Early-High Renaissance Art Period
Inspired by art and architecture from the High Renaissance period, the PB Gentlemen Exhibitors are proud to bring you Renaissance: Inspiring a Nation. This exhibit includes 7 incredible examples of Renaissance paintings, sculptures, and architecture that truly demonstrate Italian culture during this time; artists of these pieces include Michelangelo, Botticelli, Verrocchio, Bramante, and Sangallo.
The pieces seen in this exhibit were all created in Italy circa 1500, specifically in Florence and the Vatican City. The display shows the increasing influence of art on Italian culture, as well as mapping the growing popularity of said art.
During this time period, there was a large shift in style within Italian art. Where art had once just been the preservation of ideas, it quickly became the creating and perfecting of new, natural concepts. This shift is extremely evident through the works of the artists mentioned before, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Verrocchio, etc. In addition to a change in style, a significant change in nature occurred, for many Renaissance painters and sculptures drifted away from Christian ideas and began to explore emotional and natural phenomenons, generally inspired by classical antiquity.
This exhibition, if only here to serve one purpose, is here to allow us to rediscover our classical roots. The pieces in this exhibit beautifully show the aforementioned shift in artistic style, and altogether map the culture of the High Renaissance period in Italy. With everything from Christian faith to human reason to classical mythology, this collection of art truly captures the essence of Italian life from long ago.
The Creation of Adam
Italy, Vatican City
Fresco painting on a lime plaster canvas. 15’ 9’’ x 7’ 7’’ or 189’’ x 91’’
In 1508, Pope Julius II (1444-1513) commissioned Michelangelo to paint a series of frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, this project spawned many great works that became iconic to the Italian culture, one of which being the Creation of Adam.
The Creation of Adam is a section of the magnificent Sistine Chapel mural, painted by Michelangelo. It depicts God supported by wingless angels, who are flying nevertheless. God has descended from the heavens in a drapery, and his index finger is outstretched to the point where it almost touches the index finger of Adam. Adam is a naked form, a man with brown hair, and is in the position of lying down. God is flying in the direction of Adam, as shown by the flow of the drapery and God’s gray hair and beard. Although Adam seems in a very relaxed position, he mirrors the form of God in terms of body language, bringing in the idea that God created humankind in the image of himself. The touch Adam will receive from God is not only giving life to Adam, but also giving life to humankind itself. Adam appears to be sitting on an earthen structure, making it known that Adam was given life on earth. God is the only one in the painting that is clothed, showing that he is the one true God, the creator of life and the universe. The environment around God and Adam is rather dull, with the angels supporting God blending with each other, and none of them having unique characteristics. The earthen piece in which Adam lies lacks in detail and impressive color, therefore Michelangelo painted this with the sole purpose of the viewers focusing on God and Adam.
The Birth of Venus
Large scale canvas with tempera pigments, and covered with a layer of pure egg white.
5’ 8” x 9’ 2” or 68” x 110”
The Birth of Venus was requested for Botticelli to paint by the very wealthy Medici family of Florence. The Uffizi gallery was commissioned by the patriarch of the de Medici’s Cosimo I in 1560, and was to serve as offices for the magistrates of the Medici family. It would later serve a different purpose and house an expansive collection of art in which the Medici family owned, including the Birth of Venus, which it still contains to this day.
The Birth of Venus was created by Sandro Botticelli during the 15th century and served as a major landmark for Italian culture. It depicts Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, standing naked on a large shell. She and the large shell she stands upon have just emerged from the sea, presumably by the same winds that blow roses and violets around her. To her left stands a handmaid ready to cover her with a linen cloak. Venus’ nude depiction illustrates the merging of human beauty and elegance with divine truth. This theme was derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which was a major work of Latin literature. At this point in Renaissance culture, many paintings and sculptures were evident of Christian learning and belief, however this piece strayed from most art and depicted Classical belief over Christian faith. Despite its differentiation from most Renaissance art, it stood as, and still stands, as a cornerstone for Italian culture.
The Last Judgement
Italy, Vatican City
Fresco painting on a lime plaster canvas. 45’ x 40’ or 540’’ x 480’’
The Last Judgement was created by Michelangelo during the time of Paul III, however it was commissioned by Pope Clement VII. This fresco was created on the western wall of the Sistine Chapel, and served as both a religious and cultural icon for Italian life.
