Art Timeline
  1 c. 15000 - 5000 BC Prehistoric Art
  2 5000 BC - 5ОО BC The Art of the Ancient Kingdoms of Egypt - Aegean Art
  3-4 5ОО вс - 12th century The Art of the Greeks
  5-6 5ОО вс - 12th century Italic Art
  7-8-9 12th century (1100-1199) The Early Christians  Art - Byzantine Art
  10-11 13th century (1200-1299) Gothic Art
  12 14th century (1300-1399) Gothic Art - International Style
  13 15th century (1400-1499) The Early Renaissance
  14 16th century (1500-1599) The High Renaissance
  15-16 16th century (1500-1599) Mannerism
  17-18-19-20 17th century (1600-1699) Baroque
  21-22 18th century (1700-1799) Rococo
  23-24-25-26-27-28-29 19th century(1800–1899) Neoclassical - Romanticism
    19th century (1863-1899) Impressionism Timeline
    19th century (1860-1899) Simbolism
    20th century(1900-1999) ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY
16th century (1500-1599)

The High Renaissance
  Late Gothic & Early Renaissance

Architecture  Sculpture  Painting
Late Gothic & Early Renaissance
Jacopo Bellini
Stefan Lochner
Konrad Witz
Hans Multscher
Rogier van der Weyden
Luca Della Robbia
Bernardo Rossellino
Leon Battista Alberti
Fra Filippo Lippi
Bernardo Rossellino
Dieric Bouts
Jaume Huguet
Jean Malouel
Agostino Di Duccio
Filippo Brunelleschi
Piero della Francesca
Jean Fouquet
Bertoldo di Giovanni
Nanni di Banco
Antonio Rossellino
Bernat Martorell
Giovanni Bellini
Mino da Fiesole
Andrei Rublev
Desiderio da Settignano
Antonello da Messina
Andrea Mantegna
Antonio del Pollaiuolo
Hans Memling
Pietro Lombardo
Andrea della Robbia
Niccolo dell’Arca
Nicolas Froment
Andrea del Verrocchio
Michael Pacher
Jacopo della Quercia
Francesco di Giorgio
Hugo van der Goes
Derick Baegert
Bartolome Bermejo
Fernando Gallego
Benedetto da Maiano
Giuliano da Sangallo
Sandro Botticelli
Donato Bramante
Barthelemy d'Eyck
Martin Schongauer
Israhel van Meckenem
Luca Signorelli
Pietro Perugino
Biagio Rossetti
Giovanni Antonio Amadeo
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Hieronymus Bosch
Pedro Berruguete
Heinrich Isaac
Leonardo da Vinci
Antonio da Sangallo the Elder
Paolo Uccello
Filippino Lippi
Antonio Lombardo
Gerard David
Tullio Lombardo
Hans Holbein the Elder
Quentin Massys
Andrea Sansovino
Master E. S.
Giovanni della Robbia
Albrecht Durer
Baldassarre Peruzzi
Antonio da Sangallo the Younger
Sebastiano del Piombo
Andrea del Sarto
Dosso Dossi
Barthel Bruyn
Francesco da Sangallo
Rosso Fiorentino
Lucas van Leyden
Carlo Crivelli
Tilman Riemenschneider
Hans Holbein the Younger
16th century (1500-1599)
The High Renaissance & Mannerism
The High Renaissance & Mannerism
Giorgio Vasari "Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects"
Leonardo da Vinci
Donato Bramante
Filippino Lippi
Andrea Sansovino
Giovanni della Robbia
Baldassarre Peruzzi
Sebastiano del Piombo
Andrea del Sarto
Matthias Grunewald
Albrecht Durer
Dosso Dossi
Carlo Crivelli
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lorenzo Lotto
Albrecht Altdorfer
Hans Baldung Grien
Hans Holbein the Younger

Benvenuto Cellini
Nicholas Hilliard

Jan Gossaert (Mabuse)
Joachim Patinir
Agnolo Bronzino
Barthel Bruyn
Lucas van Leyden

Rosso Fiorentino
Federico Barocci
Pieter Aertsen
Giorgio Vasari
Sofonisba Anguissola
Francois Clouet

Jacopo Tintoretto
Girolamo Savoldo
Jacopo Bassano

Alonzo Sanchez Coello
Hans Burgkmair
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Jean Goujon

Germain Pilon
Tilman Riemenschneider
Adriaen de Vries

Alonso Berruguete
Baccio Bartolommeo
Benedetto Briosco

Paolo Veronese

Leone Leoni
Pompeo Leoni
Alessandro Vittoria
Giovanni da Bologna
Hector Sohier
Pierre Lescot
Giulio Romano
Pirro Ligorio
Bartolomeo Ammanati
Jacopo Sansovino
Andrea Palladio
Giacomo Vignola
Giacomo della Porta

El Greco
Vittore Carpaccio
Francesco del Cossa
Vincenzo Foppa
Lorenzo Costa
Francesco Francia
Bernardino Luini
Joos van Cleve
The High Renaissance


Masaccio's classical nobility, Piero della Francesca's elegant geometry, Fra Angelico's enchanting purity, Botticelli's wistfully gracious allegories, Mantegna's hard-edged monumentality: these are among the most famous images of the Quattrocento (fifteenth century) in Italy. They all use the solemn vet cheerful language of the Renaissance, with its deliberate rediscovery of classical Greek and Roman art and culture. Whether in the tranquility of private studies, in the lecture halls of universities, or in the most fashionable courts, artists and writers created one of the deepest and longest-lasting cultural transformations that the world has ever seen. Without lessening their intense religious feelings (and it was a deeply religious age), the fifteenth-century artists broke loose from medieval shackles. They turned their attention out to the natural world, so often rejected by medieval men, and took an active role as responsible players in the world and its history. Christopher Columbus' undertaking can be seen almost as the symbolic seal on a century that fell no fear of the unknown and embraced discovery. But, significantly, Columbus was not trying to discover a new world but to find a new wav to an old one, that of Asia. So, too, did most Quattrocento scholars and artists attempt to rediscover the lost world of Antiquity. In triumphantly doing so, they created an utterly new world.

It is difficult to avoid the cliched but fascinating comparison between Lorenzo the Magnificent's Florence or the splendid court of Federico da Montefeltro in Urbino with classical Athens at its zenith under Pericles in the fifth century B.C. The first Greek Humanism, with its belief "Man is the measure of all things" is the key to the Renaissance, a civilization which also placed human beings at the center of the universe and which exalted culture and art. This was achieved through the creativity of architects, painters, and sculptors who applied an ideal of perfect geometry to the correct "imitation" of nature. It was also made possible by the passionate and indeed courageous patronage of dukes, bishops, republics, and cities, prepared to back radical commissions.
If we look at Italian civilization in the fifteenth century, we see something thrilling, not only because of the intellectual attempts to rediscover the classical world. Indeed, the greatest fascination of the early Renaissance lies in its variety and the continuous contrast between very different forms of expression. This artistic and cultural plurality was encouraged by the complex political structure in Italy, split between countless city states and principalities. This diversity assumes particular significance when we take into account the vital role of enlightened patrons in the fifteenth century. Their awareness of the "political" role of the image shaped and conditioned expressive choices and specific-iconographies. The republics of Venice and Florence, among others, emphasized the part that all citizens had to play in government and administration (even though, in fact, in both cities aristocratic oligarchies held power). In other centers great and small, the courts of the local princes were experiencing their moments of greatest splendor. Just after the middle of the century, the Peace of Lodi (1454) confirmed the dominance of five main states (the duchy of Milan, the republics of Venice and Florence, the Papacv in Rome, and the Kingdom of Naples). But smaller states could still hold the balance between their bigger neighbors and so had potential importance.

Fifteenth-ccnturv painting in Italy witnessed the flowering of numerous local schools. Each was capable of coming up with fresh, innovative ideas thanks to their relative freedom of expression and the open dialogue with other cities. In this wav, a relationship grew up between centers and outlying districts which provided the impetus for all the most important moments of Italian painting. In concrete terms, this can be seen in the rich, widespread presence of works of art right across the country. No other century gives such a clear picture of the underlying characteristics of Italian painting and by which it can be identified. The belief in the intrinsic dignity of human beings led to harmonious spaces, based upon mathematical laws, into which all figures seem to fit perfectly. Italian painting in the fifteenth century above all breathes the air of superbly well-calculated proportion. No one aspect of a painting dominates the others, every part is in relationship to the whole. Even violent expressions and feelings seem to be portrayed with controlled composure. The "waning of the Middle Ages" merges almost imperceptibly with the dawn of modern humanity.
Trying to condense the main lines of the history of painting, we can hazard the sweeping statement that the first years of the century's art seems covered in the gold, gems, and precious flowers of International Gothic. Gentile da Fabriano is the most elegant of those who worked in this vein. He is also someone who reminds us of how frequently fifteenth-century painters traveled. This, combined with the influx of foreign works and artists, meant that comparisons and modernization were part of a continuous process. By checking the dates, we can understand how frenetic the pace of innovation must have been. In 142 3 Gentile da Fabriano painted his masterpiece (Adoration of the Magi for S.Trinita) in Florence. The following year Masolino and Masaccio started work on the frescos in the Brancacci Chapel at S. Maria del Carmine, situated on the other side of the Arno. Only a few months and a lew hundred yards separate the most splendid flowering of International Gothie and the revolutionary, unadorned, terse exaltation of the human figure that Masaccio created.

In Florence, Masaccio's radicalism (at much the same time as Donatcllo was transforming sculpture and Brunelleschi modernizing architecture) swiftly molded the vocabulary of a new generation of young artists. From the 1430s onwards, painters such as Fra Angelico, Paolo Uccello, and Filippo Lippi searched for a personal compromise between Masaccio's cogent, neo-Giottesquc austerity and the still widespread taste for rich and complex images. One major innovation can be noticed at once. Gold backgrounds disappeared and were replaced by sweeping landscapes or realistic architectural backdrops. Similarly, the polyptych was replaced by the "tabula quadra" [square picture] as a single altar-piece in which all the characters were involved in the same scene. An excellent example of the new formula applied to the Sacra Conversazione is Domenico Veneziano's Altarpiece of St. Lucy of the Magnolias which is outstanding for its nobility.

