In this lesson, you will explore both the Florentine/Roman and Venetian styles of art during the Italian Renaissance and discover their similarities and differences.
The Italian Renaissance
In the United States, we have a certain style. However, we are also a big place, so we have different cultural centers that each interpret this style in different ways. Think about the differences between New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, not to mention Denver, Atlanta, or Austin. Same broad culture, different ways to present the American style.
This was also true during the Italian Renaissance, a period from the late 14th century to the early 16th century, characterized by an incredible amount of artistic production in Italy. Italy was not a single nation or kingdom at this time, but they did have a general shared identity and shared artistic style. This shared style had certain common traits. For one, the classical styles of Ancient Greece and Rome were revitalized, with highly realistic forms and often mythological subjects gaining prominence. Also, the important role of the Catholic Church meant that lots of art was focused on religion, depicting scenes from the Bible.
Renaissance artists were obsessed with the human form, the natural beauty of the world, and an educated, intellectual understanding of everything they did. However, in this style, different cultural centers appeared with unique styles. The biggest three centers of art in the Italian Renaissance were the three independent cities: Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Renaissance Art of Florence and Rome
Florence and Rome were two independent powers in Italy. Despite the fact that they often clashed, sometimes violently, they had shared values in art. The basis of their art was in careful, meticulous planning. These artists, from painters and sculptors to architects, spent lots of time sketching out their design before ever beginning the final product. The preliminary drawing, called the disegno, became an art form in its own right. Artists like Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci used these sketches to study everything they saw, from landscapes to human anatomy.
The artists of Florence and Rome were focused on details, order, logic, and reason. Their artwork often reflected idealized geometric ratios that created a sense of harmony or balance and this included the way that they presented human figures. Human figures were designed to reflect ideal ratios and proportions, and are posed in distinct ways, giving even the figures in paintings a statue-like feeling. These figures are nearly always involved in some sort of narrative, be it from the Bible or classical mythology.
Renaissance Art of Venice
Venice was different. Located in northern Italy and acting as the most important northern port for international products, Venice had a unique sense of style. This difference began with the amount of preparation that went into artwork. Venetian artists still planned out their work, but not as carefully. They left room for changes to be made and emphasized the process of creating art, rather than the preparation. The act of painting, especially, was compared to poetry: rhythmic, graceful, and sometimes spontaneous.
'Poetry' is a major buzzword with Venetian art. While Florentine and Roman artists focused on careful poses and strict narratives, the Venetians developed artistic styles that emphasized color over form, passion and beauty over narrative, and poetry over a strict symbolic interpretation.
The idea of poetical painting, or poesia, was developed by the Venetian master Giorgione. His works are full of color and passion, evoking specific moods, but the subjects of these paintings are often unclear. Figures do not always seem to notice each other, the background is more important than the foreground, and details like lighting are not always realistic.
The goal was to produce an emotion, rather than strict interpretation. The Venetian artists still adhered to the rules of Renaissance art, but their styles were simply… different.
Italy, from the late 14th century to the early 16th century, was in a period of immense artistic production known as the Italian Renaissance. Art in the Renaissance shared certain characteristics, such as the use of classical elements and an obsession with natural beauty and the human form. However, the three major artistic centers of Italy: Rome, Florence, and Venice, had their own ways of interpreting these traits.
Rome and Florence shared a common style, despite being independent cities and occasionally rivals. These artists focused on logic, order, and rational harmony, largely producing through extensive planning. The disegno, or preliminary sketch, became an art form in and of itself. Artists like Michelangelo, Raphael, and da Vinci depicted the human form in statue-like poses and idealized proportions, and created narrative scenes that often had strict, symbolic interpretation.
Up in Venice, however, artists used Renaissance styles differently. Rather than spend immense amount of time in preparation, Venetian artists allowed for more spontaneous moments and thought of the act of creating art in terms of poetry. Poesia, or 'poetical painting', was first championed by the Venetian Giorgione. This style emphasized color and beauty over strict rules of form, narrative, or meaning.
Different cities can develop their own styles, and during the Italian Renaissance, the cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice did just that.
Once you are finished with this lesson, you should be able to:
- List some characteristics of Italian Renaissance art
- Describe the artistic styles of Renaissance art in Florence and Rome
- Compare the Renaissance art of Venice to that of Rome and Florence