Early italian renaissance and perspective introduction

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  1. Linear perspective is a method of representing three-dimensional objects and figures on a two-dimensional surface

  1. Who discovered linear perspective?

  1. Brunelleschi

  • After losing the Combattimento to Ghiberti, Brunelleschi left for Rome

  • Discovered the rules for linear perspective while studying in Rome

  • Brunelleschi became an important architect and designed the dome of Florence Cathedral

    • Considered an impossible feat because gap was too large to cover. No trees were big enough to create a scaffolding to support the dome as it was built. Brunelleschi devised new building methods.

  • He designed the Foundling Hospital in Florence based on simple mathematical proportions. Reinforced the horizontal with entablatures.

  • Santo Spirito had similar rationality behind it.

  1. Michelozzo di Bartolommeo

  • Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence, begun 1445

    • Brunelleschi’s plan for a palace for the Medici returning from exile was rejected because their political position was tenuous and the design was too imposing and ostentasious. The design might incite hostility from the populace. Brunelleschi destroyed the model.

    • Michelozzo’s design owes much to Brunelleschi:

      • Rational proportions

      • Horizontal emphasis

      • Stones go from rusticated to smoother on 2nd and 3rd floor, making it appear lighter.

      • Heavy cornice is a lid on the structure defining the shape and volume

      • Interior arcaded courtyard was a frequently copied feature in subsequent buildings.

  1. Leon Battista Alberti

  • Important architect of the Renaissance and well rounded man

  • Understood the principles of linear perspective and wrote about them

  • Renaissance artists read Alberti’s book and experimented with it for themselves

In Florence

  • Rucellai family made fortune from red dye. Hired Alberti to design his new palace and façade for his church.

  • Alberti previously wrote treatises “On Painting” and “On Architecture.” “On Architecture” was based on Vitruvius’s writings (Roman architect) for classical basis (like a good Renaissance artwork should).

  • Palazzo Rucellai

    • broken into three equal horizontal entablatures.

    • From Roman Colosseum he used Tuscan pilasters for ground floor, Ionic columns for second floor, and Corinthian columns on third floor. Why is this like the Colosseum?

    • Round, Roman arches on 2nd and 3rd floor.

  • Santa Maria Novella

    • Created mathematically proportional, harmonious design

    • Divided church façade in three squares

    • 2 lower squares frame classical portal (pilasters and round arch)

    • 2nd story has 3rd square that supports a pediment.

    • Height = width of façade so it fits exactly in a square.

In Mantua

  • Marquis Gonzaga lured Alberti to Mantua to design Sant’ Andrea church

  • He wanted Mantua to be a center of Renaissance art and culture too.

  • Façade combined classical temple portico with Roman triumphal arch.

  • No statues or other Gothic features.

  • Pilasters go straight up 3 stories to support pediment

  • Alberti did not like columns in nave – blocked congregants’ view. Replaced columned arcade in nave with a barrel-vaulted nave. (Mr. F. thinks arch on top of pediment looks funny).

  • Decisive break with Christian building traditions. Christian temple combined classical forms with Christian uses. Strong influence on Renaissance and Baroque churches.

  1. How does the human eye work?

  1. Distant objects seem smaller than closer ones

  2. Parallel lines seem to converge at a distance

  1. How does linear perspective work? See Gardner’s page 547, Fig. 21-9

  1. Orthogonals – converging diagonal lines

  2. Vanishing point – place where orthogonal lines converge

  3. Horizon line – drawn across the painting at the vanishing point, represents the viewer’s eye view and the far distance


  1. Pietro Perugino’s Christ Delivering the Keys of the Kingdom to Saint Peter, Umbrian

  1. From Perugia

  2. Part of a cycle of paintings on the walls of the (new) Sistine Chapel, commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV.

  3. Theme of the painting supports the power of the popes

  4. Arches of Constantine shown in the distance – connection between the Roman emperor Constantine and Christianity

  5. Helped mark the rise of Rome as an artistic center during the Renaissance

  6. Raphael’s teacher. Raphael used similar composition in Marriage of the Virgin

  1. Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano

  1. Uccello stayed up late at night trying to perfect perspective and paid less attention to developing the naturalism of the figures

  2. Uccello’s wife overheard Paolo talk about his mistress “perspective” and thought he was having an affair with a woman named Perspective!

  3. International Style

  4. Secular side of Florentine art. Scene of a battle in which the Florentine army defeated the Sienese in 1432.

  5. Hero of the battle: Nicola da Tolentino, a friend of Cosimo de Medici, who later died because of his affiliation with the Medici family

  6. Lorenzo de Medici commissioned Uccello to commemorate the famous battle and his grandfather’s friend. The painting decorated Lorenzo’s bedchamber.

  7. What familiar Medici symbol is shown in the painting? Medici means Doctor: Oranges were ”medicinal apples”.

  1. Earlier International Style: Gentile da Fabriani, Adoration of the Magi, Uffizi, 1423, Tempera on wood.

  1. Carlo Crivelli’s, Annunciation with Saint Emidius

  1. The painting

  • Annunciation - Gabriel to Mary

  • Standing on a bridge, a town dignitary reads a message stating that the pope has granted Ascoli limited rights of self government. The message arrive on the Feast Day of the Annunciation, and so the angel Gabriel is join by Ascoli’s patron saint, Emidius, holding a magnificently detailed model of the town.