Meanwhile, courts in southern and northern Italy alike were exploring the contrasts with art from northern Europe, in particular Flemish and Provencal painting. This comparison between Italian masters and the influx of work from north of the Alps was typical of the last period of Gothic art in Naples and Milan. However, it bore different results in the two cities. Pisanello, one of the greatest painters of the day, traveled constantly between Verona, Mantua, Ferrara, Venice, Milan, Rome, and Naples. Such movement encouraged the transition of taste in the splendid aristocratic courts away from International Gothic toward the Renaissance rediscovery of ancient art. While in Florence painters in the earlv fifteenth century concentrated above all on the human figure and on the quest for an "ideal city," fashioned in clear and pure architectural forms, in some courts artists still depicted plants and animals, customs and landscapes, feelings and relationships with highly detailed, intricate craftsmanship. In fact, this type of courtly art complemented the Tuscan artists' work in defining the rules of three-dimensional vision, which could sometimes become almost too cerebral. It took the truly universal genius of Leonardo da Vinci to bring the two strands together at the end of the century. On the other hand, Florence itself was not entirely resistant to the charms of an art rich in detail and narrative content, as shown by Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco of the The journey of the Magi for the private chapel in the Medici Palace.
In northern Italy, a complete understanding of the rules of perspective was reached when Donatello worked for a time in Padua. By 1450 this Venetian city had become the most advanced northern center of new creative ideas, although this advance depended on visiting Tuscan masters as much as the young, talented northern painters working in Padua. This led to an explosion in differing local styles. An example of this is the odd and highly original painting turned out in Ferrara by Cosme Tura and Francesco del Cossa (whose frescos in Palazzo Schifanoia provide a fascinating testimony of their work). Another is the highly decorative refinement of Carlo Crivelli's work in the Marches. Above all, this was the period that gave us the archeologically accurate but highly dramatic genius of Andrea Mantegna. The Bridal Chamber in Mantua marks a new era in the style of ltalian courts. Gone is all gorgeous late-Gothic love of ornament. Instead we have solemn and highly intellectual Renaissance images. The most complete example of a Renaissance court, however, was the Ducal Palace built by Federico da Montefeltro in the small city of Urbino. With visionary patronage, the Duke brought men of letters, Renaissances, architects, and painters from all parts of Italy to Urbino. Each made his contribution to an international dialogue on art on the highest level, but the outstanding figure in Urbino was surely Piero della Francesca. He produced works, such as the Montefeltro Altarpiece now in the Brera Gallery in Milan, that are unsurpassable models of how form and color can be blended into mathematical perspective. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, his austere geometrical art was not widely popular.
By the 1470s knowledge of perspective and how to paint a three-dimensional image had almost certainly penetrated every corner of Italy. Although the manner differed from place to place, by this date a revolution in painting had already taken place. In Florence, this was the age of Botticelli. Thanks both to the Medicis' support and the sophisticated philosophical and esthetic Neoplatonism of their circle, Botticelli produced huge pagan allegories, such as Spring and the Birth of Venus marked by powerful, elegant but clear design, not without a Gothic grace. These masterpieces epitomize the Golden Age of Lorenzo the Magnificent. In 147S, Antonello da Messina arrived in Venice, fresh from contacts both with Flemish painting, which had pioneered the use of oil paints, and the work of Piero della Francesca. Thanks to Antonello's time in the city of the lagoons, the Venetian school abandoned the last vestiges of Byzantine art and Gothic tradition and began their own new, long-lasting and distinctive Renaissance. The main artist in this phase was Giovanni Bellini, who laid the foundations of Venetian painting and shaped its essence. Giovanni Bellini can, in fact, be credited with being the first artist to depict fully all the subtleties of atmospheric light and shadow. At first his example was only taken up partially by Vivarini and Carpaccio, not being developed in full until the start of the following century through Giorgione and Titian's early work.
A true Renaissance school of art also grew up in Milan under the Sforza dukes, thanks initially to the work of Vincenzo Foppa and Bramante, but they were soon eclipsed by Leonardo da Vinci who, arriving in 1481, effectively created the Milanese School. After a long period of crisis, when the Popes were either absent or far too busy with political problems to act as art patrons, Rome also began to reclaim its role as a great cultural center. Pope Sextus IV built the Sistine Chapel which was decorated around 1480 by artists such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino. This represented one of the triumphs of sophisticated but elegant Quattrocento painting, devoid of all harshness. Perugino's sweet and very urbane style was extremely popular throughout Italy. It was from this high plateau of artistic excellence that Raphael would soon soar.
There arc two other important factors to bear in mind. The first concerns the technical developments that took place in painting and in the equipment artists used. At the start of the fifteenth century, monumental painting fell exclusively into one of two categories: frescos or wood panels. There was a marked preference for polyptychs on a gold background, framed in richly carved surrounds. These were the most widespread tvpe of late-Gothic painting. The progressive growth in the acceptance of the view that art should imitate reality led to gold backgrounds being replaced by landscapes and to the fragmented device of the polyptych being abandoned in favor of large single pictures. An evergrowing number of patrons, many of whom commissioned work that was no longer exclusively religious in nature, welcomed even further developments. Equally important after the middle of the centurv, and thanks mainly to Antonello da Messina, the use of oil as the preferred medium began to gain favor throughout Italy. Within two generations it had replaced traditional color techniques using tempera (made of egg yolk, quick drving and so ideal for fresco work but less capable of expressing atmosphere). Oil initially was used for small-scale works such as portraits, but was later used for altarpieces too. Some artists like Botticelli at times worked in a mixture of the two mediums.
The second factor concerns the role of the artist in societv. In the previous centurv, some masters such as Giotto had already begun to raise the status of artists, but in the early fifteenth century the social rank of painters remained fairly low, on a par with specialized craftsmen. Painting was considered one of the "mechanical arts" in which manual dexterity was the most important consideration. The mechanical arts were contrasted unfavorably with the liberal arts which were based on writing and the intellect. Artists' studios across Europe in the fifteenth century-were more like workshops or factories than libraries. Thev turned out not only paintings, but many other products: decorated furniture, costumes, heraldic shields, the trappings for public holidays, flags and so on. But in Italy the way that artists increasinglv took part in the cultural and philosophical debate (Leon Battista Alberti and Piero della Francesca being two typical examples) led to major social developments which had almost no parallel in other countries.
During the Renaissance, Italian painters became intellectuals, taking part in dialogues with their patrons and with men of letters. They did not merely carry out a work but also claimed the right to discuss its underlying ideas. This should be borne in mind when we consider the perennial greatness and importance of a century in which art above all else contributed to giving humanity a new horizon, and perspectives hitherto undreamed of. The ideals of fifteenth-century humanism, seen from a distance of five hundred years, may appear Utopian. Its premises of universal harmony and the restoration of a civilization governed by serene, rational thought were only partially achieved even at the zenith of the Renaissance. Nevertheless, through its marvelous accomplishments, it left to humanity one of the few periods in art that has lastingly exalted the human spirit.


Fifteenth-century Renaissance art can be seen as a reflection of a calm and stable epoch in search of harmony. The often grandiose and dramatic art of the Cinquecento (sixteenth century) symbolizes a different century, one torn by wars, troubled by profound doubts and shaken by new religious movements. While some nation states (Spain, France, England) consolidated themselves, new routes were opened up by overseas discoveries and whole new worlds were discovered. Meanwhile Martin Luther's Reformation tore central Europe apart, the Ottoman Empire of Turkey continued its advance up to the gates of Vienna and the plague recurred again and again. These were events that shook the Continent politically, economically, and culturally, and changed Europe for ever. It is no coincidence that historians often classify the fifteenth century as part of the Middle Ages, whereas the sixteenth century is considered the beginning of the Modern Age. In Italy there could no longer be anv doubt that foreign powers were there to stay (the whole of the South as well as the former Duchy of Milan fell under Spanish rule and only Venice retained a real independence). At the same time, the old-established patterns of trade across the Mediterranean seemed threatened by new ocean routes to the East, although this threat was slow to materialize.
But the century opened splendidly. Its first twenty years are known as the High Renaissance, when Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian - bitter rivals but ones who constantly exchanged ideas — produced unprecedented masterpieces, fulfilling the ideals pursued by artists since Giotto two centuries earlier. Italian art as a whole reached heights that have never been surpassed, and was confirmed as by far the richest, most varied, and influential school in Europe. However, Italy's increasingly troubled political situation (it was the chief battle ground for the constantly clashing armies of France, Spain, and Germany up to 1559) meant that both artists and their works sometimes went abroad, lured by rich monarchs. They took with them the latest in Italian Renaissance art which spread throughout Europe. Leonardo moved to France where he died, so bringing the High Renaissance to a still medieval country. Other, lesser painters such as Rosso Fiorentino and Primaticcio followed, founding the Fontainebleau school of painting. Great rulers such as the Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II became Titian's main patrons, partlv supplanting the old-established families of small Italian courts. At the same time there were already the first signs of the economic and historical decline that would undermine Italian art in the very long run, although the Seicento (seventeenth century) saw another golden age in the arts.

The Cinquecento was also a century of self-portraits. The great Italian masters had already acquired the same high cultural status enjoyed by Renaissance scholars, and were no longer regarded as menial craftsmen. Their interest in self-portraiture (the cheapest type of portraiture, after all) partlv reflects their new-found status. Leonardo drew his own aging self in the wrinkled and meditative psychological self-portrait in his Merlin-like drawing done in extreme old age. At the apex of the High Renaissance, Raphael's self-portrait depicts him at case among scholars and philosophers in "The School of Athens." Decades later, utterly disillusioned with history and life, Michelangelo produced his self-portrait as St. Bartholomew, a ragged old beggar with flayed skin in his Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. The Mannerist painter Parmigianino turned his Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror into a prodigious virtuoso exercise. Titian's great series of self-portraits show a painter physically growing older but whose understanding grew ever more vigorous — an artist ready to meet eternitv with paintbrush in hand.
Without simplifying art history too much, we can say that in the sixteenth century major changes occurred about every two decades. Each change was, often deliberately, part of the process of constant renewal, for artists were still keen to experiment in any way they possibly could, untrammelled by the past. Each period contained an abundance and variety of art forms without parallel in any other century of art history, save perhaps our own. Up to 1520 the High Renaissance sparkled with the splendor of its Golden Age. From 1520 to 1540 new religious doubts and questionings on the destiny of man opened the way to new concepts in painting which later culminated in Michelangelo's Last Judgment. From 1 540 to 1 560 a dichotomy emerged between the hyper-sophisticated Mannerism of Tuscany and Rome and the sensual depiction of reality of the Venetian and Lombard schools. Between 1560 and 1580 Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese brought Venetian painting to a triumphant and dramatic climax. The last twenty years of the century were, by comparison, years of relative stagnation artisticallv until Caravaggio rediscovered the natural world with his revolutionary realism and the Carracci dynasty revitalized the classical tradition. Michelangelo and Titian were both particularly long-lived. If we compare the two great masters' early work with that of their old age, we are instantly struck by the chasm between the generally sunnily optimistic art of the early sixteenth century and the often work tortured of the second half.

