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Survey of Renaissance Paintings

Posted by Susan Benford

The quantity of famous Renaissance paintings - and the genius of their creators - remain a marvel in the history of art.  This cultural movement, which roughly spanned the 14th to 17th centuries, brought a resurgence of interest in Greco-Roman culture. Renaissance paintings explored themes in perspective, mythology and anatomy, among others.

caravaggio st paul

Here are blog posts about Renaissance paintings which exemplify the era - and justify its fame (listed in painters' birth order):

1. van Eyck, Jan. With only 25 Renaissance paintings attributed to him, the work of Jan van Eyck is nonetheless hugely influential. Learn some of the most recent thinking about who is in, and what is portrayed, in Arnolfini Portrait Explore the incomparable Renaissance altarpiece, Ghent Altarpiece, made by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, and the most famous artwork in it, Adoration of the Lamb.

Left.  Caravaggio.  The Conversion of St. Paul.  Oil on canvas, ca. 1601.  7'6" by 5'7".  Cerasi Chapel Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.

2. Uccello, Paolo.  In the Battle of San Romano triptych, one of the glories of Renaissance art, Paolo Uccello introduces linear, or one point, perspective. Battle of San Romano hangs in three discrete art museums, which barely detracts from its majesty. 

3. Piero della Francesca.  One of the most famous painters of the Italian Renaissance.  Period.

4. Mantegna, Andrea.  Although Mantegna shunned two new painting advances of Renaissance art - linear perspective and oil paint -  his Dead Christ is nonetheless one of the most highly esteemed Renaissance paintings.

5. Botticelli, Sandro.  PrimaveraOne of the leading painters of the Early Renaissance (1400-1500), Botticelli studied with - and surpassed - another well known Renaissance painter, Fra Filipo Lippi. Tragically, many Botticelli paintings were destroyed in the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities of 1497. Primavera and Birth of Venus, are arguably the best known Botticelli paintings.

6. Leonardo.  Who isn't in awe of Leonardo da Vinci's contributions to Renaissance art?

7.  Durer, Albrecht.  Trained as a goldsmith, painter, woodcutter and in stained glass design, Albrech Durer was the best print-maker of the High Renaissance and an accomplished painter, as seen in one of Durer's most famous paintings, Four Apostles.  

8. Michelangelo.  Explore four Michelangelo paintings (and learn about the only one in the U.S.).  Read about two possible new Michelangelo paintingsCrucifixion with the Madonna and St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness.

9. GiorgioneAlthough only six Renaissance paintings are definitively attributed to Giorgione, he nonetheless had an enduring impact on the history of painting.  Learn about one of these six famous paintings, Three Philosophers.

10. Raphael. Considered one of the most brilliant Raphael paintings, Sistine Madonna is often most recognized for its two impish putti.  None other than Fyodor Dostoevsky swooned at the beauty of one of the most famous Raphael paintings.

11. Titian. Titian paintings (like Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas) dominated Renaissance art for good reason.  

titian rape europa

Right. Titian (Tiziano Vecellio). Europe, 1560-62.  Oil on canvas, 178 x 205 cm. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts

Explore more Titian paintings such as: 

Bacchus and Ariadne

Assumption of the Virgin;

Man with a Glove

Rape of Europaand

Pope Paul III and His Grandson.

12. Anguissola, Sofonisba. One of the most outstanding female painters of the Italian Renaissance, Anguissola's father believed girls deserved the same education as boys.  After being apprenticed to two Renaissance painters, Sofonisba Anguissola, at the age of 15 (in 1547!), became renowned for portraiture, as seen in Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain. 

13. Fontana, Lavinia.  Now becoming more widely recognized in the history of painting, Fontana was a portraitist for two popes, had eleven children... and employed her husband as studio assistant.  In one of the best known Lavinia Fontana paintingsPortrait of a Noblewoman, she shows her skill as a portraitist.  She also created memorable altarpieces and mythological paintings. 

gentileschi judith maidservant

Left. Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes, c. 1620.  Oil on canvas, 78" x 64".  Uffizi, Florence. 

14. Caravaggio.  The bad boy of Renaissance art (and the creator of some of the most remarkable Renaissance paintings).

With present-day, international adulation of Caravaggio paintings, it's hard to believe he dwelled in obscurity for three centuries.  Believe it. Read about other (now) famous paintings by Caravaggio

15. Rubens, Peter Paul. The most extensive collection of Rubens paintings outside Paris is in Sarasota, Florida.  Learn about four of these Rubens paintings and this outstanding art museum. 

16. Gentileschi, Artemisia. The first female painter in the Italian Academy of Design, Gentileschi was illiterate but is legendary in Renaissance art. Her confidence is revealled in Judith Beheading Holofernes, which challenged comparison to Caravaggio's version of the same subject, and in Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting.

17. Velazquez.   Having been stood up by Pope Innocent X, Velazquez painted his servant, Juan de Pareja, while he waited for the Pope to receive him. Juan de Pareja is one of the most poignant Velazquez paintings, while his portrait of the Pope is... just a portrait. Compare Juan with Pope Innocent X

velazquez-juan-de-pareja18. Rembrandt.  Rembrandt painted more than 50 self-portraits but none surpasses Self-Portrait at an Early Age (1628), completed when Rembrandt was 22 years old.  Explore this and three other influential Rembrandt paintings from one of the indisputable masters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Right. Diego Velazquez.  Juan de Pareja, 1648.  Oil on canvas, 32" by 27 1/2".  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Purchase, Fletcher Fund, Rogers Fund, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton deGroot.

And don't overlook Night Watch, inarguably one of the most brilliant of all Rembrandt paintings. 

19. Leyster, Judith. The first woman to be inducted into the Guild of St. Luke, the Haarlem painter's guild, Judith Leyster was a talented portrait and genre painter. 

20. Kauffmann, Angelica.  This child prodigy was fluent in four languages... and refused to work in the "lesser" genres of painting that were considered acceptable to women.  Angelica Kauffmann was one of the 36 founders of the Royal Academy of Art, and was as financially successful as her male peers. 

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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Blind Man's Buff

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

Botticelli, Primavera

Caillebotte, Gustave, The Floor Scrapers; The House Painters; Pont de l'Europe; Paris Street, Rainy Day; Fruit Displayed on a Stand

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers 

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Degas, The Bellilli Family, The Dance Class, In a Cafe (Absinthe Drinker)

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

El Greco, View of Toledo

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Ingres, Oedipus and the Sphinx

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Lawrence, Great Migration Series

Leonardo, Lady with an Ermine

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters

20 Louvre Paintings not to Miss 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Impression, Sunrise

Monet, Nymphaes, Le Pont de l'Europe

Monet Paintings at the Marmottan Monet Museum

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Peeters, Clara

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Pippin, Domino Players and Cabin in the Cotton

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

van Gogh, Three Pairs of Shoes

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her Children, Self Portrait, Self-Portrait with Julie

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Overview of Famous Paintings

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her ChildrenSelf PortraitSelf-Portrait with Julie

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Whistler, Whistler's Mother

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionExplore famous paintings at the Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces. Or read the blog post, "Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum". 

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Whitney Museum of American Art.  Don't miss these 10 famous paintings at the Whitney.

Most Popular Posts

Michelangelo PaintingsThe Torment of Saint Anthony; The Manchester Madonna;Holy Family (Doni Tondo); and Entombment

Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

10 Famous Paintings at the Prado. Don't miss a one of these.

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun.  Self-Portrait; Marie Antoinette and Her Children; Self-Portrait with Julie

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Beyond Europe

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia


Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors