Story of St. Nicholas
The painting portrays St. Nicholas preaching towards a group of people. It depicts of a comforting saint who console the people in despair around him. The painting portrays an alley where poverty exists and St. Nicholas talks to the people as a means of giving comfort and enlightenment.
This particular work of Fra Angelico follows the trend of the early Renaissance art. Using a saint as the main subject, it reflects the importance of religion in European society and commonly used as subjects for producing art. It can be seen in this painting the early forms of three-dimensional painting in Renaissance art where corners of the buildings and the posts are drawn to distinguish the insides of the houses and the distances between buildings. The details of applying shadows are evident as well. This painting manifest a form of ‘secularism’ which is prevalent in the Renaissance art where its main subject is about a religious personality but there are no direct religious symbols included. It has more humanity to it instead.
Fra Angelico’s work can be seen as having a gentle and humanistic approach to religion. It does not wholly focus on St. Nicholas but to the people which is apparent because the people in the background are drawn bigger. Since this is an example of a work from an early Renaissance painter, Fra Angelico’s work lacks the texture for the walls to make it more real.
Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci
The woman is regarded as the Blessed Virgin Mary locking her son Jesus in an embrace on her right hand while her left hand is above the head of another child – believed to be St. John the Baptist. An angel guides the St. John towards the young Jesus whose hands are formed into a prayer and behind them are beautiful rock formations.
On the latter ages of the Renaissance art, realism has become an important element. This is most evident in the depiction of the rock formations where the roughness of the huge rocks behind the Virgin Mary can be seen in detail – as if you can feel its texture. Leonardo Da Vinci used the contrast of light and dark to emphasize the shadows of the rocks depicting its mass and form. Another obvious characteristic is the usage of religious icons as the focus on the painting. The religious symbols of the halo and the crucifix are combined with the humanistic and realistic appeal of the Virgin Mary, the child Jesus, and the young St. John.
This is one of the most famous works of Leonardo DaVinci and it shows how sophisticated of an artist is DaVinci through this painting. Its atmosphere captured the Virgin Mary’s serenity and the divinity of Christianity.
Self Portrait by Durer
As what the title indicates, the subject of the painting is the painter himself. It encompassed the painter’s head down to his breast with a blank expression on his face as if staring in front of a mirror.
This painting is a part of a trend during the Renaissance period where “portraitures” became highly popular during the 15th century. Self-portraits are one way of preserving themselves in their own likeness (Jensen) and the painting can serve as an evidence of immortality. Perhaps the most evident form of realism in the painting would be the depiction of the fur lining around the collar of Durer’s coat and shininess of each curl of Durer’s hair. The fine thin strands in painting the fur of his coat gives out the impression of softness in texture. Even the hints of eye bags under Durer’s lower lashes are laid out in detail. The physical details of Durer and as well as the details of the clothes, signify the importance of producing art in its truest and realest form.
The plain black background provides a haunting image of a legendary artist. The glazed blank stare may have been the focus of the painting where the eyes can symbolize as the painter’s detailed depiction of himself.
Venus and Adonis by Tiziano
With a scenic sunny backdrop, Venus locks her lover Adonis in an embrace. Adonis can be seen tugging along three dogs on leashes and on the right, Cupid’s bow and arrow rest on the tree branch while he takes a nap.
This painting embodies the basic definition of what Renaissance is – going back to the classics. Since Greek and Latin literature and ancient knowledge and other fields of studies are being unearthed and re-examine, using characters from Greek mythology has been revived in the Renaissance art as well. The influence from the classic can be seen as well on how the body shape of humans has been drawn - more specifically with Venus. It can be noted as well the elements of realism have been more emphasized on the livings subjects (dogs, Adonis, Venus, and Cupid) than with the elements of nature such as a the depiction of the clouds.
As previously mentioned, this painting is more realistic when it comes to human and animal subject but the nature is less real compared with the figures of Venus and Adonis. The clouds became a mere sketch of blending but nonetheless still exude the beauty of a landscape.