The Renaissance art period is one of the most famous periods in western culture. Well known artists like Leonardo de Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael all came from this period in time. During the 1400’s, the western world was emerging from medieval times and artists during the Renaissance sought to distance themselves from what they saw as the dark ages, by returning to and reviving the ideas of classical antiquity. This nod towards classic Greek and Roman influence included a surging interest in the human body and nudes, which can be seen in numerous works including, Michelangelo’s David, and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. The interest in the anatomy of the human body was also bolstered by the scientific practices of dissection and some artists, da Vinci in particular, would dissect the bodies of the deceased in order to better understand the muscles and tendons under the skin. Another outcome of the interest in antiquity was the rise of classical Humanism. Humanism placed emphasis on humankind and the dignity and worth that humans can achieve. This led to artists who were studying areas of knowledge such as mathematics and science in addition to painting and sculpting. Thus, a key characteristic during the Renaissance is that artists were able to depict images with more realistic depth by using the techniques of linear perspective and atmospheric perspective. A great example of linear perspective is Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin. In the painting, linear perspective is shown as the parallel lines along the floor converge toward a spot on the horizon in the distance. Atmospheric perspective is also shown in this painting as the mountains in the background are less clear than objects in the foreground and are also covered in a soft blue haze, giving the impression that the mountains are far away from the viewer. Works from the Renaissance also tended to have a carefully created composition that was balance and often symmetrical. Though religious paintings were still prominent during the Renaissance, there was also an increase in secular paintings. The rise in secular paintings came as a result of several things. Firstly, with the end of feudalism there was a huge growth in the merchant class. Many merchants were able to become extremely wealthy and were thusly able to become patrons of the arts. The Medici Family from Florence is a well known example of merchant patronage. Secondly, the growing unrest with the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation that followed created a lull in figurative religious art, particularly in the north. Pieter Bruegel, a Flemish artist, was particularly well known for his genre paintings and often painted peasant s performing ordinary tasks (Pearson, 2011). In response to the Reformation, the Catholic Church began a revival that is often called the Counter-Reformation. Among the many changes they made, they sought to use art to appeal to human emotions in a very clear, direct manner that would hopefully draw members back to the Catholic Church. This Counter-reformation thus helped establish the Baroque style of art. Baroque artist began creating art that can be characterized as extremely emotional and dramatic. To create this drama and emotion, depictions were often made of the most intense moment of an event, like in Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofornes. Also, artists made great use of dark and light, often by moving past chiaroscuro and into tenebrism, which added greatly to the intensity of paintings. Another, very noticeable characteristic of the Baroque period is the artists’ creation of movement. Diagonal and circular compositions, continuous and overlapping figures or elements, and the choice to depict highly intense moments all added to the sense of motion within paintings and sculptures (Pearson, 2011) In addition to the Counter-Reformation, the new aristocracy had a large influence on the Baroque period. The aristocracy was growing in power and wealth and therefore they enjoyed the grandness and exquisite detailing of Baroque art and architecture. The Baroque period was also a time when many aristocrats sought to show their power and right to rule through art. A great example of this is the numerous works commissioned by Marie de Medici from Rubens, including Portrait of Marie de’ Medici. When comparing and contrasting Renaissance and Baroque art, it is helpful to look at two different depictions of the same subject matter. Bernini’s David and Michelangelo’s David are sculptures both depicting David from the biblical story of David and Goliath. Michelangelo’s David is very linear and symmetrical. It is a great example of a nude, and in fact it was the first free standing male nude carved in marble since antiquity. There is a realistic emotion in the face of David but it is very contained. Michelangelo chose to depict the moment of stillness before David actually takes on Goliath. On the other hand, Bernini’s David depicts the dynamic moment in which David is flinging the stone towards Goliath. Bernini created this motion by using a diagonal line with the twisting of David’s hips and shoulders. There is also realistic emotion in Bernini’s sculpture, however it is a much more intense and direct emotion and David’s face almost looks distorted with the determination and struggle. The Renaissance paved the way for the drama of the Baroque by creating more realistic depth through linear and atmospheric perspective, and by exploring and perfecting the use of anatomy and nudes, creating more realistic works of art than ever before. Baroque artists sought to rebel against the calculated stillness of the Renaissance and to bolster the Counter-reformation by creating works that seemed to be constantly in motion, were intensely dramatic and were filled with an abundance of emotion. Baroque art has led to a world where artists no longer attempt to merely imitate still life or each other, but to create new movement and emotion within the art itself.
"Realms of Light—The Baroque" (from the PBS series Art of the Western World) "The Classical Ideal" (from the PBS series Art of the Western World) Pearson. (2011). Literature, Arts and Humanities (Module 2) Mindedge Learning Resource. Retrieved from URL Intext: (Pearson, 2011)