Styles & Periods

Styles & Periods

High Renaissance

In Italy during the years between 1500 and 1520, some of the greatest artists in the western tradition emerged to produce masterpieces. The High Renaissance is called so because of the unique nexus of sophisticated patronage, gifted artists, and the innovations of the 15th century. It is the highest point in Italian art. Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo de Vinci and Bramante completed works that altered the course of art history. While the accomplishments of these artists certainly built upon the work of Masaccio, Piero della Francesca and Donatello, there was an arguably distinct break from the atmosphere of the Early Renaissance. For the first time artists were not simply craftsmen, but near celebrities, wielding considerable power and prestige. Artists of the High Renaissance exhibited immense knowledge of classical antiquity and virtuoso skills. Harmonious ideals of beauty fueled works which showed respect for divine and mortal beings. Leonardo da Vinci, an architect, engineer, scientist, and artist, used a pyramidal composition in his paintings. These two aspects came to create a canon of style that artists imitated into the 17th century. His rival, the younger Michelangelo, was able to see the figures he sculpted from marble as he bought the stone, and he likened his abilities to divine creation. More so than any other artist, Michelangelo embraced the Renaissance ideals of humanism and created images in paint, stone, and marble that demonstrate an incomparable pathos.


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