Leonardo da Vinci is probably the best-known Renaissance artist, famous for his paintings of Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. A classic “Renaissance Man”, da Vinci was not solely an artist but also an inventor, scientist, architect and engineer. In his painting, he innovated techniques including the layering of paints, giving particular focus to light, shadow and the human form, with expression and gesture of great importance. This has led to much speculation about Mona Lisa’s inscrutable expression. His sketches of various prototypes for flying machines have been inspirational, but his most famous sketch is of The Vitruvian Man is shown to the right.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was a contemporary of da Vinci and also a Renaissance man, being an accomplished artist, poet, architect, and engineer. Living to the grand age of 88 years, Michelangelo is most famous for the marble sculpture of the biblical David, standing 5.17m tall. Created between 1501 and 1504, the sculpture is considered Michelangelo’s masterpiece, though his other famous works include the equally spectacular ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and the statue Pietà.
Considered the third great Italian master artist from the Renaissance era, Raphael’s work had a great impact even in his lifetime. Although he had a short life, dying at the age of 37, he was a prolific artist, leaving a vast legacy of paintings, frescoes, prints, and more. Probably his most famous painting is The School of Athens, a classic example of Renaissance art and culture with its reference to Roman and Greek antiquity. Another famous artwork is the extraordinary The Sistine Madonna, also known as the Madonna di San Sisto, an oil painting commissioned in 1512 by Pope Julius II for the church of San Sisto, Piacenza.
Born in Florence, Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi was an early Renaissance artist, born before Michelangelo, da Vinci and Raphael. Donatello was primarily a sculptor, and he created realistic portrayals in his Bronze David, the first large-scale free-standing nude statue since antiquity, which is currently in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. Donatello was able to proportion statues to their settings. At ground level, Saint Mark, which was completed in 1413 for a church in Florence looks top heavy but placed in its elevated position does not look disproportionate.
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) is considered the greatest painter in Venice in the 16th-century, experimented with many different painting styles over his long life. He received commissions for public religious paintings. His success in Venice was sealed with the altarpiece for the high altar at the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. His painting ‘Pala Pesaro’ for the same church influenced Venetian altarpiece painting through to the 18th century. Early in 1516, Titian started his professional relationship with Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara for whom Bacchus and Ariadne was painted, now in the National Gallery, London
Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, a Florentine painter and draughtsman, nicknamed Botticelli, is famous for his paintings of the graceful Madonna and Child, his altarpieces and his life-size mythological paintings including Venus and Mars, which were among many of his works popular in his lifetime. Born with a precocious talent, he was soon working in the studio of the artist Fra Filippo Lippi before he opened his own workshop in 1470. He spent almost all his life working for the Medici family and their circle of friends. He helped decorate the walls of the recently completed Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The Birth of Venus is now in the Uffizi, Florence.
Born Michelangelo Merisi, Caravaggio was later named after his hometown in northern Italy. Arrogant, rebellious and a murderer, Caravaggio's paintings are characterised by dramatic, almost theatrical lighting and were controversial, popular, and hugely influential on succeeding generations of painters all over Europe. His work was extraordinary for its time as he used ordinary working people with irregular, rough and characterful faces as models for his saints and showed them in recognisably contemporary surroundings. His famous Supper at Emmaus painting appears deliberately makes the viewer feel as if they are part of the scene.
A Florentine architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, is best known for designing and building the dome of Florence cathedral. His impact on Renaissance art was in connection with his architectural schemes, the single-point (linear) perspective system, which was adopted by painters and relief sculptors. The Ospedale degli Innocenti, S. Lorenzo and Pazzi Chapel in Florence all have regular proportions based on Tuscan Romanesque and antique models.
Dürer is seen as the representative Renaissance artist of Northern Europe, adding interest in proportion and perspective to his Northern taste for surface detail after visiting Italy. He was a specialist in many things, being a writer as well as a painter and graphic artist. He was influenced by Mantegna, Leonardo and Giovanni Bellini, and in turn, influenced many Italian artists, particularly with Christ among the Doctors and The Four Apostles.
Hieronymous Bosch followed the humanist approach in his works that were valued throughout the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain. Find out information about the Humanism. The most famous of his paintings is The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych painted sometime between 1495 and 1505. The left panel depicts God introducing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the central panel shows society and its temptations, and the right panel represents Judgment Day.