GREAT ARTISTS & THEIR IMMORTAL WORKS :
CONCLUDING ITALIAN RENAISSANCE IN
VERSE. - By Raj Nandy, New Delhi.
Dear Readers, continuing my Story of Western Art in Verse chronologically, I had covered an Introduction to the Italian Renaissance previously. That background story was necessary to appreciate Renaissance Art fully. Now, I cover the Art of that period in a summarized form, mentioning mainly the salient features to curb the length. The cream here lies in the 'Art of the High Renaissance Period'! Hope you like it. Thanks, - Raj.
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, &
Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
– Leonardo Da Vinci
In the domain of Renaissance Art, we notice the
enduring influence of the Classical touch!
Ancient Greek statues and Roman architectures,
Inspired the Renaissance artists in their innovative
The pervasive spirit of Humanism influenced
creation of life-like human forms;
Adding ****** expressions and depth, deviating
from the earlier stiff Medieval norms.
While religious subjects continued to get depicted
in three-dimensional Renaissance Art;
Portraits, **** figures, and secular subjects, also
began to appear during this great ‘Re-birth’!
The artists of the Early and High Renaissance Era
are many who deserve our adoration and artistic
Yet for the sake of brevity, I mention only the
Great Masters, who are handful and few.
EARLY RENAISSANCE ARTISTS & THEIR ART
GITTO THE PIONEER:
During early 13th Century we find, Dante’s
contemporary Gitto di Bondone the Florentine,
Painting human figures in all its beauty and form
for the first time!
His masterwork being the 40 fresco cycle in the
Arena Chapel in Padua, depicting the life of the
****** and Christ, completed in 1305.
Giotto made the symbolic Medieval spiritual art
appear more natural and realistic,
By depicting human emotion, depth with an
Art Scholars consider him to be the trailblazer
inspiring the later painters of the Renaissance;
They also refer to Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives Of
The Eminent Artists,” - as their main source.
Giotto had dared to break the shackles of earlier
Medieval two-dimensional art style,
By drawing lines which head towards a certain
focal point behind;
Like an illusionary vanishing point in space,
- opening up a 3-D ‘window into space’!
This ‘window technique’ got adopted by the
later artists with grace.
(Giorgio Vasari, a 16th Century painter, architect & Art
historian, was born in 1511 in Arezzy, a city under the
Florentine Republic, and painted during the High
VASARI’s book published in 1550 in Florence
was dedicated to Cosimo de Medici.
Forms an important document of Italian Art
This valuable book covers a 250 year’s span.
Commencing with Cimabue the tutor of Giotto,
right up to Tizian, - better known as Titan!
Vasari also mentions four lesser known Female
Renaissance Artists; Sister Plantilla, Madonna
Lucrezia, Sofonista Anguissola, and Properzia
And Rossi’s painting “Joseph and Potiphar’s
An impressive panel art which parallels the
unrequited love Rossi experienced in her own
(Joseph the elder son of Jacob, taken captive by Potiphar
the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard, was desired by Potiphar’s
wife, whose advances Joseph repulsed. Rossi’s painting
of 1520s inspired later artists to paint their own versions
of this same Old Testament Story.)
Next I briefly mention architects Brunelleschi
and Ghiberti, and the sculptor Donatello;
Not forgetting the painters like Masaccio,
Verrocchio and Botticelli;
Those Early Renaissance Artists are known to
us today thanks to the Art historian Giorgio
BRUNELLESCHI has been mentioned in Section
One of my Renaissance Story.
His 114 meter high dome of Florence Cathedral
created artistic history!
This dome was constructed without supporting
buttresses with a double egg shaped structure;
Stands out as an unique feat of Florentine
The dome is larger than St Paul’s in London,
the Capitol Building of Washington DC, and
also the St Peters in the Vatican City!
GILBERTI is remembered for his massive
15 feet high gilded bronze doors for the
Baptistery of Florence,
Containing twenty carved panels with themes
from the Old Testament.
Which took a quarter century to complete,
working at his own convenience.
His exquisite naturalistic carved figures in the
true spirit of the Renaissance won him a prize;
And his gilded doors were renamed by Michel
Angelo as ‘The Gates of Paradise’!
(At the age of 23 yrs Lorenzo Ghiberti had won the
competition beating other Architects for craving the
doors of the Baptistery of Florence!)
DONATELLO’S full size bronze David was
commissioned by its patron Cosimo de’ Medici.
With its sensual contrapposto stance in the
classical Greek style with its torso bent slightly.
Is known as the first free standing **** statue
since the days of Classical Art history!
The Old Testament relates the story of David
the shepherd boy, who killed the giant Goliath
with a single sling shot;
Cutting off his head with Goliath’s own sword!
Thus saving the Israelites from Philistine’s wrath.
This unique statue inspired all later sculptors to
strive for similar artistic excellence;
Culminating in Michael Angelo’s **** statue of
David, known for its sculptured brilliance!
MASSACCIO (1401- 1428) joined Florentine
Artist’s Guild at the age of 21 years.
