Artistic Innovations Of Renaissance Florentine Painters Essay

, Research Paper

Charlotte Dean

H2G-06/pd. 3

Mr. Valentin

April 10, 2000

Artistic Innovations of Renaissance Florentine Painters

During the Renaissance, many new, different styles of painting were developed.

Many of these techniques were perfected by Florentine painters. Some of these styles

techniques include perspective, life-like human forms, realistic looking objects and

chiaroscuro. These developments began to form in the early Quattrocento and were slowly

perfected by a long flow of artists. Their influences included new scientific discoveries as

well as new outlooks on religion, life and visual perception of the world.

Perspective was perhaps one of the most significant methods developed and also the

one with the most impact. It is still widely used today. Perspective is a method which is

used to make a three-dimensional space or object appear three-dimensional on a

two-dimensional space. It allows objects to appear closer or further away and gives them

depth. This effect can be achieved by making all of the lines in a painting go towards a

vanishing point on a horizon line. Artists also found that while using a horizon line and

vanishing point, if you made one object in the painting which was identical to another

object, but smaller, the objects would appear to be at different distances from the

viewer.(see fig.1) ?During the early Renaissance, as humanism focused attention on man

and human perspective, the viewer assumes the active role. Now, instead of projecting

outward, space recedes from the viewer?s eye into the picture plane.?1

The first person to begin using the perspective technique was an artist named Giotto

di Bondone (1267-1337). In an astonishingly short amount of time, Giotto revolutionized

the art of Florence. He is considered by many to be the true father of Renaissance painting.

Since Giotto was from a time before the Renaissance actually began, his style consists of

some methods which later came to be classified as Renaissance, such as perspective and

curvy shapes(see fig.2), as well as some methods which are classified as Gothic, such as

gold paint, large, fancy frames and immense haloes around the heads of all religious

figures(see fig.3). Giotto?s best display of work is in the Arena chapel.

Another contributor to the development of perspective was Filippo Brunelleschi, a

Florentine architect. He discovered that painters could use mathematical laws in planning

their pictures. ?This shows an actual point of view through the technique of perspective.?2

It was he who officially ?discovered? the idea of the horizon line and the vanishing point.

He figured out these mathematical laws using a series of different experiments including the

mirror test. In the mirror test, he would hold up a mirror in front of a building and paint

directly on top of the building?s reflection in the mirror. He would then place another

mirror directly in front of the existing mirror with the painting on it. Since the reflection of

the painting looked the same as the existing building, he knew that his efforts had been


One of the final artists to perfect the style of perspective painting was Maso di Ser

Giovanni di Mone — Masaccio. Since he lived during a later time period, his paintings

abandoned all use of Gothic style and had strictly Renaissance characteristics. He was one

of the first Renaissance painters to apply Brunelleschi?s laws to his paintings. When he used

these laws in his paintings he was able to create the illusion of space and distance. He was

one of the first artists able to create this illusion by using Giotto?s idea of making a system

of lines head toward a certain focal point. His use of perspective can best be seen in his

work ?Trinity.?(see fig.4) Masaccio is considered to be one of the greatest masters of


The second innovation which was developed by a Florentine painter during the

Renaissance was the use of life-like human forms. This painting technique uses curves to

create the illusion of a real person. It is a way of making a human form appear to be

three-dimensional and for its? body to appear to have depth.

One of the ?creators? of this new style was Gentile da Fabriano. He died in 1427

and his birth is thought to be around 1370. During the first and second decades of the

1400?s the sculptors totally carried the banner for the new Renaissance style in the

figurative arts in Florence. The painters were largely occupied in making altarpieces for

Florentine churches and chapels, and an occasional fresco, but all in accordance with the

Gothic style.

?This is by no means to say that their works were without quality. Monaco

was a very gifted artist, and many of his minor contemporaries were also

sensitive to the formal coloristic possibilities of the style. But compared

with the four pioneer sculptors, the painters seemed standardized. They were

not concerned with the human and stylistic problems that inspired the sculptors,

and rather productions appear to belong to another era. In the midst of all of this

there emerged, around 1420, a Florentine master of extraordinary vivacity and

originality who, judging from the importance of his commissions, must have

created quite a sensation.?3

This artist was Gentile da Fabriano. Fabriano?s use of curves to show depth and shape in

human faces and bodies could be described using no other word than genius. His style was

masterful and he successfully began the rebirth of classical painting for the Florentine


The next artist to continue the development of life-like human figures was Maso di

Cristofano Fini — Masolino. He was born in 1383 in a small group of houses in the upper

Valderno. He died in 1447. Masolino followed Fabriano?s ideas as well as Masaccio?s

style, but his paintings had a ?dreamier? feel to them. They were lighter in color and in

feel. Also, they included less grim, serious subjects and focused more on the idealistic,

happy images of heaven and the saints. ?His paintings suggest an intelligent, receptive and

gifted painter, ?softer? in style than Masaccio but far from annihilated by working alongside

him?4 Masolino?s paintings abandoned all aspects of Gothic painting since he painted

during the beginning of the Renaissance (the Quattrocento). His style is best represented in

the paintings in the Brancacci Chapel(see fig.5) where you can see the full human forms of

religious figures and saints Their bodies appear realistic looking because of his masterful

use of curves and shadowing.

The third technique which was developed during the Renaissance was the use

realistic looking objects. The use of curves and shadowing to make objects, such as

clothing, appear more natural was used in order to make the objects in paintings look good

instead of only the people.

Giotto was also one of the founders of this technique. He was the first Italian

master to achieve universal importance. He is unquestionably one of the most powerful

artists who ever lived. He was so recognized by his contemporaries. ?In delicate

gradations, the light models faces, drapery, rocks, and trees, establish their existence in

space in his paintings,?5an art critic of his time once said of his work.

Another contributor to the development of the method of using realistic objects was

Gaddi. His best display of this technique can be seen in his famous painting ?Madonna with

Child?(see fig. 6) One can see the incredible realism existing quite easily. ?Even the folds

in the Virgin Mary?s dress appear life-like and real.?6 Gaddi?s true mastery of this skill

showed again how Giotto?s early innovations eventually were taken, used and perfected by

later Renaissance painters.

The last significant innovation of Florentine painters was chiaro scuro. In Italian the

word ?chiaroscuro? translates directly into ?light? ?dark.? It is the contrast of lightness and

darkness in a painting or drawing. It can be used to create the illusion of depth for a very

dramatic effect.

Perhaps the greatest master of this style was the great scientist and artist, Leonardo

da Vinci. He was ahead of his time not only in painting, sculpture and architecture, but in

engineering, military, science and aerodynamics. ?Of immeasurable greatness in both art

and science, he was able to make his innovations in both by virtue of his profound

conviction that the two were intimately related.?7

Botticelli also was a master at the technique of chiaroscuro. His best display of this

is the painting ?Birth of Venus.? In this painting, Venus is rising out of a shell and being

?born? into the water. The excellent use of shading and light and dark contrast in her face

and on her body illustrate Botticelli?s mastery well.

In conclusion, the evolution of Italian painting and the artistic innovations which

occurred were not developed suddenly, rather they evolved slowly into the masterful style

of painting which has become known as ?Renaissance.? ?No single factor can explain the

unrivaled artistic flowering it (Florence) experienced in the early 1400?s, but the

contributions of Brunelleschi in architecture and Masaccio in painting changed Western art

forever?8 The Renaissance was a time of great change, both temporary and permanent,

materially and spiritually. After the Renaissance, people viewed the world in a whole new



1NGA–The Early Renaissance in Florence. 10 May 2000. National Gallery of Art. 12

May 2000 **.

2Christus Rex Project, 16 March 2000. Christus Rex Project, 1 May 2000


3Hartt, Frederick, The History of Italian Renaissance Art (New York: Harry N.

Abrams, Inc, 1962) 134.

4Levey, Michael, Florence A Portrait (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996) 154.

5Hartt, Frederick, The History of Italian Renaissance Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams,

Inc, 1962) 62.

6Hartt, Frederick, The History of Italian Renaissance Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams,

Inc, 1962) 71.

7Levey, Michael, Florence A Portrait (Cambrigde: Harvard University Press, 1996) 109.

8NGA–The Early Renaissance In Florence. 10 May 2000. National Gallery of Art. 12

May 2000 **.

Christus Rex Project. 16 March 2000. Christus Rex Project. 1 May 2000 .

Hartt, Frederick. History of Italian Renaissance Art. New York, Harry N, Abrams, Inc, 1962.

Levey, Michael. Florence A Portrait. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.

NGA–The Early Renaissance in Florence. 10 May 2000. National Gallery of Art. 12 May 2000


Olmerl, Michael. ? The New Look of th Bancucci Chapel Discloses Miracles (four year cleaning

of frescoes)? Smithsonian 20 (1990): 94-99.

Taylor-Mitchell, Laurie ?Some Relationships Between Interior and Exterior Imagery, in Trecento

and Quattrocento.? Explorations in Renaissance Culture 20 (1994): 61-88.


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