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Renaissance artists painted a wide variety of themes. Religious altarpieces, fresco cycles, and
small works for private devotion were very popular. For inspiration, painters in both Italy and
northern Europe frequently turned to Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend (1260), a highly
influential source book for the lives of saints that had already had a strong influence on
Medieval artists. The rebirth of classical antiquity and Renaissance humanism also resulted in
many Mythological and history paintings. Ovidian stories, for example, were very popular.
Decorative ornament, often used in painted architectural elements, was especially influenced
by classical Roman motifs.
The use of perspective: The first major treatment of the painting as a window into space
appeared in the work of Giotto di Bondone, at the beginning of the 14th century. True
linear perspective was formalized later, by Filippo Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti.
In addition to giving a more realistic presentation of art, it moved Renaissance painters
into painting more paintings. It gives the overall impression of three dimensions.
foreshortening - The term foreshortening refers to the artistic effect of shortening lines
in a drawing so as to create an illusion of depth.
sfumato - The term sfumato was coined by Italian Renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci,
and refers to a fine art painting technique of blurring or softening of sharp outlines by
subtle and gradual blending of one tone into another through the use of thin glazes to
give the illusion of depth or three-dimensionality. This stems from the Italian word
sfumare meaning to evaporate or to fade out. The Latin origin is fumare, to smoke. The
opposite of sfumato is chiaroscuro.
chiaroscuro - The term chiaroscuro refers to the fine art painting modeling effect of
using a strong contrast between light and dark to give the illusion of depth or threedimensionality. This comes from the Italian words meaning light (chiaro) and dark
(scuro), a technique which came into wide use in the Baroque Period.; Sfumato is the
opposite of chiaroscuro.
Balance and Proportion: proper sizes and the use of airy, bright colors. The human
anatomy wasn't as idealized as during the ancient times
Raphael was born on April 6, 1483, as Raffaello Sanzio. He was born in Urbino. Raphael was said
to be unusually handsome, pensive and fair. Raphael had born talent and received early
training in art from his father, Giovanni Santi. He also learned new techniques from Leonardo
da Vinci and Michelangelo. Beauty and serenity were his great emotional themes.
In 1499 he went to Perugia in Urbino and became a student and assistant of painter, Perugino.
Around 1508-09 he was 25 and called to Rome by Pope Julius II to direct the decoration of the
state rooms in the Vatican Palace. In 1515, Raphael became the first Superintendent of
Antiquities. In 1515-16 he painted ten large water color scales. He found the cultural and
intellectual climate very exciting in Rome.
Raphael died on his thirty-seventh birthday, April 6, 1520, and was buried in the Pantheon
amidst universal mourning and acclaim.
Raphael painted the Madonna dell Granduca, The Small Cowper Madonna, and The Alba
Madonna. He painted Stanza dell Incendio and the four large-scale paintings were Marriage of
the Virgin, Sposalizio, The Crucified Christ with Virgin Mary and Saints and Angels. He painted a
portrait of The Courtier and author Baldassare Castiglione in 1515. In the Vatican Palace his first
room he completed was the so-called Stanza della Signatura (Room of the Signature). In the
Vatican Palace he had the opportunity to apply his classical art on a grand scale.
Raphael had great interest in portraiture and he was a classical perfectionist. He painted
pictures using oil on wood. He studied the work of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Fra Bart
Domneo. Raphael learned the play of light and shade, anatomy and dramatic action. Raphael
executed a number of easel paintings. In 1514 Raphael was made chief architect of Saint Peter's
Basilica. A year later he was appointed director of all excavations of antiquities in and near
Raphael was known as the genius of high Renaissance painters. He was the greatest designer of
the Renaissance. Raphael influenced painters up to the 1900's. He made people think of
personality when they looked at his paintings. Raphael put realistic emotions on to paintings.
He changed the way people look at art. Raphael painted life. He was thought to be one of the
most detailed painters of all portraitists.
Botticelli was born in Florence, Italy, in 1445. He spent his whole life in Florence except for a
visit to Rome. Botticelli was a member of the Medici family. His real name was Alessandro
Filipepi. He was nicknamed Botticelli when he went to live with his brother. There he worked as
a goldsmith.
