Raffaello Sanzio: An Introduction to Renaissance Artist Raphael

He embodied the ideal of sprezzatura (the appearance of nonchalant effortlessness in his creative process). Introduction Raffaello Sanzio, better known simply as Raphael, enjoyed a meteoric career. An impeccable professional artist and a consummate courtier, Raphael was famed both for his artistic skill and his charismatic personality. From his beginnings as a local painter in[…]

‘Il Divino’: Who Was Renaissance Artist Michelangelo?

He was mythologized by followers, emulated by artists, celebrated by humanists, and patronized by a total of nine popes. Introduction Michelangelo Buonarotti—the Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, and poet—was called “Il Divino” (The Divine One) by his contemporaries because they perceived his artworks to be otherworldly. His art was in high demand, and thought to[…]

Copies and Fakes in Art during the Renaissance

It was perhaps inevitable that the distinction between original and copy became blurred in the Renaissance art world. Introduction The Renaissance period witnessed a great renewed interest in the art of antiquity. There was an appreciation of the technical skill required to produce such objects as a Roman marble figure of Venus and an admiration for[…]

Color and Technique in Renaissance Painting

These expensive commodities were one of the major assets of a workshop. Introduction There were three principal painting techniques during the Renaissance: fresco, tempera, and oils. In all of these techniques, colour was an important part of the painter’s armoury, allowing them to create images that would strike a chord of recognition and pull a gasp of awe[…]

Life in a Renaissance Artist’s Workshop

They were places where ideas were experimented with and where new trends could be studied, discussed, and employed. Introduction The majority of great Renaissance works of art were produced in large and busy workshops run by a successful master artist and his team of assistants and apprentices. Here, too, more mundane art was produced in[…]

The Printing Revolution in Renaissance Europe

Ideas were transmitted across Europe as scholars published their own works, commentaries on ancient texts, and criticism of each other. Introduction The arrival in Europe of the printing press with moveable metal type in the 1450s CE was an event which had enormous and long-lasting consequences. The German printer Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398-1468 CE) is[…]

Medieval Factors That Set the Stage for the Renaissance

Exploring some changes in European life that led to the Renaissance. Introduction Much of the power in Europe from the 1300s to the 1600s lay in three major areas: the city-states of Italy, the Papal States, and the Holy Roman Empire. During these years, Italy was not the unified country it is today. Instead, it[…]

Leading Figures of the Renaissance

From the 14th through the 16th centuries, Europe crackled with energy. Introduction The period in Europe known as the Renaissance began in Italy around 1300. From the 14th through the 16th centuries, Europe crackled with energy. Trade and commerce boomed. Cities grew. Artists and writers experimented with their crafts and created wonderful works of art[…]

Florence: The Cradle of the Renaissance

Exploring the Italian city-state of Florence to learn about a number of advances made there during the Renaissance. Introduction Florence is located on the Arno River, just north of central Italy. The city is often called the “cradle of the Renaissance.” Between 1300 and 1600, it was home to some of the greatest artists and[…]

Art and Science in Renaissance Italy

The increased study of plants for artistic purposes during the Renaissance led to the development of the modern field of botany. Early Renaissance Italy witnessed a remarkable flowering of the arts and sciences. Humanist scholars looked to medieval libraries to discover works from the past, which they copied, studied and developed in new ways. They[…]

The Inquisition in the Later Medieval and Renaissance Eras

During the Late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, the concept and scope of the Inquisition significantly expanded. Introduction The Inquisition, in historical ecclesiastical parlance also referred to as the “Holy Inquisition”, was a group of institutions within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat[…]

Sex, Power, and Violence in the Renaissance Nude

Visual access to real women’s bodies was strictly policed in the Renaissance, particularly in Italy. The relationship between art, gender, and power goes back centuries; it didn’t start with #MeToo. Cultural production, such as novels, paintings, or films, does not merely reflect the ideas of a single artist or a patron—it articulates and reflects the norms[…]

Francis Drake’s Circumnavigation of the Globe, 1577-1580

Drake was on an official mission to find a trade route – and a secret mission from Queen Elizabeth to plunder and attack the Spanish. Introduction The English mariner, privateer, and explorer Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596 CE) made his circumnavigation of the world between 1577 and 1580 CE. Only the second man to achieve this feat[…]

Education, Religion, Art, and Geography during the European Renaissance

Looking at developments that shaped culture during the period. Introduction Few historical concepts have such powerful resonance as the Renaissance. Usually used to describe the rediscovery of classical Roman and Greek culture in the late 1300s and 1400s and the great pan-European flowering in art, architecture, literature, science, music, philosophy and politics that this inspired,[…]

Charlemagne’s Educational, Economic, Religious, and Political Reforms

Charlemagne took a serious interest in scholarship, promoting the liberal arts at the court, and encouraging education. Introduction – The Carolingian Renaissance As emperor, Charlemagne stood out for his many reforms—monetary, governmental, military, cultural, and ecclesiastical. He was the main initiator and proponent of the “Carolingian Renaissance,” the first of three medieval renaissances. It was[…]

