Art in the Renaissance
During the fourteenth century, Italy was composed of states of various sizes. Though all of the population of all of these states spoke the same language, the local dialects were very different, along with most of their local customs and their types of government. Naples was governed by a king, while around Rome, the central Italy areas were governed by the Pope. In the North, there were multiples rulers for each small area, the large Duchy of Milan, and the republics of Venice and Florence. Despite these differences, many Italians had a growing sense of pride for their nation. This is a leading aspect of the different nations, which is what led to a growing respect for Italian art. In Italian painting, there are countless examples of biblical scenes like the Crucifixion and Nativity, however, none are exactly like another.
The variations of each painter show the creativity of artists along with the Churches changing attitudes. Painters usually produced works in order of the Church per requests and thus operated within a system of the Church that involved restrictions, but also freedom. A wealthy man might offer a commission, and would typically specify the subject as to how he would want it to be depicted. Since scenes from Christ’s life were commonly requested, artists were trained with the skills needed to produce the paintings. Painters in the Renaissance used several different techniques to create works. The three main techniques used for painting were fresco, tempera, and oil. A fresco painting is done when pigments are mixed with water and applied to wet plaster. The pigments are absorbed into the wall as it dries, making the painting and the wall become one. The benefit of a fresco is the durability of the work, as a result of the painting becoming part of the wall, it does not wear in the same way that a painting does if pigments are applied in layers. A major disadvantage of this technique is that because of the artist working with wet plaster, he needs to work quickly to avoid it drying. The colors tend to be opaque with a matte finish. A type of fresco on wet plaster is sometimes called buon fresco. Another type of fresco, called fresco secco, is the application of pigment to a dry wall. This, however, lacks the durability of buon fresco because of the lack of absorption to the wall. Tempera is created when pigment is mixed with egg to produce a painted work with durability. The types of colors that painters could achieve with tempera were limited, but it was the medium of choice for most artists working in Italy until the late fifteenth century, when oil paints were adopted. Oil paints were widely adopted in Northern Europe in the first half of the fifteenth century, and they did not become popular in Italy until late in the century. Oil paint is slow drying, making it easy to make modifications until it dries. Unlike fresco painting, oil painting allowed artists to create translucent effects because oil could be applied lightly as a glaze. Oil paints also offered artists the ability to paint with a greater variety of colors than they could with other paint types, which allowed them to depict the human figure, architecture, and the natural environment in realistic visual terms. Some extremely well known painters of the Italian renaissance were Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, architect, and student of all things scientific. Today he remains best known for his art, including Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
How it works
Da Vinci believed that art was inarguably connected with science and nature. Mostly self-educated, he filled dozens of notebooks with inventions, observations, and theories about aeronautics and anatomy. The rest of the world was just beginning to share knowledge in books and the concepts expressed in his notebooks were often difficult to interpret. As a result, his society did not appreciate him as an artists. Michelangelo is widely known as one of the most brilliant artists of the Italian Renaissance. Among his works are the “”David”” and “”Pieta”” statues and the Sistine Chapel frescoes.
Michelangelo became an apprentice to a painter before studying in the sculpture gardens of the Medici family. What followed was an incredible career as an artist, recognized in his own time for his artistic virtuosity. Raphael is best known for his Madonnas and for his large figure compositions in the Vatican. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of human radiance. During the later half of the 15th-century, demand for large scale sculpture in both marble and bronze rose significantly. Churches required a range of different items for their altarpieces, tabernacles, pulpits, tombs, and interior recesses. They also required these to be all sculpted in the new dynamic Renaissance style, while secular palaces needed new friezes, chimney pieces, portrait busts and numerous other types of decorative sculpture. The most notable marble sculptors in late 15th-century Florence included Desiderio, the Rossellino brothers, Benedetto da Maiano, and Mino da Fiesole. The best of the bronze-workers of the same period were Verrocchio and Pollaiuolo. Bronze was given an important role, being employed first for reliefs, then for statues. It was a popular medium for Renaissance sculptors, both because of its malleability and durability and also because of its brilliance when gilded. Not surprisingly, such benefits took time to emerge, as early bronze-casting was crude, and finished pieces were not highly polished. But by the time of the High Renaissance these difficulties had been overcome and a high degree of technical perfection achieved. In stone sculpture, growing refinement and demand for detail, led to a greatly increased use of marble, as well as other finer types. White Carrara marble was used for monumental sculpture, its color could be softened by wax. Details of statues such as hair, ornaments and sometimes skin were often gilded or painted. Terracotta became fashionable as a cheap alternative to marble and, when glazed, was equally durable. It could also be painted before glazing, for a permanent polychromatic effect. It was used throughout Italy during the 15th-century, for altarpieces, pulpits, fonts, and other clerical fixtures, as well as numerous domestic applications. Even cheaper material than terracotta was fine stucco, made from marble dust and sand. Both terracotta and stucco stimulated the copying of ancient masterworks by the most distinguished sculptors of antiquity. Wood was another inexpensive sculptural material, but the tradition of wood carving was limited generally to thickly wooded regions, where it was practised with virtuoso skill by master-craftsmen like Pacher, Riemenschneider, Stoss, and Erhart. Whether working in stone, bronze, or wood, the sculptural techniques used by Renaissance sculptors were by the same as those used by Greek or Roman sculptors.
