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  • Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    A fascinating and highly entertaining look at one of the most important families of the Renaissance era--the Medici.
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    Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)

    “Sister Wendy Beckett has transformed public appreciation of art through her astonishing knowledge, insight and passion for painting and painters.” This set includes Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Sister Wendy's Odyssey, and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour. Simultaneously delightful and scholarly--this is a must have for anyone interested in art history.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
    Exit Through the Gift Shop
    When British stencil artist Banksy traveled to Los Angeles to work, he came across obscure French filmmaker Thierry Guetta and his badly organized collection of videotapes involving the activities of graffiti artists. Inspired, Banksy assembled them with new footage to create this talked-about documentary, and the result is a mind-boggling and odd film (so strange as to be thought a hoax by some) about outsider artists and the definition of art itself.
  • The Impressionists
    The Impressionists
    A dramatization of the Impressionist movement as seen through the eyes of Claude Monet. Highly entertaining and informative.
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    A very personal and revealing look at the personalities that created Impressionism.

Entries in Late Renaissance (5)


Maniera — Style!

Sebastiano del Piombo - Portrait of Cardinal Reginald Pole - 1540s - Oil on canvas, 112 x 95 cm - The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (click photo for larger image)Mannerism, the artistic style which gained popularity in the period following the High Renaissance, takes as its ideals the work of Raphael and Michelangelo. Mannerist Art is typically characterized by a complex composition, with muscular and elongated figures in intricate, sometimes convoluted poses, and a “pushing” of color boundaries. 

Michelangelo (1475-1564), who is covered extensively on this website is widely credited with beginning the Mannerist movement (thought not formally). Other leading Mannerist artists included Rosso Fiorentino, Pontormo, and Parmigiano.

By the late 16th century, there were several anti-Mannerist attempts to reinvigorate art with greater naturalism and emotionalism. These developed into the grand Baroque style, which dominated the 17th century and coincided with the Counter-Reformation. It was Mannerism, however, that was indeed much more modern and forward thinking. While the public loved the style however, the Church did not. And the Church, continued to be art’s greatest patron during this era.

A perhaps lesser known but nevertheless important Mannerist was Sebastiano del Piombo (c. 1485-1547). An Italian painter of the Venetian School (who actually began his professional life as a musician) he was the only major artist of the period to combine the coloring of the Venetian School with the monumental forms of the Roman school.

The subject of the painting featured here—Reginald Pole (1500-1558)—was an English prelate, a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, and the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury during the Counter Reformation against the Church of England. You’ll notice that his pose is somewhat awkward—that there is nothing in the space behind him—and that the colors are somewhat “bumped up” in this work. This is all typical of Mannerism.


Madonna of the Harpies

Andrea del Sarto - Madonna of the Harpies - 1517 - Oil on wood, 208 x 178 cm - (83.2 x 71.2 in.) Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (click photo for larger image)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.


The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine

Fra Bartolomeo - Mystic Marriage of St Catherine - 1512 - Panel, 356 x 270 cm (142.4 x 108 in.) Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence (click photo for larger image)This work by Fra Bartolomeo (1472-1517) is a representation of the “Mystic Marriage of St Catherine” (to Christ)—a subject matter meant to be a symbol of a purely spiritual grace. The central narrative is expanded by the addition of some thirteen laterally displaced saints, in the sort of crowded design for which Fra Bartolomeo is well known. The regular, coherent placement of the large number of figures is made possible by the inherently clarifying properties of the perspective and the enveloping architecture.


The Nativity

Lorenzo Lotto - “Nativity” - 1523 - Oil on wood, 46 x 36 cm - National Gallery of Art, Washington (click photo for larger image)Lorenzo Lotto was an Italian painter well known for his elegant and mystical paintings of religious subjects. He represents one of the best examples of a fruitful relationship between the Venetian and Central Italian Schools. In this work, “[t]he pastoral mood, asymmetrical design, and complex spatial arrangements are typical Venetian variants on a traditional theme. Most unusual are the crucifix behind, and the mousetrap, on which the artist has signed his name, in the lower right corner.” The crucifix was added later by the artist, and represents a Venetian tendency to combine the Birth of Christ and the final moment of the Redemption into one image.


Andrea Del Sarto: A Poised and Graceful Style

Andrea del Sarto - Disputation on the Trinity - 1517 - Oil on wood, 232x193 cm - Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence (click photo for larger image)Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) was a Florentine painter. The epithet 'del sarto' (of the tailor) is derived from his father's profession; his real name was Andrea d'Agnolo di Francesco. After an apprenticeship under Piero di Cosimo, he soon absorbed the poised and graceful style developed by Fra Bartolommeo and Raphael in Florence during the first decade of the 16th century, and following the departures of Leonardo and Michelangelo. 

The altarpiece features Sts Augustine, Sebastian, Lawrence, Peter Martyr, Francis and Mary Magdalen placed before an indistinct backdrop of sky and clouds resplendent with a compact image of the Trinity.