Among the key events shaping much of the cultural pattern of the first half of the Cinquccento, some occurred before the turn of the century. In 1492 Christopher Columbus had inadvertently discovered a new continent. This spelled the end of the old map of the world, which the fifteenth century had shared with Antiquity. The Earth was found to be bigger than the supposedly omniscient Greek philosophers had ever guessed. Also Florence, capital of the earlv Renaissance, was in turmoil after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492, terrified by the admonitory sermons ot Fra Savonarola. Although four years later the Dominican monk was burned at the stake, his condemnation of the vanities of pleasure-seeking and paganism shook the conscience of many, including artists. The charming style in which some painters had worked throughout their long careers (Botticelli, Pcrugino) was now found inadequate.
In the first years of the sixteenth century, Florence was again the center of artistic excitement, as Leonardo and Michelangelo competed to decorate the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio with huge battle scenes, which impressed all contemporaries, including the young Raphael. At the same time Michelangelo carved his David, the supreme emblem of High Renaissance heroism. But it was Rome which was to be the real center of Cinquccento art, as the popes began their grandiose project of rebuilding St. Peter's. Michelangelo was summoned there in 1505 to build Pope Julius II's tomb — a gigantic project never to be finished. Instead, in 1508 he began decorating the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with his back-breaking and breathtaking masterpiece, the fresco cycle of The Creation, where the fall from the Garden of Eden is portrayed with passionate intensity. The same year saw Raphael start work on another part of the work of the Vatican, the Stanza della Scgnalura, where he created an enchanted equilibrium. In contrast to the grandiose power to be found in Michelangelo, the frescos in the Stanze di Raffaello (or Raphael Rooms as they are now often known), show a combination of majestic grandeur with sweet gracefulness which seemed to incarnate the ideals of the High Renaissance. Plato (a portrait probably of Leonardo) and Aristotle dispute in the fresco The School of Athens as though they were members of the papal court — a court which sometimes felt itself more pagan Greek than Christian, but where pagan and Christian thought united in general harmony. What united both Michelangelo's and Raphael's art was their immense, supremely assured, grandeur.
The change in style and generation, however, was not felt only in central Italy. Milan was being fought over by the French and the Spanish when Leonardo returned to put his own seal on the local school. In Venice the narrative and analytical tradition of Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini was replaced, first by the melancholy, poetic dreamy sweetness of Giorgione and then by Titian's first explosions of color which characterize The Assumption on the high altar of the Venetian church of the Frari. These new leaders of art were quickly surrounded by schools, assistants, and lesser imitators. They were also supported by a lively output of writings and treatises on art. These theoretical essays (which culminated in the famous Lives of the Most Excellent Artists from Cimabue to Michelangelo published by Giorgio Vasari in 1550) began to uncover an ever-more marked contrast between the supremacy of draughtsmanship venerated in Florence and Rome and the rich, dramatic love and use of color that the Venetians adored. At the same time a few painters who lived highly individual lives, such as Lorenzo Lotto, raised the question of whether other, more personalized, ways of painting might not be possible.
Raphael's death (1 520) coincided with the rapid growth of the Lutheran schism which the highly cultured, peace-loving Pope Leo X (Lorenzo the Magnificent's son) could not halt. A few years later the Eternal Citv was dealt a seemingly mortal blow by the Sack of Rome (1527), and the High Renaissance was finally over, except for some artists in Venice. In such a changed world, painters perceived the urgent need to rethink the forms and rules of their art. The most thoroughgoing proposals came out of Florence where Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino started by studying and faithfully emulating the works of Michelangelo and Raphael and ended by violently distorting such traditional forms. Their frozen figures flaunted wildly contorted poses and nervously melodramatic expressions, far removed from Raphael's serenity. A new movement was born: Mannerism. During the course of the century this was to become the dominant artistic current in central Italy and, through the export of works of art and of artists themselves, much of Europe. In northern Italy, however, they had different ideas. At about the same time, that is to sav around 1 520, provincial artists began working on large-scale decorative projects. These were much appreciated by the public. Instead of the tormented estheticism of the Tuscan Mannerists these moving works blended all the elements together in harmonv. The frescos painted by Gaudenzio Ferrari at Varallo, bv Pordenone in Cremona and above all by Correggio in Parma provide a daring foretaste of the most thrilling compositions of Baroque art.

There is no doubt, however, that in their respective cities of Rome and Venice it was Michelangelo and Titian who determined how art developed. After almost 30 years Michelangelo returned to the Sistine Chapel to paint The Last Judgment, the final and most terrible epic in the history of the human race. By then, Titian was the international artist par excellence. He painted a host of memorable portraits which captured the faces and characteristics of the most powerful people in Europe. In 1 545 the two great artists, by then both growing old, met in Rome and failed to agree. Both had been commissioned by the Farnese Pope Paul III, who also called the Council of Trent at the start of the Counter-Reformation.
The work of this huge religious council was closely linked to the more strictly political tasks demanded by the Emperor Charles V and the Diet of Augsburg, which Titian also attended while painting the Emperor. From the middle of the century, the end of over 30 years of conflict in Germany between Catholics and Protestants meant that the way religious images had long been used needed to be reassessed. As had happened two centuries earlier after the Black Death of 1 348, the century divided almost into two halves. On the one hand, and especially in Florence and Rome, Mannerism became ever-more sophisticated and intellectual, striving toward the artificial creation of a new-painting and celebrating the rule of often despotic dukes. Bronzino's portraits arc a perfect example of this, but they were nonetheless outdone by the bizarreness of some the richest and most fancilul foreign collectors, such as the Hapsburg Emperor Rudolf II who was Arcimboldo's patron. On the other hand, in the smaller centers, such as Brescia, Bergamo and the Marches, there was a rediscovery of the human dimension in direct touch with reality. Here we have forerunners of Caravaggio's radical realism and of the return of simple treatments of religious subjects.
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean posed a real threat to Venice whose island empire was being continually attacked. Not even victory in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) removed the ever-present Turkish danger. Despite this, in the sixteenth century as a whole Venice put on a glittering display, building classically-inspired palaces, churches, libraries, and villas designed by Sansovino and Palladio. It also boasted a glittering list of magnificent painters. Titian had embarked on a solitary and wonderful adventure. In his extreme old age he painted some of the most striking images ever produced in art, works so unfinished and evanescent that they move almost toward abstraction. These were not the works which made him famous but they appeal to us now more than ever. Generally, the Venetian school produced artists who were at ease in any situation, always willing and able to take on decorative cvcles of enormous size. In the 1560s and 1570s artistic activity in Venice reached levels of the very highest creativity. You can choose the sunlit, sumptuous, spectacular scenes created bv Paolo Veronese, where no touch of religious controversy and doubt is permitted to darken scenes of franklv pagan sensuality — but a sensuality transmuted by the power of art to a higher plane. Or you can choose the intensely spiritual, highly dramatic canvases of Tintoretto, which rival Michelangelo's greatest works, or turn to Jacopo Bassano's marvelously realistic views of peasant life in the mountains.
Bv the close of the century, however, the great stream ol Iresh geniuses seemed to have dried up. One after another the greatest painters had died: Michelangelo in 1 564,Titian in 1 576, Veronese in 1588, and Tintoretto in 1594. A new generation of artists would have to make its mark on a very different artistic landscape. It would also have to stand up to ever fiercer international competition from new schools of painting, themselves often originallv inspired bv Italy. Little by little, Italy was destined to lose its central position in the world of European art, although for centuries to come it would remain a place of artistic pilgrimage. In the seventeenth century artists as different as Rubens and Poussin would visit Italv, and Poussin, the founder of French classicism, would choose to spend his lite in Rome. Even so, the last years of the century saw Italian art adrift and directionless. The narrow puritanism of the early Counter-Reformation, with its distrust of all exuberance and artistic independence, had blighted even the art of Venice. The most luminous period of Italian art and culture therefore closed on a note of muted tragedy.This is all the more striking because it came after such an extraordinary era of the human spirit.
The adventurous path pursued by Renaissance man was first trodden in the proud citv of Florence by Dante and Giotto. They set out to claim a new role for humanity to play in the world ("fatti non foste a viver come bruti/ ma per scguir virtute c conoscenza" ["you were not made to live like savages/ but to follow virtue and knowledge"). Over the generations the Renaissance had taken on a scale and depth that could not possibly have been foreseen at the start. At its zenith, it produced a unique generation of the greatest masters, all of them born between the middle and the end of the fifteenth century. It was in the centuries of the Renaissance that our own modern wav of living in the world was first hinted at and shaped. With that came our modern ability to relate to our own history and destiny, our wav of interpreting the present as a link in the chain between a passionately-studied past and a future that we can face with equanimity. With the Renaissance came also a new awareness of the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans and with that a slowly achieved awareness quite lacking in the Middle Ages — that such a world was over and past. The Renaissance also gave us a new taste for beauty, a new love of nature, and a new passion for life and for art. This, more than the individual masterpieces of even the greatest painters, is the true inheritance of the Renaissance, ft is undoubtedly something for Italy to be proud of, but it also has produced an abundance of works of art, many of them of the highest quality, that are difficult to preserve and to keep intact for the world.
In its dying days the Renaissance gave way to a new attitude toward man, nature, the mysteries of the cosmos, and the divine mystery. This was the generation of Caravaggio and Galileo. Each in his own way built a telescope to look fearlessly into the depths of the soul or into the dark of the night. They looked toward a humanity and a universe which, a century earlier, Leonardo had more joyously been the first to explore.

Stefano Zuffi

In the 16th century, the Italian Renaissance reached almost unsurpassed heights of cultural and intellectual achievement. The turbulent political climate in Italy was ideal for the spread of the High Renaissance and Mannerism, the latter style already showing tendencies towards the Baroque.

Today's understanding of the Italian Renaissance recognizes the continuity of a number of features from the 15th to the 16th century. This is in contrast to earlier thinking, which maintained that certain major events, such as the discovery of the Americas by Columbus in 1492, marked the beginning of a completely new age that was identifiably "modern". There were turbulent political events that brought about the end of the independent city-states; imperial claims to sovereignty by the French and then Hapsburg rulers; the rise of Protestant reform; stimulating contacts with new cultures; and, simultaneously, a flourishing cultural scene rich in creativity and inventiveness. Such a combination of events is difficult to locate in any other one period. In the Vatican, works by Raphael (1483-1520) and Michelangelo (1475-1564), such as the Stanza delict Segnatura (Room of the Signature) and Sistine Chapel, reflected the current climate of change and were received with wonder by their first observers. The Italian architect, painter, and art historian Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) documented the fortunes of the Renaissance in Rome in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (1550). Vasari outlined the progression of the Renaissance following the death of Raphael and the sack of Rome in 1527 (the climax of the imperial-papal struggles when imperial forces invaded and devastated the city), its spread throughout Europe, and its variety and complexity. He also wrote of the concern of the art world to establish an understanding of itself, which is confirmed by the number of treatises written on the subject, many of which helped form the aesthetic ideals of the moment. Vasari's Lives also provides an explanation of differences between the art of the 15th century and that of the early 16th, stating that earlier art "lacked that spontaneity which, although based on correct measurement, goes beyond it without conflicting with order and stylistic purity. This spontaneity enables the artist to enhance his work by adding innumerable inventive details." The 15th-century artists had "missed the finer points...ignoring the charming and graceful facility that is suggested rather than revealed in living subjects.... Their works also lacked the abundance of beautiful clothes, the imaginative details, charming colours, many kinds of building and various landscapes in depth." According to Vasari, these qualities were introduced with Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and concluded with Michelangelo, when the climax of the modern phase was reached. For Jacob Burckhardt, a 19th-century Swiss historian, Michelangelo was the first contradictory element of the Renaissance. In either case, the artist's long, productive lifespan covered a critical era.

Rome, Capital of the Renaissance

As the Italian courts of Milan, Naples, and Florence tussled over which was the most powerful, the Roman popes Julius II (1503-13) and Leo X (1513-21) offered hospitality to a group of artists from these leading principalities. The first significant arrival was that of Donato Bramante (c. 1444-1514), following his fruitful stay in Milan at the court of Ludovico il Moro, a rich cultural environment where he had made the acquaintance of such artists as Leonardo da Vinci and Luca Pacioli (c.1445-1517). In 1504, Julius II gave Bramante the task of organizing the reconstruction of the basilica of St Peter, which was to be centralized around a large cupola. Bramante had already adopted the design of a round sacred temple (tempietto) at San Pietro in Montorio (1502), which is a revival of the early Christian martyrium (church built in honour of a martyr). In 1506, the pope laid down the first stone of the new Vatican basilica and, in the same year, the antique sculpture known as Laocoon was discovered in a vineyard on the Esquiline hill. This depicted the myth of Laocoon, a Trojan priest who, with his two sons, was crushed to death by snakes. Such discoveries presented exciting new challenges for artists. The young Michelangelo had already grappled successfully with some of these in his sculptures of Bacchus (1497) and David (1501-04), and in certain ways with his Pieta (c.1498-1500). now in St Peter's. The draw of Rome was such that Florence found it hard to keep its most brilliant artists in the city, even though Leonardo's unfinished Battle qf'Anghiari briefly adorned the Council Chamber of the Republic in the Palazzo Vecchio. Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the Battle of Cascina on the opposite wall, but got no further than preparing a full-size cartoon for the project before being summoned to Rome bv Julius II in 1505.


Donato Bramante
Christ at the Column
c. 1490
Tempera on panel, 93 x 62 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The 16th century inherited a wealth of sumptuous architecture from the previous century. For the rich, there were the palazzi, magnificent city residences such as Brunelleschi's Palazzo Pitti in Florence (c.1440) and the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara (1492) by Biagio Rossetti (c.1447-1516). The country form of the palazzo, the villa with its gardens and orchards, was also introduced during this period. Elsewhere, the severe or incongruous architecture of buildings such as the Maschio Angioino in Naples and the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino was reformed. Churches were designed in a new style, and from Ferrara to Pienza. new urban areas were planned with rationalized form to create the ideal city.


Leonardo da Vinci had painted his Last Supper by 1498. The series of wood engravings by Albrecht Durer known as The Passion included a Last Supper and can be dated from between 1509 and 1511. In little over a decade, the Renaissance had been given its most important prototypes for one of the favourite subjects of 16th-century sacred art - the renewed interest in this subject coincided with the debate on the doctrine of the Eucharist stimulated by the Reformation. The iconography of Leonardo's version is rich in new ideas, some taken from the
Dominican culture of the monastery in which the work was painted and some linked to the figurative tradition of Lombardy. The artist's choice to portray the moment following Christ's shocking announcement that "one of you shall betray me" gave him the opportunity to explore the reactions of the apostles. The size of the figures, their position in the foreground, and the unusual perspective mean that the observer is drawn into the emotion of the scene, just as Dominican friars would have desired. In his engraving, Durer takes up the drama and movement of Leonardo's painting. He shows John having fallen into the arms of Christ, indicating the close relationship between Jesus and this young apostle. Later, the theme would be developed by Veronese (1528-1588), among others. With little feeling for the spiritual, Veronese transformed the holy meal into a triumphal banquet for the princes of the Church.


Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper
Mixed technique
Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

Albrecht Durer
Last Supper

Michelangelo's decoration of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512 involved a wide variety of images, the sources and interpretation of which are still debated. Scenes from Genesis, the Old Testament prophets and sibyls (female seers), and the ancestors of Christ record the Creation of mankind and the road to salvation initiated by the Jewish people and completed in Christ's Incarnation. There are also clear allusions to the role of the Church and the Papacy at a time of great difficulties for the ruling pope. Michelangelo's composition uses classical architectural elements to frame episodes and support the figures. Particularly imposing and colourful are the sibyls and the prophets. As Vasari wrote: "These figures...are shown in varied attitudes, wearing a variety of vestments
and beautiful draperies; they are all executed with marvellous judgment, and invention, and they appear truly inspired to whoever studies their attitudes and expressions." These attributes of Renaissance painting - variety, invention, and expressiveness - led to the creation of powerful characters that would have an impact on all subsequent art.

Michelangelo. The Delphic Sibyl

In 1505, Pope Julius II summoned Michelangelo to Rome to work on his tomb, an ambitious scheme for a magnificent monument to be placed in the old St Peter's. Over time, the plans for the project were repeatedly modified, and many of the sculptures for the work were never completed: the artist himself spoke of ''the tragedy of the tomb".
Michelangelo's Slaves, which were to be placed under a group of Victories, were completed in two stages; the first in 1512 to 1513 (presently in the Louvre, Paris) and the second in about 1532 (in the Accademia in Florence). These figures, which emerge out of the stone as if they are trying to escape from it, represent Michelangelo's expression of ideal form recovered by "freeing" the figures from the marble. The unfinished state of these figures has led to many symbolic meanings being given to their dramatic forms. They were subsequently acquired by Duke Cosimo I, who had them installed in a grotto in the Boboli Gardens.

Michelangelo. Slave "Crossed-Leg"
Captive, 1530-34
Raphael and Michelangelo

The most active artist of the early years of the 16th century was the passionate Bramante. According to Vasari, it was he who brought Raphael, a pupil of Pietro Perugino (c. 1445-1523), to Rome. However, it was to Michelangelo that Julius II gave the commission for his monumental tomb to be placed in the old St Peter's. Only the Moses group and the extraordinary Slaves series remain, but even these give the impression of form dramatically escaping from the material, a successful achievement of the ambitious aspirations of the artist. The pope seemed to want to give equal opportunities to the two great rivals, assigning Raphael to the decoration of the three stanze ("rooms") in the papal apartments and Michelangelo to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Burckhardt felt that Raphael's paintings in the Stanza della Segnatura were the harmonious manifestation of philosophical truth (as seen in his School of Athens), theological truth (Disputation over the Holy Sacrament) and poetic truth (Parnassus); to his mind, these paintings embraced the course of history from ancient to modern times, using compositional and chromatic values governed by simple, straightforward rules: order, measure, and a delicate, gentle style.
Michelangelo was pursuing other aims in his representation of biblical figures and stories on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He used what Vasari described as "new inventions and novel attitudes", "fresh ways of expression'', and "perfect foreshortenings" to express the dramatic story of the effect of freedom on man, as he treads the path of history laid down by God. Michelangelo's complex style of composition and unique method of depicting volume - related to contemporary sculptural experiments in representing the human body - were supported by choices of colour and light of surprising clarity and decisive contrast. Vasari claimed that Bramante secretly took Raphael to look at the Sistine Chapel, radically changing the latter's way of painting. When the ceiling was finally revealed in October 1512 - after four and half years of intense creativity - to the amazement of all who witnessed the event, it contained many elements of Florentine Mannerism, as epitomized by the work of artists such as Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) and Jacopo Pontormo (1494-1556).

Raphael's decoration of the Vatican apartments for Pope Julius II began with the Stanza della Segnatura. In a cycle about the human intellect that asserts the ideals of goodness, truth, and beauty, the artist included his School of Athens, with its theme of philosophy, and Disputation over the Holy Sacrament, with its theme of theology. The former is a summary of the history of philosophical thought. It centres on the figures of Aristotle and Plato, who are depicted in the centre of a large building reminiscent of both classical basilicas and the new St Peter's. Raphael tried to achieve complete balance in the composition, the variety of figures shown forming a representation of the ideal relationship between the different philosophical beliefs. In the later, and more dramatic, Stanza d'Eliodoro, painted between 1511 and 1514, the theme is divine intervention on behalf of the Church. In this work, Raphael showed quite different influences. There are, for instance, hints of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in the weight and build of the figures, while touches of Venetian art, especially that of Sebastiano del Piombo, are also evident. These more dynamic works depend on a stronger use of light and colour, typified by the drama of the Expulsion of Hehodorus.
Influences on Raphael

After the complexities of Leonardo and Michelangelo, it is a relief to find Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio, 1483-1520), a genius no less than they, but one whose daily ways were those of other men. He was born in the small town of Urbino, an artistic center, and received his earliest training from his father. Later, his father sent him to Pietro Perugino (active 1478-1523) who, like Verrocchio and Ghirlandaio, was an artist of considerable gifts. But while Leonardo and Michelangelo quickly outgrew their teachers and show no later trace of influence, Raphael had a precocious talent right from the beginning and was an innate absorber of influences. Whatever he saw, he took possession of, always growing by what was taught to him. An early Raphael can look very like a Perugino. In fact, Perugino's Crucifixion with the Virgin, St. John, St. Jerome, and St. Mary Magdalene was thought to be by Raphael until evidence proved it was given to the church of San Gimigniano in 1497, when Raphael was only 14. It is undoubtedly a Perugino, calmly emotional, and pious rather than passionate. A fascinating context for this scene of quiet faith is the notorious unbelief on the part of the artist, who was described by Yasari as an atheist. He painted what would be acceptable, not what he felt to be true, and this may account for the lack of real emotive impact.

Early Raphael

There are still echoes of the gentle Perugino in an early Raphael like the diminutive St. George and the Dragon, painted when he was in his early twenties; the little praying princess is very Peruginesque. But there is a fire in the knight and his intelligent horse, and a nasty vigor in the convincing dragon that would always be beyond Perugino's skill. Even the horse's tail is electric, and the saint's mantle flies wide as he speeds to the kill.
Raphael spent his first sojourn in Florence (1504-08) to sublime purpose. At that time Leonardo and Michelangelo were both working there, and as a result, Raphael adopted new working methods and techniques -particularly influenced by Leonardo — and his paintings took on a more vigorous graphic energy. We may think we see a hint of what he took from Leonardo in a work like the Small Cowper Madonna, with its softness of contour and perfection of balance. Both faces, the Virgin's almost smiling, almost praying, wholly wrapped up in her Child, and that of the Child, wholly at ease with His Mother, dreamily looking out at us with abstracted sweetness, have that inwardness we see in Leonardo, but made firm and unproblematic. Behind the seated figures we see a tranquil rural landscape with a church perched on a hill.

