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Transcript of Renaissance Art
The Renaissance immediately followed the Middle Ages in Europe. This was a time of a great revival of interest in the classical learning and values of ancient Greece and Rome. The style of painting, sculpture and decorative arts of this period emerged in Italy in the late 14th century, and it reached its peak in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Simply put, Renaissance art sought to capture the experience of the individual and the beauty and mystery of the natural world.
- It consisted of Religious subject matter
- Important figures are shown as larger than others around them
- Figures look stiff with little sense of movement
- They are fully clothed
- Faces were serious and showed little emotion.
- Flat and two-dimensional
He was a Florentine painter and a creator of mosaics. Born in Florence, he was one of the first of the great Italian painters to break away from the Italo-Byzantine style, although he relied on Byzantine models. Cimabue was a pioneer in the naturalism movement; his figures appeared more lifelike in their shading and proportions. However, within his Maesta paintings exhibit Medieval techniques and characteristics.
Giotto di Bondone
He was an Italian painter and architect from Florence, Italy. He is generally considered the first in the timeline of great artists who contributed to the Renaissance. He died around the age of 70.
The word Renaissance is a French word meaning re-birth and that is literally what it refers to. It refers to a re-birth of arts and culture into Europe after the Middle Ages that basically passed by without the arts. The Renaissance mainly refers to the actual revolution, which lay solely in the arts and focused around one of the city-states of Italy, Florence. This revolution was the resurgence of creative study and the glorification of artists, painters and sculptures instead of them being treated as baggage in the community. This revolution really only effected the higher parts of the social ladder and the peasants were still too poor to enjoy such luxuries.
The central issue in the development of Renaissance Art in Italy was the renewed connection with Classical Antiquity, that is, ancient philosophy, literature and science from Ancient Greece and Rome. The philosophy that underpinned this interest in Classical Antiquity is referred to as ‘humanism’ – a celebration of humanity and its ability and power to create and discover new things. The Renaissance is commonly divided into two parts, the Early Renaissance and the High Renaissance. During this time the emergence of art and architecture was an ongoing process.
- Artists showed religious and non-religious scenes.
- Art reflected great interest in nature.
- Figures were life-like and three-dimensional, reflecting an increasing knowledge of anatomy.
- Bodies looked active and were shown moving.
- Nude or clothed
- Faces expressed what people were thinking.
- Colors were shown responding to light (shadows, shading, etc.)
- Paintings were balanced and symmetrical.
- Full backgrounds show perspective.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
This was painted without pseudo-perspective, and having the angels around the Virgin simply placed one above the other, rather than being spatially arranged.
"Lamentation of Christ"
The mood of the painting is that of extreme sadness. The jagged strong diagonal line of the mountain ridge leads us down to Christ, who is surrounded by an implied circular shape created by the heads of the 3 female mourners and 2 anonymous figures in the foreground. Spatially the viewer looks on and enters the painting through the center; we are the figure in green. In western art we read objects that are low on the compositional plane as closer to us and objects that are high on the compositional plane such as the angels as farther away. The artist has used foreshortening to create the angels, thereby creating a sense of deep space.
The colors the artist uses are pastel and are complementary in nature. This creates a sense of movement within the pictorial plane. The textures of the clothing appear soft, and smooth against the contrasting rough bumpy rock surfaces surrounding them.
Compositionally, he broke the mold with this painting. First, he arranges the supporting figures, which are the angels and saints, in a group on either side of the throne, standing as they would naturally. Some faces are obscured or partially blocked as would be normal if the scene were viewed from the front.
The Byzantine tradition dictated the surrounding figures be stacked rather unnaturally on either side of the throne, forming a vertical line with each head a little higher than the one beneath it so that all could be seen. Clearly, this is impossible in reality.
The Madonna is another of Giotto's compositional deviations from Medieval methods. Instead of painting her as a light, almost weightless-looking, flowing figure without angles or straight lines, di Bondone creates a large, imposing figure that towers over the other figures in the painting.
She looks almost intimidating really, and the traditional demure look has been replaced by regal pride. In contrast to this, however, she tenderly grasps her baby's leg in a gesture of protectiveness. Giotto chose bright, lively colors over the largely monochromatic gold religious paintings of his predecessors. Although he does use gold to bathe the painting in Heavenly light, the rest of the painting is true to reality.
For example, replacing the angels' typically colorless, formless robes are lovely reds and greens with real texture and movement, falling realistically over arms and shoulders. Similarly, the wings of the angels at the bottom of the painting are not painted a dull off-white or gold but appear to reflect the brilliant heavenly light from above, creating an orange, red, and gold shine that matches the throne perfectly. The throne is given an air of vastness yet fragility.
Moving inward, the imposing figure of the Madonna takes on a different feeling altogether by Giotto's use of stark blackness in her clothing. The black stands in contrast to her regal and holy status but effectively draws attention to her vastness and centrality to the painting. The infant Jesus, on the other hand, is clothed in a light, almost sheer pink tunic that suggests innocence and sweetness.
The only source of light in the painting comes from above, a celestial glow that inundates the atmosphere with brightness and a sense of joy. The shadows beneath the Madonna's breasts, for example, confirm the light's origin.
The painting as a whole emanates a unique optimism, making the viewer feel as though he or she is viewing a scene of celebration rather than a subdued, still-life picture of religious figures.
