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Art of the Italian Renaissance. The Renaissance. The Renaissance was a time of rebirth, revival of learning, and renewed cultural awareness. As the Middle Ages drew to a close, a new spirit emerged and the focus of study shifted from theology to humanity.

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the renaissance
The Renaissance
  • The Renaissance was a time of rebirth, revival of learning, and renewed cultural awareness.
  • As the Middle Ages drew to a close, a new spirit emerged and the focus of study shifted from theology to humanity.
  • This exciting cultural movement began in Italy in the late 1300's and ended in about 1600.
renaissance art
Renaissance Art
  • The changes that the Renaissance precipitated are most evident in the art of that period.
  • There was an evolution from the strict, symbolic figures of the Middle Ages, to the fluid, emotion-filled figures that gave life to Renaissance art.
pre renaissance art
Pre-Renaissance Art
  • The Byzantine art style preceded the Renaissance.
  • Does the style seem warm and inviting, or cold and distant to you?
pre renaissance architecture
Pre-Renaissance Architecture
  • The Romanesque and Gothic styles preceded the Renaissance.
    • Romanesque was round and sturdy
    • Gothic was tall and pointed up to heaven.
  • Which one seems to be a warmer, more inviting atmosphere? Why?

Romanesque round arches of St Savin

Gothic rib vaults of Durham Cathedral

proto renaissance
  • This period, roughly 1200 - 1400 A.D., is the time that the Italian style was just beginning to show breaks from the Byzantine and Gothic styles.
  • We see the first attempts to display realism and greater interest in depicting the human form.
byzantine v proto renaissance
Byzantine v. Proto-Renaissance
  • Compare a Byzantine painting with one of Giotto's paintings.
  • Which one looks more realistic?

Byzantine Art

Detail from Giotto’s Mourning of Christ

proto renaissance art giotto
Proto-Renaissance Art: Giotto
  • Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 - 1337) was a Florentine painter and architect.
    • He was recognized as the first artistic genius of the Italian Renaissance.
    • He dealt largely in the traditional religious subjects, but he gave these subjects an earthly, full-blooded life and force.
A sad, remote, inscrutable Virgin from the 13th century

A very human woman, her lips parted in a hint of a smile that reveals the white of her teeth.

13th c. Madonna -Cimabue'sSanta Trinita Madonna

Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna

early 15 th century renaissance
Early 15th Century Renaissance
  • In the early 15th century, the spirit of the Italian Renaissance was strongest in Florence.
  • One Italian family, the Medici, bankers to all Europe, were such generous patrons of the arts that it has been said they "financed" the Renaissance.
late middle ages treatment of space it encompasses viewer
Late Middle Ages Treatment ofSpace: It Encompasses Viewer
  • Artists have always portrayed space in ways that suit their worldview.
  • In the religious painting of the late Middle Ages, space seems to open out from the picture plane. It encompasses the viewer to make him part of the sacred events taking place.
early renaissance treatment of space it recedes from viewer
Early Renaissance Treatment of Space: It Recedes from Viewer
  • During the early Renaissance, as humanism focused attention on man, the viewer assumes the active role.
    • Space recedes from the viewer's eye into the picture plane.
    • The viewer himself is the point of reference.

Late Middle Ages

Early Renaissance

early 15 th century renaissance architecture brunelleschi
Early 15th Century Renaissance Architecture: Brunelleschi
  • Filippo Brunelleschi (1421 to 1440) was the first architect to employ mathematical perspective to redefine Gothic and Romanesque space and to establish new rules of proportion and symmetry.