Raphael's later work

Raphael returned to the subject of the Madonna and Child several times, each time in an intimate, gentle composition. The Alba Madonna, on the other hand, has a Michelangelic heroism about it; tender as always in Raphael, but also heavy; masses wonderfully composed in tondo form; a crescendo of emotion that finds its fulfillment in the watchful face of Mary. The world stretches away on either side, centered on this trinity of figures, and the movement sweeps graciously onward until it reaches the farthest fold of Mary's cloaked elbow. Then it floods back, with her bodily inclination toward the left, and the meaning is perfectly contained: love is never stationary, it is given and returned. Raphael's life was short, but while he lived he was one of those geniuses who continually evolve and develop. He had an extraordinary capacity (like, though greater than, Picasso's) to respond to every movement in the art world, and to subsume it within his own work.
Since Vasari described the picture commissioned by Bindo Altoviti as "his portrait when young," historians have liked to think that this radiant youth was Raphael himself. He was indeed said to be unusually handsome, pensive, and fair, which is exactly what this portrait shows us. But it is now agreed that it is Bindo when young, and since he

was at this time a mere 22 (and Raphael 33, with only five years left to him), this is not an "imagined" youth but a real boy who takes up so self-conscious a stance before the painter.
Raphael is one of the most acute of all portraitists, effortlessly cleaving through the external defenses of his sitter, yet courteously colluding with whatever image the ego would seek to have portrayed. This duality, looking beneath the surface and yet remaining wholly respectful of the surface, gives an additional layer of meaning to all his portraits. We see, and we know things that we do not see; we are helped to encounter rather than to evaluate.
Bindo Altoviti was beautiful, successful (as a banker), and rich- rather like Raphael himself. There may have been some feeling of fellowship in the work, as the noble countenance is sensitively fleshed out for us. Half the face is in shadow, as if to allow the sitter his mystery, his maturing, his private destiny. The lips are full and sensual, balanced by the deep-set eyes with their confrontational stare, almost defiant. The ruffled shirt is half covered by the young man's locks, calculatedly casual, at odds in their dandyish profusion with the plain beret and the rich but simple doublet. He holds a darkened hand dramatically to his breast, maybe to show off the ring, maybe to indicate psychic ease.
But Raphael has not given him the real world for his setting. Bindo Aldoviti stands in a nowhere place of luminous green, outside the scope of time in his eternal youth, fearless because he is protected by art from human uncertainties.
There is an aptness in the areas of darkness in which the great doublet sleeve loses itself. For all his debonaire poise, this is a young man threatened. For the viewer who knows how short Raphael's own life was to be, the thought that this might be a self-portrait is seductively plausible. There is a sense in which every portrait is one of the self, since we never escape our own life enough to see with divine vision what is objectively there: this shows us both men, painter and banker, "when young."
Raphael is out of favor today; his work seems too perfect, too faultless for our slipshod age. Yet these great icons of human beauty can never fail to stir us: his Vatican murals can stand fearlessly beside the Sistine ceiling. The School of Athens, for example, monumentally immortalizing the great philosophers, is unrivaled in its classic grace. Raphael's huge influence on successive artists is all the more impressive considering his short life.

Sister Wendy


The Alba Madonna
The Sistine Madonna and Dostoyevsky

The Sistine Madonna (detail)

Angels bend to you in solemn ceremony and
Saints pray where your foot steps: glorious
Queen of Heaven! To you the lyre of the
spheres resounds, which God has strung.
Your spirit gazes, divine to see, through the
veil of your unfading, blooming figure;
you bear a child of sublime omnipotence,
victor over death and liberator of the world.

August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Sonnet to the Sistine Madonna,
c. 1840

Visiting Dresden, the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821—1881) could hardly tear himself away from The Sistine Madonna. He kept returning to the Gemaldegalerie where it hung to spend hours in front of it. Vasari, the Founding Father of art history, said of the artist: "How generous and benevolent Heaven may on occasion show itself to be by showering one man with the infinite riches of its treasures, all the grace and rare gifts otherwise distributed over a long period of time among many individuals, can be clearly seen in the beauty and grace of Raphael." Dostoyevsky may have had similar feelings about the painting and the artist. On his last day in Dresden, he pulled up a chair in front of the painting so that he might be closer to the Madonna's face: "What beauty, innocence and sadness in that heavenly countenance, what humility and suffering in those eyes. Among the ancient Greeks the powers of the divine were expressed in the marvellous Venus de Mile; the Italians, however, brought forth the true Mother of God — the Sistine Madonna." The author of Crime and Punishment (1866) went so far as to claim that, compared to this masterpiece, other representations of the Virgin resemble bakers' wives or other pedestrian, petty-bourgeois women.
A major Italian artist by 1500, Raphael was commissioned at the age of thirty-nine to work on the design of the new St Peter's in Rome. The young architect had already painted The Sistine Madonna for the high altar of San Sisto in Piacenza, where the relics of Pope Sixtus 11 (martyred in 258) had been kept since the ninth century. The Sistine Madonna hung in the church until 1753, when it came into the possession of the Prince Elector, Frederick Augustus II of Saxony. Before Dostoyevsky, German writers, such as August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Heinrich von Kleist and Franz Grillparzer, had been enthralled by the painting. The Sistine Madonna continues to enjoy wide acclaim to this day. In recent times, advertising and commerce have discovered the irresistible appeal of the two bored, mischievous angels on the lower edge of the picture plane. They appear on cups and napkins, letter paper and lampshades. Putti like these are a type of angel, which made their first appearance during the Renaissance. Deriving from the Italian word for "child" or "infant boy", the putto, with his chubby, sensual cheerfulness, is in the tradition of Bros or Cupid, the god of love. In ancient writings and representations, Eros was portrayed as a half-naked boy with wings, while his figure ranged from slim to plump. The child-like appearance of Italian putti is an expression of their innocence. In connection with the Virgin, they represent the immaculate purity of the Queen of angels and men.

K. Reichold, B. Graf

The Schools of Northern Italy

As the 16th century dawned, certain elements of Venetian painting that were rooted in the previous century flourished in works by artists such as Giovanni Bellini (c. 1434-1516). The sacre conversazioni (''holy conversation"), the sacred theme of his San Zaccaria Altarpiece (1505), was painted in warm, suffused tones that give a serene naturalism to the figures, landscape, and architecture. The same range of colours appears in the work of Giorgione (c.1477-1510), an artist with such confidence in his composition that he often did without preparatory sketches, creating his paintings by means of colour and light. The atmospheric feel of Giorgione's art, seen clearly in The Tempest, highlights his links with Leonardo and his school. Titian (c. 1488-1576) developed alongside Giorgione, and in 1508 the two artists were engaged to decorate the exterior of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice. Venice quickly attracted other artists: Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), the great German artist, returned there in 1505 to further his studies of antiquity and humanism. Despite the turmoil of the political wars in Italy (1494— 1530), by the beginning of the 16th century, the Venetian school of painting held great power and influence, its painters enjoying supremacy throughout Italy and Europe. Traditionally a sea-trading capital, Venice became one of the richest states in Europe, its prosperity and artistic influence resting as much on its mainland territories, which included Padua and Bergamo, as on its great sea empire, which encompassed lands from nearby Istria to Cyprus (acquired in 1489). In the meantime, despite Venetian domination, wider artistic styles were emerging and spreading throughout northern Italy. A large group of students and admirers of Leonardo, who had returned to Florence after the fall of the Sforza court, were shaping an early form of the Mannerism that was to dominate central Europe by the mid-l6th century. In the Duchy of Milan, Benedetto Briosco (active 1483-1517) was involved in the decoration of the facade of the Certosa at Pavia, giving a courtly appearance to the antique classicism of the Lombard style. However, it was Bramantino (c.1465-1S30) who experimented with new and more expressive forms as he explored abstraction in his Adoration of the Magi (c.1500). At Bologna, Lorenzo Costa (c.1460-1535) and Francesco Francia (c.1450-15P) collaborated in decorating the walls of the Oratory of Santa Cecilia. Their unified style, rich in references to Perugino and Raphael, combined spiritual meaning with great intimacy. Ideas circulated quickly, partly thanks to the popularity of engravings, one of the most significant areas of Renaissance art. While Durer introduced his wood-engraving cycles The Passion and The Life of the Virgin into northern Italy, influencing the direction of 16th-century painting particularly around the Alpine areas, the Bolognese engraver Marcantonio Raimondi (c.1480-1534) spread the Raphaelesque style through Europe. Copies, engravings, and drawings of great masterpieces such as Leonardo's Last Slipper became another means of diffusing new forms, and the travels of artists became crucial to the development of art. carrying ideas from one place to another. For example, in the early years of the century. Sebastiano del Piombo (c.1485-1547) visited Rome, bringing the Renaissance of Venice into contact with that of Rome, while Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570) travelled from Florence to Rome and then on to Venice.

Benedetto Briosco

(b Milan, c. 1460; d ?Milan, after April 1514).

Italian sculptor. The first notice of his activity dates from 1477, when he and his brother-in-law Francesco Cazzaniga were employed as sculptors on the monument to Giovanni Borromeo and Vitaliano Borromeo (Isola Bella, Palazzo Borromeo, chapel), which was executed for S Francesco Grande, Milan. By 1482 he had begun employment for the Works of Milan Cathedral and in 1483 was paid for carving a figure of S Apollonia (untraced). Although he was a master figure sculptor at the cathedral until the middle of 1485, the other work he did there remains unknown. During 1483–4 it is likely that he assisted Francesco and Tommaso Cazzaniga in the execution of the tomb of Cristoforo and Giacomo Antonio della Torre (Milan, S Maria delle Grazie). In 1484 he and the Cazzaniga brothers began work on the tomb of Pietro Francesco Visconti di Saliceto destined for the Milanese church of S Maria del Carmine (destr.; reliefs in Cleveland, OH, Mus. A.; Kansas City, MO, Nelson-Atkins Mus. A.; and Washington, DC, N.G.A.; architectural elements in Paris, Louvre). This project was completed by Briosco and Tommaso Cazzaniga following Francesco Cazzaniga’s death at the beginning of 1486. In the same year Benedetto and Tommaso were commissioned to finish the tomb of Giovanni Francesco Brivio (Milan, S Eustorgio), designed and begun by Francesco. Briosco’s hand is virtually impossible to distinguish in these collaborative works. In 1489 the Apostolic Prothonotary and ducal councillor Ambrogio Griffo engaged Briosco to execute his funerary monument, to be installed in the church of S Pietro in Gessate, Milan. This tomb, which in its original form consisted of an effigy mounted on a high rectangular sarcophagus, appears to be Briosco’s first major independent work and represents a significant break with Lombard tradition; although its design may to some extent have been influenced by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo’s tomb to Medea Colleoni (Bergamo, Colleoni Chapel), it was free-standing and entirely secular in content. In 1490 Briosco returned to Milan Cathedral, where he was engaged to carve four life-size statues each year until he or his employers should cancel the arrangement. Although he worked at the cathedral until mid-1492, only a figure of St Agnes (Milan, Mus. Duomo) is documented from this period.

