The Arts in Italian Renaissance

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The Italian Renaissance was a very difficult time period in European history. The

arts were flourishing, while the city-states in Italy fought bloody battles with each other

and within themselves. Bribery and murder were not uncommon tools for men to use

when they wanted power. Meanwhile those same rulers patronized the arts a great deal

and they would commission the best artistic minds of the time to build, design and paint

their palaces and churches and later on their own portraits and everyday paraphernalia.

In the beginning of Renaissance the artists, as well as the princes, were mostly

interested in religious themes, mostly from the New Testament. They all believed that if

God let them prosper, then they should give thanks in some form. Therefore, the artists

were commissioned to paint the churches, monasteries or nunneries where God was

worshipped. People who could afford it, loved to pray out of expensive books or give

expensive gifts to worship God. Also, many rich courts tried to emulate the papal court.

The Popes in Rome set an example to all the other rulers by having such a vast collection

of artwork that it was doubtful that anyone would ever be able to compete with them.

However the paintings in churches and nunneries had another purpose besides the

one described above. The Pope and the ruler of any particular area needed to have

obedient subjects. Religion was one way to keep people that obedient. The stained glass

windows and the frescoes in the churches and cathedrals often told stories from the Bible

or depicted hell and heaven and what people should or should not do. Since most people

were illiterate, they depended on the priest to interpret the Bible for them. The

illustrations around only supported that interpretation of the Bible which was beneficial

to the rich and ruling classes. Even when some people preached poverty and abstinence

from anything secular, the religious artworks were considered part of religion itself.

As time went on, the illustrations took on yet another purpose. Each city-state

starting using art to depict and immortalize their victories and their rulers. People now

commissioned artists to paint their portraits, design their tabletops, candleholders, fans or

walls in their studies. A lot of themes varied from religion and if someone were to

commission a religious theme, often the faces of the buyers were to appear in that work

of art. Many people wanted to see something else around them and the elaborate pictures

told stories of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses or people's favorite pastime.

By the 16th century the profession of the artist was becoming fashionable. In the

15th century it was still unheard of the artists' mingling with the powerful and the rich.

There were very few masters, who were considered brilliant, so there was practically no

competition between them. One person could paint the same monastery or church for

years, adding just a little personal variation to the story and the style of the painting. It

was becoming fashionable for an artist to not only do his work at a royal court but also be

associated with that court. Many city-states claimed ownership of the brilliant minds that

worked there. Also, individualism was becoming an important aspect of people's lives.

Any individual who exhibited some sort of talent could easily find a sponsor among rich

neighbors . Mantegna was a shepherd in Padua until someone discovered him and he

became a court painter at Mantua. Monetary rewards were also very important to artists.

Rivalry between the artists challenged them to go to new and better levels and the more

money they received the harder they tried. Many artists, such as Bruneleleschi, Uccello or

Piero della Franesca started experimenting with perspective. After that many lesser

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