Table of Contents

What development helped renaissance ideas traveled north from italy

HOW DID THE IDEAS OF THE RENAISSANCE SPREAD?

The Renaissance is an important event in European history that stretched from the 14th century to the 17th century. It was preceded by the Middle Ages in Europe and eventually led to the major events of the Age of Enlightenment. In historical terms the Renaissance is important because it led to a major shift in European thought and worldview. This shift eventually led to the developments of the Enlightenment and set the stage for the modern western worldview. While the Renaissance is considered to have begun in the city-states of the Italian peninsula in the 14th century, the main ideas of the movement eventually spread to all of Europe by the 16th century. The most significant changes that emerged as a result of the Renaissance can be seen in European architecture, art, literature, mathematics, music, philosophy, politics, religion and science. Intellectual thought in these fields flourished during the timeframe of the Renaissance and led to many people questioning long held beliefs about each. This created an environment of discovery and curiosity in which new ideas were constantly being introduced and tested. Historians have been studying how, where and when the ideas of the Renaissance spread from its start in Italy to the rest of Europe.

WHY WAS THE RENAISSANCE SLOW TO SPREAD AT FIRST?

As stated above, the Renaissance first began on the Italian peninsula in the 14th century but later spread to the rest of Europe. The Renaissance first began in Italy due to a number of identified causes, such as: increased interaction between different cultures, the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman texts, the emergence of humanism, different artistic and technological innovations, and the impacts of conflict and death. However, initially the new ideas and perspectives of the Italian Renaissance were slow to spread out of Italy for several reasons, including: the rigidity of feudalism, conflicts and war, geography, and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe.​

Renaissance City-States Map

Feudalism

Feudalism was a form of government common during medieval Europe that involved society being structured in a very rigid and hierarchical way. It was popular in European society from the 9th century until the 15th century and was the form of government in which the country was dominated by an absolute monarch, in which all power was held within a single king. The monarch would rule over the country while the rest of the people were bound by a hierarchical system in which people were placed into classes in which they were born. For example, under feudalism, most people were peasants who worked tirelessly on farms of local lords. Feudalism was much more present in European society outside of Italy which caused the ideas of the Renaissance to spread slowly. This was because Feudal society was not as open to new ideas as the city-states that existed in Italy at the time. Powerful nobles and monarchs used the feudal system to keep out any new ideas that had the potential to threaten their wealth and authority in society.

The second reason that the Renaissance spread out of Italy slowly at first was the continuous conflicts and wars that occurred in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. For example, the Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts in Northern Europe between the kingdoms of France and England that occurred from 1337 to 1453. The war was fought over the control of territory in France and ultimately involved multiple kingdoms in western and northern Europe going to war. As a result, these regions were not as open to change and new ideas because they were preoccupied with constant conflict. As well, the Hundred Years’ war would have made travel between the different kingdoms in western Europe difficult and thus slowed the spread of scholars and artists who had the potential to spread the ideas of the Renaissance.

The third reason for the slow movement of Renaissance ideas out of Europe was the geography of northern Italy. Travel in the Late Middle Ages and early Renaissance time periods was difficult and treacherous but the isolated nature of the Italian peninsula made it particularly difficult for people and ideas to travel north to the rest of Europe. First, Italy is a peninsula meaning it is surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea on three sides. This obviously made travel over land impossible and limited the vast majority of people from reaching new areas.

Also, northern Italy contains the Alps which is the largest mountain range in all of Europe. This also limited ground travel as movement through the Alps at the time was a difficult task. As such, the natural geography of Italy limited the ability of Renaissance ideas to spread to the rest of Europe.​

Renaissance Geography of Italy

The final reason for the slow spread of the Renaissance from Italy to the other regions of Europe is the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism and the authority of the Catholic Church played a major role in the lives of people throughout Europe. In fact, from 1309 to 1376 the Roman Catholic Church was located in Avignon, France instead of in Rome. This situation increased the influence of the church in mainland Europe. This is important because the Catholic Church was not necessarily open to the new ideas and changing worldview of the Renaissance in Italy and instead wanted to maintain the situation in Europe that had existed throughout the earlier Middle Ages. As a result, this caused many people in places such as western Europe to be less open to the ideals of the Renaissance.​

WHY DID THE RENAISSANCE EVENTUALLY SPREAD OUT OF ITALY?

​ While the Renaissance was slow to spread at first, for the reasons mentioned above, it eventually did spread to the other regions of Europe. As such, historians have identified several reasons for why and how the Renaissance did reach the other kingdoms of the continent, including: a period of peace, innovations in art and publishing, and migrations of people.

First, the Renaissance ideas spread to Europe more quickly once several of the major conflicts had ended. For example, the Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts in Northern Europe between the kingdoms of France and England that occurred from 1337 to 1453. As stated previously, the war was fought over the control of territory in France and ultimately involved multiple kingdoms in western and northern Europe going to war. As a result, these regions were not as open to change and new ideas at the time because they were preoccupied with constant conflict. This slowed or prevented the spread of the Renaissance ideas in the earlier years of the Renaissance. However, when the Hundred Years’ War ended in the mid-15th century it allowed the ideas of the Italian Renaissance from the 14th century to extend north and west to other parts of Europe. As such, Europe experienced a relative period of peace in the 15th century after earlier centuries of war which allowed for more interaction, trade a travel which helped the new ideas to spread.

The second reason for why the spread of the Renaissance eventually sped up was due to innovations in publishing and art. In terms of publishing, the printing press was one of the most significant innovations in all of world history. German blacksmith, goldsmith and printer Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press in the mid-1400s and it quickly had a profound impact on the events of the Renaissance (as well as later events such as the Enlightenment). Prior to the printing press, books and other literature were created through a varied assortment of methods (woodblock press, etc.) which were all labor intensive and slow. Gutenberg’s invention was the development of a hand mold that allowed for precise movable type. This meant that he perfected the process of making movable type pieces for easily and quickly constructing type-font documents. This sped up the printing process and made it extremely affordable, which allowed for an explosion in the publishing and printing of books. For example, the Gutenberg Bible was the first book to be mass produced on the Gutenberg printing press. The invention and use of the printing press in Europe was important for the Renaissance because it allowed new ideas and worldviews to spread across the continent more easily. At its core, the Renaissance was about new ideas (such as humanism) overthrowing old views and customs (such as religious beliefs and practises and feudal traditions). Therefore, the invention of the printing press allowed these new ideas to spread and further enhance the overall Renaissance.

What development helped renaissance ideas traveled north from italy

HOW DID THE IDEAS OF THE RENAISSANCE SPREAD?

The Renaissance is an important event in European history that stretched from the 14th century to the 17th century. It was preceded by the Middle Ages in Europe and eventually led to the major events of the Age of Enlightenment. In historical terms the Renaissance is important because it led to a major shift in European thought and worldview. This shift eventually led to the developments of the Enlightenment and set the stage for the modern western worldview. While the Renaissance is considered to have begun in the city-states of the Italian peninsula in the 14th century, the main ideas of the movement eventually spread to all of Europe by the 16th century. The most significant changes that emerged as a result of the Renaissance can be seen in European architecture, art, literature, mathematics, music, philosophy, politics, religion and science. Intellectual thought in these fields flourished during the timeframe of the Renaissance and led to many people questioning long held beliefs about each. This created an environment of discovery and curiosity in which new ideas were constantly being introduced and tested. Historians have been studying how, where and when the ideas of the Renaissance spread from its start in Italy to the rest of Europe.

WHY WAS THE RENAISSANCE SLOW TO SPREAD AT FIRST?