The same types of implement were used and many of the same techniques were followed. Written designs, were considered to be essential. In addition, attention was paid to perspective, the use of multiple planes, and scale of relief. Preliminary cartoons, studies, and small-scale models of the intended sculpture in classes, wood, or wax, could be progressed far enough by the master-sculptor to allow it to be completed in bronze or marble by a pupil or other artisan. The demand for sculpture during the quattrocento and cinquecento remained largely clerical. Church exteriors were decorated with stone sculpture, not only around the doorways, but sometimes the whole facade was decorated with relief sculpture and column-statues. Meanwhile church interiors were filled with marble sculpture and wood carving. Cathedral baptistery and sacristy doors were often composed entirely of bronze sculpture, usually low reliefs. The interior walls of Renaissance churches also housed large architectural tombs, memorializing secular rulers, generals, statesmen, and philosophers as well as the usual cardinals and bishops. Palaces and private homes were also decorated with sculpture.
Doorways, gardens, reception rooms and interior features were the most commonly embellished areas. Interior sculptural works included, friezes, carved ceilings, fireplaces, statuettes and busts, while exterior works extended to gargoyles, fountains, shrines, statues including Madonnas and saints. Almost from the outset, sculpture and painting were characterized by individualism, as progress became less and less a reflection of schools, and more about the work of individual artists. An equally important feature of Renaissance art was its naturalism. In sculpture, this was evident in the increase of contemporary subjects, together with a more naturalistic handling of proportions, drapery, anatomy, and perspective. A third feature was the reemergence of classical subjects and forms. Since the fall of Rome in the fifth century, Italy never completely forgot the sculpture of ancient Greece, nor could it ignore the visible mass of Roman ruins. Classicism took over completely only during the High Renaissance.
Italian Renaissance art was primarily religious art. Renaissance architecture adopted obvious distinguishing features of classical Roman architecture. However, the forms and purposes of buildings had changed over time, as had the structure of cities, which is reflected in the resulting fusion of classical and 16th century forms. The plans of Renaissance buildings typically have a square, symmetrical appearance in which proportions are usually based on a module. The primary features of 16th century structures, which fused classical Roman technique with Renaissance aesthetics, were based in several foundational architectural concepts: facades, columns and pilasters, arches, vaults, domes, windows, and walls. Three major architects of the Italian renaissance were Giotto, Brunelleschi, and Leonardo da Vinci. In 1334, Giotto is appointed as chief master of the buildings of Florence. He was charged with the supervision of the construction of the Cathedral and the walls and fortifications of the city. Giotto designed a multicolored marble bell tower with a spire for the Cathedral of Florence.
The cathedral had been designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. Di Cambio had been the architect of Santa Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio. Its construction took 170 years. After 30 years of interruption of the work, Il Arte della Lana took over the construction and appointed Giotto to supervise it. Filippo Brunelleschi was an architect and engineer, and one of the pioneers of early Renaissance architecture in Italy. He was the first modern engineer and an innovative problem solver, building his major work, the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, with the aid of machines that he invented specifically for the project.
Leonardo’s notes contain many references to architecture, especially plans for cathedrals. His studies in this area commenced with the examination of various tools and instruments for building. This then progressed into an area never before studied, that of the varying strengths of pillars, beams, and arches. Stylistically, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture. Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities.