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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

early renaissance

1. How did the societal role and reputations of artists change during this time?

During the early renaissance there were shifts in the social status of the artist as well as the extent to which he was valued as an intellectual. This marked the gradual shift from the artist as a craftsman to a practitioner of the liberal arts. An artist favoured by a court might be awarded the title valet de chambre or familiaris. These positions were a significant advancement from the positions of other artisans, but he was not yet a courtier but he was in a much better placed to attain this position.

The lower status of painting at the beginning of the Renaissance is reflected in the fact that members of the aristocracy or learned class did not generally practice it. A member of the Milanese aristocracy, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio’s epitaph stressed that although he was a painter, he was an amateur, because if it were thought that he made his living from painting it would significantly lower his social status. It is for this reason that few people in the early Renaissance would see painting as a method of social advancement or to demonstrate intellectual ability. This did not however stop many painters having aspirations for higher social and intellectual status, despite their background and education rarely supporting this aspiration.

Leonardo also did a lot to improve the view of artists, and himself became a courtier. Dürer thought that it was important for young artists should be taught how to read and write Latin in order to be able to understand certain texts and although Leonardo himself struggled most of his life in the area of literature he was extremely advanced in the sciences and arts. He was not a traditional gentleman, but through dedication and motivation helped to overcome the typical views of high society towards artists. [1]

Artists pursued higher education and began to emulate people with intellectual credibility during the early renaissance in an effort to advance there social status.

2. Why is Rome so important to the High Renaissance? Why is that period so short [1495-1520 ]? What role did Pope Julius II play in it?
[Worth 3 points.]

Rome is so important to the High Renaissance because all the great talent of the time where trained or requested to work there. The majority of big events for this time occurred there.
Rome was also attractive to artists because of its series of ambitious Popes. The Popes of the time where in a sense competing to outdo their predecessors with elaborate artworks. At the end of the fifteenth century Popes were from powerful and wealthy families that were accustomed to underwriting public art and Popes were well known for having a lot of clout which ensured any artist they wanted would happily work for them (plus the requests for artists were generally delivered by armed emissaries).
The High Renaissance was extremely short for multiple reasons one of the most notable is when the greatest of the Medici family, Lorenzo de Medici, died in 1492. Also Savonarola, a extremely religious and important monk, believed that the art of the High Renaissance was causing moral decay in society and would cause an apocalypse. Another reason for the downfall of the High Renaissance in Rome was that high society every where was beginning to recognize art as a social symbol (keeping up with the Jones-se which the Medici definitely resembled at the time).
Pope Julius II reigned with regal ambition towards architecture, foreign policy, literature, and art (and was commonly referred to as the “Warrior Pope”). He was a selfish and self-serving Pope who aspired to gain fame as a member of the della Rovere family rather then helping the church grow. It was his moral indifference and political (warlike) schemes that eventually gained him a prominent position that would entitle him to be considered remarkable as a Pope and patron of the arts. As far as the High Renaissance is concerned he enhanced the city of Rome, especially St. Peter’s Basilica, with his patronage and well known friendships with great artists like Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius 11.
The rest of this assignment involves looking at specific images by the six High Renaissance artists and explaining the meaning or importance of each one:

3. Leonardo da Vinci. #16.6 The Last Supper.

The paintings of the Renaissance are remarkable in both size (The Last Supper was 15x29 feet) and technical difficulty this painting illustrates Leonardo da Vinci’s aptitude for design and mathematical perfection in design. The technical aptitude is shown in how every element, figure, and the layout points the eye to Christ’s head which makes it one of the best examples of one point perspective. Perfection is one of the reasons Leonardo normally didn’t finish his art, but in this case he finished this piece in three years (1495-98). As everyone knows da Vinci was an inventor and a scientist which also is leading cause of destruction to his painting during the aging process because he liked to invent his own techniques for frescos.

The original mural is on the refectory, or dining hall wall of the Santa Maria deelle Grazie Convent in Milan and replicas are mass produced today as religious and artistic symbols.

All of my previous comments pale to the true emotion of this painting and how The Last Supper could have been a response to potential religious conspiracies. Both of these comments can be seen in the realism displayed in the disciples figure and emotions. Leonardo was definitely not the first artist to paint “The Last Supper”, but he was the most pragmatic and the first to depict real “acting” people as Christ’s deciples react to his news of a betrayal, symbol gestures, how to live, and the first Eucharist.

#16.7 Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is by far Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting, or perhaps the most priceless artwork of the Renaissance overall. Like many of Leonardo’s finished paintings they are surrounded by questions and theories of conspiracy and the Mona Lisa is no exception. Even though she is named Mona Lisa (which was not named by Leonardo, but actually by Vasari 31 years after his death) and has a hint of breasts it has been said that she is a man, Leonardo’s mistress, or even Leonardo himself.

