group is a group of Simon, Thaddeus together with Mathew who appear to be talking to one another.

Lisa del Giocondo was another portrait that was painted by Leonardo. He painted it using oil paint on a panel that was made of timber. Its measurements were 77 by 53 cm. He painted it after he was asked by Lisa’s spouse to do so in celebration of their second son and he also intended to use its beautification of their new house. The painting was passed on until it was sold to King Francois by Salai’s inheritor after which it remained public treasure (Crewe 2002, p.200).


According to Goffen (1999 p.207), Masaccio’s first work was an Altarpiece that came into lime light in 1961. He did the painting in a church by the name San Giovenale that was near Masaccio’s homeland. It represented the Virgin Mary at the middle of the panel with angels, to the left panel were St. Bartholomew together with Blaise and on the right panel were Anthony with St. Juvenal. Although many of the painting’s frames have disappeared, his idea of using volumetric figure to express three-dimensionality was noted. His second work was done jointly by him and Masolino where he painted Saint Anne with the Virgin Mary holding a child. It is said that St. Anne and Angels were painted by Masolino and those of the child and Mary were done by Masaccio.


Barnes, B. (2006). The Living Image in Renaissance Art. Renaissance Quarterly, 59(2), 500. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Connors, J. (2004). The Italian Renaissance Palace Facade: Structures of Authority, Surfaces of Sense. Renaissance Quarterly, 57(1), 199. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Crewe, J. (2002). Anthony Grafton. Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance. Italian Culture, 20(1-2), 200. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Goffen, R. (1999). Balancing Acts: Reading Sources and Weighing Evidence in Recent Italian Renaissance Art History. Renaissance Quarterly, 52(1), 207. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Hampton, T. (2003). Fictions of the Pose: Rembrandt against the Italian Renaissance & the Absence of Grace Sprezzatura and Suspicion in Two Renaissance Courtesy Books. 219. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Jacobs, F. H. (1999). Women in Italian Renaissance Art: Gender, Representation, Identity. Renaissance Quarterly, 52(2), 529. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Luchs, A. (2001). The Poetics of Portraiture in the Italian Renaissance. Renaissance Quarterly, 54(3), 948. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Massi, N. (2006). Augustine in the Italian Renaissance: Art and Philosophy from Petrarch to Michelangelo. Renaissance Quarterly, 59(2), 503. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:

Seidel, E. (2002). The Concept of Philosophy in the Sixteenth Century: Leone Ebreo and the Italian Renaissance. European Judaism, 35(2), 97. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Questia database:


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Italian Renaissance Art. (2016, Nov 21). Retrieved from