Benedetto Briosco
La fondazione della Certosa di Pavia


Over the centuries, a number of factors have fuelled the mystery that surrounds the Venetian artist Giorgione: his premature death, the continuing debate about his autograph works, the loss of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi frescos, the alleged rivalry with Titian, and the suggestion, without support, that Giorgione belonged to the Jewish community. As a result, his paintings have proved difficult to understand. Only a few years separate Giorgione's two most representative works — The Tempest and The Three Philosophers. Both paintings have been seen to contain biblical references (the theme of Adam and Eve for the first work and the Magi for the second). Mythological and secular meanings have also been detected: The Tempest as an erotic allegory, for instance, or references to the three ages of man in The Three Philosopher. Radiography has revealed radical alterations during the creation of the works; the young soldier in The Tempest was initially a female nude, while one of the philosophers was previously a Moor. This suggests a considerable amount of manipulation of the subject matter and implies that the final outcomes were deliberately left ambivalent. The most prevalent feature, however, is the artist's fascination with the moods of nature: his treatment of tones and evocative touches of light create an unusual atmospheric density. In this regard, Giorgione, of all the Venetians, was the closest in style to Leonardo da Vinci.


The Three Philosophers
The Rome of the Medici

Agostino Chigi's elegant Villa Farnesina (1508-1511) was designed by the Sienese architect and painter Baldassare Peruzzi (1481-15.36) in the classical style of ancient Roman villas. The interior was lavishly decorated by some of the finest artists in Rome, including Peruzzi himself, who painted the false perspective views of the Salone delle Prospettive, and Raphael, who painted his famous Galatea fresco (1511-12). The classical style also interested Raphael, who followed extracts from Pliny for his plan for the Villa Madama, which was never finished. In 1514. the year Bramante died, Raphael's architectural work was finally recognized. He was summoned to Rome to continue the rebuilding of St Peter's by Leo X, a Medici pope who favoured artistic links between Florence and Rome (Julius II had died in February 1513). Raphael was joined by Giuliano da Sangallo, head of the leading Florentine family of architects, and Fra Giocondo (1433-1515)- a Veronese humanist friar. Fra Giocondo was an expert on classical architecture and editor of an important illustrated edition of Vitruvius - the first-century Roman architect - which was published in Venice in 1511. Giuliano da Sangallo also had a vast knowledge of Roman antiquity and, in the latter part of his life, resided in Rome. However, his best-known buildings were in Tuscany and in 1516, the war he died, he provided designs for the facade of the Medici church of San Lorenzo in the thriving Tuscan capital, Florence. Andrea del Sarto painted his Birth of the Virgin in the atrium of Santissima Annunziata, Florence, in 1514. The painting reflects the architectural ideals of Giuliano da Sangallo and clearly shows the influence of Durer in the movements and expressions of the figures. In Rome, Raphael's work also showed an increased awareness of movement, colour, and light, typified in his Fire in the Borgo, in the passionate luminosity of the Expulsion of Heliodonts, in the intense colour of the Mass of Bolsena, and in the wonderful night scene of the Liberation of St Peter from Prison.

The wealth of commissions received by Raphael and his natural sociability encouraged the formation of a group of students and collaborators that included Perino del Vaga (1500 01—47), Giulio Romano (c.1499-1546), and Giovanni da Udine. Raphael's architectural tastes centred around the classical style - evident in Palazzo Branconio and Villa Madama - and the master and his followers employed ancient styles of decoration for the loggias of the Vatican. Before long, Raphael had reached heights of power and influence unknown to any previous artist. As the result of a rather mysterious agreement between the pope, Baldassare Castiglione, and the artist himself, he undertook to reassert the historical image of the city of Rome as the capital of the Christian world with a vast, ambitious, archeological and construction project. In 1512, after returning to Milan for a short time, Leonardo da Vinci also made the essential trip to Rome, by then a mecca for any painter in Italy and northern Europe: Raphael himself had come in 1508 to decorate the Vatican apartments of Julius II. Leonardo's young friend Agostino Busti, also known as Bambaja (1447-1522), was also there, enthusiastically gathering suggestions for future Milanese funerary monuments, but although Leonardo's interest in classicism was important, it was also limited. After a brief stay in Rome, he accepted an invitation from the French king Francis I, calling him to Amboise, where he remained until his death. Here, he put forward important suggestions for the royal residence of Romorantin, which were later abandoned in favour of the chateau of Chambord, where echoes of Leonardo embellish the rooms. Homage to his style is evident in early 16th-century French architecture, which turned away from the defensive structure of castles, preferring instead the elegant construction of court palaces such as those at Gaillon, Chenonceaux, and Blois.

Baldassare Peruzzi

(b Ancaiano, nr Siena, 15 Jan 1481; d Rome, 6 Jan 1536).

Italian architect, painter and draughtsman. Although his mature career lay wholly within the 16th century and on his death he was honoured by burial in the Pantheon in Rome next to Raphael, he was a transitional figure between the early Renaissance and the High Renaissance in Italy. Yet certain of his works had a strong influence on later architects in the 16th century, and his architectural theories can be said to have been extremely forward-looking. It is the balance between traditional and advanced thinking that characterizes Peruzzi’s life and career.

Baltassare Peruzzi
Tomb of Pope Hadrian VI
Santa Maria dell'Anima, Rome

Northern Italy in the Age of Titian

During the first two decades of the 16th century, Milan and other northern Italian city-states were subject to severe dynastic strife. Having reconquered Milan from the Sforza's in 1515. the French king Francis I ruled the duchy until 1521, when he lost it to his great rival, the Hapsburg emperor Charles V, During this time, the Milanese art scene was dominated by Bramantino and the young Bernardino Luini (1480/85-1532). Bramantino's painting and architecture synthesized classicism into a sense of intimacy and pathos, while Luini combined the example of Leonardo with new ideas picked tip from his direct contact with Raphael's work. As a result, Luini is the most "Roman" of Lombard Renaissance artists, as can be seen from his frescos of the sanctuary of Saronno. In Venice, Titian succeeded Giorgione following his early death in 1510, and it is thought that he completed a number of the former's unfinished works. Exploiting colour to the full. Titian created powerful compositions, skilfully distributing figures according to colour contrasts in the skin and clothes, as seen in Sacred and Profane Love (c. 1515)-One of his first public commissions, the Assumption of the Virgin for the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, established his reputation as a colourist. In this, the traditional design of an altarpiece was superseded by a vast and dramatic arrangement of figures rendered in rich colours and bathed in light. Contact between Venice and Rome was kept alive by Sebastiano del Piombo, one of Michelangelo's most skilful collaborators. Sebastiano was one of the main exponents of a style that united Venetian colourism with the sculptural character of Roman painting, and was called to Rome by Agostino Chigi to participate in the decoration of the Villa Farnesina. The work of another Venetian painter. Lorenzo Lotto (c.1480-1556), reveals links between Lombardy and the Marches, where he painted, and northern cultures. As a young man, Lotto had had contact with Raphael and the master's painting of the Stanza della Segnatura.

An almost theatrical style illuminated the work of Lotto, as can be seen in the scenes in the Oratory of Suardi and in the altarpiece of the church of San Bernardino. Across northern Italy, there-was a move towards a clearer and more emotive representation of Catholicism, creating a bastion of Catholic iconography against the onslaught of Lutheranism. One of the most interesting examples is the site of Sacro Monte at Varallo, where architecture, sculpture, and painting were all combined to re-create the holy places of Jerusalem in a series of chapels on the hill. Greatly influenced by Franciscan culture, which encouraged total immersion in Catholic ideology, the leading artist was Gaudenzio Ferrari (c.14781-1546), who used a highly theatrical form of representation to depict the episodes from the life of Christ. In both frescos and sculptures, his crowded scenes had great expressive impact. A similar example can be found in the decoration of Cremona Cathedral, where artists of different extractions worked between 1515 and 1520. As a result, there are a number of different styles, varying from the restrained, late 15th-century compositions of Boccaccio Boccaccino, through important contributions by Altobello Melone and Gerolamo Romanino (c.1484-1560), to the almost barbaric and anticlassical drama of Pordenone (1483/4-1539). Pordedone's work was remarkable for the immediacy of his figures, recalling those of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. In Parma, the originality of Renaissance painting owes much to the merging of Lombard and Venetian styles. The youthful work of Correggio (c. 1489-1534) was significant, but after 1518, when he moved to Parma and absorbed other influences (Raphael's Sistine Madonna, c.1512-15, was in nearby Piacenza) he developed an ingenious personal style. In the dome of San Giovanni Evangelista at Parma and the abbess' room in the convent of San Paolo (1518), the artistes illusionistic compositions soften the narrative.

Titian. Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, or Judith
c. 1515, (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome)


The work of Gaudenzio Ferrari is probably the best reflection of the spiritual art favoured by the religious culture of the time, especially in the Alpine areas marking the border between Catholicism and Protestantism. The activity of this Piedmontese painter began at that mountain shrine of Sacro Monte at Varallo, which was begun in 1486 by Franciscan monks and continued in the 17th century with the addition of many other chapels. Gaudenzio's decoration of the chapel dedicated to the Crucifixion gives a dramatically visual backdrop to the setting and the statues that animate it. At Morbegno, Gaudenzio painted a wooden altarpiece carved by Giovan Angelo del Maino. The statue of the Virgin Mary is part of a scheme depicting the episodes of her life. The setting is more restricted than that at Varallo, but the narrative richness and spiritual aura are the same.


Gaudenzio Ferrari

(b Valduggia, nr Vercelli, 1475–80; d Milan, 3 Jan 1546).

Italian painter and sculptor. He probably received his training at Varallo at the beginning of the 1490s, a lively period in the town’s artistic life, when extensive works were being carried out at the sacromonte. His master was Gian Stefano Scotto ( fl 1508), none of whose works has as yet been identified but who, judging from the early work of his pupil, may have been influenced by Lombard artists. Gaudenzio’s early works, such as a painting on panel of the Crucifixion (Varallo, Mus. Civ. Pietro Calderini), were influenced by the poetic art of Bramantino and by the northern Italian classicizing style of the Milanese painter Bernardo Zenale. His early, but self-assured, Angel of the Annunciation (c. 1500; Vercelli, Mus. Civ. Borgogna), painted for the Convento delle Grazie, Vercelli, suggests that these sources were soon enriched by his response to the tender Renaissance style of Pietro Perugino (active at the Certosa di Pavia, 1496–9). Gaudenzio is also recorded at Vercelli in the first known documentary reference to him, the contract for a polyptych commissioned by the Confraternita di Sant’ Anna in 1508, with Eusebio Ferrari acting as guarantor. There remain four paintings of scenes from the Life of St Anne and God the Father (Turin, Gal. Sabauda) and two of the Annunciation (London, N.G.). In these works Gaudenzio’s style is more controlled, possibly as a result of a journey to central Italy in c. 1505.

S. Maria delle Grazie, Varallo Sesia


Polyptych (detail)
S. Gaudenzio, Novara

The Annunciation
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

The Annunciation

In the great Gothic church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, Titian worked on two altarpieces that progressively moved away from the rigid centralized schemes of the Early Renaissance to form a new style. In the Assumption of the Virgin (1518), the composition follows the dynamism of the action. To the excitement of the apostles below, angels raise the Virgin towards the open arms of the Lord. It is a picture of motion, light, and colour, in which all the movement follows a circular rhythm, immersed in an atmosphere of golden light, moving from the dark tones of the earth to the brilliance of the heavens. In Madonna of the House of Pesaro, commissioned in 1519 for a lateral altar in the Frari, Titian adopted a strong diagonal composition in preference to the traditional centralized scheme. He placed the Virgin Mary to one side, against one of two vast columns that soar up and disappear out of sight. The configuration of the saints and donors conforms to Titian's diagonal-triangular principle; the primary point of the triangle being the Virgins head, the other points formed by the heads of the two kneeling chiefs of the Pesaro family.