People say that he had deep-set eyes, flowing locks and a salient nose (easily seen or noticed).
It was also said that he was a jokester or a prankster.
When Botticelli was 14 or 15 he was sent to the great painter, Fra Filippo. There he learned how
to mix colors and clean brushes. Botticelli was greatly influenced by his teacher.
By 1465, Botticelli had his own studio. After the age of 56 no paintings were found that were
painted by him. Botticelli died alone and infirm. He lived to be about 65 and died around 1510.
Botticelli became Florence's favorite artist. His paintings were very popular. He made of lots of
money. In fact, he could make 50 -100 florins per picture. Botticelli painted religious paintings
for churches. He painted three frescos in the Sistine Chapel in 1484.
Botticelli was famous for many paintings. One of these was The Adoration of the Magi. Another
one was The Birth of Venus which was done in 1484. Then he painted The Judith. In 1477 he
painted Primavera. Botticelli was the artist of Madonna the Magnificent and the masterly group
of the Virgin Enthroned. He painted the beautiful Mars and Venus too!
Realism was ignored in Botticelli's paintings. He loved to allegorize (has an underlying meaning).
He favored the nude. Botticelli used delicate color and poetic lines. Botticelli used strong,
rhythmic and graceful lines, too!
Some people started to copy his work. It is very difficult to tell which works are his
masterpieces today. Some of the things people started to copy from him were mythical beings,
classical beauty and the technique of outlining the pictures.
Giovanni was born in Venice in 1430 where he was later raised by his mother and father,
Jacopo Bellini and Anna Reversi. Giovanni's father, Jacopo, was also an Italian Renaissance
artist. Jacopo was taught by Gentile du Fabriano. Jacopo later named his oldest son Gentile
after his teacher, Gentile du Fabriano. Gentile Bellini later died on Febuary 23, 1507.
Giovanni also had a sister Niccolsa who married Andrea Mantegain. Andrea was also a
Renaissance painter.
Before Giovanni became popular he was an apprentice in his father's workshop. Then later
when Giovanni mastered painting he taught Giorgione and Titian who later outdid their own
teacher. Then a little while later Giovanni died at the age of 86 in 1516. He was buried in
Venice. A while after his death most of his greatest works were destroyed in a church fire in the
year of 1577.
Giovanni had some very beautiful effects in the way he painted. His paintings have a hazy warm
light. The colours are deep and glowing. Light and shade give the paintings a softening effect.
He painted in oils.
Bellini painted a lot of religious scenes and he was a very good at landscapes. He brought
painting to a new degree of realism. Bellini became one of the greatest painters of the
Bellini painted several famous pictures. Two of those pictures were The Agony in the Garden
and The Crucifixion. He also painted The Virgin and Child with Two Saints and the Lamentation
Over the Body of Christ. Two more paintings were The Feast of Gods and an altar piece he
finished for his brother.
Bellini is remembered for the realistic landscapes and the harmony of light, colour, and mood.
Da Vinci
Da Vinci was born April 15, 1452, and died May 2, 1519. Leonardo never attended public
school. He was raised by his single father. When Leonardo was fifteen he joined the studio af
Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence. Leonardo had no interest in women; he spent most of his
time painting. Five years later he became a member of the guild of St. Luke, a painters' guild in
Florence. Four years later he worked as an independent artist at his own studio in Florence.
In 1483 he started to paint the first version of the Virgin. He finished it in 1485. In 1495 he
made a clay model for the statue of Francesco Forza, and put it on display. In 1486 he began to
explore human flight. In 1500 he went to Mantua.
Da Vinci studied philosophy, natural history, anatomy, biology, medicine, optics, acoustics,
science, mathematics and hydraulics.
Da Vinci was an architect, musician, engineer, scientist and inventor. He sketched the first
parachute, first helicopter, first aeroplane, first tank, first repeating rifle, swinging bridge,
paddle boat and first motor car. Da Vinci designed machines of war as well. He was one of the
first artists to sketch outdoor portraits. Da Vinci was a sculptor and designer of costumes. He
was also a mathematician and a botanist.
