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Toward the high Renaissance: Verrocchio and Leonardo

Verrocchio (with Leonardo), Baptism of Christ, 1470-75 Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user LouLou Schiavo
    Why did they put so much attention on the angels instead of putting attention on Christ?
    (19 votes)
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  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Scott
    It's mentioned at around that we can't imagine modern artists delegating work to others, or specifically, a student. Unless I'm mistaken, this isn't exactly a crazy notion. Didn't Warhol, for instance, assign work to others, and don't some artists plan works that are later completed/machined/etc. by others?
    (17 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user Steven Zucker
      Excellent point. In addition to Warhol, Tony Smith, Sol Lewitt and numerous other contemporary artists allowed assistants to complete part or sometimes all of a work. But in all these cases this distance from the artist's "hand" is a part of the conceptual content of the work. For example, Warhol had studio assistants pull his prints but of course his studio was called the factory and idea of mass manufacture was central to his work. He was not particularly interested in the authentic hand of the artist. During the 14th Century, studio assistants who helped complete a work were trained to mimic the style of the master as closely as possible. They were extensions of the artist in a sense. This does still happen of course, but its not the norm.
      (21 votes)
  • aqualine tree style avatar for user Amber
    why did artist have there students paint part of there paintings?
    (4 votes)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Beth
      From the author:Artists in other periods often worked in workshops with their apprentices (there was no art school in the Renaissance!), and in the Renaissance, the most important part of the painting was the "idea" for it - the composition, the placement of the figures in the landscape, their gestures and poses, etc. The actual manual work of painting, was not considered quite as important, and it was not at all unusual for some of this work to be given to the master artist's apprentices. It sounds funny to us - I know, but artists today also often work in workshops with other artists, and have other people help them complete or execute their work.
      (14 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Trish L
    What distinguished the Middle Ages from the renaissance
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Ina
      One distinction is literature. There is a lot of writing from Petrarch, Alberti, Vassari, Bruni etc. discussing Italy (Florence in particular) and creating this idea history as separated into antiquity, middle ages, and their present time. They were encouraging patrons and artists to learn and imitate Rome (due to their close heritage with the Roman Empire) and because of its greatness. Art History, to be honest, is often biased towards the idea of linear development and of structuring history, and is particularly dependant, like any history, on documentation. Since there is an abundance of documents from the Renaissance, we know what some thought and as any generation, they were criticizing their immediate past and idolizing at antiquity with admiration. In a way, the artists that were chosen by this handful of people (Vassari, Alberti, Petrarch) are the ones that current west history admires.
      (5 votes)
  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user Voltaire
    What is the gold circle above most people mean?
    (2 votes)
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  • hopper cool style avatar for user 15tkostolansky
    When and what is the high Renaissance?
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user eric nicholson
    Is it established beyond any doubt that Leonardo painted this angel?
    (2 votes)
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  • male robot hal style avatar for user Teja Chebrolu
    At what is the meaning of the word flat there
    (1 vote)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Nicole
      Duccio's Madonna and Child, tempera on gold leaf, is flat in that it lacks a sense of space , depth, and three dimensionality. It was painted before the development of linear perspective, so there really wasn't much effort made in unifying a perspective and creating a sense of space or depth.
      The angels are stacked and overlapping, and yet there nothing establishes a sense of depth apart from the overlap, so it looks more like stacked paper dolls rather than the detailed, modeled and shaded figures we see emerging in the Renaissance period. Duccio's Madonna and Child is very two dimensional, aside from the slight modeling seen in the faces and within the folds of the robes of the figures.
      (3 votes)
  • leaf blue style avatar for user csoto2018
    Who was Leonardo influenced by? Rome's paintings?
    (1 vote)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Em
      Leonardo Da Vinci was mainly inspired through Nature.

