Those who travel to Florence today can be lucky enough to cast their eyes upon the doors that ignited the birth of the Renaissance sculpture movement. A famous competition in 1403 determined
who would create the marvelous doors to the Florence Baptistery. An artist named Lorenzo Ghiberti then spent close to 27 years sculpting what would be referred to by his contemporaries as the
"Gates of Paradise." Much of the work done by the sculptors of the Renaissance period was indeed reminiscent of passageways to a sort of paradise. Ghiberti would become one of the first in a
long line of many great sculptors to carve scenes from nature, battles and the bible that would go on to become famous until the end of time. This period became an era of celebration as far as
the human form was concerned. Sculptors were obsessed with creating fleshy, realistic models of mankind. These sculptures depicted man in his strength and vulnerability. One of the most
important trends to emerge from the era was portrait sculpture. Portrait sculpture was the talk of the artistic world in Italy around 1450. Portraits were typically done as busts because
they were intended to highlight the features of the subjects at hand. The detail that went into the busts highlighted the intimate nature that the sculptors of the time were intending to
convey. Many of the best works of the Renaissance are still on display in the cathedrals and museums of Europe. Many pieces can even be seen at the Vatican. The sad fact also remains that
many pieces from this incredible period have been lost to theft, war, natural disasters and the perils of time. One can only know about the Renaissance's sculptures if the hearts and minds
of the period's sculptors are researched. Looking into the brilliant minds of the artists of the day can help us understand why the Renaissance was such a powerful movement.
Is there a sculpture that has endured through the ages quite like Michelangelo's "David" has? Visitors still flock to Florence to marvel at this ambitious sculpture in person. The masterpiece took Michelangelo just over three years to complete. The statue was something of a political statement in its days. It came to symbolize the defense of the civil liberties of the people of the Republic of Florence. Florence was vulnerable at the time because it was surrounded by powerful rival states on all sides. Astute admirers of the statue will note that David's eyes are turned suspiciously towards Rome in this depiction. "Pietà" is another of Michelangelo's most famous works of art. The iconic marble creation stands today inside St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Donatello's works in bronze call to mind the strength of the human body. He completed a bronze statue entitled "David" that is less famous than the work of the same name done by Michelangelo.
The list of renowned sculptures done by Donatello includes "Penitent Magdalene" and "Virgin and Child With Four Angles."
Leonardo da Vinci
No artist was as talented as Leonardo da Vinci when it came to transforming marble and bronze into depictions of man interacting with the world around him. Whether he was forming scenes from the
bible or depicting man in all his human strength, da Vinci stirred the human spirit. "John the Baptist Preaching to a Pharisee and a Levite" and "Horse and Rider" are the two works that most
people think of when contemplating the sculpted works of Leonardo da Vinci.
Francesco Laurana is another important sculptor that admirers of the Renaissance owe much to. This Croatian-born artist is best known for creating images of young women in meditative poses.
These works stand out as idyllic and angelic in a sea of realistic sculptures. He is also credited with working on the Cathedral of Sainte Marie Majeure. This is important because historians
would later identify this to be the first structure in France designed completely in the style of the Renaissance.
Antonio Rossellino was skilled at depicting religious scenes. The Madonna was often the subject of his work. He also specialized in creating men with realistic-looking, timeworn faces.
Rossellino is believed to have studied under Donatello during his formative years. His "Madonna With Child and Angels" highlights the otherworldly aspects that Renaissance art often displayed.
Admirers of this piece are quick to point to its feathered seraphim wings and other ornamental details as evidence of Rossellino's ability to create rich, lively pieces.
It is impossible to talk about Renaissance sculptures without speaking of Pisanello's rich contribution to the genre. He is acclaimed for creating portrait medals and medallic art. What
Pisanello did with his medals was unlike anything that had been attempted before. The medals created before the rise of Pisanello were struck like minted coins. Pisanello worked by melting
his medals the same as bronze low-relief pieces. These firm, everlasting depictions offered a welcomed balance to the fleshy and realistic sculptures that were popular at the time. His beautiful
medals depicted scenes and told stories in ways that other artists of the time had never thought to do. Pisanello routinely depicted nobles and clergy on his medals.