The Renaissance in Europe was a period from the late 13th to the 17th century. It is associated with the flow of modern thoughts and ideologies across Europe that further led to innovations. This period had profound impacts on trade, science, and culture of Europe. The renaissance is one of the best examples of the snowball effect, where one advancement paved the way for another.
Renaissance and Art
Among the many fields that Renaissance influenced, art remains the most touched. The period of Renaissance revolutionized the traditional style of painting and produced some of the masterpieces of all time. Artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and numerous other delineated works of art that remain unmatched even after centuries. With paintings being used as a medium of expression of thoughts and ideas, the Renaissance marked the beginning of modern art.
This article sums up 5 of the most remarkable paintings of the Renaissance.
1. Mona Lisa
Known for its mysterious smile, Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci from around 1503 to 1519. Mona Lisa is the portrait of a lady, who is believed to be the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. The painting is drawn on wood, using a technique called sfumato. This style of painting involves repetitive applications of thin layers of paint. It is a time-consuming technique and is supposedly the reason why Mona Lisa took so long to be completed. The painting was drawn in Florence, where Vinci resided from 1500 to 1508, and presently resides in the Louvre museum in Paris, France. Mona Lisa cannot be sold or bought under the France Heritage Law and is worth approximately $800 million.
Ever since its creation, Mona Lisa has been the center of numerous claims. Two of these beliefs re the most popular. One, that the eyes of the painting follow the observer, and two, that the painting seems happy when viewed from one side, and sad from the other. While the happy-sad scenario is still under speculation, claims regarding the eye were disregarded by science. The painting was closely studied and the eye was found drawn to sit at an angle of 15 degrees from the observer.
Though always been an exceptional piece of art, Mona Lisa became particularly famous when the painting was stolen from the Louvre Museum in 1911. A number of suspects, including Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire were arrested. An art gallery dealer in Florence later revealed that two men had tried to sell him the painting. The culprits were arrested and imprisoned and Mona Lisa returned back to her home in the Louvre Museum.
A classical piece of Renaissance art, the Primavera was painted by Sandro Botticelli in the late 1400s. The meaning of Primavera is ‘spring’ in Italian, and the painting depicts the same. It is drawn with a dark background, which is in sharp contrast to the colorful figures in the foreground. The images are graceful and the painting is believed to depict a transition of seasons into spring. Venus is drawn in the center of the painting and Cupid, her son and the Roman God of love are drawn beneath her. Cupid is shown aiming at the three Graces. The three Graces in mythology often depict pleasure, chastity, and beauty. However, the context Primavera is not clear. To the left of the three Graces is Mercury, the Roman messenger of Gods, with his winged feet. The right side of the painting depicts Zephyr, the Greek God of the west wind, who is shown holding Chloris, a nymph. This nymph in mythology transforms into Flora, the goddess of spring. Flora is drawn to the left of Chloris, indicating the transition to spring.
The painting is drawn on wood, using a technique called tempera. This technique involves the mixing of egg yolks to natural pigments in order to bind it to the surface being painted. Botticelli has used this technique in a number of his other paintings, including ‘The Birth of Venus’ which is considered closely related to Primavera. Attracting thousands of visitors every year, Primavera is housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy.
3. The Last Judgement
Painted on the wall behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgement by Michelangelo is an outstanding piece of art. The painting was drawn on wet plaster and is one of the most complex pieces drawn by Michelangelo. This style of painting is called fresco and was particularly popular during the medieval era. The painting is religious in nature and depicts the second arrival of Jesus Christ, where he makes his last or final judgment for all humanity.
Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, The Last Judgement contains over three hundred figures, each drawn with high intricacy. These figures are grouped into quadrants and subgroups that enhance the legibility of the painting. The center of the drawing depicts Jesus Christ, a strong muscular man, with his right arm raised. Virgin Mary, his mother, is drawn right under the raised arm. On the right of Christ are the elect, or the ones going to heaven. Some of the elects are shown rising effortlessly from their graves, while angels are shown guiding others. The left of Christ shows the damned or the ones who have sinned and are going to hell. Demons are drawn, dragging the damned to hell, and angels are shown beating down the ones who tried to escape. The painting depicts the triumph of Christ and his fair judgment and remains one of the most appreciated pieces of art until the present day.
4. Vitruvian Man
Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci around 1490, the Vitruvian man was one of the first few paintings to incorporate science into art. The sketch is drawn on a notebook and is surrounded by writings on its sides. These writings provide an insight into the sketch, along with the details of the drawing. The painting depicts an ideal man, drawn to fit both a circle and a square. The man is drawn with four arms and legs. Two of these arms are shown touching the edges of the square, while the other two touch the sides of the circle. The sketch is drawn with ultimate precision and the navel of the man falls right at the center of the circle. The Vitruvian man, viewed in different manners, gives a total of sixteen poses.
Philosophers have suggested different theories interpreting the circle and the square. Some suggest that the square symbolizes the earth, while the circle symbolizes the divine. An ideal man is thus microcosmic, inheriting values from both, the earth and the divine. Other theories symbolize the circle as feminine and the square as masculine. The Vitruvian Man, in this scenario, depicts a perfect balance between masculinity and femininity. Located in Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice since 1822, the Vitruvian man has attracted thousands of visitors every year and has inspired uncountable young artists.
5. Sistine Madonna
The Sistine Madonna, painted by Raphael in 1512 was commissioned by Pope by Julius II as an altarpiece for the church of San Sisto in Piacenza. It is one of the last six Madonnas painted by Raphael prior to his death in 1520. The painting is religious and depicts Mother Mary holding Christ in his arms. The medium used is oil on canvas.
The subjects of the painting include Mother Mary, Jesus Christ, two cherubs, Saint Barbara and Saint Sixtus. Madonna, i.e. Mary is drawn at the top, standing on a bed of clouds. She is holding baby Jesus and both of them have a terrifying expression on their faces. To the left of the painting is Saint Sixtus, who is shown pointing one of his fingers out of the painting. The right of the painting shows Saint Barbara, the only figure in the painting possessing a serene expression. The bottom of the painting has two cherubs, looking at the figures above. The cherubs gained extensive popularity and have been copied and used extensively in almost all fields, ranging from stamps to toiletries.
The terrifying expression of the Jesus and Mary incited curiosity in a number of philosophers, who proposed different theories supporting their interpretations. However, the most believable theory until the recent days relates the expressions to the location where the painting was initially supposed to be placed. The painting was meant to be installed behind a choir screen that would’ve faced a crucifix attached to the screen. Jesus, in the painting, sees his death, resulting in the terrified expression. The finger of Saint Sixtus is also supposed to point to the crucifixion. Other theories state that the finger of the Saint points to the viewer, and Saint Barbara is drawn gazing at the onlookers. Located in the Old Masters Gallery in Germany, the painting poses a mystery that yet remains unsolved.
These paintings, though hundreds of years old now, continue to be a source of inspiration for young students and budding artists. The art of the Renaissance still remains unmatched and appreciated all over the world, adding to the heritage of the country to which they belong, and attracting thousands of visitors every yea