As stated above, the Renaissance first began on the Italian peninsula in the 14th century but later spread to the rest of Europe. The Renaissance first began in Italy due to a number of identified causes, such as: increased interaction between different cultures, the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman texts, the emergence of humanism, different artistic and technological innovations, and the impacts of conflict and death. However, initially the new ideas and perspectives of the Italian Renaissance were slow to spread out of Italy for several reasons, including: the rigidity of feudalism, conflicts and war, geography, and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe.​

Renaissance City-States Map

Feudalism

Feudalism was a form of government common during medieval Europe that involved society being structured in a very rigid and hierarchical way. It was popular in European society from the 9th century until the 15th century and was the form of government in which the country was dominated by an absolute monarch, in which all power was held within a single king. The monarch would rule over the country while the rest of the people were bound by a hierarchical system in which people were placed into classes in which they were born. For example, under feudalism, most people were peasants who worked tirelessly on farms of local lords. Feudalism was much more present in European society outside of Italy which caused the ideas of the Renaissance to spread slowly. This was because Feudal society was not as open to new ideas as the city-states that existed in Italy at the time. Powerful nobles and monarchs used the feudal system to keep out any new ideas that had the potential to threaten their wealth and authority in society.

The second reason that the Renaissance spread out of Italy slowly at first was the continuous conflicts and wars that occurred in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. For example, the Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts in Northern Europe between the kingdoms of France and England that occurred from 1337 to 1453. The war was fought over the control of territory in France and ultimately involved multiple kingdoms in western and northern Europe going to war. As a result, these regions were not as open to change and new ideas because they were preoccupied with constant conflict. As well, the Hundred Years’ war would have made travel between the different kingdoms in western Europe difficult and thus slowed the spread of scholars and artists who had the potential to spread the ideas of the Renaissance.

The third reason for the slow movement of Renaissance ideas out of Europe was the geography of northern Italy. Travel in the Late Middle Ages and early Renaissance time periods was difficult and treacherous but the isolated nature of the Italian peninsula made it particularly difficult for people and ideas to travel north to the rest of Europe. First, Italy is a peninsula meaning it is surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea on three sides. This obviously made travel over land impossible and limited the vast majority of people from reaching new areas.

Also, northern Italy contains the Alps which is the largest mountain range in all of Europe. This also limited ground travel as movement through the Alps at the time was a difficult task. As such, the natural geography of Italy limited the ability of Renaissance ideas to spread to the rest of Europe.​

Renaissance Geography of Italy

The final reason for the slow spread of the Renaissance from Italy to the other regions of Europe is the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism and the authority of the Catholic Church played a major role in the lives of people throughout Europe. In fact, from 1309 to 1376 the Roman Catholic Church was located in Avignon, France instead of in Rome. This situation increased the influence of the church in mainland Europe. This is important because the Catholic Church was not necessarily open to the new ideas and changing worldview of the Renaissance in Italy and instead wanted to maintain the situation in Europe that had existed throughout the earlier Middle Ages. As a result, this caused many people in places such as western Europe to be less open to the ideals of the Renaissance.​

WHY DID THE RENAISSANCE EVENTUALLY SPREAD OUT OF ITALY?

​ While the Renaissance was slow to spread at first, for the reasons mentioned above, it eventually did spread to the other regions of Europe. As such, historians have identified several reasons for why and how the Renaissance did reach the other kingdoms of the continent, including: a period of peace, innovations in art and publishing, and migrations of people.

First, the Renaissance ideas spread to Europe more quickly once several of the major conflicts had ended. For example, the Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts in Northern Europe between the kingdoms of France and England that occurred from 1337 to 1453. As stated previously, the war was fought over the control of territory in France and ultimately involved multiple kingdoms in western and northern Europe going to war. As a result, these regions were not as open to change and new ideas at the time because they were preoccupied with constant conflict. This slowed or prevented the spread of the Renaissance ideas in the earlier years of the Renaissance. However, when the Hundred Years’ War ended in the mid-15th century it allowed the ideas of the Italian Renaissance from the 14th century to extend north and west to other parts of Europe. As such, Europe experienced a relative period of peace in the 15th century after earlier centuries of war which allowed for more interaction, trade a travel which helped the new ideas to spread.

The second reason for why the spread of the Renaissance eventually sped up was due to innovations in publishing and art. In terms of publishing, the printing press was one of the most significant innovations in all of world history. German blacksmith, goldsmith and printer Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press in the mid-1400s and it quickly had a profound impact on the events of the Renaissance (as well as later events such as the Enlightenment). Prior to the printing press, books and other literature were created through a varied assortment of methods (woodblock press, etc.) which were all labor intensive and slow. Gutenberg’s invention was the development of a hand mold that allowed for precise movable type. This meant that he perfected the process of making movable type pieces for easily and quickly constructing type-font documents. This sped up the printing process and made it extremely affordable, which allowed for an explosion in the publishing and printing of books. For example, the Gutenberg Bible was the first book to be mass produced on the Gutenberg printing press. The invention and use of the printing press in Europe was important for the Renaissance because it allowed new ideas and worldviews to spread across the continent more easily. At its core, the Renaissance was about new ideas (such as humanism) overthrowing old views and customs (such as religious beliefs and practises and feudal traditions). Therefore, the invention of the printing press allowed these new ideas to spread and further enhance the overall Renaissance.

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15th Century Renaissance Art

The Renaissance was a rebirth of classical ideals that spanned across media and disciplines: fine arts, literature, history, philosophy. Renaissance artists and patrons were influenced by humanism and a growing interest in the secular over religious concerns.

ART :
  • Space and light
  • Perspective and proportion
  • Anatomy
  • A renewed passion for mythology
  • A new social status and celebrity of artists
In the Beginning

The Black Death screamed across Europe and Asia with electric speed killing more than 20 million people in Europe alone. As a result, survivors were left wealthy from inheritances. This resulted in a decline in the feudal system and autonomy for citizens. New men were now in positions. Art helped to give them prestige.

Books were being printed and now widely distributed through J. Gutenberg, in 1440. Reading was no loner for the privileged few. Migration of Greek scholars and texts from Constantinople to Europe after the conquest by the Ottoman Turks (1453).

The Vatican in fear of the Counter-Revolution and Luther sponsor Renaissance art as a way to bolster the church.

Italy 1494 Map

Historical Context (1400-1500 CE)

The Ruling Families

Italian city-states, including Florence, Naples, Rome, Siena, and Venice were wealthy and controlled by powerful families.

The Medici family from Florence were the most important of all. They were bankers and moneylenders who were lavish patrons of the arts and learning

Lorenzo de Medici Image

Feuding Families of Florence

The Renaissance started in Italy and Florence was its core. Here the wealthy Florentines could afford to support artistic careers. The most powerful family were the Medici clan, who were bankers and rulers of Florence for more than 60 years.

Cosimo the Elder, founder of the Medici dynasty spent gigantic amounts of money to beautify Florence with stunning architecture and artworks. His grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent continued supporting the arts. The powerful Pazzi family, another banking clan, were long time rivals of the Medici family. Both did anything for prestige and to help hide their corruption.

This competition extended to the art world and kept artists and architects both continually and gainfully employed. It also helped to show their piety to the church. This artistically rich feud between the two families ended after The Pazzi Conspiracy, in 1478, when the Pazzi family were tossed out of Florence.

Other Italian city-states would follow the Renaissance movement, including Rome, Milan, Venice, Bologna and Ferrara. From Italy, it travelled to France and then onward to western and northern Europe.

The movement first expanded to other Italian city-states, such as Venice, Milan, Bologna, Ferrara, and Rome. Then, during the 15th century, Renaissance ideas spread from Italy to France. The war between the two countries sparked an interest in Renaissance art! Greater trade between Italy and the rest of Western Europe increased it further.

The Republic of Florence and David

In the 14th century, Italy consisted of independent city-states geographically centered on a major city. As a wealthy but small city-state, the Republic of Florence identified with David, from the Hebrew Bible. Florence perceived itself as an underdog standing against the larger forces of tyranny, paralleling itself with the account of David and Goliath from the Hebrew texts.

In this story, Israel was at war with the Philistines, and it was common practice to send a representative warrior from each side out to battle instead of risking both armies in battle. The Philistines sent out their champion, Goliath, who was over nine feet tall. He intimidated the army of Israel and all warriors refused to fight him, except David, a young boy at the time. Refusing to use the king’s armor and weapons, David instead used a slingshot, hurling a stone directly into Goliath’s forehead and killing him. David then used Goliath’s own sword to sever the giant’s head.

