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The Theme of Fame in Renaissance Art

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  • 0:00 Renaissance Fame
  • 0:33 Fame in Art
  • 2:36 Fame as an Artist
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the way that fame was related to art during the Italian Renaissance of the 15th century. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Renaissance Fame

Ever wonder what it would be like to be famous? Well, wonder no more! Today, you are going to get a chance to be famous. Actually, today you are going to get multiple chances to be famous. There are many paths to fame in the Renaissance, the period of artistic development and renewed wealth and education that lasted from the late 14th-16th centuries. Fame was a major part of Italian life and art in the Renaissance, so brace yourself for the paparazzi because here we go!

Fame in Art

Now here we are, back in the 15th century. What do we want to make you famous for first? How about we make you a condottiere, a military leader? There were many wars during the Renaissance, as city-states and kingdoms fought to expand. The condottieri became pretty famous, and their fame was often reflected in the artwork commissioned to celebrate their victories. So, how do you want to be celebrated? Perhaps a scene of you in battle, like this one: the Battle of San Romano, by Paolo Uccello around 1455? Or, maybe you'd prefer a more traditional image of yourself on horseback, the way that Roman generals were once portrayed. Make sure to set aside the funds in your will so that your city can honor your legacy with an equestrian statue, like the ones that Venice commissioned for the condottieri Gattamelata and Colleoni.

Battle of San Romano
SanRomanopainting

Of course, you don't necessarily have to wait to die to show off your fame in Renaissance art. You could become a patron of the arts and commission a painting or sculpture that includes your own image. Look at this one, the Montefeltro Altarpiece, painted by Piero della Francesca around 1474.

Montefeltro Altarpiece
monetfeltropainting

This is a scene of the Virgin Mary and saints, but the patron of the piece had his own image included as well. See that guy kneeling in the front? That's Federico da Montefeltro, a condottiere, the Duke of Urbino and a patron of the arts. He had himself depicted in armor but praying to display his fame as a warrior and personal piety. Compare that to this one of the Adoration of the Magi by Sandro Botticelli in 1476. Again, the figure kneeling at the feet of Mary is a patron, but this time Cosimo de'Medici, the leader of the most famous family of art-lovers in Italy. The Medici were incredibly well known due to their political power and wealth from banking, but wanted to be seen as refined intellectuals, not warriors. Cosimo is dressed in fine silks, not armor, as are the other Medici family members in the crowd, most prominently the man in the red cape in the center, Cosimo's son Piero de'Medici.

Majiadoration

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