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Video transcript

how do you recognize Italian Renaissance art sometimes we use the word Renaissance to talk about the revival of something generally but in art history Renaissance means something very specific it means the rebirth of the culture of ancient Greece and ancient Rome which we call the Classical period or classical antiquity let's start at the very end of the medieval and that's a good place to start because it gives us a sense of what the Renaissance is going to do differently so let's start with this beautiful stained glass window from Chartres Cathedral this was a very important Cathedral in the medieval period and it's extremely famous for its stained glass and one of its most famous windows is known as the blue virgin in the center is the Virgin Mary she seated on a throne and the young Christ child is seated on her lap both of the figures are frontal and that's a pose that is very static it gives us a sense of the divine we move our bodies in space we are rarely seen from a perfectly frontal view so as soon as a figure is represented in a frontal way there's a sense of authority a sense of the eternal there's a formality this is not meant to portray real people this is meant to portray the Virgin Mary and the Christ child in heavenly sphere and in fact we see above them a representation of a dove and that's a symbol of the holy spirit the Holy Spirit being one part of a three-part nature of God we also see that the figure of the Virgin especially if she were to stand up her body would be so long there's no concern with the naturalistic rendering of the proportions of the human body but one of my favorite aspects is that you have this very large Virgin and Child in the center and then you have these rather small angels that are framing them on either side a hierarchy is expressed here between the angels and the Madonna and the Christ child telling us that they're more important than the angels on either side of them so let's now look at a painting a fresco by Giotto we're now in Italy we're in a town named Padua and we're looking at one scene in a complex series of scenes painted on the wall of a private chapel which is usually called the arena Chapel or sometimes the screw veiny chapel so we've shifted to a smaller family chapel and this tells us something about how patronage is shifting at the very end of the Middle Ages we have more individuals who are accumulating wealth and they spend their money often on religious works of art on family chapels to help to ensure their place in heaven but it also helped to ensure his social position on earth screw vanie was a banker his father had been a banker and they hired one of the most prominent artists of the era Giotto to paint a fresco cycle now Giotto came from the city of Florence and every artist that we'll look at in the remainder of this video will be associated with Florence which is often seen as the birthplace of the Renaissance so let's look closely at the lamentation this is after Christ has been crucified his body has been removed from the cross he's being held mourned by his mother Marian an incredibly emotional moment surrounded by the apostles who are also mourning his death so a number of important changes first of all we have a motion we have a motion in the face of Mary and in the tender way in which she holds her now dead son we have a motion in the Angels but I think even more importantly that we've lost the frontality that we saw at chard we have figures from profile views 3/4 view we have figures that are seen from behind this is much more the way we would really see a group of people by using modelling Joe is able to create figures who take up space when you use the term modeling or we could use the Italian word Keota scooter we're talking about the creation of an illusion on a flat surface of something that is rounded something that takes up space and if you look at the backs of these figures you see how the cloth is light in certain places and shadowed in certain places the figures seem to take up space they have a sense of mass and volume he's also using that light and dark to call attention to the forms of the body underneath the drapery so for example Mary Magdalene who's seated at the feet of Christ we see her knee pressing the drapery we see the beginnings of an interest in the human body one other important change is that we're now in a landscape a chart we were in a heavenly sphere we had this marvellous red background but here we see a bit of a hill we see a tree we see a sky what we're seeing is an increased interest in placing Christ on earth so we're going to move from the early 1300s to the middle of the 1400s to a period that art historians usually call the early Renaissance now the image that we saw chart was stained glass the Giotto was fresco that is it was painted directly on the wall this is different this is a piece of wood and on that the artist is painted with tempera pigment that is suspended in egg yolk tempera on wood means that the artist has created something that is movable this is something that can be bought and sold this is by FRA Filippo Lippi and we see again the Virgin Mary even though her hands are in prayer she seems more like an earthly mother and those angels seem much more like little boys than they seem like angels in fact they even look mischievous and the Christ child seems more like a baby lippies facility with naturalism is evident we want to believe the truthfulness of these figures in fact they seem to literally come out of the frame into our space and I just want to call our attention to that word naturalism it means like nature truthful and we see it not only in this increasing ability to render something that seems believable but also in the landscape beyond we see a convincing representation of depth and it's represented by diminishing scale as well as something that we call atmospheric perspective that is as things go back in space they become lighter and their colors become less intense but these are all formal qualities why are artists interested in this kind of naturalism we have an increasing number of families in Florence who are accumulating vast amounts of wealth and people want to enjoy their earthly life and one of the things that they do is commissioned Orcs of art and works of art become a signal for somebody social status although these are religious paintings we are still looking at a call that is deeply religious and we see the conflation of those issues in this painting here we have tremendous naturalism a tremendous interest in the anatomy of the human body in human emotion human intimacy but at the same time this is the Christ child this is the Virgin Mary let's move now to a period art historians call the high Renaissance and the artists there are Michelangelo Leonardo and Raphael this is the Creation of Adam from the center of the Sistine Chapel ceiling Michelangelo is a artist from Florence but he's been called to Rome by the Pope so what are the formal characteristics of the high Renaissance for me it is an extraordinary understanding of the anatomy of the human body of its skeletal structure of its musculature and a direct focus on the beauty of the human form there's this new interest in the graceful movement of the human body making that body move through space an incredibly graceful and elegant way and in increasingly complex ways as well we see God on the right who seems to be moving with great velocity his arm reaches out his other arm however moves back around another figure we see his legs are crossed his face is in profile but his chest is forward we have not only this careful articulation of the body but we have that body in the most complex poses and the same could be said of Adam his right arm comes back and his right shoulder moves back his left shoulder moves forward his head tilts back as he looks toward his creator this is an expression of the beauty a love of the body in the high Renaissance we've been talking about the elegance and the complexity of God and of Adam but we could also say that that complexity extends to groupings of figures so we see those angels who surround God they twist they turn they lean forward to see what God has created we have this complex interaction between the figures and layering of the figures that is also very high Renaissance where do you go after Michelangelo's creation of Adam and after the other great works of the high Renaissance like Raphael School of Athens or Leonardo it's as though the interest in naturalism had reached this level of perfection so where do you go after you've gotten to the perfect you heighten the perfect you complicate the perfect and the Renaissance is slowly transformed into a style that we know as mannerism this was a moment when the virtuosity the artist comes to the fore during much of the fifteenth century Florence had been a republic but in the early 1500s florence becomes basically ruled by the medici and the court culture results in this new style that we call mannerism we're looking at pont or Mo's deposition or entombment of christ look at the length of his body look at the length of the figures that support him they are unnaturally long is an unnatural complexity to their poses and to the composition we don't know where to look our eye doesn't rest anywhere and there's no earthly setting here but this is not a regression this is not painting that is less technically proficient than the high Renaissance this was a further development the culture had changed and therefore the art had changed you [Music]