Donatello’s bronze David, thought to be the first freestanding nude since antiquity, first occupied the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici, home of the Medici family. As Florence’s cultural leaders, the Medici gathered around themselves the city’s foremost intellectuals, literati, and artists.

For the Medici, artistic patronage was propaganda, similar to that of Rome and Augustus. It was used to articulate and negotiate political power and to craft a public persona. As patrons, the Medici were unmatched. They sponsored numerous public and private works, cementing their image as benevolent benefactors and guardians of Florence’s cultural patrimony.

David stands naturally, in relaxed contrapposto, his foot resting on the severed head of Goliath with the enormous sword supporting him like a staff. Donatello departed from current convention and sculpted David nude, like a young Eros instead of a Christian hero. His extreme youth correlates to the biblical story but departs from classical forms of heroism of a more muscled, less sensuous body.

The classically inspired nudity theoretically alludes to David’s refusal to wear armor.

By adopting and displaying such a popular civic symbol, the Medici identified themselves with the city of Florence, which they indirectly sought to rule. By identifying with the young David, they cast themselves as patriots with their fellow citizens to defend the independence of the city. This is echoed in an inscription on the base of the statue:

“The victor is whoever defends the fatherland. God crushes the wrath of an enormous foe. Behold! A boy overcame a great tyrant. Conquer, o citizens!”

Humanism

An interest is humanism developed that included:

  • A world view focused on humans.
  • To perfect individuals, study of past models of civic and personal virtue were taught.
  • Values emphasized personal effort and responsibility.
  • A physically or intellectually active life was directed at a common good, as well as individual nobility.
  • An exploration of lands beyond Europe resulted in interests in science, trading, and arts.

The classical cultures of Greece and Rome provided Humanists with a human-centered model for living derived from reason.

Humanism is a philosophy and a cultural movement that downplayed religious doctrine and emphasized education, expanding knowledge, the exploration of individual potential, moral duty, and commitment to civic responsibility.

Humanists emulated Roman civic virtues:

  • self-sacrificing service to the state
  • participation in government
  • defense of state institutions

The reward for civic virtue was fame, and heroes of the past were edified in a manner previously reserved for saints.

Renaissance — Realism

The Tribute Money is a continuous narrative fresco depicting the Biblical story of the coin in the mouth of the fish. This exemplifies the changing characteristics of art and architecture between the medieval era and the Renaissance.

The Tribute Money. Masaccio. Brancacci Chapel, Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Florence, Italy. ca. 1425–1427 C.E. Fresco.

The highlighting of a virtuous act, figural and landscape realism, and use of linear perspective all underscore the impact of Renaissance ideas and departure from medieval characteristics.

Left: Jesus instructs Peter to look in the mouth of a fish for a gold coin. This was one of Christ’s miracles.

Center: Peter is instructed to pay the temple tax.

Right: Peter uses this coin to pay the tax collector.

Background

Realistic hills, water, and trees are visible in The Tribute Money, along with classical architecture, such as columns and high arches, instead of the gold or other flat-colored backgrounds common in medieval representation. The distant mountains and trees exemplify Masaccio’s use of linear perspective.

Human Figures

The human figures are fully clothed, but their realistic musculature is evident beneath their cloaks. Their facial expressions and repeated gestures, along with the continuous narrative, support the story-telling aspect of the painting. The bright colors of their cloaks dominate the composition against the cool, receding blue and white background.

San Lorenzo—Use of Math

Marking the start of the extensive patronage of the Medici family, the Church of San Lorenzo, which replaced an 11th century C.E. basilica, recalls early Christian buildings in Rome with its coffered flat ceiling, the balanced arrangement of arches, and the uninterrupted wall between the arches and clerestory windows.

Exterior of the Church of San Lorenzo. Filippo Brunelleschi, continued by
Michelozzo di Bartolomeo. 1421–1470 C.E. Florence.

In contrast, the Classical influence is reflected in a rational, balanced, and calm geometric simplicity. Brunelleschi, the architect, completed plans for the church between 1421 and 1428 C.E. but died before the building was finished. Michelozzo, another architect, supervised the completion of the interior. The façade was never built.

Renaissance Italians considered geometric proportions as reflections of God’s divine order, seen in the mathematically arranged floor plan.

Brunelleschi studied and measured the remains of ancient architecture, such as the Roman Pantheon. This, coupled with Brunelleschi’s broad knowledge of mathematics and engineering, informed his distinct, classicizing style, which emphasizes simple, clean lines, geometric forms, and harmonious proportions. There are square bays in the side aisles leading to rectangular chapels. The nave is two modules wide; the crossing, sanctuary, and each arm of the transept are perfect squares—two modules by two modules. The distance between columns is equal to their height and twice the radius of the arches, giving the idea of perfect proportions and harmony.

Brunelleschi, He Had a Plan

The floor plan of the Church of San Lorenzo is similar to the Chartres Cathedral. However, it has a pendentive cupola, or dome, where the nave and transept intersect. The dome is separated into twelve equal sections surrounding the oculus. Brunelleschi’s cupola design involved an octagonal drum that supported a ribbed, pointed dome, rather than a hemispherical one.

Floorplan of the Church of San Lorenzo. Renaissance

The taller, narrower, and pointed dome would create less outward thrust, like the pointed arches and vaults of Gothic cathedrals. The dome’s octagonal shape allowed the addition of eight stabilizing ribs, again like Gothic vaults.

Gothic

Chartres Cathedral plan

Brunelleschi used a similar cupola in the Pazzi Chapel in an effort to impart a centralized effect, a reflection of the Classical influence from buildings like the Pantheon.

Brunelleschi used a two-color scheme of pietra serena and white stucco to articulate the building’s modular structure. Flattened architectural forms, including pilasters and cornices, in pietra serena repeat the arcade on the outer walls of the side aisle, further reinforcing the design’s basic patterns and structures and evidence of Classical influence.

Nave of the Church of San Lorenzo. Filippo Brunelleschi, continued by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo. 1421–1470 C.E. Florence

Illusion of Naturalism—Italian Style

In the 14th century, there was an emerging naturalism and humanism in art and architecture. The classification of this time is debated. It can be considered the late Medieval era or the early Renaissance.

Gradual Shift Towards Naturalism and Humanism

The artists in the Renaissance didn’t have a meeting and decide that they were going to change things and bring back antiquity. The change happened slowly as naturalist and humanist influence spread, causing an overlap of medieval and Renaissance characteristics. This resulted in Renaissance-inspired artists emerging at different times in different geographical regions, beginning in Italy. As they are studied, they are classified by their stylistic characteristics and subject matter.

Giotto

The humanized narrative and careful spatial construction of Giotto’s Lamentation represent early Italian Renaissance style. The sorrowful scene of the Lamentation has a realistic, natural background. A tree at the summit of the rocky outcropping is dry and leafless, as if nature is mimicking the sorrow and the lifeless state of Jesus.

Lamentation
© Scala/Art Resource, NY

The diagonal ledge guides the eye downward from the upper right of the panel to the emotional focal point: Mary holding Jesus in her arms, just as she did when he was an infant. As Mary cradles Jesus and looks into his face, the viewer can empathize with the very human experience of loss and the love of a mother for her son.

The rocky ledge creates spatial depth, as if the figures are gathered before a theatrical backdrop on a shallow stage. Closer to the foreground, two anonymous figures are depicted from the back, suggesting that space extends beyond the fresco to invite and involve the viewer in the artwork, further humanizing the narrative and urging emotional involvement. Similar figural and spatial naturalism is found in Masaccio’s The Tribute Money.

Lippi

Lippi’s use of perspective, natural backgrounds, and somber colors reflects Masaccio’s influence. Lippi’s work is characterized by a delicacy and realism reflective of humanist thought. He painted Mary, who was a popular theme at this time, many times, and his attention to informal details resulted in a decorative and psychologically intriguing style.