Early 15th Century


early 15 th century renaissance sculpture donatallo
Early 15th Century Renaissance Sculpture: Donatallo
  • Donatello (1386-1466) created the first free-standing statues of the Renaissance, independent of architecture or decoration.
early 15 th century renaissance artist masaccio
Early 15th Century Renaissance Artist: Masaccio
  • Masaccio (1401-1428) took up the inheritance of Giotto, developing his art according to the new techniques and methods of perspective.
late 15 th century renaissance
Late 15th Century Renaissance
  • By mid 15th century, the Renaissance movement had spread throughout Europe.
  • However, Italy was still at the heart of this cultural rebirth and it continued to produce ingenious artists like Mantegna, Antonella da Messina, and Botticelli.
late 15 th century renaissance andrea mantegna
Late 15th Century Renaissance: Andrea Mantegna
  • Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) painted heroic figures, often using a dramatic perspective that gives the viewer the illusion of looking up from below.
late 15 th century renaissance mantegna s triumph of virtue
Late 15th Century Renaissance: Mantegna’s Triumph of Virtue
  • This detail of Mantegna’s The Triumph of Virtue (c. 1540) depicts Athena as moral guardian expelling the Vices from the garden.
late 15 th century renaissance antonella da messina
Late 15th Century Renaissance: Antonella da Messina
  • Antonella da Messina (1430-1479) made his portraits so perfect that they give the illusion of life. Particularly careful of perspective, his painting is characterized by strong colors and precision of architectural forms.
late 15 th century renaissance sandro botticelli
Late 15th Century Renaissance: Sandro Botticelli
  • Sandro Botticelli (1444/5-1510) had a sophisticated understanding of perspective, anatomy, and humanism. His Birth of Venus (c. 1485) and Primavera (1477-78) are often said to epitomize for modern viewers the spirit of the Renaissance.
the high renaissance
The High Renaissance
  • The essential feature of High Renaissance art was its unity. Paintings invoked increasing dramatic force with the human forms becoming so life-like, they almost seemed to be breathing. Three artists whose work dominated this period were Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.
the high renaissance michelangelo as sculptor
The High Renaissance: Michelangelo as Sculptor
  • Michelangelo (c. 1501-1504) preferred the chisel to the paint brush and he has left us with such astounding sculptures as David and the Pieta.
the high renaissance michelangelo as painter
The High Renaissance: Michelangelo as Painter
  • Through the insistence of Pope Julian II, however, Michelangelo set the chisel aside for a time and conceived the world's greatest single fresco in the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
the high renaissance raphael
The High Renaissance: Raphael
  • Raphael’s (1483-1520) paintings reveal a soft, poetic quality.
the high renaissance raphael s nymph of galatea
The High Renaissance: Raphael’s Nymph of Galatea
  • The sheer beauty of his figures is breathtaking. When he had finished the Galatea, he was asked where he had found a model of such beauty. He replied that he did not copy any specific model but rather followed “a certain idea” he had formed in his mind.
the high renaissance raphael s madonna dell granduca
The High Renaissance: Raphael’s Madonna dell Granduca
  • A painting like Raphael's Madonna dell Granduca is truly “classical” in the sense that it has served countless generations as a standard of perfection.
the high renaissance leonardo da vinci
The High Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) epitomized the Renaissance humanistic ideal. He wanted to know the working of everything he saw in nature and filled more than 4,000 pages of notebooks with detailed diagrams and observations.
the high renaissance leonardo da vinci s mona lisa
The High Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
  • Leonardo’s The Mona Lisa is considered the prototype of the Renaissance portrait.
the high renaissance leonardo da vinci s last supper
The High Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper

Before: Peeling and discolored after years of neglect

After: The restored masterpiece was open to visitors in May 1999.

the madonna and child
The Madonna and Child
  • "Madonna and Child" was a common subject for artists of the Renaissance period.
  • Let’s compare the works of artists from three different periods:
    • Cimabue (Proto-Renaissance)
    • Sandro Botticelli (mid 15th century)
    • Leonardo da Vinci (High Renaissance)


BotticelliMid-15th Century

Leonardo da Vinci High Renaissance

discussion questions
Discussion Questions
  • In your opinion, which painting conveys the most warmth and tenderness? What is there about the painting that gives it that appearance?
  • What changes do you notice in the treatment of the human form by these three different artists in these three different stages of the Renaissance?
  • Look at the treatment of the background in each painting. Consider the use of line, light, and space. How do these elements vary in each painting.