Regardless of the random theories the Mona Lisa is important because of (again) the technical aptitude displayed in the artwork. The fading shadows, the perfection of the fading perspective in the landscape, and in her beautiful half smile that reveals a hint of sadness with an entrapping gaze.Surprisingly this enigmatic masterpiece was created in only four years and is now the most widely recognized painting in the world.

4. Donato Bramante. #16.8 The Tempietto.

Donato Bramante’s Tempietto was the most harmonious building of the Renaissance despite its small scale it was rigorously proportioned and had the symmetry of a classical structure surrounded by Doric columns and a dome. Bramante had big plans for a courtyard, but Julius recognized the Tempietto as a trial piece to the construction of the grandest European architectural commission of the 16th century, where he did a complete rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica.

5. Michelangelo. #16.12 Pieta.

Michelangelo designed a number of works themed around perfecting a sculptural Pieta, but one of the most famous versions and his most highly finished work is the statue that cardinal Jean de Billheres commissioned for St. Peter’s Basilica. The funeral monument was later moved to it’s current location at the entrance of the basilica, but it is unique not for why it was designed and more because of how it depicts Christ and his holy mother. Jesus is lanky after his Crucifixion with his clearly distressed mother cradling his lifeless body in her arms. The figures are out of proportion and depict a full grown man completely cradled in a woman’s lap which is ironic because the statue is so lifelike, and his realistic interpretation is unique to the precedents. The relationship of the figures seem natural thanks to the Virgin’s body is concealed by her monumental drapery. The piece is balanced by a Renaissance classical beauty and sense of naturalism that closely relates to an ancient Roman style of relaying movement and energy in structures. Jesus still looks beautiful after the crucifixion thanks to Michelangelo’s undersized marks to represent the holes from the fatal wounds and smooth flowing lines of the two figure’s bodies.

#16.13 David.

The David by Michelangelo is the most recognizable statue in the history of art. It is a symbol of strength and the beauty of human youth. It is also one of the most oversized (17ft) marble statues that is portraying not only a human figure but a biblical one, namely King David prior to the battle with Goliath. Michelangelo was an admirer of classical Roman and Greek sculpture and it inspired many of his classical poses. The David is no exception, but it is remarkable that the pose did not collapse under its large body. It is also unique that the David differs by the lack of a character namely Goliath. Unlike the common interpretations of David as a victorious warrior, Michelangelo David portrays a tense man before battle with feeling being conveyed in his veins and motion shown in the twist of his body. The moment is however disputed that the David of Michelangelo is either just made the vital decision to choice to take action (conscious choice vs. conscious action), or the moment immediately after battle were he contemplates his victory.

This piece by far represents Michelangelo’s ambition to create powerful works of art and became a “hallmark” of his career. This piece in particular was so great it went from a memorable statue to be place on a buttress to a symbol of the Florentine government placed in front of the Palazzo della Signoria as the guardian of the city.

#16.17 Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco.

A four year project, the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling fresco, was an “intense creation” designed in a medium he was uncomfortable with. The book describes this piece as “a work of truly epochal importance.” Unarguably this extravagant work of art was uniquely formed as a single piece over a vast spaced low barrel vaulted ceiling framed by the architecture. The heroes of the Old Testament are cleanly interwoven and flank the narratives. The stories are almost completely depicted by figures, which more then likely stem from Michelangelo’s deep love of ancient figure sculpture. This project ended complete with Michelangelo being sent back to work for the Medici family. Just as a side note many of these paintings are singularly famous for being reproduced as individual pieces for example “The Creation of Adam” is undeniably well know as are many of the other narratives.

6. Raphael. #16.25 The School of Athens.

The School of Athens, located in the Stanza della Segnatura, has long been recognized as Raphael’s masterpiece and a grand representation of the “Classical spirit” in the High Renaissance era. The subject of this piece is debated but many think it is famous Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle in pose or activity. He borrowed a lot of energy from Michelangelo’s figures in the chapel and the emotional figures displayed within. Like a few other famous Renaissance artists and patron’s Raphael painted himself into characters within his paintings. In the school of Athens Raphael is thought to be the seated figure to the paintings left. Also significant is his symmetrical design, grouped figures, and links to formal rhythm which describes a deep interrelation with each of the elements in the fresco.

7. Giorgone. #16.31 The Tempest.

The tempest is equally as unusual as the first recorded picture in a collection for one of Venice’s greatest patrons of the arts, Gabriele Vendramin. The mood is similar to Arcadia in its story of unrequited love and marks the beginning of a time when traditional art became important. Amazingly, Giorgione did not make preliminary drawings, but still created very sensual scenery with valued light and color.

8. Titian. #16.33 Madonna with Members of the Pesaro Family.

Titan displays an amazing ability to transform older traditions in his commission named the Madonna with Members of the Pesaro Family. He took a traditional painting, sacra conversazione, and re-imagined the composition and figures to set Mary and Jesus into a pyramid arrangement that seems both natural and innocent. The holy family is framed by the donors’ family solemnly adorned on either side. The traditional painting is harmonious and self contained with drama and perfect lighting under the paints joyous texture. This painting was the most sought after of it’s time after Raphael’s death.

