High Renaissance Comparative Analysis

Portraits of “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci and “Baldassare Castigniole” by Raphael

Belonging to creations of two titans of the High Renaissance, Da Vinci and Raphael correspondingly, these two paintings mirror each other to a certain degree. However, it is the difference between them that is striking, and not the similarity. Each of them highlights and contrasts each other’s uniqueness and the virtue of two geniuses who have created them.

When comparing these two portraits, the first trait that is noticeable is the difference in the sights of Mona Lisa and Baldassare Castignole. If the eyes of the latter are bright and clean, they look inside the soul of those who observe the portrait while mirroring the soul of the man simultaneously; Mona Lisa’s eyes are a mystery. One cannot for sure tell if they look through the viewer, around him or whether they are actually inverted in her own self. It is notable that the masterpiece of Leonardo Da Vinci took very long to finish. The artist was also famous for his passion for sciences and he was scrupulously studying optics while creating this painting. It took him sixteen long years before he was finished with the painting and he used scientific precision in order to make it look the way he deemed it to. His study of optics gave him a whole new perspective on the way shadows and lights should be exposed to the viewer. This interesting detail explains the dim lights around the woman and how one is unable to tell where the light is being emitted from whereas on Raphael’s picture one can distinctly see which direction the light is beaming on the man’s face.

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The face of the man creates an impression of existing apart from the rest of his body. His face is like a painting itself: it is framed by a hat and a golden beard. This sends the spectator back to the associations with paintings swathed into expensive wooden with gilding frames. Mona Lisa in turn is a painting that was created in such a way that every component, every detail of her look complement one another. Positioning of her hands follows the line of clothes hanging gently from her shoulder; the angle she is turned to the spectator is not so much more opened than that of Baldassare Castignole, however overall openness of her arms and body compensates for closeness of her sight.

The background of two pictures also plays a drastically different role: the young woman seems to be dissolving in the peaceful background of the picture, which also complements her appearance and her clothes. The picture of the man was painted to this monotonous, insipid background just to frame his masculine body and presumably his power. The underlined slanted shadow on the background serves to contrast and perhaps underline the good and the bad of human nature.

These two masterpieces of High Renaissance are different in their similarities and are called to create completely different impressions. Both artists possessed enormous talent and love for precision. However they still stand apart in their uniqueness and portray femininity and masculinity to perpetuate their own techniques and personalities.

San Pietro’s Church and Biblioteca Marciana

San Pietro’s Church was built in Rome on the site where normally a 9th century Church was located. It was re-done by an architect called Bramante. Biblioteca Marciana, or Sansovino’s library, is located in Venice, Northern Italy and was based on a former ancient Roman theatre Marcellus. This creates an interesting similarity between the two creations: they both were re-made from a different architectural object that previously served a religious or secular purpose.

Sansovino’s Library is rather a mixture of two orders, Doric and Ionic. On the second layer one clearly sees that entablatures of the Ionic order contrast the ones from the first layer exposing a much bigger amount of details. It also contains two pairs of columns, the smaller and bigger ones, and has arched elements of the entablatures, which are connected to the columns by capitals with picturesque sculptures. The entablatures of two architectural masterpieces serve as a link between them. The architect Bramante intended the entablature of San Pietro to look like the one in the theatre of Marcellus, the one that served as a base for the library created by Sansovino. The central creation of the San Pietro, the Tempietto, or the little temple, was propped by the columns of the Tuscan order which was similar to Doric order (just like Doric order was developed for masculine gods such as Hercules, Tuscan was well suited for the St. Peter after whom the temple was erected).

The Tempietto demonstrates its perfect proportions to the viewers: it kept strict obedience to the classical orders that transferred the passion for the perfect golden section in architecture. This part of the San Pietro was initially created as a commemorative tomb. It bears almost no architectural function and is almost considered to be a sculpture. The Library, by contrast, still serves its ultimate purpose. At first glance, the monumental building of the library and the miniature Tempietto would be hard to compare. But as was mentioned before, the Tempietto’s entablatures were done from the example of Marcellus theatre, which later became the famous library. Both contain frescoes inside them that were painted by prominent artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Biblioteca Marciana was also built much later than the San Pietro’s church that is much more modest in its exterior and it is circular just like early churches in early Christian traditions were. Its shape resembles fusion of two styles: classical orders that normally were to be seen in rectangular shapes, and ancient Christian tradition of circular churches.