The Renaissance outside Italy

The two main political powers of Europe in the early 16th century were France, under King Francis I, and the Hapsburgs, under Emperor Charles V. Both recognized the potential of the Italian Renaissance to promote their royal and imperial images in suitable classical forms. With the arrival at the royal court in Fontainebleau of Rosso Fiorentino, Francesco Primaticcio (1504-1570), and Sebastiano Serlio, Mannerism was introduced into France where it was assimilated by the eclectic, naturalist tastes of the French world. Flemish artists were also much in contact with Rome and Italy from the early 16th century.

Quentin Massys (c. 1466-1530) and Mabuse, also known as Jan Gossaert (c. 1478-1532), gradually introduced greater restraint into their painting, initially taking inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci.

The Moneylender and his Wife

Tapestries based on Raphael's cartoons were woven in Brussels, so strengthening the Renaissance feel in the work of artists such as van Orley, in terms of composition and classical taste, while Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-69) borrowed from Venetian pastoral paintings to create his pictures of Flemish country peasants. There is, however, no hint of Italian classicism in the work of the German artist Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Peasant Wedding Feast, c. 1567
At times realistic and at others fantastical, the mystical nature of his painting was later admired by the Spanish king Philip II. Engraving played an important role in these areas of northern Europe, both as a way of spreading figurative examples and as an independent art form. There were a number of important centres for engraving, such as Antwerp, and the discipline had its own prominent artists, including Lucas van Leyden (c.1494-1533). One of the most significant events in the life of this gifted painter and engraver was his meeting with Albrecht Durer, the leading figure of Renaissance art in central Europe. Durer's activities as engraver, painter, and theorist took a decisive turn after a trip to Venice in 1505. His religious works, such as the Trinity (1511) in Vienna, became increasingly imposing, with a more mature sense of colour.

There were important exchanges of ideas on portrait painting, including a new perception of realism and psychology. Durer approached landscape painting with a great scientific curiosity, matched only by that of Leonardo da Vinci, later discovering other talented landscape artists among his compatriots, such as Albrecht Altdorfer (c.1480-1538).


The Battle of Alexander
Lime panel
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
The extent of the influence of Durer's engravings in Europe is clear from the number of elements that were borrowed from his series of The Passion and The Life of the Virgin, which were used again and again in many famous Renaissance works. Also part of this fertile exchange between North and South were two artists inspired by the Roman Renaissance: Hans Burgkmair and Hans Holbein (c.1498-1543), both from Augsburg, where Charles V had his main residence. Naturally, at Augsburg the emperor was keen to exploit as much classicism as he could to aid his imperial image, and the Italian artist Titian is known to have visited the city, providing further evidence of the mobility of Renaissance art. Elsewhere in Germany, the "expressionist" Mannerism of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) and the sculpture of the great Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531), whose earliest works were characterized by Gothic elements, were being developed. Members of the Nuremberg-based Vischer family were also fine sculptors, their large wooden altarpieces decorated with stories and emotions expressed with great communicative force. These works were part of the sacred art of the Alpine and Pre-Alpine areas, which used sculpture, painting, and small-scale architecture to portray a very solid reflection of human faith - at times incorporating the Italian phenomenon of Sacro Monte - as well as wooden polyptychs.

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife
In Spain, the rule of Charles V, who succeeded his grandfather Ferdinand, had a profound effect on the country's art and architecture, particularly after the court was moved to Madrid. Between 1527 and 1568, the Italian-inspired Palace of Charles V in the Alhambra at Granada was built; the only surviving architectural work of Pedro Machuca. The large project of El Escorial for Philip II, designed and constructed in part by Juan Bautista de Toledo (died 1567), who was succeeded by Juan de Herrera (c.1530-97), followed some of the strictest classical designs in Europe. In the first half of the 16th century, Spain was dominated by Flemish-style architecture as well as a Spanish style of ornamentation known as Plateresque decoration. Comprised of a mixture of Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance elements, it adorned portals, windows, courtyards, and vaults of castles, churches, and convents from Seville to Toledo - the ancient capital of Spain where El Greco settled in the last quarter of the century - and the university city of Salamanca. As Renaissance elements gradually came to dominate, the decorative style became simpler and more imposing. There were also changes in the painting styles. In the wake of predominantly Flemish influences, evident in the works of Pedro Berruguete in Avila and Toledo, the first signs of Renaissance influence appeared in the work of Yanez de la Almedina and Fernando de Llanos, who took the Florentine models of Fra Bartolomeo and Andrea del Sarto to Valencia, a major artistic centre, in the second decade of the century.

El Greco
The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
Oil on canvas, 480 x 360 cm
Santo Tome, Toledo
Although Charles V and Philip II were both great admirers of Titian, they never managed to persuade him to take up residence at their courts. One major part of the development of Renaissance sculpture in Spain was the influx of weapons and armour from Lombardy. The great historical scenes on shields and breastplates paid homage to ancient designs and interpreted them with skilled craftsmanship. Similarly, Spanish sculptural decoration was spurred by the Italian tradition for funerary monuments and the best examples were comparable to the contemporary plastic art of Lombardy and Florence. Leone Leoni (c. 1509-90) and his son Pompeo (1533-1608) from Milan became the principal sculptors at the Spanish court. The political and artistic ties between Lombardy and Spain were a determining factor in the development of European art in the course of the 16th century. One example of the dynamism these cultural exchanges provided can be seen in the work of Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527-96), a painter and architect born in the Alpine foothills in Lombardy. Tibaldi trained in Rome, where he came under the influence of Michelangelo, and was called to Milan by Cardinal Carlo Borromeo to give architectural form to the edicts of the Council of Trent; he was then sent as a painter to the Escorial of Philip II. From the Venetian territories, meanwhile, came the fame and example of the great architects Andrea Palladio (1508-80) and Scamozzi (1552-1616), while Giovanni Battista Moroni (c.1525-1578) became renowned for his full-length portraiture.
Pedro Machuca

Spanish painter/architect (b. 1490/95, Toledo, d. 1550, Granada)

Spanish painter and architect. The form of his signature (Petrus Machuca, Hispanus. Toletanus ...) on his earliest known work, the Virgin of Succour (1517; Madrid, Prado), suggests he was active at an early age in Italy. On the basis of the style of that work, a number of frescoes in the Vatican have been attributed to him, including Isaiah Blessing Jacob. Other works from the same period that have been attributed to him include a copy (Paris, Louvre) of the destroyed Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo da Vinci and two paintings of the Virgin and Child (Rome, Gal. Borghese, and Turin, Gal. Sabauda), some drawings and the original drawings for reproductive engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi and Agostino Veneziano.

Oil on panel, 141 x 128 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid


Hieronymus Bosch was born in 's Hertogenbosch in northern Brabant, Germany, and probably remained there all his life. The rich and imaginative symbolism of his work reveals a knowledge of alchemy, magic, and mystical subjects, linking him to the allegorical culture of the Middle Ages. Popular tales, temptations of saints, biblical episodes, and divine judgments were his chosen subject matter, rarely dealing with more traditional religious themes. Fantastic creatures, monstrous demons, cross-breeds, and strange inventions fill his canvases, their fancifulness matched by an equally refined style. Each detail is rendered with great attention to composition and colour, while the entire "work emerges out of the careful assembly of every component. Any underlying moralism in Bosch's work is tempered by the friendly and humorous atmosphere of the paintings, into which many people have read all sorts of esoteric meanings.


Triptych of Garden of Earthly Delights
c. 1500
Oil on panel, central panel: 220 x 195 cm, wings: 220 x 97 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Matthias Grunewald. Isenheim Altarpiece
The altarpiece's figures are given uniquely determined gestures, their limbs are distended for expressive effect, and their draperies (a trademark of Grunewald's that expand and contract in accordion pleats) mirror the passions of the soul. The colours used are simultaneously biting and brooding. The Isenheim Altarpiece expresses deep spiritual mysteries. The Concert of Angels, for instance, depicts an exotic angel choir housed within an elaborate baldachin. At one opening of the baldachin a small, glowing female form, the eternal and immaculate Virgin, kneels in adoration of her own earthly manifestation at the right. And at the far left of the same scene under the baldachin, a feathered creature, probably the evil archangel Lucifer, adds his demonic notes to the serenade. Other details in the altarpiece, including the horribly wounded body of Christ in the Crucifixion, may refer to the role of the monastery as a hospital for victims of the plague and St. Anthony's fire. The colour red takes on unusual power and poignancy in the altarpiece, first in the Crucifixion, then in the Annunciation and Nativity, and finallyon Christ's shroud in the Resurrection, which is at first lifeless in the cold tomb but which then smolders and bursts into white-hot flame as Christ ascends, displaying his tiny purified red wounds. Such transformations of light and colourare perhaps the most spectacular found in German art until the late 19th century. And through all this drama, Grunewald never misses the telling picturesque detail: a botanical specimen, a string of prayer beads, or a crystal carafe.

Another important clerical commission came from a canon in Aschaffenburg, Heinrich Reitzmann. As early as 1513 he had asked Grunewald to paint an altar for the Mariaschnee Chapel in the Church of Saints Peter and Alexander in Aschaffenburg. The artist painted this work in the years 1517–19. Grunewald apparently married about 1519, but the marriage does not appear to have brought him much happiness (at least, that is the tradition recorded in the 17th century). Grunewald occasionally added his wife's surname, Neithardt, to his own, thereby accounting for several documentary references to him as Mathis Neithardt or Mathis Gothardt Neithardt.

In 1514 Uriel von Gemmingen had died, and Albrecht von Brandenburg had become the elector of Mainz. For Albrecht, Grunewald executed one of his most luxurious works, portraying The Meeting of SS. Erasmus and Maurice (Erasmus is actually a portrait of Albrecht). This work exhibits the theme of religious discussion or debate, so important to this period of German art and history. In this painting, as well as in the late, two-sided panel known as the Tauberbischofsheim Altarpiece, Grunewald's forms become more massive and compact, his colours restrained but still vivid.

Apparently because of his sympathy with the Peasants' Revolt of 1525, Grunewald left Albrecht's service in 1526. He spent the last two years of his life visiting in Frankfurt and Halle, cities sympathetic to the newly emerging Protestant cause. In Halle he was involved in supervising the town waterworks. Grunewald died in August 1528; among his effects were discovered several Lutheran pamphlets and documents.

Grunewald's painterly achievement remains one of the most striking in the history of northern European art. His 10 or so paintings (some of which are composed of several panels) and approximately 35 drawings that survive have been jealously guarded and carefully scrutinized in modern times. His dramatic and intensely expressive approach to subject matter can perhaps best be observed in his three other extant paintings of the Crucifixion, which echo the Isenheim Altarpiece in their depiction of the scarified and agonized body of Christ.