Di Bondone was exceptionally skilled at creating a seemingly real environment, paying close attention to the tiniest details that made his subjects and scenes come alive. Instead of simply adding the light source and leaving it at that, di Bondone meticulously perfected his shading so that his subjects would appear to be standing in a ray of holy light
He was the first great painter of the Quattrocentro period of the Italian Renaissance. He was brilliant in the skill of recreating lifelike figures and movements, along with a convincing sense of three dimensions. He was one of the first to use linear perspective in painting, such as the vanishing point. His works were realistic and had a naturalistic tone to them. He died at the age of 26.
Something very interesting in part of this fresco is God's feet. One can only really see one of them. God is actually standing in this painting. This may not strike you all that much when you first think about it because our idea of God, our picture of God in our minds eye, as an old man with a beard, is very much based on Renaissance images of God. So, here Masaccio imagines God as a man. Not a force or a power, or something abstract, but as a man. In medieval art, God was often represented by a hand, just a hand, as though God was an abstract force or power in our lives, but here he is portrayed as flesh and blood.
"The Tribute Money"
Masaccio uses an old narrative format by showing three consecutive events in the one painting. This technique was abandoned for hundreds of years during the Dark Ages and was most likely picked by Masaccio when he went to Rome to study classicism.
Although one normally reads from left to right, the first image is presented in the middle of the painting. The vanishing-point on Christ's forehead makes sure our eyes go there first. From there Jesus and Peter are pointing to the left where then Peter goes and picks the coins from the fish's mouth. Lastly we move to the right hand side of the painting where Peter pays the tax collector.
The use of this type of narrative moves away from a symbolic portrayal of Christ as the Gothic artists would have him presented. The narrative instead reverts back to classicism and logic. With the use of the linear perspective technique Masaccio further developed some elements in the painting. The cast of shadows behind the characters to the left is remarkable and the amount detail on the characters' feet.
Light seems to alternate and change throughout the painting. The amount of detail on each of the men's faces adds a stark realism to the painting and the shadowing on the clothes and drapery is done so well the painting seems devoid of any lines.
There are three main aspects to this painting that give us depth and a three-dimensional painting. Firstly, the landscape in the background and Peter by the river extracting the coin are painted farther back into the painting than the other two scenes and are almost void of color. Secondly, the buildings on the right, although not present in the story from the bible, serve to provide classical structure that pushes light towards the center of the painting. The lines and the center of the structure are clearly aimed at Christ's head where all the light converges. It is interesting to note that while the halos are indeed tipped to one side, to show them as real physical objects, that they are even in the painting at all. Some suggest because of Masaccio's talent and his ability to portray characters so life like in his paintings, he needed something to mark them as religious figures and felt obligated to put something in the painting to designate them as such.
"Virgin and Child Enthroned"
The grapes the child eats refers to the blood shed on the cross and the wine of the Last Supper. The surface is disfigured by losses and old retouchings, which were originally more decorative; the Virgin's dress was a translucent red over silver leaf, which has now since dulled.
This altarpiece shows an early use of single-point linear perspective. Elements of the painting meet at a central vanishing-point and are foreshortened to accommodate the viewpoint of the spectator looking up. The figure of the child is three-dimensional, emphasised by his elliptical halo.
In preparing a composition, artists first drew quick sketches, usually in pen and ink, in which they formulated general ideas rather than focused on details.
Paint requires two compounds, a pigment, the basic element that makes the colour and a binder, a liquid that holds it all together. Binders from that age where normally from two sources, either tree gum, the cherry tree was one popular source, but a particular favourite, was the sap of the Acacia tree; Gum Arabic. The others were derived from eggs, in the form of tempere, which was egg yolk or glair which was whisked egg white.
Pigments come from one of four sources:
Minerals, naturally occurring rocks like Lapis Lazuli, ground to a fine powder.
Earths, the baked and ground clays and earths of an area give rise to particluar colours,
Dyes, boiling natural plant or animal matter which releases pigment, Saffron make a yellow, ripe buckthorn berries produce green.
Chemical process,with alchemical expertise artists produced chemical reactions that gave rise to colors, whether oxidisation, evaporation, baking or burning their raw material.
The most lethal color was Orpiment as it contained arsenic sulphide, whilst verdigris had to smell the worst, copper suspended over urine (although you could use wine or vinegar too). The apprentice’s most hated colour was madder red, the longer is was ground the brighter the red became. However to produce blue from Lapis or Azurite and Malachite's green hues by reducing a piece of rock to fine powder was hard, laborious work and time consuming.
Despite the effort required these recipes left us with a wonderfully delicious record of what the colors of the renaissance would have really been like if we were there to feel the sun on our skin and the cool northern breeze in our hair. By just walking through the gorgeous wooded valleys of Umbria or climbing the ochre hills around Siena is to experience the master’s world at first hand. Add a medieval tournament, a religious festival or local feast and you are there in the middle of the fifteenth century.
Paint Techniques and Materials
So when the great masters mixed and ground their paints they would often use the materials closest to hand. The rich brown earth of Umbria, or Siena's softer golden brown earth permeate their masterpieces. The plants, bones and woods of the area would have been boiled or burnt to make sap green and lamp black. Lead and iron, oxidized or cooked, a dangerous and noxious but producing flake white, red lead, mars black and lead yellow.
"Madonna and Child"