Guido Mazzoni and Portrayals of Grief in Renaissance Art

In renaissance Italy, displays of grief were expected to be moderated. Why Mourning Matters A life-size, terracotta (a type of earthenware) sculpture group shows seven biblical figures gathered around the dead body of Jesus Christ. Created in the 1480s for Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara, Guido Mazzoni’s sculpture group also includes the duke and his[…]

Female Artists in the Renaissance

Women have always been artists, even famed artists. So why were many forgotten? Recovering Forgotten Masters When Renaissance painter Plautilla Nelli got her first solo exhibit at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery in 2017, some art historians asked . . . Plautilla who??  Despite being a celebrated artist in sixteenth-century Florence, Nelli had been forgotten by art[…]

Introduction to Gender in Renaissance Italy

Internal virtues, including gender characteristics, were believed to be communicated through outward appearance. Ideal Representative of Masculinity and Femininity In a pair of portraits painted by the Venetian artist Titian (see above), the Duke and Duchess of Urbino are presented as ideal representatives of their sexes. Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere, the great mercenary captain,[…]

Jan Baptist Van Helmont: Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Van Helmont was an heir of Paracelsus’s thought and movement who went to lengths in later years to distinguish himself. Introduction This article discusses Jan Baptist Van Helmont’s (1579-1644) views on poison in light of his medical alchemy. First, it argues that his approach was fundamentally influenced by the theories of ‘universal poison’ and ‘potent[…]

Types of Patronage in Renaissance Art and Architecture

We often forget that for most of history artists did not simply create art for art’s sake. Introduction When the banker’s guild of Florence commissioned a massive bronze statue of St. Matthew for Orsanmichele—a former grain house turned shrine at the heart of the city—they clearly had their own magnificence in mind. Not only did[…]

A Mathematical Duel in 16th-Century Renaissance Venice

The story of two Renaissance mathematicians whose jealousies, intrigues, and contentious debates led to a discovery. By Fabio Toscano translated Arturo Sangalli Niccolò Tartaglia was an ambitious teacher who possessed a secret formula – the key to unlocking a seemingly unsolvable, two-thousand-year-old mathematical problem. He wrote it down in the form of a poem to[…]

Why Did Michelangelo Use Red Chalk?

The artist used the medium to shape the human form. During his lifetime, Michelangelo likely produced tens of thousands of drawings. But being protective of his ideas, and to give an impression of effortless genius, he destroyed many of them. Today only about 600 drawings by the Renaissance artist survive. A Getty exhibition highlighted 28[…]

The Geometric Landscapes of Lorenz Stoer (1567)

This was intended to be “read” by intarsia workers (artists who inlay sections of wood to decorate floors, walls, and furniture). This article, The Geometric Landscapes of Lorenz Stoer (1567), was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ Though these images may[…]

Strangers in the City: The Cosmopolitan Nature of 16th-Century Venice

Othello shows us the cosmopolitan nature of renaissance Venice. Of all Shakespeare’s plays, it is Othello which reflects most vividly the multi-ethnic character of the Mediterranean basin in the 16th century. The Venetian army led by Othello, an African Moor, consists also of a Florentine (Cassio) and perhaps a Spaniard as well: the name ‘Iago’[…]

Exploring the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo, Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, 1508-12, fresco (Vatican, Rome) Michelangelo began to work on the frescoes for Pope Julius II in 1508, replacing a blue ceiling dotted with stars. Visiting the Chapel To any visitor of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, two features become immediately and undeniably apparent: 1) the ceiling is really high up, and[…]

Top Interesting Dissertation Topics on Renaissance

Renaissance is one of the most interesting periods in history. It’s an ever-lasting inspiration for a college paper, since students can choose from countless pieces of art, architecture, and literature to analyze. To understand how a particular point in history was, you’d had to experience it. Publications testify about people and events, but they may[…]

The Renaissance in Spain

During the Renaissance, the Spanish empire also extended throughout Western Europe. Introduction We often think of globalization as a modern phenomenon, but the confluence of cultures we see today was already growing in the Spanish Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries. For instance, dividing screens from Japan were imported to Mexico, where they were[…]

An Introduction to the Northern Renaissance in the Fifteenth Century

Italian art and ideas migrated North from Italy. What Was the Renaissance and Where Did It Happen? The word Renaissance is generally defined as the rebirth of classical antiquity in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Seems simple enough, but the word “Renaissance” is actually fraught with complexity. Scholars argue about exactly when the Renaissance[…]

Animals and Allusions on an Italian Renaissance Basin

An intricate basin features sea creatures, birds, and mythological beasts, which bore a multitude of meanings to the sixteenth-century elite. Introduction Animals are rarely just animals in sixteenth-century Italian art. They may symbolize virtues or signify social status. They can also act as mnemonic devices, prompting viewers to recall other works of art, both visual[…]