Both buildings, despite their different nature and size, are exemplary pieces of the High Renaissance architecture. They influenced each other indirectly due to their linkage to the Marcellus Theatre that served as an example for one and a base for another one.

Sistine Chapel frescoes

The two frescoes belonging to the hand of Michelangelo fascinate by their monumentality and precision of shapes, their realistic look. It only took four years for Michelangelo to finish it. They constitute a part of a Biblical part of Genesis and portraits of male and female prophets, alternated, and then the day of the Final Judgement. The way both stories are “told” through their positioning also bears certain symbolism: proximity of humans to God on the ceiling, and their consecutive fall and final judgement.

The way Michelangelo virtuously played with the space and its illusions cannot but astonish the viewer. First, the ceiling fresco is done in such a way that figures seem to be seated on the parts of the buttresses of the Sistine Chapel. They are harmoniously placed on those decorative panels as if those were stools, and each element of the fresco defies the nominal, habitual space we are used to living in. It sends the viewer to the idea of Heaven and the way even its dimensions are different from what one is used to: these motives from Genesis are interconnected stories, each belonging to its space. Michelangelo used bright colors and brilliant shadow-and-light techniques so that the figures are easily visible from the ground with sixty-eight feet separating the viewer from the frescoes. He certainly knew of optical illusions and the effects that were possible to create with a brush strokes in order to make a spectator believe that the prophets are really seated on the real parts of fittings of the chapel. He had created an illusion of separations between the scenes from the Genesis and made them appear like continuations of panels of church, fitting detailed sculptures into painted buttresses that seem so materialistic that they deceive the viewer into thinking that they really do cross the ceiling of the chapel. Proportions of each part correspond to standards of high Renaissance and the golden section.

The fresco of the Final Judgement does not use as many optical illusions but demonstrates just as much proficiency of the artist and his virtuous ability to use the space that was at his disposal. On this fresco, a huge figure of Jesus is placed in the center with. Positioning of figures on this fresco takes the spectator down to the dead that have risen from their graves and will proceed to be judged; those who were sinful are dragged down by demons. The artist is using human bodies to form the frame of the composition and he still scrupulously paints physique of every character on the picture celebrating the tradition of Renaissance and passion for human detailed anatomy. The space on this fresco is also fictively divided into three different sections, sending the spectator back to the earlier tradition of painting religious triptychs. Figures around Christ form arches that are harmonized with the arches of the side walls that are not visible from this angle. The bright blue color separates this fresco from the ceiling one by the contrast of its shade and simple structure as compared to the background of the other fresco.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” and Michelangelo’s David

These two masterpieces belong to different forms of manifestation of High Renaissance art, but they convey very similar ideas and demonstrate artists’ virtuousness. The central idea of High Renaissance was love for the Human and consequently for the Human body, too. This love had originated in the Classical period, stemming from ancient Greek and Roman traditions which were used as examples in Renaissance art.

The connection with the classical period in art is especially obvious in the sculpture of David. It conveys all the main features of classical art: made in white marble, it shows the excellent physique of a hero who is about to fight a giant. His posture is straight, his muscles are tensed and his eyebrows are creating an expression of a man who is glaring readily towards its enemy. This sculpture was Florence’s manifestation of resistance against Medici’s hegemony they tried to establish over the city. This figure would appear an exemplary art piece resembling in its features those that had been found earlier in ancient Greek and Roman cities.

The painting created by Tician and called “Venus of Urbino” is not as obviously linked to the classical art, but some of its features inevitably send the spectator back to those ancient traditions that were resurrected during the Renaissance period. On the painting one can observe a young nude woman who is leaning against cushions in her room while her servants are busy taking away her clothes. Unlike, for example, Botticelli’s Venus, this one is not surrounded by celestial landscapes and does not bear any superhuman look. This “Venus” is located in her natural environment and is simply meant to become an object of adoration. Her body seems to be flawless and it is indeed goddess-like: her skin is pale, soft and her anatomy is perfect. Titian, however, did not forget to give a truly human face to this celebration of humanism: one can judge about fashion trends of the period from the pet this “Venus” has sleeping on her bed, from the interior design, from the clothes her servants are wearing. The servants, in addition, also play a very important role of demonstration of classic tradition of depicting people: their body proportions are close to perfect; they’re bent in very natural positions and show the graciousness of a human body that was so much appreciated during the era of High Renaissance. The Venus herself has her hair braided around her head as if it was a famous bay leaf wreath that adorned heads of portrayed people during the Classical period.

Jul 27, 2020 in Informative
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