Early Renaissance in Italy: the fifteenth century

The engineering of Brunelleschi's dome, the naturalism of Donatello’s David, and the humanism of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus each help define the Early Renaissance in Italy.

Sculpture and architecture in Florence

Sculpture and architecture are central to the cultural development of Renaissance Florence. Like chapels, palaces, and cathedrals, sculpture was used to express the wealth, power and piety of the city's leading patrons and guilds. Learn about the brilliant innovations of Brunelleschi, his friend Donatello and other leading artists that helped define the Renaissance.
5:25
Brunelleschi & Ghiberti, the Sacrifice of Isaac
Brunelleschi & Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac, competition panels for the second set of bronze doors for the Florence Baptistery, 1401-2 Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris
Exercise
Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
8:32
Ghiberti, "Gates of Paradise," east doors of the Florence Baptistery
Lorenzo Ghiberti, "Gates of Paradise," East Doors of the Florence Baptistery, bronze, 1425-52. Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris
4:02
Brunelleschi, Old Sacristy
Brunelleschi, Old Sacristy, San Lorenzo, Florence, begun c. 1421 Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
5:52
Brunelleschi, Dome of the Cathedral of Florence.
Brunelleschi, Dome of the Cathedral of Florence, 1420-36.  Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
Exercise
Brunelleschi, Dome (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
3:23
Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel
Filippo Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence, begun 1420s, completed 1460s Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dt. Steven Zucker
Exercise
Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
3:55
Brunelleschi, Santo Spirito
Filippo Brunelleschi's Santo Spirito, Florence, 1428-81 Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker
3:22
Nanni di Banco, Four Crowned Saints
Nanni Di Banco, Four Crowned Saints, Or San Michele, Florence, Italy, c. 1410-16, marble, figures 6' high
5:35
Donatello, Saint Mark
Donatello, St. Mark, 1411-13, marble, 93" (236 cm), Orsanmichele, Florence Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris
Exercise
Donatello, St. Mark (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
4:34
Donatello, Feast of Herod
Donatello, Feast of Herod, panel on the baptismal font of Siena Cathedral, Siena, Italy, Gilded bronze,1423--1427.
4:34
Donatello, Madonna of the Clouds
Donatello, Madonna of the Clouds, c. 1425--35, marble, 33.1 x 32 cm / 13 1/16 x 12 5/8 inches (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
7:24
Donatello, David
Donatello, David, bronze, late 1420s to the 1460s, likely the 1440s (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence) 
Article
Donatello, David
Exercise
Donatello, David (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
5:41
Donatello, Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata
Donatello, Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata (Erasmo da Narni), 1445-53, bronze, 12 feet, 2 inches high, Piazza del Santo, Padua Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
4:06
Donatello, Mary Magdalene
Donatello, Mary Magdalene, c. 1455, wood, 188 cm (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence) Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker & Dr. Beth Harris
5:10
Alberti, Palazzo Rucellai
Article
Alberti, Palazzo Rucellai
Exercise
Alberti, Palazzo Rucellai (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Article
Alberti, Sant'Andrea in Mantua

Painting in Florence and Rome

In the 15th century, Florence was a proud republic where political power resided in the hands of wealthy merchant families (such as the Medici who would later seize control of Florence) and powerful guilds (organizations of merchants and craftsmen). Importantly for art history, all of these groups commissioned poetry, painting, sculpture and architecture—often as an expression of civic pride—making Florence the leading city-state in Italy during the cultural epoch we call the Renaissance. In the last half of the fifteenth century, Florentine artists were invited to Rome, to work for patrons like Pope Sixtus IV who had artists like Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Botticelli fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican.
6:10
Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi
Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, 1423, tempera on panel, 283 x 300 cm (Uffizi Gallery, Florence) Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker & Dr. Beth Harris
Article
Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi
5:30
Masaccio, Virgin and Child Enthroned
Masaccio (Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone), Virgin and Child Enthroned, 1426, tempera on panel (National Gallery, London). Ser Giuliano degli Scarsi, a notary from Pisa commissioned this altarpiece for the chapel of Saint Julian in Santa Maria del Carmine, Pisa Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
8:37
Masaccio, Holy Trinity
Masaccio, Holy Trinity, c. 1427, Fresco, 667 x 317 cm, Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Article
Masaccio, Holy Trinity
Exercise
Masaccio, Holy Trinity (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
8:05
Masaccio, The Tribute Money in the Brancacci Chapel
Masaccio, The Tribute Money, 1427, fresco (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence) Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris
Article
Masaccio, The Tribute Money in the Brancacci Chapel
Exercise
Masaccio, Tribute Money (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
5:00
Masaccio, Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden
Masaccio, Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy, ca. 1424--1427. Fresco, 7' x 2' 11"
3:40
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation (Prado)
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation and Life of the Virgin (in the predella), c. 1426, tempera on wood, 194 x 194 cm (Museo del Prado, Madrid) Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker The Annunciation is described in the Gospel According to Luke 1:26 - 38.  Below is the King James translation: 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name [was] Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, [thou that art] highly favoured, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women. 29 And when she saw [him], she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
11:37
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation, c. 1438-47, fresco, 230 x 321 cm (Convent of San Marco, Florence).  Speakers: Dr Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
Exercise
Fra Angelico's Annunciation (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
3:33
Uccello, The Battle of San Romano
Paolo Uccello's Battle of San Romano, probably c. 1438-40 in the National Gallery, London Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker
3:57
Fra Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child with two Angels
Fra Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child with two Angels, c. 1460-1465, tempera on panel, 95 x 63.5 cm (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)
Article
Lippi, Madonna and Child with Two Angels
Exercise
Lippi, Madonna and Child with two Angels (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
3:14
Fra Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child
Fra Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child, c. 1440, tempera on panel, 79 x 51.1 cm / 31-1/8 x 20-1/8 inches (National Gallery of Art, Washington) Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker 
5:58
Lippi, Portrait of a Man and Woman at a Casement
Fra Fillippo Lippi, Portrait of a Man and Woman at a Casement, tempera on wood, c. 1440 (Metropolitan Museum of Art) Speakers: Dr. David Drogin, Dr. Beth Harris  
3:20
Veneziano, St. Lucy Altarpiece
Domenico Veneziano, Saint Lucy Altarpiece, 1445-47, tempera on wood panel, 82 1/4 x 85" or 209 x 216 cm (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris
Article
Antonio Pollaiuolo, Battle of Ten Nudes
Article
Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter
Essay by Dr. Shannon Pritchard
Article
Ghirlandaio, Birth of the Virgin
Article
Cassone with the Conquest of Trebizond
Essay by Elaine Hoysted
4:47
Botticelli, Primavera
Botticelli, La Primavera (Spring), 1481-1482, tempera on panel, 80 x 123 1/2" (203 x 314), Uffizi, Florence Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker http://khan.smarthistory.org/botticelli-primavera.html
4:00
Botticelli, Birth of Venus
Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1483-85, tempera on panel, 68 x 109 5/8" (172.5 x 278.5 cm), Galeria degli Uffizi, Florence Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker
Exercise
Botticelli, Birth of Venus (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Exercise
The Early Renaissance in Florence (including painting, sculpture and architecture) (quiz)
Test your knowledge.