Despite his artistic genius, failure and confusion no doubt marked much of Grunewald's life. He seems not to have had a real pupil, and his avoidance of the graphic media also limited his influence and renown. Grunewald's works did continue to be highly prized, but the man himself was almost forgotten by the 17th century. The German painter Joachim von Sandrart, the artist's fervent admirer and first biographer (Teutsche Akademie, 1675), was responsible for preserving some of the scanty information that we have about the artist, as well as naming him, erroneously and froman obscure source, Grunewald. At the lowest ebb of his popularity, in the mid-19th century, Grunewald was labeled by German scholarship “a competent imitator of Durer.” However, the late 19th-century and early 20th-century artistic revolt against rationalism and naturalism, typified by the German Expressionists, led to a thorough and scholarly reevaluation of the artist's career. Grunewald's art is now recognized as an often painful and confused but always highly personal and inspired response to the turmoil of his times.

Craig S. Harbison

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Matthias Grunewald. Isenheim Altarpiece (first view)
c. 1515
Oil on wood
Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar
The Renaissance outside Italy

Francis I, despite his military reverses in Italy, was enamoured of all things Italian. He commissioned the celebrated goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini to execute both tableware and sculpture and prevailed upon friendly rulers in Italy to send him works by Titian and Bronzino and casts of sculpture. He also imported Italian artists to design, build, and decorate his palaces, the Chateau de Madrid and Fontainebleau, both outside Paris. Rosso arrived in France in 1530, followed two years later by his fellow Italian, the Mannerist Francesco Primaticcio. In the gallery of Francis I at Fontainebleau, Rosso initiated a new and intricate decorative system in which stucco and painting form a richly luxuriant complex--the plastic realization of the late Raphaelesque decorative manner. Primaticcio, who had been trained by Giulio Romano at Mantua and influenced by Parmigianino, took over Rosso's leading position on the latter's death in 1540. His Ulysses Gallery at Fontainebleau continued and refined Rosso's elaborate system of painted narratives surrounded by convoluted strap work, elegant figures, and swags in stucco. French artists at the court, such as the two Jean Cousins and Antoine Caron, quickly adopted aspects of Italian Mannerism to create a style of painting characterized as the school of Fontainebleau. Less of a tendency to mimic the fashion was noticeable in Corneille de Lyon and Jean and Francois Clouet, whose portraits, while exhibiting some Mannerist qualities, recalled 15th-century court portraiture.

Martin J. Kemp



During the first decade of the 16th century, Fernando Yanez, who may have assisted Leonardo da Vinci on the "Battle of Anghiari" in 1505, executed works showing a good knowledge of Italian Renaissance developments. Further Italianate tendencies emerged strongly in the Valencian works of Juan de Macip and his son Juan de Juanes. Full-fledged Mannerism made its appearance in the Seville cathedral in the "Descent from the Cross" (1547) by Pedro Campaсa (Pieter de Kempeneer), an artist from Brussels, and subsequently in the refined court portraiture of Anthonis Mor (Sir Anthony More) and Alonso Sanchez Coello, whose royal portraits possess an elegance reminiscent of Bronzino's Florentine style. Although Campaсa's paintings are Mannerist in composition, they also foreshadow the expressiveness characteristic of Spanish style in the hands of Luis de Morales and El Greco.

From 1546 until his death in 1586, Morales remained almost exclusively in the provincial isolation of Badajoz, developing a highly individual art of great spiritual intensity, radically separated from the Mannerist mainstream. El Greco, though born in Crete, was more fully conversant with Italian painting, having studied with Titian in Venice and later residing in Rome for two years. His Spanish paintings exploit the anatomical attenuations of Roman Mannerism, but the vividly emotional qualities of his colour and paint handling depend almost entirely upon Venetian precedents--Tintoretto and Jacopo Bassano in particular. Under the influence of Counter-Reformation mysticism in Toledo after 1575, he developed an increasingly personal and nonrealistic manner, indulging in space and supernatural light effects. The narrative fervour of his style stands in sharp contrast to the stylish formalism of international Mannerism.


Albrecht Durer was the first important German artist who displayed a profound understanding of Italian Renaissance art and theory. Trained in Nurnberg in the late Gothic tradition, he had ambitions even as a youth far beyond the narrow confines of his native city and the late medieval style. He traveled to Switzerland and the Rhine Valley and may have been in the Low Countries. Shortly after his marriage in 1494 he made a brief trip to Italy, where he studied the works of Mantegna and the Venetians. In 1505-07 he was again in Italy and was on intimate terms with Giovanni Bellini. Durer was interested in what he felt to be the "secrets" of Italian art and in the new humanism carried north by such friends as the German humanist Willibald Pirkheimer. As a result, his paintings maintain the northerners' love of detail, rendered meticulously in oil, but he joined to it the Italian interest in broadly conceived compositions. In "The Paumgurtner Altarpiece" of 1502-04 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), for example, the saints in the wings are depicted with the scrolls and a complexity of composition more reminiscent of a heraldic achievement, while the broad planes of the architecture and the large, simple figures of the adoration shown on the central panel suggest an Italianate conception. The "Four Apostles" (Alte Pinakothek) of 1526 ultimately derives from the wings of Bellini's Frari altarpiece. Durer's close association with the Venetian painter and admiration for his art can be seen in the broad simple folds of the drapery, the breadth of handling of the heads, and the quality of the light depicted.

Although he executed a large number of important paintings, Durer is perhaps best known for his woodcuts and engravings, by which he raised printmaking from a minor to a major art . Durer's prints, paintings, and writings had such a profound influence on 16th-century art in Germany that it is sometimes difficult to realize that he died in 1528.

In the 16th century the Renaissance, as far as German painting was concerned, tended to follow the lines established by Durer. Two artists of note do emerge, but their styles are so individual that they do not represent a national school.

Lucas Cranach the Elder was deeply influenced by Durer and the Danube school, an early 16th-century tradition of landscape painting that was in some ways a transition between the styles of Gothic and Renaissance painting. By 1505 he had moved to Wittenberg and become court painter to the electors of Saxony. There his style changed radically, epitomizing the dichotomy that existed in 16th-century northern European painting. He developed in Wittenberg the full-length portrait in which the sitter is rendered with consummate skill and fidelity. Cranach was a personal friend of Martin Luther and is probably best known for his portraits of the great reformer. At the same time, his "Reclining River Nymph at the Fountain" of 1518 (Museum of Fine Art, Leipzig) illustrates his knowledge of Giorgione and Venetian painting and points the way to the group of highly erotic female nudes of his later works.

Hans Holbein the Younger was trained by his father in Augsburg but took up residence in Basel, Switz., about 1515. He early developed a portrait style that was greatly sought after by the burghers of Basel. His portraits of Burgomaster Meyer and his wife (1516; Kunstmuseum-Offentliche Kunstsammlung Basel) or of Bonifacius Amerbach (1519; Kunstmuseum-Offentliche Kunstsammlung Basel) show his gift for characterization. In 1526 he made his first trip to London, where he painted "Sir Thomas More with His Household" (1527). In 1532 religious troubles in Basel were so intense that he accepted a position at the English court and left the city forever. He is perhaps best known for his portraits of Henry VIII, Henry's bride Anne of Cleves (1539; Louvre), and Christina of Denmark (1538; National Gallery, London), at one time considered by the King as a possible bride. "Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve" ("The Ambassadors," 1533; National Gallery, London), which depicts two French ambassadors to the English court, is probably the greatest tour de force of his years in England. The two sitters are rendered faithfully in a well-defined room and are surrounded by the trappings of 16th-century humanism--e.g., books, globes, musical instruments. Holbein's portraits were all painted with a great understanding of the sitter and often have a note of Italian elegance. His surfaces tend to be tight and hard, yet there is a certain expansiveness created by the positioning within the frame. He established a portrait tradition in England and also contributed to the popularity of the miniature in that country.

Low Countries

In the Low Countries there emerged early in the 16th century a group of painters misleadingly lumped together as the Antwerp Mannerists. Their exaggerated and fanciful compositions descend in great part from the decorative excesses of late Gothic art, generally with some Italianate details probably transmitted by architects' and goldsmiths' pattern books.

The Flemish painter Jan Gossaert, called Mabuse, visited Rome in 1508. At first he continued his ornate late Gothic style, but by 1514 he began to adopt the great innovations occurring in Italian painting. His mythological paintings, such as the “Neptune and Amphitrite” (Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin) of 1516, indicate that he was able to understand only the superficialities and not the motivation and terribilita of Michelangelo's nudes. Bernard van Orley remained in Brussels and learned of Italy through Raphael's cartoons, which were sent to Brussels to be woven into tapestries. Before the end of the century, painters such as Jan van Scorel, Maerten van Heemskerck, and Sir Anthony More (a Utrecht-born portraitist knighted by Queen Mary I of England) were absorbing Italian influences. Van Scorel demonstrated a specifically Venetian influence, yet all three created an art that was distinctly their own. Joachim Patinir's depiction of the world around him, particularly of landscape, parallels Italian developments in northern terms and greatly influenced Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder visited Italy in 1551–53 but was more influenced by the Italian and particularly Alpine landscape than by Italian painting. His two-dimensional sources are to be found rather in the popular prints of the time, the landscapes of Patinir, and the fantasies of Bosch. He was also a great observer of peasant life. Bruegel spent his adult life in the company of learned humanists, yet he showed no real interest in classical mythological subjects or antiquity. His paintings illustrating Low Countries' proverbs, children's games, or “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent” (1559; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) reveal an interest in popular themes and common life rather than in the pedantic Romanizing compositions of some of his contemporaries. This choice of subject matter, latent from the early 15th century in the Low Countries, was given new dimensions by Bruegel. His series of depictions of the months is at once a revival of the labours of the months found in the portal sculptures of Gothic cathedrals and medieval books of hours and at the same time a new treatment of rural landscape and the peasants who work the land. His “Harvesters” (1565; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City) displays a remarkable sensitivity to colour and pattern. The intense golden yellow of the ripe wheat setsup a bold pattern across the lower half of the picture and contrasts with the cool greens and blues of the limitless plain stretching off into the distance. Some figures move across a lane cut through the wheat, while others cut into what seems a solid space. The sleeping peasants resting after their noon meal are disposed in patterns and poses that make one feel the heat and calm of the summer's day. This sympathetic view of peasant life, with its bold geometric patterns, runs throughout the series of the months and recurs in “The Wedding Dance” (1566; Detroit Institute of Arts) and “Peasant Dance” and “Peasant Wedding” (both in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).

Bruegel brought to an end the 16th century in the north and prepared the way for the Baroque. His sons and grandsons were important painters who helped to train some of the leading artists of the 17th century in the Low Countries. It was the elder Bruegel, however, who made landscape and peasant life an accepted subject for painting in the Renaissance.

John R. Spencer

Encyclopaedia Britannica