The High Renaissance The 15 th century developments (cinquecento)in Italy matured during the 16 th century. The art of those most closely associated with this period – Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian – exhibits an astounding mastery, both technical and aesthetic. The myth of the divinely inspired creative genius – which arose during the Renaissance – is still with us today. Increasingly individuals and oligarchs, rather than corporate groups, sponsored works of art. Patrician merchants and bankers, popes and princes, supported the arts as a means of glorifying themselves and their families.
Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo da Vinci: inventor, naturalist, and painter of the soul. Leonardo’s great ambition in his painting, as well as in his scientific endeavors, was to discover the laws underlying the processes and flux of nature. With this in mind, he also studied the human body and contributed immeasurably to knowledge of physiology and psychology. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance man, a man whose unquenchable curiosity was equaled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. Leonardo's vision of the world is essentially logical rather than mysterious, and the empirical methods he employed were unusual for his time.
LEONARDO DA VINCI, Virgin of the Rocks, ca. 1485. Oil on wood (transferred to canvas), approx. 6’ 3” x 3’ 7”. Louvre, During his first sojourn in Milan, Leonardo painted Virgin of the Rocks as the central panel of an altarpiece. The painting builds upon Masaccio’s understanding of chiaroscuro, the subtle play of light and dark. Modeling with light and shadow and expressing emotional states were, for Leonardo, the heart of painting.
LEONARDO DA VINCI, cartoon for Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the Infant Saint John, ca. 1505–1507. Charcoal heightened with white on brown paper, approx. 4’ 6” x 3’ 3”. National Gallery, London.
The Last Supper The Last Supper specifically portrays the reaction given by each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. All twelve apostles have different reactions to the news, with various degrees of anger and shock. From left to right: Bartholomew, James, and Andrew form a group of three, all are surprised. Judas, Peter, and John form another group of three. Judas is wearing green and blue and is in shadow, looking rather withdrawn and taken aback by the sudden revelation of his plan. He is clutching a small bag, perhaps signifying the silver given to him as payment to betray Jesus, or perhaps a reference to his role within the 12 disciples as treasurer. [ He is the only person to have his elbow on the table. Peter looks angry and is holding a knife pointed away from Christ, perhaps foreshadowing his violent reaction in Gethsemane during Jesus' arrest. The youngest apostle, John, appears to swoon. [ Thomas, James the Greater and Philip are the next group of three. Thomas is clearly upset; James the Greater looks stunned, with his arms in the air. Meanwhile, Philip appears to be requesting some explanation. Matthew, Jude and Simon are the final group of three. Both Jude Thaddeus and Matthew are turned toward Simon, perhaps to find out if he has any answer. The painting contains several references to the number 3, which represents the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. The Apostles are seated in groupings of three; there are three windows behind Jesus; and the shape of Jesus' figure resembles a triangle.
LEONARDO DA VINCI, Last Supper (uncleaned), ca. 1495–1498. Fresco (oil and tempera on plaster), 29’ 10” x 13’ 9”.
LEONARDO DA VINCI, Last Supper (cleaned), ca. 1495–1498. Fresco (oil and tempera on plaster), 29’ 10” x 13’ 9”. Refectory, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.
LEONARDO DA VINCI, Mona Lisa, ca. 1503–1505. Oil on wood, approx. 2’ 6” x 1’ 9”. Louvre, Paris. The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a woman whose facial expression is often described as enigmatic. The ambiguity of the sitter's expression, the monumentality of the half-figure composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the painting's continuing fascination.
The Vitruvian Man is a world-renowned drawing created by Leonardo da Vinci around the year 1487. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the famed architect, Vitruvies. The drawing, which is in pen and ink on paper, depicts a male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportion.
LEONARDO DA VINCI, Embryo in the Womb, ca. 1510. Pen and ink on paper. Royal Library, Windsor Castle. Leonardo’s investigations in anatomy epitomize the scientific spirit of the renaissance. He originated a method of scientific illustration, especially cutaway and exploded views.
BRAMANTE Donato Bramante’s career began in Milan, but it was in Rome that he achieved his greatest accomplishments during the high Renaissance. Bramante's vision for St Peter's, a centralized Greek cross plan that symbolized sublime perfection for him and his generation, was fundamentally altered by the extension of the nave after his death in 1514. Bramante's plan envisaged four great chapels filling the corner spaces between the equal transepts, each one capped with a smaller dome surrounding the great dome over the crossing. One of Bramante's earliest commissions, the "Tempietto" is one of the most harmonious buildings of the Renaissance. It is meant to mark the traditional spot of St. Peter's martyrdom.
DONATO D’ANGELO BRAMANTE, plan for the new Saint Peter’s, the Vatican, Rome, Italy, 1505.
CHRISTOFORO FOPPA CARADOSSO, medal showing Bramante’s design for the new Saint Peter’s, 1506. British Museum, London.
DONATO D’ANGELO BRAMANTE, Tempietto, San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, Italy, 1502(?). The Tempietto is almost a piece of sculpture, for it has little architectonic use. The building absorbed much of Brunelleschi's style. Perfectly proportioned, it is composed of slender Tuscan columns, a Doric entablature modeled after the ancient Theater of Marcellus, and a dome.