Renaissance Art – an Overview

Renaissance Art

Art History Renaissance

Period: ca 1400-1600


“The Creation of Adam” (detail) by Michelangelo 1508-1512

Renaissance Art occurred in most parts of Europe but it all began in Tuscany, Italy and had it’s center in the cities of Florence and Siena. It was in these areas that the physical remains from the Classical era was found and that made studying it easier which was very important to the Renaissance artists. Renaissance means rebirth – returning to the Classical values.

Later on the Italian Renaissance also had a great effect on Rome, with influential people like the pope who commissioned some of the famous renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Raphael to create Renaissance paintings.

The era also spread in the northern parts of Europe like the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the northern parts of France and western Germany) and England, called the Northern Renaissance and English Renaissance.

The Renaissance can be divided into three periods:
Early Renaissance ca 1400 – 1500
High Renaissance ca 1500 – 1527
Late Renaissance (Mannerism) ca 1527 – 1600

Movements During This Era

Early Renaissance

Three principles characterizes the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century:
1. The intense study of the classical learning.
2. A strong belief in the noble value of human, Humanism.
3. The discovery and ability to master the linear perspective.

The latter meant that now the artists could master to depict figures and surroundings in a realistic way and it became a revolution to the western art. Even if the religious subjects still were predominant, the interest in secular, more earthly, subjects increased.

At the same time art in the Renaissance style developed in northern Europe like the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. The artists there started to use oil paints and easels and it’s called The Northern Renaissance. Jan van Eyck, (Netherlands), is one of the most famous artist from the area.

Famous artists from the Early Renaissance
Andrea del Verrocchio – Sandro Botticelli – Lorenzo di Credi – Piero della Francesca – Jan van Eyck – Mathis Grünewald – Albrecht Dürer

High Renaissance

This is the peak of the era and during this time there was a lot produced by the Renaissance artists. The most essential works from the period are the restoration of the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome with its decorations like the Pietà sculpted from one single block of marble (height: 174 cm / 68,5 in), The fresco “The Last Judgment” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, both created by Michelangelo. Rafael painted the fresco “The School of Athens” in the library of Pope Julius ll which contains the subjects Philosophy, Theology, Poetry and Law.

Both Michelangelo and Raphael were under the patronage of the Pope who commissioned them to create various works of art.

The banking family Medici in Florence where also very influential and commissioned artists like Donatello (sculptor) and Michelangelo.

The style in this period is idealization but the High Renaissance artists expressed it in different ways. Raphael for example focused a lot on heroic confidence, whereas Michelangelo and Titian depicted the male body. The ideal of the perfect union of the human and the divine and the exploration of the relationship between the human figure and landscape increased.

Famous artists from the High Renaissance
Bartolommeo –
Leonardo da Vinci – Raphael – Michelangelo Buonarroti – Titian

Late Renaissance

Late Renaissance, also named Mannerism, is the period bridging the High Renaissance and the Baroque. You can read more about Mannerism here.

Sources of facts:
“Art” by Robert Cumming and Wikipedia

Renaissance Paintings


“Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci 1503-1506


“The School of Athens” by Raphael 1509–1510


“Venus and Mars” by Botticelli 1483

The Baptism of Christ

“The Baptism of Christ” by Andrea del Verrocchio 1474-1475


“Bacchus and Ariadne” by Titian 1523–1524

La Madone au Chanoine der Paele

“La Madone au Chanoine Van der Paele” by Jan van Eyck 1434

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