Lippi’s Madonna with Child and Angels is typical of his later work. The engaging composition presents strikingly human presentations of Mary, Jesus, and angels, one of whom engages the viewer with a playful glance.

The detailed drapery and halos recall Gothic art, but a landscape replaces a plain, icon-inspired background. Sky and fragmented hills are framed as though appearing through a window, adding a sense of perspective without the use of geometric columns.

Of the figures in the painting, Mary is the most realistic and lifelike, characterizing her role as intercessor for humanity. Her three-dimensionality is accentuated by the three-quarters view of her face. This realism and attention to naturalistic figures and setting were part of a growing trend to humanize Biblical figures to make them more lifelike.

Botticelli

A favored painter for the Medici family and a student of Lippi, Botticelli painted the Adoration of the Magi for Guaspare del Lama, the Medici family’s lawyer, to be the altarpiece for a funeral chapel in Santa Maria, Novella. The painting includes representations of the Medici family depicted as Magi.

Adoration of the Magi. Sandro Botticelli. Florence, Italy. 1475 C.E. Paint on canvas.

The naturalism in the figures and landscape and linear style similar to Lippi and the use of perspective are evidence of Renaissance influence. However, in his painting the Birth of Venus, he strays from this representation and focuses on the symbolic and allegoric aspects of Venus.

Birth of Venus
© Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

In the Birth of Venus, the subject, a Greek goddess, stands nude in a half-shell. The impression here is chaste and alluring, reminiscent of medieval tales of courtly love, in which there was no sex between the lovers, only admiration from a distance.

Although he studied under Lippi, the Birth of Venus lacks the intense geometry of Botticelli’s teacher. In contrast with the specific emotional expressions strived for by artists such as Masaccio, Venus’s ambiguous expression has been characterized as everything from inviting to serene.

Botticelli did not characterize Renaissance ideals of perfection in perspective or proportion. Venus’s neck is overlong, her shoulders decline steeply, and her left arm is awkwardly arranged. The intent is not physical perfection, but physical emotion.

Pietro Perugino

Under Pope Nicholas V, the church emerged as a major patron of the arts and re-established Rome as a center of the arts. Future popes, like Sixtus IV, made use of the many craftsmen flocking to the revived city. Perugino was invited by Pope Sixtus IV to decorate the Sistine Chapel. Only three of Perugino’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel survive.

In the Delivery of the Keys, Christ and Peter stand in the foreground between a frieze-like display of Apostles and figures contemporary to Perugino. A golden key, pointing toward Christ, is the key to heaven, while a lead key, pointing downward, is the key to hell. The figures here are graceful, elegant, and highly idealized in form and posture. Peter is the first pope; by showing Christ giving him the keys, this painting suggests the legitimacy of papal rule.

The Delivery of the Keys. Pietro Perugino. Sistine Chapel, Vatican. 1481–1482 C.E. Fresco.

This composition represents the artist’s attention to symmetry and linear perspective. The frescoes are painted at eye level, meant to make viewers feel as though they are a part of the narrative, similar to Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The calm, carefully rendered figures are almost secondary to the powerful geometry of the paved square and monumental architecture.

Renaissance Artistic Innovations

Powerful ruling families became innovative patrons. This encouraged competition in the arts and it flourished. In Italian, quattrocento means 400 and is the shortened form of 1400 that refers to the 15 th century. This was a time of new enthusiasm of the work from ancient Greece and Rome that artists brought to their paintings, sculpture, and architecture. Italian artists of this time moved away from illuminated manuscripts to painting on panels or large-scale fresco painting.Florence was the main centre for early Renaissance art, so the term quattrocento is used as a general term to describe all early Renaissance art.
Florence Cathedral, Campanile, and Baptistery

Florence Cathedral, Campanile, and Baptistery

Florence Cathedral, Campanile, and Baptistery

Andrea Pisano. South Doors of Baptistery of Florence. 1330-1335.

Filippo Brunelleschi. Sacrifice of Isaac. Baptistery of Florence. 1401-1402. Gilded bronze relief. Close Up

Painting

Attention to the human form became a focus with a return of classical male nudity and contrapposto. All figures were firmly constructed, regal and graceful. Profile pose remains customary in Florence until about 1470.The discovery of linear perspective created the illusion of 3D space. Artists had a rational order and logical relation among figures and objects. A balanced, symmetrical compositions, often pyramidal was achieved.

Chiaroscuro, using the contrast of light and shadows was used to model forms. Additionally, the use of single light source provided greater realism.There was an increasing demand for devotional images for private chapels and shrines. This contributed to increasing secularization of traditional subject matter, as well as many frescos. While the first half of this period was dominated by religious scenes, the second half was devoted to portraits and mythology.

Sculpture

For sculptural works, there was a return of large-scale statuary—the type that had not been seen since Ancient Rome. Great attention was paid to the male form and contrapposto.

Architecture

Classical forms were now incorporated into architecture, through triumphal arches, domes, coffers, and harmonious geometric relationships. Building were based on harmony and proportion. Roman portrait busts were being found and preserved in greater numbers.

(3) 69. David. Donatello. Italian. 1440-1460. 15 th century. Italian Renaissance.

David
© Scala/Art Resource, NY

Learning Objective : 15 th century. Southern Italian sculptureThemes:Ideal man
Biblical
Politics
Power
Propaganda
Revival of tradition
Materials with significance
Sexuality
Appropriation
Civic
Public
Private

Museum: Bargello in Florence, Italy

David, a work by artist Donatello, is a nude, sculpture-in-the-round, made of bronze, in a revival of classical techniques. Lost-wax casting was used to create this hollow sculpture.The work depicts an ideal form of a man and it is almost life sized at 5 feet 3 inched tall. Smoothness achieved on the skin helps create a sense of suppleness and eroticism. Contrapposto gives it a sense of movement.

The Function of Donatello’s David The Medici family commission the work for the was to be housed in the Medici Palace. Both were interested in a revival of the classics. Yet, it isn’t apparent which member of the family requested the sculpture.The work was mot for public viewing. It could however, be viewed from the street through the opening gate to the Medici courtyard and home. This biblical subject was used to achieve political motives of the Medici.

The Battle Between Florence and Milan

In 1428, there was a great battle between Florence, a mercantile republic, and Milan, a military autocracy. The Florentines were not expected to win, but they did. As the underdogs, they claimed God was on their side.While Florence might have been a republic in name, the Medici clan actually ruled Florence. They placed multiple family members and allies in governmental positions. while ruling the city corruptly.Henceforth, the Medici family began to affiliate themselves with the biblical figure David. In the Bible, David is a king, with a long rule, who is enormously wise. The symbolism was David represented Florence, which equalled the Medici family. In opposition, Goliath was Milan and the Duke.

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Appropriation

Florence ousts the Medici and uses the same political metaphor against them. Once the Medici clan was exiled, Florence, city officials took the statue of David and moved it to the city hall.The family were absent between 1494-1512. After, when they returned to retake the city, they did not pretend to be a republic anymore. They became an autocracy.

The Story of David

In the Old Testament David, is a young Hebrew shepherd, who slayed Goliath, with a simple sling shot. He was the only one brave enough. David knew he could do it, with God’s help.Donatello picked that moment in the story to portray his triumphant David. The emphasis is not on bravery, but rather on success.

  • David’s stance is nonchalant, jaunty, and assured though his head is lowered to suggest humility.
  • Right hand: holds Goliath’s own sword–notches have been nicked out of it from many battles and it is rough bronze.
  • Left hand: holds a rock used to slay Goliath
  • David stands on Goliath’s decapitated head as a sign of total supremacy.
  • David wears a soft hat, rather than a helmet like we might expect, and boots.
Why is David Nude?