The Last Judgement is the masterpiece of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. The center figure of the mural depicts Christ the judge deciding the human race’s fate. He is shown sending some souls down to hell, and some rising to heaven. The dead are awakened by the trumpets of the surrounding angels, and St. John and St. Peter also surround. St. Peter holds two keys, one gold and one silver, which are painted to be the keys to heaven. Important parts of this painting include the saints surrounding Christ are all holding the object of torture or martyrdom. Saint Bartholomew holds his own skin as a reference to his death of being flayed alive. St. Blaise holds the combs he was tortured with, and St. Sebastian holds the arrows used to kill him. Charon and Minos are are at the bottom of the painting, and Charon is seen rowing the dead across in the ferry. Angels help push down souls, and the resurrection of the dead is shown at the bottom. Demon figures also bringing souls down also cover the lower half of the mural. The saved ones rejoice at the top. With all of these fantastic details and depictions, we can understand Michelangelo’s knowledge and how he was so ahead of his time. His understanding of the human anatomy is presented in the mural, with every character in different angles and positions that look very life-like and modern. The Last Judgement reflects not only Michelangelo, but Renaissance Italy’s religion during this period, and the strong and beautiful artistic culture of christianity brought to life within the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Italy, Vatican City
Fresco, paint applied to a damp plaster. The plaster was laid in a new section every day called giornata. 133’ 0” x 46’ 0” or 1596” x 552”
The ceiling is that of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City built between 1477 and 1480 and named after Pope Sixtus IV, who built it.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is very intricate, with many designs of the human figure that demonstrate Michelangelo's knowledge of the human anatomy. The subject of the murals in the chapel is humanity's need for salvation from God through Jesus. There are nine scenes from the book of Genesis depicted. The ceiling's subject is that God made the world as a perfect creation, and put humanity into it, and that humanity fell into disgrace and was punished by death, separation from God, and later the Great Flood. Then, God sent the savior of humanity, Christ Jesus. Some of the ceiling depicts concepts from the Old Church, but other parts draw straight from the Renaissance thinking and culture at the time. This thinking reconciled the philosophic structure of Italy at the time with the Christian theology.
The Baptism of Christ
Andrea del Verrocchio, Italian
Tempera paint on wooden panel. 70” x 59”
The painting is housed in the Uffizi gallery, the same gallery in which Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is housed. Commissioned by the Church of S. Salvi, later transferred to Vallumbrosan Sisterhood in Santa Verdiana. In 1810 it entered the collection of the Accademia and then later passed to the Uffizi in 1959.
The Baptism of Christ created by Verrocchio shows the development of the human form that occurred in the time of the Renaissance, and relates to the style of Botticelli, with the forms of the painting being similar to that of the Birth of Venus. It depicts Jesus Christ being baptized by John the Baptist. The left angel in the picture is famous for being painted by Verrocchio's apprentice, Leonardo de Vinci. It relates to the period's art by showing relative advancement in depth perception, but very odd and irregular bodily proportions such as the small head of Christ in relation to his body. Although there are oddities in proportions, this is still an impressive approach to recreation of biblical events using realistic figures and perceptions.
St. Peter's Basilica Dome
Bramante and Sangallo, 1506 and 1513 (early designs) Michelangelo and Giacomo della Porta, 1547 and 1585 (redesign), all Italian
Italy, Vatican City
452' tall 138' in diameter
Bramante- designed with a pure concrete shell, inner surface of dome is deeply coffered. Michelangelo- Two shells of brick, outer one having 16 stone ribs, far fewer than Sangallo’s design. Michelangelo redesigned the dome in 1547. The Basilica is the burial site of the namesake of St. Peter. Michelangelo died in 1564, leaving the drum of the dome complete, but with Bramante’s piers much bulkier than originally designed. It was left to his assistant to finish. in 1585 Pope Sixtus appointed Giacomo della Porta. Giacomo della Porta brought the dome to completion in 1590.
Not only did Michelangelo have a huge part in the majority of the Sistine Chapel, he also designed the great and highly advanced feat of architecture that is the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. Bramante had a dome in mind that was a pure concrete shell, with deep coffering on the inner surface. This design and Sangallo's relative design worked until the mind of Michelangelo and his assistant came along to redesign. With other forms in mind, Michelangelo changed the sizing of Bramante's piers, and had completed the dome's drum, when he died in 1564 to later be completely by Giacomo della Porta. Michelangelo can be credited with the idea to redesign the dome, but the glorious Vatican structure was brought to full completion by Giacomo della Porta. Although Bramante and Sangallo's ideas were changed, they should still be given much credit for a unique structure to add to the magnificent style of the Vatican City.
Italy, Vatican City
Carrara marble sculpture. 68.5’’ x 76.8’’Pietà was commissioned for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, who was a representative in Rome. The sculpture was made for the cardinal's funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century.
Michelangelo's Pietá is a very important piece in the complete history of art. This piece is quite possibly the best art piece Michelangelo ever created, besting David and his work in the Sistine Chapel. It spurs emotion, faith, and many deep emotions in the viewer, no matter how someone interprets it, views it, or contemplates it. It is made of Carrara marble, and was originally crafted for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères for his own funeral. It was made to be the best marble sculpture in Rome, and although it was intended for a cardinal's funeral, it would become one of the most influential pieces on Christian Art. The piece shows the Virgin Mary holding her son Jesus Christ, after taking him down from the cross. This sculpture launched Michelangelo's career at the young age of 24. This sculpture was also special because double figured sculptures were rare at this period. This scene holds a very melancholy and impactful tone, although, Mary's face seems resigned, graceful with acceptance. Christ's body is swaddled in Mary's cloth, with his sacred body being held gracefully and carefully. The beauty of the figures echo the beauty of God's creation. This piece is the embodiment of grace, care, and the perfection of divinity. It shows the immense talent of Michelangelo, the only piece he ever signed.