Renaissance derived from La Renaissance (French), and Rinascimento (Italian) means rebirth. Between 1400-1600, there was witnessed in Europe a great revamping of architecture, fine art, and sculpture (George 50). These huge developments which had swept Europe converted it into a powerhouse. The Northern renaissance happened outside Italy after 1450 whose humanism renaissance had a little impact on the continent. The two renaissances are famously known because they stood out in how they presented their art to humanity.
Italy at this time was very wealthy through immense trade deals. The paintings concentrated on the aristocratic class. The religion which was Roman Catholicism was so central in directing the train of artworks. Popes were extremely rich, with strong political influence like kings. Painters could paint them in extravagant settings. Greek-Roman revival added a great taste of art to the themes of Renaissance (Plumb 150).
On the other hand, the Northern Renaissance was marked with the simplicity of everyday life of peasants. The visual arts served a role of emphasizing a pious life. An example is the "Haymaking" pictures done by Peter Brugal.
The differences can be seen clearly regarding subject matter that the Italian Renaissance was composed of classical mythology and religious scenes (Roscoe 250). Cities and individuals were influenced in their painting of allegories by gods. Funerary art, resurrection allegories of the soul, everlasting life after death, the war between virtue and evil among others. Dionysus is certainly the most outstanding artist for creating mythological figures. Roscoe adds that the Northern Renaissance was dominated by Domestic interiors, some religious scenes, and portraits (255). Renaissance artists brought back was almost getting lost like the classical gods. The antique forms of the classical mythological themes endeavored to glorify the church together with its doctrine. Botticelli and Raphael are some of the major figures of classical mythology through the works of The Birth of Venus, Venus and Mars and other pieces.
Regarding style, the Italian Renaissance was marked with symmetrical visual art, which was balanced, had a linear perspective and a good sense of mass (Roscoe 111). Fresco, oil, and tempera were the media for the visual arts in Italy. Michelangelo's works like The Last Judgment, the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel of Italy are the perfect examples of artworks with these media. The parallel of Northern Renaissance focused its attention to naturalism and surface detail. Oil on the panel was the main media used (George 78), for example, the Arnolfini artwork of Jan Van Eyck.
It is not yet clear what spurred this phenomenal revolution of art during the 14th to 16th century. The church at this time was the leading patron of arts. There were many conflicts in the church concerning the boundaries of secular and spiritual matters. History defined this period as the Dark Ages because there was limited information circulating in public. Matters worsened when the European continent was plagued with some catastrophes, e.g., the Black Death, England-France war and others. Amid the crises rose outpourings of creativity. The increased property, weakness of the church and the age of exploration of the time are established to be factors behind the aesthetic changes.
According to Brink and William, increased prosperity spurred the growth of visual art. Italy and Venice were centers of trade (161). It is recorded that Florence became a center of wool coming from the Orient, together with jewelry and silk. The material affluence spread to Northern Europe. Prosperity translated to a huge financial backing of the art projects of various scales-big and small, private and public. It was in this period that the printing industry was invented. The primeval snail-speed progress could now make gigantic leaps to cause a rebirth.
To reclaim the lost glory and influence, the Catholic church through Popes like Julius II sanctioned the spread of humanism (George 100). The Vatican Museums were filled with the pomp and opulent paintings. A few centuries before, the church could have refused to give any support to such. Christian art was generated as a rejoinder to the Great Reformation in the 16th century.
Another factor that certainly favored the changes registered was the historical context-the age of exploration. The whole world was in a period of making great discoveries in all aspects. Brink and William recount that it was the yearning to adventure into nature by studying it that propelled Renaissance, not classical antiquity (158). The following will be analyzed in this paper: Michelangelo's The Last Judgment), Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Tower of Babel and Raphael's The School of Athens. Other famous works of Italian artists are Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa among others.
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo was painted in 1541, with dimensions of 4500cm by 1400cm. Pope Paul II went into talks with Michelangelo to develop an artwork demonstrating justice at the end of the world (B. Bernadine 120). The Pope intended to restore hope to the Italians after the Sack of Rome in 1527. At the end of time, all men shall face judgment regardless of their riches and royal garbs. The artwork placed in Sistine Chapel had paintings of nude people. It met severe censure from Cardinals for being sacrilegious in the chapel and was painted to conceal the nude figures. The artwork has a clear contrast of colors, tone and emotion are felt. Symmetry and balance of the characters: Jesus, Minos (Satan's agent) and people are executed goodly. Therefore, papacy played a big role in the Italian Renaissance.
Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel was painted on oil on panel medium in 1563. Prosperetti says (278) that it falls under religious art classification whose surface detail is full of realism. He demonstrated a rich understanding and complex knowledge of construction techniques. The biblical content is from Genesis 11 where people began to build the mammoth structure to reach into the heavens. Details of a host of people, portrayed as "ants" are engrossed in supplying the building with huge blocks are painted with great skill. To the right is position a huge crane, there is woman climbing a ladder, details of rock is transformed into a structure. Utmost unprecedented creativity was behind all this work. Naturalism and surface detail was the major styles used. Pieter was exploring into something new that has not yet been witnessed.
The masterpiece School of Athens by Raphael was painted through the influence of Pope Julius II. There was a lot of prosperity witnessed in Italy, and the Pope wanted him to decorate the Vatican palace apartments. According to T. Nicholas (147), the fresco came out a classical Greek painting with Plato and Aristotle at the center and Pythagoras to the bottom right. To the left is the distinct Socrates, at the foreground are Heraclitus, Diogenes sprawled on the steps and Euclid. The support accorded him through the commissions of Pope made the artwork a success. Symmetry, a good sense of mass are demonstrable styles manifested in the piece. Were it for the material progression; perhaps artwork could not have been established.
Barnes, Bernadine. Michelangelo in print: reproductions as a response in the sixteenth century. Routledge, 2017.
Brink, Jean R., and William F. Gentrup. Renaissance culture in context: theory and practice. Routledge, 2017.
George, Enzo. The Renaissance. Cavendish Square Publishing, LLC, 2016.
Plumb, John Harold. The Italian Renaissance. New Word City, 2017.
Prosperetti, Leopoldine. Landscape and Philosophy in the Art of Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 1625). Routledge, 2017.
Roscoe, Kelly, ed. The Italian and Northern Renaissance. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2017.
Temple, Nicholas. "Gesture and perspective in Raphael's School of Athens." Renaissance Theories of Vision. Routledge, 2016. 147-160.
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