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The landscape diffuses in colors to give optical illusion of perspective and farness. The first figures, of the two children are softly modeled in lights and shades. The light is bright and clear and it seems to have no specific direction.
Although Renaissance had great preoccupation with the study of light and the use of it to give volume, there will pass a longer time before artists would really use the light in all its realistic power. Renaissance light seems controlled and unnatural in some cases, used only to help the bodies gain threedimentionality and depth.
Another good example that displays all those characteristics is the small Cowper Madonna (1505, Oil on wood, 23 3/8 x 17 3/8 in, National Gallery of Art, Washington). Raphael was also a gifted artist to create complicate compositions as the Coronation of the Virgin (1503, Oil on canvas (transferred from panel) 267 x 163 cm
Vatican Museum, Rome) where he displayed a number of characters that show great dynamicity, movement and complicated body posture and construction (Cocke, 2004). It reveals the influence of the Florentine school, in the disposition of body attitudes and the anatomical treatment of those.
This also shows the Renaissance preoccupation for realistic anatomy and the use of drawing line in painting works that is typical of that period.
Madonna del Granduca (1505, Oil on wood, 33 x 21 1/2 in, Palazzo Pitti, Florence) is an example of Renaissance technique that mark a clear difference with the earlier style. As we can appreciate in this picture, the use of dark background to recreate the depth of the space and make the figures stand out in great volume was typical of late Renaissance and almost reaching the painting fashion that would dominate later periods such as mannerism or baroque.
This search for volumes and threedimentionality was the key interest in Reinsurance, as well as the beauty of the presentation of characters. The body attitude and facial expression tell their own story in the character's world.
However the use of light during that period was unreal and controlled. The viewer can not be sure where the light source is pointing, as it seems to fall evenly over the entire body of the characters, although the dramatic shades would suggest a low illuminations source.
Another great artist that illustrates the innovating techniques of the renaissance is Michelangelo Buonarroti. Although he considered himself to be a sculptor and not a painter, his legacy to paint is the greatest of the Renaissance period and displays the essence of the Cinqueccento style.
He placed great accent to the representation of drama and emotion in his painting, with an element known as 'terribilita', a sense of theatrical force that characterizes most of his work.
His work known as Tondo Doni, has 120 centimeters, is considered to be executed between 1503 and 1504. It is preserved in the Uffizi gallery in Florence. Michelangelo used two mediums for this piece: oil and tempera. By applying the oil in successive layers from the most intense color to the lightest, the artist created a colorist effect different from those of his time, called cangianti and it became typical of his style.
The first plane shows the Virgin with the child, behind them Joseph, showing great proportions. Behind the principal figures, separated by a balustrade, Saint John can be seen with a group of Ignudi. This picture can be seen as a succession of various eras in man history: the naked figures representing the pagan civilization, Saint John and Saint Joseph the Hebraic civilization and the virgin with child the redemption era.
The virgin has a book on her knees, personifying the teachings of the gospel and the doctrines she is to diffuse to humanity. The volumetric representation of the virgin shows not only a careful study of human figure, but also the physical vigor that identifies moral force (Michelangelo, 2000). The light is bright and strong causing shades and contrasts to be very clearly marked exaggerating the volumes and lines of their clothing.
Michelangelo did not consider himself a painter; however the Tondo Doni is a masterpiece in this medium. The viewpoint he chose to present the nudes was frontal, in contrast to the central group, seen from below. This representation pretends to confer monumentality to the sacred family, but also to difference the figurative zones.
The arms and heads create shapes of triangles that bring attention over the group. The wall between the two groups has multiple functions: it closes the effect of rotation created by the posture of the main characters, separates the family from the nudes and marks the difference between the perspective and the significance.
The articulation of volumes and space, tension and movement, are strong anticlassical elements. The monumental figures seem to be sculpted in paint, expressing real weight. The use of colors is bright.
Michelangelo's representation was highly dramatic and theatrical. The best example of his painting ability is the vault of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The fresco, of enormous dimensions, 13, 70 x 12, 20 metros, contains almost 400 figures, of which only 50 have been identified. The characters manifest the terribilita of superhuman force very visible in the figure of Christ. The numerous nudes of monumental size allow the viewer to appreciate his preference for the Herculean canon, with exaggerated muscles. The composition is a chaotic swirl that accentuates the anguish and the fatality of the scene.
The figures all crowd in the first plane with no perspective of background, all of them twisted and unbalanced, following the Renaissance typical quest for movement and dynamicity. They seek forced postures, unstable, using the classic contraposto. The colors follow the color harmony of Renaissance, although they are very bright and violently contrasted in light and shades.
Renaissance marked the transition between the highly graphic Byzantine art, and the next vision the world would have over painting. The most important legacy of this period is the ability to print inner feelings and emotions that would connect with the viewer and bridge the gap between the artist and the receivers of their message.
-Boston College Honors Program, 1997, 'Renaissance Art and Architecture', Art History on the WWW, available at http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/HP/renaiss.html
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