A talented artist who abandoned the old Gothic
Style, experimenting without fears!
Influenced by Giotto, he mastered the use of
perspective in art.
Introduced the vanishing point and the horizon
line, - while planning his artistic works.
In his paintings ‘The Expulsion from Eden’
and ‘The Temptation’,
He introduced the initial **** figures in Italian
Art without any inhibition!
Though up North in Flanders, Van Eyck the
painter had already made an artistic innovation,
By painting ‘Adam and Eve’ displaying their
****** in his artistic creation;
Thereby creating the first **** painting in Art
But such figures greatly annoyed the Church,
Since nudes formed a part of pagan art!
So these Northern artists to pacify the Church
and pass its censorship,
Cleverly under a fig leaf cover made their art to
Van Eyck was also the innovator of oil-based paints,
Which later replaced the Medieval tempera, used to
paint angles and saints.
Masaccio’s fresco ‘The Tribute Money’ requires
here a special mention,
For his use of perspective with light and shade,
Where the blithe figure of the Roman tax collector
is artistically made.
Christ is painted with stern nobility, Peter in angry
And every Apostle with individualized features,
attire, and pose;
With light coming from a single identifiable source!
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and unto God things that are God’s”, said Christ;
Narrated in Mathew chapter 22 verse 21, which
cannot be denied.
Unfortunately, Masaccio died at an early age of
Said to have been killed by a jealous rival artist,
who had shed no tears!
BOTTICELLI the Florentine was born half a
century after the Dutch Van Eyck;
Remembered even to this day for his painting
the ‘Birth of Venus’, an icon of Art History
making him famous.
This painting depicts goddess Venus rising out
of the sea on a conch shell,
And the glorious path of female **** painting
commenced in Italy, - casting a spell!
His full scale **** Venus shattered the Medieval
taboo on ******.
With a subject shift from religious art to Classical
Removing the ‘fig-leaf cover’ over Art permanently!
I end this Early Period with VERROCCHIO, born
in Florence in fourteen hundred and thirty five.
A trained goldsmith proficient in the skills of both
painting and sculpture;
Who under the patronage of the Medici family
He had set up his workshop in Florence were he
trained Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, and other
famous Renaissance artists alike!
FOUR CANONICAL PAINTING MODES OF
During the Renaissance the four canonical painting
modes we get to see;
Are Chiaroscuro, Sfumato, Cangiante and Unione.
‘Chiaroscuro’ comes from an Italian word meaning
‘light and dark’, a painting technique of Leonardo,
Creating a three dimensional dramatic effect to
steal the show.
Later also used with great excellence by Rubens
and the Dutch Rembrandt as we know.
‘Sfumato’ from Italian ‘sfumare’, meaning to tone
down or evaporate like a smoke;
As seen in Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’ where the
colors blend seamlessly like smoke!
‘Cangiante’ means to ‘change’, where a painter
changed to a lighter or a darker hue, when the
original hue could not be made light enough;
As seen in the transformation from green to
yellow in Prophet Daniel’s robe,
On the ceiling of Sistine Chapel in Rome.
‘Unione’ followed the ‘sfumato’ quality, but
maintained vibrant colors as we get to see;
In Raphael’s ‘Alba Madonna’ in Washington’s
ART OF HIGH RENAISSANCE ERA - THE
“Where the spirit does not work with the
hand there is no art.”- Leonardo
With Giotto during the Trecento period of the
Painting dominated sculpture in the artistic
endeavor of Italy.
During the 15th century the Quattrocento, with
Donetello and Giberti,
Sculpture certainly dominated painting as we get to
But during the 16th century or the Cinquecento,
Painting again took the lead commencing with
the great Leonardo!
This Era was cut short by the death of Lorenzo the
Magnificent to less than half a century; (Died in 1493)
But gifted great masterpieces to the world enriching
the world of Art tremendously!
The Medieval ‘halo’ was now replaced by a fresh
And both Madonna and Christ acquired a more
Portrait paintings began to be commissioned by
many rich patrons.
While artists acquired both recognition and a status
of their own.
But the artistic focus during this Era had shifted from
Florence, - to Venice and Rome!
In the Vatican City, Pope Julius-II was followed by
Pope Leo the Tenth,
He commissioned many works of art which are
still cherished and maintained!
Now cutting short my story let me mention the
famous Italian Renaissance Superstar Trio;
Leonardo, Raphael, and Michael Angelo.
LEONARDO DA VINCI was born in 1452 in
the village of Vinci near the City of Florence,
Was deprived of a formal education being born
He was left-handed, and wrote from right to left!
He soon excelled his teacher Varrocchio, by
introduced oil based paints into Italy;
Whose translucent colors with his innovative
techniques, enhanced his painting artistically.
Sigmund Freud had said, “Leonardo was like a
man who awoke too early in the darkness while
others were all still asleep,” - he was awake!
Leonardo’s historic ‘Note Book’ has sketches of a
battle tank, a flying machine, a parachute, and many
other anatomical and technical sketches and designs;
Reflecting the ever probing mind of this versatile
genius who was far ahead of his time!
