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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.
  • Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)
    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.
  • The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    A very personal and revealing look at the personalities that created Impressionism.

Entries in Renaissance Art (31)


Jean Clouet: Delicacy and Depth of Characterization

Jean Clouet - Guillaume Budé - ca. 1536 - Oil on Wood - 15 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (39.7 x 34.3 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (click photo for larger image)Although he lived in France for most of his life, records show that Jean Clouet (c. 1485-1541) was not French by origin and was never naturalized. He was one of the chief painters to Francis I as early as 1516 and was appointed groom of the chamber from 1523 forward. As such, he enjoyed the salary and social position granted to the most prominent poets and scholars of the time. In the early 1520s he lived in Tours and from 1529 in Paris. He painted chiefly portraits, but, at least iIn the earlier part of his career, he produced religious subjects.

“Painter to King Francis I, Jean Clouet played a key role in establishing the Renaissance portraiture tradition in France, yet this is his only extant painted portrait. It depicts Guillaume Budé, librarian to Francis I and the leading humanist of sixteenth-century France…. Budé’s fingers hold his page, as if interrupted. With the quill in his right hand, he has written in Greek, ‘While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need’ (Joannes Stobaeus, 3.5.18).” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)


Properzia de’Rossi: A “Life”

Properzia de’Rossi - Joseph and Potiphar's Wife - 1520s - Marble - Museo de San Petronio, Bologna (click photo for larger image)Properzia de’Rossi (ca. 1490-1530) was an Italian sculptor, and one of the few recorded women artists in the 16th century. She is the only woman to whom Giorgio Vasari ( 1511-1574) gives a "life" in his  Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, considered the ideological foundation of art historical writing. 

Her inclusion in that work indicates that she was an exceptional artist. Unfortunately, she died young and the only sure work in marble by her hand is a relief for the portal of the Cathedral of Bologna representing the Old Testament story of the Chastity of Joseph. This relief emphasizes the contrast between the voluptuous, eager wife of Potiphar and Joseph's determination to escape her and remain true to his beliefs. This marble relief was commissioned by the Fabbrica of San Petronio for the façade of San Petronio in Bologna.

According to Vasari, Properzia began her career by carving peach stones. One of them, which he described as engraved with the entire Passion, has been identified as forming part of a necklace (Pesaro, Palazzo Bonamini-Pepoli). An engraved cherry stone (Florence, Uffizi) has been attributed to her, as well as 11 carved peach stones set in a device of filigree silver (Bologna, Museo Civico).

To learn more about Properzia and other women artists, I recommend watching “The Story of Women and Art” hosted by Amanda Vickery. She’ll show you some of those peach stones Properzia carved!


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.


“Great George”

Giorgione - Adoration of the Shepherds - 1505-10 – Venice - Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington (click photo for larger image)Italian painter (real name Giorgio Barbarelli or Giorgio da Castelfranco), who 'from his stature and the greatness of his mind was afterwards known as Giorgione (c. 1477-1510) [great George]' (Vasari). He was ranked by Vasari with Leonardo da Vinci as one of the founders of modern painting. He was the first exponent in Venice of the small picture in oils, intended for private collectors rather than for churches, and frequently mysterious and evocative in subject. Giorgione's achievement in transforming the character of Venetian painting has always seemed the more remarkable in a life, terminated by the plague of 1510, that was even shorter than Raphael's.


Harmony and Balance of Design

Raphael - Crucifixion (Città di Castello Altarpiece) - 1502-03 - Oil on wood, 281 x 165 cm (112.4 x 66 in.) - National Gallery, London (click photo for larger image)Paolo Giovio, Raphael’s (1483-1520) first biographer, commissioned this Madonna. Jesus has taken the cross from the boy Baptist, thus indicating the symbol of His Passion. The older boy is looking at him full of understanding, and visibly saddened. The Virgin has put her hand on his shoulder, as if to comfort him. Named after the Spanish ducal family of Alba, who owned the painting for over a century, this work was later purchased for the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, from which it was acquired for the Mellon Collection. The painting is a perfect expression of Renaissance art theory. Harmony and balance of design are found in Raphael's ability to stabilize the circular form of the painting, with a triangular arrangement of the figures and the strong horizontal line behind them, composed of the river and trees.