The term renaissance means “rebirth” and is the period in Europe’s history right after the Middle Ages. During this time, society during turned to classical teachings, world exploration, and cultural achievements in language, art, and science. This period was rooted in Italy and lasted from the 14th Century until the 17th Century AD. It provided an important stepping stone into modern history. Wealthy patrons from Florence sponsored writers and artists so that they could pursue their interests. This renewed knowledge of ancient Roman and Greek cultures gave way to humanism, the appreciation of human achievement and expression. Artists employed these principles in their work. Some of these artists went on to become very famous during their lives, some after. This article takes a look at some of the greatest renaissance artists to have lived.
Great Renaissance Artists
Leonardo da Vinci
One of, if not the, most famous artists from the Renaissance period is, without a doubt, Leonardo da Vinci. Born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci of Florence, Leonardo became a famous painter and less-famous inventor. In 1466, he became an artist’s apprentice and 4 years later, he qualified as a master. By 1478, he began receiving commission for his work and over the years he delved into several projects varying from parade floats to dome and monument designs. Among his inventions (notebook drawings) are a flying machine, armored vehicle, adding machine, and solar power. The materials to complete these projects did not exist during his lifetime. His most famous paintings are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. The Mona Lisa is a portrait of a woman that many scholars believe is actually a self-portrait. Da Vinci painted it between 1503 and 1506. The Last Supper is a mural painting that depicts Jesus dining with his disciples. It is the moment Jesus predicts that one of them will betray him.
Michelangelo is another great artist from the era. He was born in Caprese, Italy, but he grew up in Florence. He went on to become a painter, architect, and sculptor. He was an art apprentice at 13 and at 14 was invited to live in the palace of Lorenzo de' Medici, an art patron. There, Michelangelo continued to learn from the individuals within de’ Medici’s social circle. His fame grew and he was eventually commissioned by a cardinal, a cathedral, and the pope. His most famous works are his statue of David and his painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. David is a 17-foot, marble statue which represents a biblical hero of the same name. The work is considered technically perfect. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was commissioned by the Pope to paint the 12 apostles. Instead, Michelangelo painted 9 scenes from the biblical book of Genesis, 7 male prophets and 5 female prophets (sibyls). It took him 4 years to complete, the most famous scene is The Creation of Adam, where God and Adam are reaching out to touch hands.
One of the artists from outside of Italy to embrace the humanist approach was Hieronymous Bosch. He lived from 1450 to 1516 and his works were valued throughout the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain. Given that his father was an artistic adviser and his uncles and grandfather were artists, historians assume that one of them taught Bosch to paint. No records confirm that assumption. He became quite popular and received international commissions for his work. The most famous of these paintings is The Garden of Earthly Delights which was painted sometime between 1495 and 1505. It is a triptych, a 3-paneled painting that folds closed. The left panel depicts God introducing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the central panel shows society and its temptations, and the right panel represents Judgment Day. Some art scholars believe it is meant to represent the dangers of giving into temptation.
Many other renaissance artists have left their mark on history. For some more information regarding them and their famous works of art, take a look at the list below.
The Legacy of Renaissance Art Today
Many of the most famous works of art from the Renaissance period are highly treasured today. Their art is spread over most of Italy and other European countries hanging on on display in famous museums. The Mona Lisa, for example, is on display at The Louvre in Paris. The David statue is under a specially designed skylight in the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Planning a trip to Europe must include a visit to one of these famous works of art.