His ‘Vituvian Man’, ‘The Last Supper’, and ‘Mona Lisa’,
Remain as his enduring works of art and more popular
than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
Pen and ink sketch of the ‘Vitruvian Man’ with arms
and leg apart inside a square and a circle, also known
as the ‘Proportion of Man’;
Where his height correspondence to the length
of his outstretched hands;
Became symbolic of the true Renaissance spirit
‘The Last Supper’ a 15ft by 29ft fresco work on
the refectory wall of Santa Maria, commissioned
by Duke of Milan Ludovic,
Is the most reproduced religious painting which
took three years to complete!
Leonardo searched the streets of Milan before
painting Judas’ face;
And individualized each figure with competence!
‘Mona Lisa’ with her enigmatic smile continues
to inspire artists, poets, and her viewers alike,
since its creation;
Which Leonardo took four years to complete
with utmost devotion.
Leonardo used oil on poplar wood panel, unique
during those days,
With ‘sfumato’ blending of translucent colors with
light and shade;
Creating depth, volume, and form, with a timeless
expression on Mona Lisa’s countenance!
Art Historian George Varasi says that it is the face
of one Lisa Gherardini,
Wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant of Italy.
Insurance Companies failed to make any estimation
of this portrait, declaring its value as priceless!
Today it remains housed inside an air-conditioned,
de-humidified chamber, within a triple bullet-proof
glass, in Louvre France.
“It is the ultimate symbol of human civilization”,
- exclaimed President Kennedy;
And with this I pay my humble tribute to our
Leonardo da Vinci!
MICHEL ANGELO BUONARROTI (1475-1564):
This Tuscan born sculptor, painter, architect, and
poet, was a versatile man,
Worthy to be called the archetype of the true
At the age of twelve was placed under the famous
Where his inclination for sculpting began to show.
Under the liberal patronage of Lorenzo de Medici,
He developed his talent as a sculptor as we get
In the Medici Palace, he was struck by his rival
Torregiano on the nose with a mallet;
Disfiguring permanently his handsome face!
His statue of ‘Bacchus’ of 1497 and the very
beauty of the figure,
Earned him the commission for the ‘PIETA’ in
St Peter’s Basilica;
Where from a single piece of Carrara marble he
carved out the figure of ****** Mary grieving
over the dead body of Christ;
This iconic piece of sculpture which along with
his ‘David’ earned him the ‘Superstar rights’!
Michel Angelo’s **** ‘DAVID’ weighed 6.4 tons
and stood 17 feet in height;
Unlike the bronze David of Donatello, which
shows him victorious after the fight!
Michel’s David an epitome of strength and
youthful vigour with a Classical Greek touch;
Displayed an uncircumcised ***** which had
shocked the viewers very much!
But it was consistent with the Mannerism in Art,
in keeping with the Renaissance spirit as such!
David displays an attitude of placid calm with
his knitted eyebrows and sidelong glance;
With his left hand over the left shoulder
holding a sling,
Coolly surveys the giant Goliath before his
single sling shot fatally stings!
This iconic sculpture has a timeless appeal even
after 500 years, depicting the ‘Renaissance Man’
at his best;
Vigorous, healthy, beautiful, rational and fully
Finally we come to the Ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel of Rome,
Where Pope Julius-II’s persistence resulted in the
creation of world’s greatest single fresco that was
Covering some 5000 square feet, took five years
Special scaffoldings had to be erected for painting
scenes from ‘The Creation’ till the ‘Day of Judgment’
on a 20 meter’s high ceiling;
Where the Central portion had nine scenes from
the ‘Book of Genesis’,
With ‘Creation of Adam’ having an iconic significance!
Like Leonardo, Michel Angelo was left-handed and died
a bachelor - pursuing his art with devotion;
A man with caustic wit, proud reserve, and sublimity
RAFFAELLO SANZIO (1483-1520):
This last of the famous High Renaissance trio was
born in 1483 in Urbino,
Some eight years after Michel Angelo.
His Madonna series and decorative frescos
glorified the Library of Pope Julius the Second;
Who was impressed by his fresco ‘The School
And commissioned Raphael to decorate his
Study in the Vatican.
Raphael painted this large fresco between 1510
and 1511, initially named as the ‘Knowledge of
But the 17th century guide books referred to it
as ‘The School of Athens’.
Here Plato and Aristotle are the central figures
surrounded by a host of ancient Greek scholars
The bare footed Plato is seen pointing skywards,
In his left hand holds his book ‘Timaeus’;
His upward hand gesture indicating his ‘World
of Forms’ and transcendental ideas!
Aristotle is seen pointing downwards, his left
hand holds his famous book the ‘Ethics’;
His blue dress symbolizes water and earth
with an earthly fix.
The painting illustrates the historic continuance
of Platonic thoughts,
In keeping with the spirit of the Renaissance!
Raphael’s last masterpiece ‘Transfiguration’
depicts the resurrected Christ,
Flanked by prophets