When he was twenty-one he painted the Annunication. In 1481 da Vinci painted The Adoration
of the Magi. In 1475 da Vinci painted an angel in Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ. One of
Leonardo's greatest pieces of art was the Mona Lisa, (1404) which was famous for her
mysterious smile when piano music played. The Mona Lisa took Leonardo six years to complete.
After he was done the painting the King of France bought it. Leonardo did not want to part with
the portrait, so the King of France let him keep it in his studio until he died. Another famous
painting was The Last Supper, which was painted in 1495. It has become the most famous
painting in the world. Leonardo was also very proud of his Self Portrait, which he painted it in
1515, four years before he died.
Da Vinci drew the first relaxed portraits with misty landscapes in the background. He used
warm and passionate colours to create the misty look on the landscapes. Da Vinci had a
different way of painting with mixing colours. Da Vinci did not put eyebrows on his painting.
Da Vinci changed the way people painted and made sculptures. Da Vinci was famous for the
way he used light in his portraits. It seemed as if you could see into the soul of the paintings.
Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1469, in a town near Florence. His mother died by the time
Michelangelo was six years old, leaving him to live with his father, a nobleman.
He began to show interest in art and drawing by the age of ten, and became an apprentice by
age 12. When Michelangelo was 13 he was set to be an artist. He became a pupil of the great
sculptor, Donatello.
Michelangelo lived to the age of 89, and died in 1564.
Michelangelo was a great leader in the Italian Renaissance. His greatest glory, painting the
Sistine Chapel, began in 1508, and was completed in 1512. In the beginning, Michelangelo was
to paint twelve pictures of the apostles around the outside of the ceiling. Instead of doing so,
Michelangelo made another suggestion. He used the central area of the ceiling to paint the
history of the Old Testament. It included over 300 figures.
Beginning in 1491, Michelangelo carved Madonna of the Stairs. It took him one year to
complete it. Next was the Pieta. It was started in 1498 and finished in 1500. He began Doni
Tondo in 1503, taking him two years to complete the painting. In 1534, twenty-three years after
the Sistine Chapel was completed, Michelangelo began to paint The Last Judgment, located
over the altar at the same church as the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo was noted for use of color, light, tone design, and draftsmanship. He excelled in
architecture, sculpture and anatomy.
Michelangelo set standards for sculpting, painting, poetry, and architecture. When sculpting, he
always carved from front to back as shown on the unfinished piece, St. Matthew. His paintings
were all equally proportioned, with very good perspective. All of his pictures had a 3-D effect to
make his figures stand out from the background.
Michelangelo was also a poet and architect, but painting and sculpting were his specialties.
Donatello was a great Italian sculptor, who was born in Florence, Italy, in 1386, and died at the
age of 80 in 1466. He did not marry and had no children. He started practicing at the age of 20
and worked in Lorenzo Ghiberti's shop. Later in his life he studied Roman ruins and became a
humanist. Donatello also had a shop in Florence where he created many of his masterpieces.
The city of Florence paid for his sculpture of David. Patrons found him very hard to deal with
and to work with. He was not a cultured intellect like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Donatello was essentially a realist.
Many of Donatello's masterpieces are located in Florence. Some of these masterpieces include:
St. Peter, St. Mark, Zuccone, St. George and the Dragon, St. John the Evangelist, Magdalen, and
Angel with Tambourine. Other pieces considered to be some of his finest work are: Herod's
Feast, St. Louis of Toulouse, St. Peter, St. Anthony, an equestrian statue called Gattamelata, and
A lot of his sculptures were Renaissance breakthroughs. David, for one, was the first nude
statue of the Renaissance, and the equestrian statue, Gattamelata, was considered to be one of
the best proportioned sculptures ever. In Donatello's Gothic style he used expressive ugliness
to give the statue a life of its own. He used a powerful realism that gives his statues a distinct
Donatello had an immense impact on the art and the artists of the Renaissance. He invented
the shallow relief technique. In the shallow relief technique the sculpture seems deep but is
actually done on a very shallow plane.
Donatello characterized his figures as individuals. He also made the first bronze sculpture.
These were the stepping stones for sculptors to use other materials.