      When he was growing up Leonardo watched nature do things and it put a lot of questions in his head such as why blood pumps through our veins.
      Leonardo also had a very odd interest in the human body and the organs. Leonardo thought the eyeball was the most interesting part.
      (3 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Lisandro Pacheco
    Would Leonardo moved places to go study with Verrocchio's, or would that more like going to the local art galery for some lessons?
    (1 vote)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Nicole
      Apprenticeship was more like a full-time job in that time period, rather than attending art class. It consisted of extensive training under a master in order for the student to prove and establish himself within the profession.
      (2 votes)

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: We're in the Uffizi, and we're looking at Verrocchio's painting of "The Baptism of Christ." So we see Saint John on the right, baptizing Christ. This is simultaneously the moment that Christ's divine nature is revealed. And we see that in the Holy Spirit, in the hands of God above. What's especially fun about this painting is that Leonardo was one of his students. And Leonardo painted some parts of this painting. SPEAKER 2: OK. So that's a wild idea, right there. Because we think of Leonardo as the master of the High Renaissance. And the notion of him as a student, and to actually have some of his student work available is really fabulous. SPEAKER 1: Well, it's pretty wild, just the notion that other people would paint part of your paintings. It's not something that we can imagine a modern artist doing. SPEAKER 2: But this was a standard idea, that a master would have students, would have apprentices. And they would work in his workshop and often do some of the less critical elements. So know that Leonardo was responsible for one of the angels. And SPEAKER 1: Right. So one day, Verrocchio said, today, Leonardo, could you paint one of the angels for me? And so Verrocchio painted one of the angels, and Leonardo painted the other. And I think what's fun about this is to think about one of the angels as an Early Renaissance angel and the other angel as a High Renaissance angel, Leonardo's angel as the High Renaissance angel. Because it's really Leonardo who invents the style of the High Renaissance. To me, I think it's pretty obvious. SPEAKER 2: So we have two angels. They're very close. SPEAKER 1: I think about how one angel, Verrocchio's angel, looks rather typical-- like a boy. SPEAKER 2: He does look like a boy. SPEAKER 1: Yeah. Like maybe Verrocchio went out and got a boy to model for him. Leonardo's angel looks like it has no earthly model. It's just ideally beautiful. And it's that ideal beauty that will become so important in the High Renaissance. If you think about figures like Michelangelo's "David," it's the ideal beauty of the High Renaissance figures that suggests their divine nature. SPEAKER 2: So that's so interesting, because when we think about the Trecento, we have a kind of painting that created a representation of the otherworldly, of the divine, that had nothing to do with the earthly. But then, in the 15th century, we had artists that were studying nature, studying our reality. In a sense, you're saying that Leonardo is surpassing even that, that he took the lessons of the 15th century and reworked them in order to be able to create an even more transcendent representation of the divine. SPEAKER 1: Well, in the 1300s, artists would represent spirituality or in the heavenly by using a lot of gold, halos, figures that were very flat. And so they suggested transcendence and kind of otherworldliness. So what Leonardo's doing is he's keeping all of those lessons of the Early Renaissance, of how to make the human figure look real, right? Using modeling, giving the figure a sense of weight and gravity, giving the figure a sense of three dimensionality. SPEAKER 2: Understanding its anatomy. SPEAKER 1: Exactly. All of those lessons of the Early Renaissance. And yet is able to imbue the figure with a sense of transcendence and divinity. SPEAKER 2: So much so that the halo now almost seems redundant. SPEAKER 1: Exactly. And it's Leonardo who will do away with the halo. But it's not just the ideal beauty of the figure that suggests that kind of transcendence and spirituality. It's also, I think for me, in the movements of the figure. If you look at Leonardo's angel holding Christ's clothing, he kneels, facing to the right. His shoulders twist slightly to the left. His head leans back and up. And it's an incredibly complex pose. If you think back to the Early Renaissance, the artists like Masaccio and Donatello were just really discovering how to create figures standing in contrapposto, who could move realistically. But Leonardo is taking a giant step beyond that. So the figures really move in a very elegant and graceful way that suggests that divine nature. SPEAKER 2: So Leonardo is really offering us a glimpse into the future, a promise of what the High Renaissance will hold in store for us. [MUSIC PLAYING]