The High Renaissance, which flowered toward the end of the fifteenth century and lasted a few decades, was a period that witnessed the creation of great works of art and architecture. With Rome as its epi-center, the period can be said to epitomize the spirit of Western Civilization. Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco of the Last Supper is an early definitive work of this period. da Vinci followed it up with Mona Lisa, which was an outstanding work of this era along with Raphael’s The School of Athens. Another notable early work was the Death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence. Michelangelo and Raphael are other key artistic figures of High Renaissance, whose works showcased classical painting tradition as well as inventing new styles such as Mannerism. Alongside Michelangelo, the works of Andrea del Sarto and Correggio exemplify the Mannerist style. (Fletcher, 2000, p.347)
High Renaissance art works feature complexity and richness of detail. Human expressions, gestures, postures and figures are paid great deal of attention and detail. Even minor painters of the time such as Mariotto Albertinelli and Fra Bartolomeo excelled in these aspects of visual composition. Other emblems of this genre are its iconographic references to Hellenistic art and mythology. Harmony of design and technical excellence are other notable features of High Renaissance art. (Stokstad, 2005, p.115)
The aspiration for a painting that depicts the soul and for a portrait that speaks, found expression in the poetry of Petrarch and the artists of the Renaissance. It is not far-fetched to say that through poetics the Renaissance artist attempted to “take portraiture beyond the recording of appearance, inventing poses, gestures, and attributes designed to make visible the sitter’s inner self and interaction with the viewer.” (Rosenberg, 2001, p.937) The portraitures of Italian Renaissance artists in particular reflect traditions that “had appeared earlier in religious painting, the relationships include speaker-listener, lover-beloved, and survivor-departed. In these ‘dyads of exchange’, active and passive roles shift constantly as the viewer becomes the one observed and addressed by the image”. (Luchs, 2001, p.948) Giorgione’s La Vecchia (“Col Tempo”) is an important painting in this regard. One of the techniques employed in this genre is the usage of mirrors. Parmigianino’s 1524 classic Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
“slides between the two poles of an accurate reflection and of a picture that makes the viewer conscious of his/her role as interpreter. There is also the manifestation of the neo-Platonic concept of the lover who reflects the image of the beloved like a mirror, even becoming transformed into an alter-ego of the beloved. In this regard, Michelangelo’s epitaphs for young Cecchino Bracci, in which the sculptor-poet acknowledges the incapacity of art to create a true likeness of the departed, lives on most faithfully in the souls of those who loved him.” (Rosenberg, 2001, p.938)
The flourishing of artistic works during High Renaissance was made possible by an expansion in patronage and relative political stability in the region. Venice, being an important commercial and political hub of the early modern era, turned out to be the cultural and art capital of the time. The population of Venice at the time offered dedicated patronage to artists and their products. The region also spawned its own distinct painting style, marked by serenity of mood and vividness of colors, as mastered by Giorgione and Titian. The sculptures produced during this period are also of significance. The exemplary sculptures of the era include Michelangelo’s Pieta and David. (Speake & Bergin, 2004, p.550)
Hirschauer, Gretchen A. “The Flowering of Florence: The Artists Commissioned by the Medicis “Brought to Their Subjects Not Only a Masterly Technique, but a Freshness and Originality of Style That Would Have a Lasting Influence on Botanical Illustration and the Art of Naturalistic Painting.”.” USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education) May 2002: 62+.
Fletcher, Stella. The Longman Companion to Renaissance Europe, 1390–1530. (2000). 347 pp.
Luchs, Alison. “The Poetics of Portraiture in the Italian Renaissance.” Renaissance Quarterly 54.3 (2001): 948.
Marilyn Stokstad, ed. Art History. 3rd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2005.
Osmond, Susan Fegley. “The Renaissance Mind Mirrored in Art.” World and I Dec. 1998: 18.
Rosenberg, Charles M. “The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist.” Renaissance Quarterly 54.3 (2001): 937.
Speake, Jennifer and Thomas G. Bergin, eds. Encyclopedia of the Renaissance and the Reformation. (2004). 550 pp.