Renaissance Art & Artists
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Renaissance Paintings

The Renaissance gave the world some of the most famous paintings in history. These works still hang in the halls of museums and cathedrals hundreds of years after they were created. While all the paintings from this period hold immense value, some have transcended the art world to become part of the human experience. These are the select paintings that manage to capture the entire essence of the Renaissance within just a few inches of canvas. These works grab our attention, stir our hearts and bring us to a world that exists in that heavenly realm where a canvas becomes a gateway between man and the cosmos. It should come as no surprise that many of the most famous paintings of the Renaissance were completed by artists who are still household names today. Many people have seen these paintings in books and magazines hundreds of times without ever knowing their titles.

Works by Michelangelo

Many of Michelangelo's best works are on public display throughout Italy today. No work displays the full scope of his talents like the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In fact, this vivid and dreamlike scene may be the most important piece of work to come out of the Renaissance. The ceiling was worked on between 1508 and 1512. It represents the richness and glitter that embodies the High Renaissance. Michelangelo brought to life the moment that Adam was created using his paintbrush. A mix of clothed and nude figures allowed him to demonstrate his skill at representing the human form in a variety of poses. What is notable is that Michelangelo actually built his own type of scaffold to complete his work. This allowed him to complete the entire scene in the standing position. The scene was done in the fresco style. Every detail points to the idea that the salvation of man is offered through Jesus. It all represents man's longing and need for a covenant with his creator. One of the reasons why scholars continue to be fascinated with this work is the way it so beautifully weaves elements of ancient beliefs with expressions and sensibilities that are so unique to the Renaissance. The piece manages to convey traditional views about covenant relationships with new ideas regarding man's direct relationship to a creator.

Works by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci created many spiritually based works that were captivating, haunting and revolutionary. "The Last Supper" is da Vinci's most famous work of art. It also happens to be the only one of his murals to have survived history. Any casual observer will notice that his paintings bring a cinematic element to important scenes from the bible. Leonardo da Vinci demonstrated his ability to bring a human element to a supernatural scene in works like "The Annunciation" and "Madonna and the Carnation." He was also able to bring the same beauty and poignancy to anonymous subjects. Works like "Portrait of a Musician" and "Lady With an Ermine" give the world glimpses into the soul of the society this master artist lived in. Both works were completed using oil on walnut. Of course, no painting has made the world infatuated with an anonymous beauty quite like "Mona Lisa" has. This iconic work was created using oil on cottonwood.

Works by Titian

Titian's works are celebrated for bringing mythological and religious scenes to life on canvas. His works consist almost entirely of portraits and scenes. Casual admirers of his work can't help but to notice the realistic, worn expressions that many of his subjects wear on their faces. His was able to convey a world of emotion with a single glance in works like "The Tribute to Money" and "Salome." He also manages to convey the social temperature of the time he lived in through works like "Woman with a Mirror" and "Portrait of a Man." Titian seemed to have reserved his rawest and most desperate stokes of the brush for his depictions of Christ in various scenes from the bible. His non-religious subjects always managed to retain a sense of distance from the viewer that his religious ones did not. "Assumption of the Virgin" may be the most recognized work done by Titian. The original hangs inside Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, Italy.

Works by Caravaggio

Caravaggio's pieces capture the mundane, day-to-day existence of life during the Renaissance. "Boy Peeling a Fruit" and "Young Sick Bacchus" introduce us to characters that are so real it becomes hard to remember that they are merely images of oil on canvas. Caravaggio also brought to life many scenes from the bible in ways that made pious icons seem as human and vulnerable as one's own neighbor. "John the Baptist" and "Saint Jerome Writing" are two of his most iconic religious paintings.

Works by Raphael

Raphael brought motion and movement to biblical scenes in works like "Resurrection of Christ" and "The Creation of Eve from Adam." He also showed off his talent for bringing an angelic dimension to the faces of common men in works like "Lady With a Unicorn" and "Women With a Veil." Raphael's most recognized work is "The Transfiguration." This iconic work hangs inside the Vatican today.

Works by Sandro Boticelli

Sandro Boticelli brought the divine to the ground beneath man's feet like no other artist before or since. "The Birth of Venus" and "The Annunciation" are two works that demonstrate the same richness using two very different subject matters. It is almost as though Boticelli used his brush to bridge the gap between heaven and man when he created "Madonna and Child with an Angel" and "Adoration of the Magi." Two works that show off his ability to bring beauty to non-celestial subjects are "Portrait of a Young Man" and "Portrait of a Young Woman."

Works by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens created vivid works that expressed humanity and divinity using the human form. Works like "Venus at the Mirror" and "The Three Graces" exemplify his ability to elevate the human body to a divine status. "The Birth of the Milky Way" and "Venus and Adonis" celebrate mythology with drama. Religious pieces like "Samson and Delilah" and "The Holy Family" bring a raw realness to biblical scenes.

Works by Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck's paintings often portray the human body with a rigidity that became uncommon as the Renaissance progressed. His style borrows heavily from elements of iconography. Pieces like "The Arnolfini Portrait" and "Madonna of Chancellor Rolin" provide the best examples of his style. Jan van Eyck also did a substantial amount of portrait work. The somber expressions he put on canvas in works like "Portrait of Jan de Leeuw" and "Portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy" convey depth and emotions that admirers today are still drawn to.

Masterpieces of Renaissance Art

  • The Mona Lisa
  • The Last Judgement
  • The Last Supper
  • David
  • The Vitruvian Man
  • Pieta
  • Sistine Chapel Ceiling
  • The Virgin and Child with St Anne
  • The Creation of Adam
  • Bacchus and Ariadne
  • David by Donatello
  • Galatea
  • Mars and Venus
  • Sacred and Profane Love
  • Sistine Madonna
  • The Assumption of the Virgin
  • The Bacchanal of the Andrians
  • The Birth of Venus
  • The School of Athens
  • Venus of Urbino
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