Many have asked this question. Surely, David was not nude when he defeated Goliath. This is Heroic nudity in art. It implies morality, truth, and virtue. David is not considered a “true nude” however. He still wears a hat and boots!Does this nudity also lead to some eroticism? Are there homoerotic overtones? Or is this depiction of an adolescent just typical for the time?David is something of an androgynous figure. David’s body is that of an adolescent – not really a boy but certainly not a man yet. There is a softness, and an emphasis on the curvature of his body. The delicacy of his hat emphasizes an effeminate nature about him. The feather from Goliath’s helmet actually runs up David’s leg to touch his buttocks.

The Sculpture in Context

This work was created as a result of the classical revival’s interest in humanism.For 1,000 years, since the fall of Rome, the Christians had looked at the soul, as the focus of what art should be about. The body was seen as a source of sin and it was not to be celebrated. This was the source of original sin. Think Adam and Eve in Garden of Eden.Returning to the ancient Greek and Roman love and respect for the body was now viewed as radical. This was the first life sized, freestanding, bronze, nude sculpture since antiquity.

About Donatello

Florentine artist, Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi,(1386-1466) known as Donatello, was a master in sculpture using both marble and bronze. Donatello is best known for David, but other famous works include Equestrian Statue of Gattamelate, Penitent Magdalene, and Saint George.

(3) 67. Pazzi Chapel.

Filippo Brunelleschi. Italian. 1429-1461. Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy. 15th c. Italian Renaissance.

Pazzi Chapel
© Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Learning Objective: 15 th century. Southern churchThemes:Place of worship
Religion
Architecture
Status
Funerary
Appropriation
Revival of tradition

The Pazzi Chapel , in Florence, Italy, a work of masonry, was designed by architect Filippo Brunelleschi, and constructed after his death. This chapel is off the cloister that is attached to the Basilica of Santa Croce. This architecture of Pazzi Chapel symbolizes a huge departure and contrast from the Gothic style. It utilizes a classical revivalist style based on what the Greeks believed to be the perfect shape–a circle.Based on the Pantheon, the architecture utilizes a dome as the central architectural principle and exterior that hides the dome.

The Exterior

The outside of the structure uses a classical vocabulary with rounded arches, fluted columns with Corinthian capitals, and a semicircular dome. The front is based on Roman triumphed arch.The portico, with a small dome overhead, has six Corinthian columns. The portico dome is decorated with the coat of arms of the Pazzi Family, which features two dolphins.

The Interior

Pazzi Chapel © Scala/Art Resource, NY

The layout is rectangular with a central square room. Here, there is a dome with 12 ribs, that rests on pendentives. An oculus in the center of the dome, as well as windows along the perimeter, let the light through.

Dome Interior

Window

Stone benches run along the length of the walls. Architectural elements are clearly defined with the use of pietra serena, a gray stone. Terracotta roundels, or decorative plates made by atists Luca della Robbia depict the Four EvangelistsFunctionThis chapel was provided by the Pazzi family to atone for their sins and do good work, in the eyes of the Church. It was originally used as a chapter house, or meeting room for monks for private discussions and prayer. The Pazzi family also used it as a funerary chapel.

A Chapel of Perfect Mathematical Harmony

Although the interior appears plain, the beauty of the chapel is in the mathematical harmony. This was believed to be to be proof of the perfection of God and the Heavens.

The Notorious Pazzi Family

This chapel was commissioned by Andrea Pazzi, head of a wealthy banking family, in 1429, as a house for monks. The violence between the Pazzis and Medicis was so disruptive that it halted the project. The Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478 resulted in the family being exiled from Florence.

About the Architect

Florentine Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) spent time in Rome learning about ancient buildings. The Pantheon epitomized Brunelleschi’s style. Geometric form, both inside and out was the most distinctive feature of his architecture. A prime example of his work is the Florence Cathedral.A Renaissance man, Brunelleschi combined architecture, with work in sculpture, mathematics, engineering, and ship design.Brunelleschi worked on Pazzi Chapel starting in 1429, until his death in 1446. His workers continued it afterwards, but the project was never fully finished.

(3) 70. Palazzo Rucellai

Leon Battista Alberti. Italian. 1450 CE. Florence, Italy. 15 th century. Italian Renaissance.

Palazzo Rucellai
© Scala/Art Resource, NY

Learning Objective: 15 th century. Southern domestic space

Themes:

Domestic
Architecture
Private
Status
Appropriation
Revival of tradition
Commercial

The Colosseum is the inspiration for the stone and masonry façade of Palazzo Rucellai, in Florence, Italy, by architect Leon Battista Alberti.

Both use tripartite division of exterior and architectural features for decorative purposes, rather than structural support. The order of columns changes from least decorative to most decorative, or heaviest to lightest.There is a tripartite façade on three stories.

Each floor decreases in actual height and perceived “weight” as it goes. With a clear progression from floor to floor, there is a classical sense of proportion. Stringcourses divide the floor with long horizontal molding.The first floor is heavily rusticated to express the fortitude of the family. It uses the Tuscan order in its pilasters, with larger stones that are harder edged and square.

Firts Floor

The second floor rises in lightness, by moving to Composite pilasters of Ionic and Corinthian and rounded arches.

Second Floor

The third floor is the shortest, with less articulation. It uses Corinthian order in its pilasters and smaller stones used. Heavy cornice caps the roof.The palazzo was created by using eight existing houses that were gutted and unified on the façade.

Why was the Palazzo Created ?

This was built to be a private home for the wealthy Florentine merchants the Rucellai family. This was a display of status, wealth, and power. It symbolises a Renaissance desire for rationality, order, and classicism.Frieze carvings contained billowing sails which were the symbol of the Ruccelai.

The family wanted to base the building on ancient Rome architecture and Colosseum, The family felt a connection to Rome and desired to have their family members reach the ranks of cardinals and even Popes.

Inside the Florentine PalazzoThe first floor was where business was conducted. On the second floor the family received guests. The third floor was used for private rooms for the family. The fourth floor was hidden from the exterior and housed the servants.

About Alberti

Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) was an Italian author, artist, architect, poet, philosopher, and humanist. As was the first Italian architect to study Roman architecture in depth, he travelled to Rome, where the Colosseum had a great influence on his work.

Alberti wrote De Re Aedificatoria, containing his thoughts on ideal architecture. He developed his style, by adding classical elements to contemporary buildings and advocated a system of ideal proportions. A point of argument for Alberti was that the arch and column commonly used in Gothic churches, was incongruous.

(3) 71. Madonna and Child with Two Angels.

Fra Filippo Lippo. Italian. 1465 CE. 15th century Italian Renaissance.

Madonna and Child with Two Angels
© Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Learning Objective: 15 th century Southern religious painting

Themes:

Ideal woman
Family
Biblical
Religion
Devotional object

Museum: Uffizi

This work by Fra Filippo Lippo was created using tempera, a mix of pigment and egg yolk, on wood panel, measuring 3 feet 2 inches by 2 feet and 2 inches.

The “Fra” part of the artist’s name means “monk”. And indeed, he was one! Renaissance paintings were referred to as “windows into the world”. Not only is that supposed to refer to the illusionism and representation of the painting, but Lippi used a windowsill and window frame to show us that idea.The Byzantine/Gothic elongations of the hands, face and body have been replaced with a solidarity of form, but with an emphasizes her delicacy and prettiness.

Lippi is known for his delicate swirls of transparent fabric, with an emphasis on lines and curves. He uses chiaroscuro the gradual contrast between light and dark to show roundness and a sense of volume.The landscape is realistic using atmospheric perspective, shows the natural blurring of blue gray tones that occurs when our eye moves back into space.

Who Commissioned This Work?

Lippi’s major patrons were the wealthy Medici banking family, yet no one knows for sure if they commissioned it. Historians know that it was used to guide worship and payer, and as a sign the display the piety of the owner.

The Human Side of Religion

The scene was a popular type in the Italian Renaissance, as it helped to humanize religion. It reminds the viewer that Mary was a normal mother and Christ her beloved son.

Content

Mary’s hands are devoutly clasped in prayer. Her youth and beauty are evident, with her hair elegantly embellished with pearls and a veil. There is just a glint of a halo. Yet, she seems a little sombre and Christians believed this was her foreshadowing about what would happen to her son.