  • Incredible details –

  • The apple refers to man’s fall from grace and his subsequent redemption

  • The gourd is a symbol of Christ’s Resurrection

  • The peacock is another symbol of Christ’s Resurrection and eternal life

  • Marvel at the linear perspective

  1. Domenico Ghirlandaio, Birth of the Virgin, Fresco, 1485 – 90

    1. Complete set of Renaissance techniques, convincing space and 3D figures.

    2. Commissioned for Dominicans. Not austere like Fra Angelico, Shows donors.

  2. Lorenzo Ghiberti: The Meeting of Solomon and Sheba

  1. The Frame

  1. Linear Perspective

  • Orthogonal lines

  • Vanishing point

  1. Use of high relief and low relief to create the illusion of depth

  1. Fra Angelico, Annunciation, San Marco, Florence, ca. 1440, Fresco

    1. Friar (Fra) less concerned with humanism and more concerned with serving Roman Catholic Church.

    2. Commissioned by Dominican Order to create frescoes for San Marco.

    3. Dominicans were spare and austere; Fra Angelico painted his scenes with the same sensibility.

  1. Fra Fillipo Lippi, Madonna and Child with Angels, ca. 1455, Tempera on wood

    1. Not suited to monastic life: mistress and son

    2. Studied works of Masaccio

    3. Very worldly (opposed to holy) interpretation of scene

    4. Influenced by youth and beauty.

  1. Andrea Del Castagno, Last Supper, refectory of Sant’ Apollonia, Florence, 1447, Fresco

    1. For Benedictine nuns

    2. Note various marbles: Remember Pompeii and 1st Style

    3. Shows emotion through marble pattern above Judas and Christ.

  1. Piero Della Francesca, Enthroned Madonna and Saints Adored by Fedrico da Montefeltre (Brera Altarpiece), 1472 – 74, Oil on wood, Umbrian.

    1. Shows one-eyed patron (Federico) in profile in presence of a sacred conversation.

    2. Amazing space

    3. Ostrich egg is symbol for Madonna.

    4. Missing wife behind Federico symbolizes her recent death.

  1. Piero Della Francesca, Flagellation of Christ, 1455 – 65, Oil and tempera on wood.

    1. Enigmatic, flagellation in background with Pilate watching. Who are those 3 guys? Lots of debate.

    2. Incredible mathematical rendering of marble circle and shapes on floor. Could use as a blueprint.

  1. Luca Signorelli, Umbrian, Damned Cast into Hell, Orvieto Cathedral, 1499-1504, Fresco

    1. Pope Alexander VI commissioned.

    2. Interest in ecorche and foreshortening like Pollioaiuolo (Battle of 10 Nudes)

    3. Graphic depiction of horrors of the damned. Compare to tympanum of Saint-Lazare at Autun (1130)

    4. Clearly used models but positioned into complex composition that is spatially convincing.

  1. Andrea Mantegna’s Amazing Oculus

  1. Can you find the vanishing point?

  2. There is no coffer in the ceiling; the surface is two dimensional!

  3. Precariously perched tub containing an orange tree – Why?

  4. Peacock

  • Note the shimmering specks of color

  • Symbol of eternal life

  • From its high perch, the bird watches over the house of Ludovico Gonzaga

  1. Playful putti – associated with classicism, reflect the patron Ludovico Gonzaga’s interest in a humanism

  2. Three Woman – maybe the graces

  3. Moorish slave – symbol of wealth

  4. Garland of leaves and fruit – signifies abundance and hospitality

  5. Guests would walk under the oculus when greeting Ludovico on his throne; for the guests that Ludovico didn’t really care for, it has been suggested that he would envision the tub with the orange tree falling on the guest’s head.

  1. Mantegna’s oculus is part of an amazing room of frescoes painted by Mantegna for Ludovico Gonzaga called the Camera degli Sposi (Room of the Newlyweds), in the Palazzo Ducale of Mantua

  • Ludovico Gonzaga was the powerful duke of Mantua

  • Scenes depict all aspects of Gonzaga’s court life – his wife, children, pets, courtiers, and attendants even the dwarf used as his children’s playmates.

  • Mantegna also painted the arrival of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga – Ludovico’s second son – who became the top religious leader of the church of Sant Andrea in Mantua

  1. Mantegna carried his desire for illusionism past the linear perspective. He painted the illusion of relief sculpture decorate the edges of the scenes in GRISAILLE – using grayish tones to simulate sculpture or architecture.

  1. If you were Mantegna, how would you record your presence in the Camera degli Sposi?

  1. Other examples of Mantegna’s interest in perspective and pictorial illusionism

  1. The Lamentation over the Dead Christ

  2. Feet made smaller than true foreshortening. Why?

  3. Harsh colors appropriate for tragic scene.

  4. What appears to be Mantegna’s approach to perspective?

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