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.
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.
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 Primavera. One 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?
- Discover Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta, two renowned Leonardo artworks at the Hermitage;
- Learn about one of the most beloved Leonardo paintings, Virgin and Child with St. Anne; and
- See which Leonardo da Vinci paintings were included in the 2012 blockbuster show, Leonardo: Painter at the Court of Milan. Hint: it included the controversial painting, Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), attributed to Leonardo in 2011 and sold at auction in Nov. 2017 for $450 million.
7. Durer, Albrecht. Trained as a goldsmith, painter, woodcutter and in stained glass design, Albrecht 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 paintings, Crucifixion with the Madonna and St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness.
9. Giorgione. Although 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, Three Philosophers.
11. Titian Titian paintings (like Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas) dominated Renaissance art for good reason.
Explore more Titian paintings such as:
Rape of Europa; and
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 paintings, Portrait of a Noblewoman, she shows her brilliance as a portraitist. She also created memorable altarpieces and mythological paintings.
14. Caravaggio. The bad boy of Renaissance art (and 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:
- Basket of Fruit, the only known still-life by Caravaggio;
- two genre paintings depicting the gullibility of youth,
- Cardsharps and Fortune Teller;
- Caravaggio paintings at the Villa Borghese, including David with the Head of Goliath; and multiple versions of Caravaggio’s Conversion of St. Paul.
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).
Gentileschi, Artemisia, The first female painter in the Italian Academy of Design, Gentileschi was illiterate but is legendary in Renaissance art. Her confidence is revealed 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.
18. 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.
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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