Perhaps the most famous work of Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) is the altarpiece painted for the nuns of San Francesco dei Macci, known as the “Madonna of the Harpies”. The work shows St John the Evangelist and St Francis on either side of the Madonna and Child, on a high polygonal pedestal, decorated at the corners with the so-called Harpies. In the center, beneath the artist's signature, are the opening words of a hymn to Our Lady of the Assumption. This painting is truly a milestone in the career of Andrea del Sarto, and bears witness to the level of maturity of the most significant artistic experiences of the early 16th century: the "atmospheric" painting of Leonardo, the meditation recently infused with a new freshness in the "grandiose" manner of Michelangelo, the elegant and solemn classicism of Fra Bartolomeo endowed with a new intensity of color after his stay in Venice, and the experience of Raphael's work in Rome. These are all motifs that come together in a single stylistic solution, the greatness of which was immediately recognized in Florence and elsewhere. The figure of the Madonna, wrought into a composed chiasmus (crosswise arrangement) in order to balance the weight of the Child, lights up the center of the picture with the intense rose color of her robe, tempered by harmony with the pale blue of her mantle, and with the brilliant yellow of the light fabric draped over her shoulders, beneath the beautiful drapery of the white veil covering her head. For centuries—ever since a judgment by Vasari—the work was considered to be the prototype of classicism instilled into religious subjects, a refined synthesis of Leonardesque `sfumato', Raphaelesque balance, and plastic monumentality in the style of Michelangelo. Andrea del Sarto, who Vasari dubbed the "painter without errors", gives us here a typical example of intellectual religiousness of clear neo-Platonic derivation.
Though there are now dozens of casts of Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture The Thinker around the world, it had a much smaller origin. Rodin originally created a 70cm version in 1880 as the central component to a bigger sculptural work called “The Gates of Hell.” Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, the piece—first called The Poet—was conceived as a representation of Dante himself. The re-dubbed sculpture was exhibited on its own in 1888, then was enlarged to the depiction we know it today in 1904.
According to the first art historian (and painter) Giorgio Vasari, Lorenzo Lotto ( 1480-c. 1556) trained with Giorgione and Titian, in the studio of Giovanni Bellini. But he worked in many places apart from Venice, had an idiosyncratic style, and stands somewhat apart from the central Venetian tradition. His rootless existence reflects his anxious, difficult temperament and his work is extremely uneven. It draws on a wide variety of sources, from Northern Europe as well as Italy, but at the same time shows acute freshness of observation. This work is an outstanding example of how original, poetic, and simultaneously strange his work could be.
“Il Rosso” (c. 1495-1540) (called so for his red hair) was an exponent of the expressive style that is often called early, or Florentine, Mannerism, and was also one of the founders of the Fontainebleau school. Vasari says that he 'would not bind himself to any master' (a story that fits in with his individuality of temperament). But in his youth he learned the most from Andrea del Sarto, and together with Andrea's pupil Pontormo (Rosso's friend and close contemporary) he was one of the leading figures in the early development of Mannerism. The earliest works of Rosso and Pontormo combined influences from Michelangelo and from northern Gothic engravings in a novel style, which departed from the tenets of High Renaissance art and was characterized by its highly charged emotionalism. Rosso's work was quite sophisticated and varied in mood. At the end of 1523, Rosso moved to Rome, where his exposure to Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling, the late art of Raphael, and the work of Parmigianino resulted in an even more radical realignment of his style.