Playful, childlike angles stand around. Christ appears like a naturalistic, normal baby. Gone are the Gothic like depiction of him as an old-man baby.The backdrop is a seashore, with rocks and land indicating the safe haven of the church. The city is meant to be Heavenly Jerusalem. Mary was referred to as the “port of salvation.”

Renaissance Philosophies

During the Renaissance, the classics were revived along with the three classical philosophies: Idealism, Humanism, Rationalism. All three are depicted in this work.

Idealism: Mary is depicted in her idealized youth.

Humanism: Mary and Christ are depicted as in a family portrait.

Rationalism: Mary and Christ are calm; they do not exhibit emotion; they are restrained

The Story of the PainterFra Filippo Lippi, although a monk, had a seedy side to his nature. Vasari, the first art historian and 16 th century Renaissance painter, wrote about Lippi in his book Lives of Artists.

It is said that Fra Filippo was so lustful that, he would give anything to enjoy a woman he wanted it he thought he could have his way. If he couldn’t buy what he wanted, then he would cool his passion by painting her portrait. His lust was so violent that when it took hold of him, he could never concentrate on his work. Because of this, when he was doing something for Cosimo de’ Medici, his main patron, Cosimo had to have Lippi locked in so he wouldn’t wander off.

One time, after Lippi had been confined for a few days, Fra Filippo’s amorous, or rather animal, instincts, drove him one night to seize a pair of scissors, make a rope from his own bedsheets and escape through a window to pursue his pleasures for days on end!

Vassari continues he story by saying that at a certain point Cosimo just had to give in and learn to treat the painter with respect. The prevailing attitude was that art was created by a skilled worker. Cosimo learned that the artist had to be inspired to create.And Lippi continued to be inspired.

He painted an alter piece for the nuns of St Margherita in Prato.There, he saw a beautiful nun named Lucrezia Buti. He abducted Lucrezia and kept her in his house, despite the nuns’ attempts to get her back.

Lucrezia inspired the images of his female figures, with her pale alabaster soft skin and strawberry blonde hair. The image of Mary in Madonna and Child with Two Angels is based on her.

About the Artist

Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-1496) was born in Florence. In 1420, he was registered to the Community of Carmelite friars of the Carmine in Florence. He took his vows at age 16. The prior noting that the teen loved to draw in his notebooks, allowed him to learn to paint. Soon after, the budding artist tried to quit the order, but the request was denied. He was appointed to work for a convent and then a rectory.

He continued to paint, but it is rumored that the money he received was spent on women. It is also rumored that Lucrezia Buti bore him a son. The son was named Fillippino Lippi. While he too would become a famous painter, who his mother may have been was never certain.

Filippo Lippi died while working on the frescos in the asp of Spoleto Cathedral. Fillippino completed his father’s work.

(3) 72. Birth of VenusSandro Botticelli. Italian.

1484-1486. 15 th century. Italian Renaissance.

Birth of Venus
© Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Learning Objective: 15 th century. Southern secular painting

Themes:

Status
Revival
Ideal woman
Female Nude
Philosophy
Appropriation

Museum: Uffizi in Florence

Sandro Botticelli’s masterpiece Birth of Venus, is painted with tempura on canvass and measures 5 feet 6 inches by 9 feet. It is based on the classical sculptures of Venus.

The Medici family owned the sculpture Modest Venus, so the artist was able to study it. Fine modelling or chiaroscuro and the white flesh color add to the sculptural appearance of Venus. The contrapposto positioning adds to the grace.

A Closer Look at the Birth of Venus

The classical subject matter shows Venus, the goddess of love, being born, as a fully formed woman and physically perfect. Hesiod, a classical poet, said Venus was conceived when Chronos castrated his father, Uranus, whose severed organs fertilized the sea foam.

The goddess is depicted on a shell, the sign of Venus. Pink roses are scattered before her. The classics say roses were created at same time as Venus, indicating love is beautiful, but can be painful.

Venus is then blown towards the shore of Cyprus, by Zephyrus, the god of the wind. His cheeks are puffed out. Entwined around him is a nymph, either Chloris or Aura. At the shores waits Flora, the goddess of Spring or a handmaiden.

Venus has a faraway look in her eyes, as if not bothered by mortal concerns. She exhibits Renaissance philosophies: Idealism, Humanism, Rationalism.Classical with a twist.

Botticelli’s Venus is based on the Modest Venus pose that was particularly popular in the classical Greek era. This pose involves Venus covering up her breasts and hips.

Botticelli would have seen these sculptures through his patrons, the Medici, who owned a number of classical sculptures of Venus. Despite being based on classical sculptures of Venus, Botticelli’s version has unusual dimensions.

She has elongated portions in her neck, left arm, and torso. Her serpentine pose is gravitationally impossible, The figures around her float, without anchor to the ground. In fact, they do not give of shadows.

The landscape is flat. The waves are v shaped. There is a great emphasis on pattern, from the flowers free floating in the air to the left, to the flowered fabric to the right. The seashell gives a patterned look of light and dark stripes. This reminds the viewer that it is a two-dimensional work.

Botticelli uses the technique of pushing figures forward onto a parallel plane to the picture plane, with a background behind them. This is based on ancient Greek vase painting where figures are isolated from the background. The artist emphasizes a graceful curving linearity, rather than a calm rational sense of space. Notice the delicate, twisting, curling lines.

Botticelli mixed expensive alabaster powder into the pigment to make the colors brighter. The artist also added exquisite gold leaf into Venus’ hair.

Canvas Versus Wood

The Birth of Venus is one of the first paintings ever to be painted on canvas. Using canvas was cheaper than wood, which allowed for much larger paintings. Canvas also withstands humidity well. Whereas wood can warp. The one drawback was that canvas was considered informal, so it was only used for non-official works. Yet, the mediums used to create this work are of a superior quality.

Function

No documentation associated with the painting has been found. Vasari does mention this as a Medici painting in his book. It was painted for Lorenzo de’ Medici, the powerful head of the Medici clan, at the time.

Historians think that the inspiration for Venice was Lorenzo’s mistress Simonetta Cattaneo. She was also the mistress of his brother Giulio de’ Medici!

Both Lorenzo and Botticelli were interested in the revival of ancient myths. This work was unusual at the time, because not is the almost life-sized and nude, she is not portrayed in a biblical context. Some scholars think it was placed in a bedroom, due to its sexual nature.

A Christian Interpretation

After Savonarola’s death, when a new level of religiosity spread through Florence, a Christian interpretation of this painting emerged. This made the work more acceptable at the time. Some ideas included:

  • Nudity of Venus echoes that of Eve in Garden of Eden.
  • Venus was interpreted as a personification of the Church
  • One of Mary’s nicknames is “stella maris” – star of the sea
  • The sea gives birth to Venus just as Mary gives birth to Christ
Philosophy Based on Platonism

Platonism was a popular philosophy in Renaissance times. It stated that the contemplation of physical beauty enabled the human mind to comprehend spiritual beauty. It justified the serious study of classical nudity, or any nudity, as a way to understand God’s capacity to create beauty and perfection. Historians consider this an excuse to study nude woman. woman.

Capturing the Look

Botticelli’s painted women tend to have a certain look to them: light strawberry blonde women with fair alabaster skin. Sound familiar? Lippi was Botticelli’s teacher, so Botticelli learned from his master’s examples.

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15 th Century Northern Renaissance

Theme for 15 th Century Northern Renaissance:“Extreme Realism”

Artists of this period created works that are renowned for their incredible and extremely high level of realism. Artists could achieve this detail given that they began to work with oil paint, instead of the flaky and dull tempera paint common in the south of Europe.

Historical Context (1325-1500 CE)

The regions during the Northern Renaissance period included:

France (Burgundian)
Flanders (Belgium)
Holland
Germany
England

Much of Northern Europe grew increasingly wealthy and mercantile during this period. This inspired cultural growth. Cities continued to compete regarding churches, altarpieces, and town halls.

