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GUIDE   10                                                                           Unit 3                                                                                                                             

The Renaissance in Italy

                    Piero della Francesca, Madonna del Parto (1455 – 1465). Monterchi, Italy.   

                       Fresco.  260 x 203 cm.  Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/ginieland/

 We are now in the last section of our course devoted to the Italian Renaissance.  For many this period exemplifies the highest pick in the evolution of European art.  I hope you will enjoy this part.

The historians divide this period of Italian Renaissance into three phases:

Early Renaissance

High Renaissance

Late Renaissance

The Early Renaissance in Italy            

Late 13th – 14th centuries

Where did the Italian Renaissance take root and flourish most successfully?  – 

This is important! You will notice later that almost all artists and architects of the Early Renaissance are from this city.


Giotto   and Cimabue stand at the beginning                         [JYOT-toh]

You see two paintings rendered on the same subject – “Madonna Enthroned”.

 Both artists also used the same technique – tempera on wood panel (by now you know all these terms).

Which Madonna is more Medieval/ Gothic?  – *

Which one is more Classical?  –  *

        When reading Compare and Contrast pages, try to emphasize for yourself why and what exactly differs them.

         Still both of them are rather ‘Medieval’ looking compared to what you are going to see in a few pages.

I want you to remember that Giotto is considered to be a ‘father’ of European painting.

Observe Giotto’s fresco “Lamentation” – we have here the early work that expresses the Renaissance features:  it depicts real space, real people and real emotions.

Read an excerpt from the poem of famed Dante Alighieri’.  It is a good one, and it mentions a new phenomenon introduced in the Renaissance era– competition!

Competition played an important role in the Renaissance artistic life.

Read about the legendary competition for casting the bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence in 1401.

What scene from the Old Testament was proposed for rendering? 


Name two young talented sculptors (both were 22 years old) who were bidding for the Doors project?



Which got the bid for the Doors?  *                [gee-BAIR-tee]

What was the name of the “looser”? – *             [BROO-neh-LESK-ee]

The story about this notorious competition in the history of art is great.

 “Oh, yes – Ghiberti won the competition and Brunelleschi went home with his chisel.”

             We can only imagine how disappointed he was. He would never touch his chisel again.   

                                Well… I can’t help; I have to tell you the end of this story. 

  Pilippo Brunelleschi (1337-1446);  www.cmima.csic.es/…/brunelleschi.html                                         

For many years Brunelleschi did not produce any artwork.  He spent years in Rome studying the ancient ruins. Twenty years had passed. he became the most famous architect in Italy and founder of the new architecture. In the meanwhile Ghiberti’s impact was much less significant. Now, who was the ultimate winner?

They say that everything that happens is for the better.  I am not sure about “everything.”  But what is for sure, that it is strictly up to us to turn our “loss” into our “victory.” 


Donatello                                                                                              [dona-TEL-loh]

   David            *    [Date]           *     [Century]               *  [Material]

I hope you will notice that almost all works on the following pages will be dated by the 15th century.

And the place where they all were produced was glorious Florence

It will make it easier for you to remember Early Italian Renaissance.

“Donatello… was surely among the first to create sculptures that combined  *

       Italian Renaissance = Combination of Classical Idealism and Realism  – Remember this!

Donatello’s bronze sculpture was the first *    statue since the Classical times.       [insert]

TERM:  nude means unclothed figure.

What topic from the Bible is presented?  Tell the legend.


How did this adolescent youth, obviously not strong physically, accomplish such challenging task? 

Why did the image of David become a symbol of a new type of Renaissance personality?

How would you formulate the sculptor’s message? –  *  


Now you are again coming across the name Brunelleschi, this time mentioned as a pioneer in discovering the laws of perspective.  Do you remember that I told you that he spent a lot of time studying the Roman ruins?  Of course he had to make sketches and drawings (same way as you were doing in the previous guides, which has always been the great learning technique).  Trying to make them as real looking as possible, he came up with the rules how to depict the depth of the scene. 