Answer the following questions from Chapter 17, the Late Renaissance and Mannerism in 16th century Italy.

9. How is Mannerism different from High Renaissance art? Use Fiorentino's #17.1 The Descent from the Cross to explain.

Unlike the perfectly laid out classical forms of High Renaissance art Mannerism in The Descent from the Cross is chaotically organized to move you downwards and back up again towards the figure of Jesus. The book describes this painting as a idiosyncratic and I would agree if for no other reason then the way the focus moves and is still stable with the emphasis on the cross. So to describe the comparison simply, High Renaissance art is more controlled, even, and smooth moving.

10. What subject did Bologna really have in mind when he sculpted #17.10? What was so difficult technically to create that piece?

Bologna was trying to show off his skill in demonstrating three contrasting figures united in a single action and had no specific theme in mind, but pulling from an ancient Roman tale of men looking for wives in a town called Sabine. Since no one would marry them they tricked the tribe, attacked them, and took the women by force. He was basically trying to display virtuosity carved in marble, on a grand scale, that could be admired from all sides. This showed a Mannerist style in the way form and content contrasts.

11. Explain the overall scope of the project and the meaning of Michelangelo's #17.15 The Campidoglio and his #17.17 St. Peter's Dome. [worth 2 points]

Michelangelo’s main pursuit for the Campidoglio was the most ambitious commission of his career in which he reshaped the top of Rome’s Capitoline Hill into a piazza and then framed it with a monument that could be worthy of the site. It is the most imposing civic center ever built and has served as a model for many others.

Again with the exterior of St. Peter’s, Michelangelo used colossal order. He took over the project from several previous architects and reordered it into a centrally focused plan. The plan was adapted to the system of the conservator’s palace to the curving contours of the church with windows instead of open loggias and an attic instead of balustrade. He used pilasters to emphasize the compact body of the structure and off set the dome while simplifying the interior. The dome in particular reflects Michelangelo’s ideas in the steep pitch that was built long after his death. It is a powerful dome that thrusts and draws energy upward from the main body and a Gothic Florentine profile.
The overall scope of the two is simple making something extravagant but simple by using traditional forms and structures.

12. What was so significant about the painter Lavinia Fontana? Compare her #17.28 Portrait of a Noblewoman with Bronzino's #17.7 Portrait of Eleanora of Toledo...

In this time it was unusual for women to be painters, but Lavinia was the daughter of Prospero Fontana who was a distinguished artist. This upbringing allowed her to learn to paint and network with noble patrons. The Portrait of a Noblewoman is dark and modestly formal highlighted from the left to distinguish the forms as a decorative symbol of a married wife. The image is sumptuous and flattering which is one of many reasons that she was so sought after. This painting is mainly a memorabilia then a symbolic portrait.

The Portrait of Eleanora of Toledo and Her Son Giovanni de Medici is equally formal and idealized, but not portraying future marriage and fidelity. Instead the portrait portrays a mother and child formally dressed and a halo encompassing the mothers head. This painting was made to exemplify the form of court portrait which is idealized and resembling the ideal beauty regardless if it moves slightly away from reality in things like hair color differences. This image is as much of the characters it portrays as it is of the Medici dynasty. In the end this painting was more of iconology as status and symbolism.

13. Why was Paolo Veronese brought before the Tribunal of the Inquisition? What did he change to comply with their wishes?

The commission for the Dominican monastery depicts a sumptuous banquet and he was deliberately vague about which event in the life of Jesus that he had depicted. After being brought before the Tribunal of the Inquisition he changed the pictures title from being of the Last Supper (because they thought it was irreverent) to The Feast of the House of Levi.

14. Palladian style refers to the architectural qualities used by Palladio. In his design for the Villa Rotunda name one principle used by him that agrees with Alberti's definition of the ideal church.

Alberti’s definition of the ideal church is very similar but different to Palladio’s. Alberti put significance in proportion, but that it was flexible. Palladio believed in practicing what he preached and agreed with Alberti in the principle of colossal order. He designed the Villa Rotunda on the ground that “Temples ought to have ample porticos, with larger columns than other buildings require; and it’s proper that they should be great and magnificent… built with large and beautiful proportions made of the most excellent and most precious material, that the divinity may be honored as much as possible.” Alberti defined the ideal church as a symmetrical, centralized design of this sort, and Palladio’s Villa Rotunda was a square block surmounted by a dome, with identical porches symmetrically in the shape of a temple on all four sides.
[1] Ben Galvin, Intellectual life of painters in the early renaissance, 01.10.03
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Senior UI/UX web designer at a large-scale IT contractor for defense, intelligence, and civilian government solutions. Adventurist and certified Yoga / Barre Instructor. Love aviation, books, and travel.Prefer long light hearted series in mystery, comedy, fantasy, and romance.

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