Map of Europe Around 1400

Illusion of Naturalism–Northern Style

The governments in northern Europe continued to move toward centralized royal governments in the 15th century, but the paralleled decline of feudalism brought social disorder. A new economic system emerged, and in response to the financial requirements of trade, new credit and exchange systems created an economic network of resourceful European cities.

Art of Northern Europe in the 15th century is known for its unprecedented attention to detail, and it thrived under royal, ducal, church, and private patronage. Printmaking emerged as a major art form, and oil-based pigment became the leading medium for painting.

Separate symbols blended to form a grand narrative in art, and there was continued Humanistic movement toward more realistic figures placed in naturalistic settings. Light, shadow, and reflection were commonly used along with surface realism.

The Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece), a triptych commissioned by the Ingelbrechts family, was not meant for public display. Authorship of this retable is unknown. Because the piece is unsigned, scholars attribute the work to Robert Campin, an early master artist from Tournai, Belgium.

Unique features of the petite sized Merode Altarpiece are in the depiction of interior space and the inclusion of daily life with Christian evangelism.

Each of the three panels portrays an intimate setting surrounded by everyday details. Typical of northern European art, the details are created with as much attention as the overall focus. The lines and wrinkles in the figure’s faces, along with the extreme details in the building elements, like the bricks and wood grain, are evidence of the surface realism. This contrasts with the three-dimensional realism used in Italian Renaissance works like the Delivery of the Keys.

Northern Symbolism

Mystery surrounds the intention of the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck—is it the engagement, the actual wedding, a ceremony after the wedding, or a memorial? The man and his wife are bourgeoisie, not royalty. The man, believed to be Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini, was a merchant from Lucca, Italy, who lived in Bruges, Belgium.

Their financial means is represented in their fur-lined clothes and nicely furnished bedroom. Holding her dress high, the wife gives the coy illusion of being pregnant. This is reiterated through the green color of the dress; the color is associated with fertility and symbolizes the couple’s hope that they will have children. The illusion of surface realism is seen in the folds and textures of the fabric, the wood grain, and the hair on the dog.

The Arnolfini Portrait presents a world that is both realistic and symbolic.

Engravings

Engraving is the process of cutting a metal surface to produce decoration, different from the intaglio technique known as etching because acid is not used to remove the metal from the plate. The plates were covered in ink and wiped so that the ink only remained within the carved recesses. The plate was then pressed onto paper using a press, which transferred a mirror image of the engraving. Printmakers did not have to follow the orders of a patron; decisions were determined by which images would sell. Engravings provided lightweight, relatively inexpensive devotional images.

A devout Christian, Albrecht Dürer was influenced by his religious beliefs and the philosophy of Humanism. This outlook led him to combine the empirical study of nature with the mathematical relationships that expressed harmony and the ideal proportions expounded by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius and the Renaissance Italian artists who emulated him, such as Leonardo. Dürer ceased production of paintings and woodcuts in 1514 C.E. During this time, he created 13 engravings, including Adam and Eve.

The figures are examples of the arithmetic ratio-based Vitruvian theory of human proportions. The figures stand in balanced contrapposto poses like classical statues, which Dürer was exposed to through graphic representations. Adam and Eve represent Dürer’s concept of the “perfect” male and female figures.

The symbolic representations in the engraving are like those in Northern art. The tension between the cat and mouse in the foreground represents the strain between Adam and Eve when Eve persuades him to eat the apple. The animals represent humanity’s temperaments from medieval physiology: choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic.

Artistic Innovations

The International Gothic Style remained dominant. There was a humanization of religious subject matter.The art of painting was dominated by guilds. Painters used horizontal lines and rich though disguised symbolism.

The paint that gained prominence among artists was oil paint, that started to be used in the late middle ages. It could imitate textures far better than fresco or tempera. Glazes in thin layers helped create a depth of colour. Every object in the scene was given clarity and light.

Print making included printing and engraving. Within sculpture complete independence of form was not yet achieved.

Architecture was inspired by flamboyant Gothic church architecture, as secular buildings took on a new look.

(3) 66. Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece).

Workshop of Robert Campin. Flemish. 1427-1432. 15 th century. Northern Renaissance.

Annunciation Triptych
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Image Source © Art Resource, NY

Learning Objective: 15 th century Northern altarpiece

Themes:

Biblical
Devotional object
Iconography
Status
Human and divine
Ideal woman
Private
Water

Museum: Metropolitan Museum (Cloisters)

Artists often worked in workshops, with assistants and apprentices. This work has been attributed to the Tournai workshop of Robert Campin. He had two assistants: Rogier van der Weyden and Jacques Daret.

The Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece). The three-paneled work of oil on oak wood has two wings that fold in to cover the main panel. It measures 25 by 46 feet.

The Work Exhibits Northern Ren Characteristics:
  • Meticulous handling of paint due to intricacy of oil work application
  • Oil paint allowing for new reflective surfaces of linseed oil and pigment
  • Annunciation in an everyday Flemish interior
  • No halos to humanize the images
  • Gothic elongation/stylization and illogical spaces remained popular in the North
Symbolism and Iconography

Religious messages were embedded in disguised symbolism and iconography

  • Disguised symbolism: common place objects full of religious significance, requiring an iconographic reading of the artwork.
  • Iconography: Identification and interpretation of symbols or objects within an image.
A Closer Look at the Triptych

The Center Panel

The center panel shows Northern Ren characteristics.

The angel Gabriel has just entered the Virgin Mary’s home and is about to announce that she will be the mother of Jesus. Mary is still unaware of the angel’s presence. She is seated on the floor, indicated that she is humble. Above her are beamed ceiling. There is a second story to this home showing great wealth.

Disguised Symbolism in the Center Panel

  • Towels and water are a symbol of cleanliness. Think baptism, Mary’s cleanliness, purity and Jewish prayer cloth.
  • Flowers are white lilies, called the Madonna Lillies, symbolizing Mary’s purity
  • Three buds are a symbol of Trinity
  • Unopened bud, opened bud, dying bud.
  • Mary holds the bible in a cloth, like her body holding the Christ child/piety.
  • Scroll and book on table symbolize the Old and New Testament with a supremacy of New vs Old.
  • Lion finials on the benches symbolizes the king of animals like Christ is king of men.
  • There are 16 sides to the table, reference to 16 main Hebrew prophets.
  • The table is supposed to be an altar. Angel Gabriel wears the clothing of a deacon.
  • Mary blocks the entrance of fireplace, commonly thought of as the way the devil enters.
  • Folds of Mary’s cloth form a star. Mary was queen of Heaven.
  • A candlestick. The flame is typically symbol of God’s presence. A candle going out is foreshadowing Christ’s crucifixion.
  • The sun shines through the oculus window bringing a cross. Christ enters with out breaking glass as in the divine conception.
  • Christ heads straight towards the white lilies symbolized Mary’s purity.
  • Christ heads toward her ear. This symbolizes the word of God, spoken by Angel Gabriel, that was heard by Mary was the way she became pregnant.
The Right Panel

Joseph in his carpentry workshop. The cult of St. Joseph was becoming increasingly popular, as he was loving father and head of holy family. The mousetrap is a common symbol of capturing the devil.

The Left Panel

The left panel is the donor panel. It shows the patrons kneeling before the holy scene, with a messenger in the background. The messenger is carrying an important letter to the family.

The donor is believed to be Engelbrecht of Mechelen, a burgher, or city councilman. The status and piety of both he and his wife is evident. The wife is wearing a dress with an excess of fabric in the sleeves. This is fashionable, but not necessary, showing a sign of wealth. She holds prayer beads and looks down in humility. He takes his hat off as a sign of respect. The couple are witnessing the Annunciations. The viewer is expected to think these two people are pious even to bear witness to this important religious event.

What was the Function of the Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece)?

This piece was commissioned as a private piece that could be portable. The altarpiece was meant to encourage piety. Given it is an Annunciation scene, this was likely meant to parallel this couple’s own hopes for a child.The work was also a sign of status. The new middle class wanted to buy art to decorate their homes.