That was a significant breakthrough.

PERSPECTIVE           What is it?

Read about perspective in Chapter Visual Elements of Art – section “Space”. 

Perspective is a crucial issue to understand. 

Have you ever try to ask yourself: How on earth does this artist manage to trick me?  I know that this is a flat, two-dimensional surface (paper or wall).  But somehow he makes me feel that there is a depth in this view, that this ball is round etc.   If not, just think about it now.  It is not that easy to do, at all.  And there were times when artists did not know how to do this.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to try to understand one of these brilliant HOWs?

There are two major types of perspective based on different ways to create the illusion of depth.


  • One-point perspective – *

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE – *


Masaccio                                                                            [ma-ZAH-choh]

What is this name credited for in the history of art?


Holy Trinity  

  • Is it painting or fresco? – *

                        Term Reminder: fresco and mural mean “wall painting”.

  • What details demonstrate the Masaccio’s skills to render the architectural space so   

realistically?  What details in this mural look most convenient to you?


TERM: Trompe l’oeil   (“Trick-the-eye”)                               [TROMP-LOI]    “L” is soft in French


               [Explain what this French term means  – you’ll find it in Glossary]               Delete this Aid-text.


Pilippo Brunelleschi   –  Thefirst architect who restated the principles of classical architecture and set

                                the foundation for architecture for centuries to come.

What was his greatest engineering achievement?  – *


Verrocchio –  The greatest sculptor of his day and the only one to share some         [vai-ROH-kkioh]

                              of Donatello’s range and ambition. He was also a respected artist running a shop

                              that functioned as a popular art school at the time.

  • What was the name of his student who became one of the most famous painters of all times?


  • Compare his sculpture of David with Donatello’s David.   [Provide just a couple characteristics] 





Piero della Francesca       The follower of Masaccio.                                      [fran-CHES-ka]

   Deeply believed in scientific prospective as the basis for painting.

 “He was trained as *

Resurrection-    Fresco or Painting?           [delete the wrong one]

  • Composition:       [Describe the composition of this fresco by selecting features that you can see] – Delete this.


  • Why, do you think, his fame is greater today than ever before (particularly among the abstract artists)? 



Botticelli    – This one was quite an artist!                                        [boh-ti-CHEL-lee]

The birth of Venus             (“Venus on the Half-shelf”)

  • Who was a model for Venus?  – *              

                                              [isn’t it an interesting historical link?]

  • What scene does the composition present?   [You know the myths now!] 


            Zephyrs are divinities of wind.

  • How Botticelli’s interest in Classicism is evident here?


  • What was so unique about Botticelli’ painting? – LINE!!!   Try to see it in the picture.


Alberti     –  The outstanding architect and theorist of the Renaissance architecture,

                         Author of Ten Books on Architecture.   

Being highly educated in classical literature and philosophy, he exemplifies the humanist and

the man of the world  (similar to Leonardo)

            Read an excerpt from Alberti’s writing on himself. This was so typical for the Renaissance personality to talk about himself like this.  My God, the people were so proud and confident of themselves! They believed in the power of human mind and their potentials (it was kind of a reaction to the medieval religious limits and strict canons!)

Palazzo Rucellai in *

                 Observe the most typical characteristics of the Renaissance palazzo’s

  1. Rational logical structure: Three stories    

2.   Cornice- *                [is it heavy, large or light, narrow?]

      3.   Classical orders:                 [See on pilaster below]

    First floor – *

    Second floor – *

    Third floor   – *               Notice: Combination of orders!

You do not have to remember these orders, I want you to pay attention to the fact that Renaissance architect borrowed the Classical orders, but he played with them. 

Term: pilaster means slightly projecting piers; they have all elements of order: capital, shaft, base etc.

                       This guide is done. There is only one more left!

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