The Background Story

This altarpiece was executed in phases. It is thought that the central panel was probably not commissioned. Artists often created them, know that they would sell.The male donor, Engelbrecht of Mechelen ordered the wings. After getting married Engelbrecht’s wife and the messenger were added in. The windows of the central panel were originally gold but were then painted with a blue sky and the shields were added.

(3) 68. Arnolfini Portrait

Jan Van Eyck. Flemish. 1434. 15 th century. Northern Renaissance.

The Arnolfini Portrait
© National Gallery, London, UK/The Bridgeman Art Library

Learning Objective: 15 th century Northern portrait

Themes:

Male-female relationships
Iconography
Status
Oaths
Commemoration
Portrait
Changing interpretations

Museum: National Gallery in London

Arnolfini Portrait is an oil on wood painting measuring 2 feet by 8 inches and 2 feet is attributed to Jan Van Eyck.

Oil paint is rich and takes a long time to dry. This allows artists to work to create very small and minute details. Artists can work in wet-in-wet, which means that wet layers of paint are applied to still wet layers of paint. This allowed Van Eyck to make glazes and to blend color.

Each layer is thin and translucent. Classical model for bodies have not been used in this work. Gothic style remained in the North during this time frame. Notice the thin elongation of the woman and in particular her hands.

The Duke of Burgundy’s Painter

Van Eyck was the court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. He may have commissioned this as a gift to the couple in the portrait.

What this Work Depicts

This is the home of a wealthy couple. There are expensive objects everywhere. The brass chandelier was elaborate by contemporary standards. It has a mechanism with pulleys and chains to lower it for putting new candles in and lighting them.

Rugs were considered a luxury item and there is a small oriental rug on the floor here. Also, there are oranges on the windowsill, an expensive fruit, as it had to be imported from Spain.

This is the couple’s living room, although there is a bed. These pieces of furniture were often elaborate and expensive, so they were placed here for guests to see.

The couple’s clothing and jewelry also illustrate understated wealth. The man wears a tabard of what looks like silk velvet, trimmed with fur. Under this is a silk doublet with silver cuffs. His hat is plaited straw.

The woman wears a green, wool overdress, with elaborately wide sleeves and long train, trimmed in fur. Her garment was made with an excess of fabric.

Traditional Gender Roles

The placement of figures shows us conventional 15 th century gender roles. As the caretaker of the home, the woman stands near the bed – caretaker of the home. The man stands near window. His role takes place outside of the home.

Iconography and Symbolism Arnolfini Portrait

uses a tremendous amount of iconography and disguised symbolism.

  • Single candle may allude to the presence of the Holy Spirit as a witness.
  • Shoes cast off indicates they are standing on holy ground.
  • Green of woman’s dress symbolizes hope.
  • Covered hair with white cap symbolizes purity and that she is already married.
  • Red curtains show the physical act of lovemaking.
  • Cherries outside on the tree are a sign of fertility.
  • The finial on the bed is St. Margaret, the patron saint of childbirth.
  • The spotless mirror is a symbol of Mary, referring to her miraculous conception and purity, and that of the woman in the portrait.
  • The dog, a Brussels griffon is a symbol of fidelity from the Latin word fido.

The mirror on the back shows more of the room that is painted in the work. It also reflects two figures in the doorway. One is probably the painter, and the other is a witness. Van Eyck wrote an inscription over the mirror “Jan van Eyck was here 1434,” likely because he literally was when he witnessed this ceremony. The small medallions set into the frame shows a tiny scene from the Passion of the Christ.

The couple are receiving guests, but what is about to take place is unknown. Their hands are a central component depicting commitment. They must be already married, as an unmarried woman would have her hair down and loose during this time.

Backgrounder

Arnolfini Portrait is considered one of the most original and complex paintings in Western art because of the iconography. Historians believe we are seeing Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna Cenami. Arnolfini was a member of a merchant family from Lucca, Italy living in Bruges in Belgium.

About the Artist

Flemish artist Jan van Eyck or Johannes de Eyck (1395 – 1441) was considered one of the best Northern European painters of the 15th century. He perfected new and remarkable techniques with the medium. This included minute and extremely realistic depictions of surfaces and natural light.In 1422, he worked in The Hague for John of Bavaria, the ruler of Holland. Next, from 1425-1428 he was the painter for the Duke of Burgundy. When the Duke was about to take a wife, van Eyck traveled to her home in Portugal to paint her.The painter had many commissions throughout his life from religious works to portraits of courtiers, nobles, churchmen, and merchants.

His work entitled Portrait of a Man is thought to be a self-portrait. Another notable work by Jan van Eyck is the Ghent Altarpiece, painted with oils on 12 wooden panels.

More 15 th Century Northern Renaissance Art

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Dürer, is an example of the German Renaissance, more precisely of Nuremberg because the artist masters the Renaissance perspective technique, as well as the wood printing one. His approach to printmaking is dynamic with a clearly practical orientation. At the end of the 15th century, Nuremberg was a flourishing merchant city with silversmiths, instrument makers and more. It was linked by trade with the cities of Northern Italy.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1498) by Albrecht Dürer

Nuremberg was also an important center for the development of illustrated books, which gradually opened the city to the humanist culture. In Nuremberg, humanism of Renaissance was allied with the interest of patricians, scholars and craftsmen for science and technical innovation.The artist is clearly both a painter and a printmaker. Durer, the German Renaissance artist started as an apprentice in book workshops, among wood engravers and printers

.In ComparisonHis artwork, Adam and Eve, which he made slightly later in 1504 (16th Century Art Collective) reflects a taste for technical innovation and engravings, doubled by a profound knowledge of human anatomy and perspective rules,.

Both engravings are religious compositions treated with a naturalist and humanist touch. Compared with the gentle motion suggested by the contraposto positions of Adam and Eve, the composition of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is highly dramatic.

Both artworks highlight the wood painting skills of the artist in the negative as one must cut away the substance of the design.

The riders, symbolizing the Conquest, the War, the Pestilence (or Famine) and the Death marked the imagination of the Christian world. They were often represented in the Middle Ages and continued to be during Renaissance.

In Durer’s print we identify the riders by their weapons. The conquest has a bow, war a sword, and the pestilence a set of balances fluttering in disarray behind the rider. In the book of Revelation, written around 60 AD., by John, the fourth has no weapon. John only says that death’s horse is pale, but Durer gives him a pitchfork and a skeletal horse. The world trembles under the horses’ hooves and they unleash the cataclysm of the end of the world.

Among the trampled is the figure of a bishop, which illustrates that like many Germans of his epoch , Durer’s has an open hostility to the papacy and the clergy, and at least initially he enthusiastically welcomed the preaching of Luther.What makes Durer’s print memorable is its evident naturalism and a strong diagonal movement. The four riders partially overlap. Perspective rules allow them to emerge realistically and create a black volume that advances towards the more whitish sky covering it. We can see why the reprinting of Durer’s engraved plates and woodblocks continued after his death. His prints served for over a century as models for altarpiece shutters, frescoes, bas-reliefs, or stained glass.

About the Artist

In true Renaissance fashion Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was a master painter, printer, goldsmith, art theorist and human scholar. Born in Nürnberg, Germany, he first apprenticed with his father who was a goldsmith. Next painting called and he apprenticed in the studio of Michael Wolgemut for three years. Eventually he returned home to set up his own studio.

He was enthralled by Italy and travelled there often. He was nicknamed the “Leonardo of North” for introducing Northerners to Italian conventions.Besides The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Adam and Eve, other famous works the artist created in his lifetime include: Self Portrait with Fur-Trimmed Robe, Young Hair, The Feast of the Rosary, Praying Hands, Melencolia I, and The Rhinocerus.

Source https://www.historycrunch.com/how-did-the-ideas-of-the-renaissance-spread.html

Source https://www.historycrunch.com/how-did-the-ideas-of-the-renaissance-spread.html

Source https://medievalarthistory.org/15th-century-renaissance-art/

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