1.6 The Renaissance in a Global Context
Venetian Art and colorito
Outside the orbit of Florence, artists in the 16th century still explored innovative techniques and Renaissance themes. In Venice, the emphasis was on colorito “coloring” instead of the Florentine disegno “design” or “drawing.”
One of the most accomplished Venetian painters of the 16th century was Titian (1490-1576), a master of oil paint who explored poetic themes in addition to traditional religious commissions. Two of his most famous paintings set a precedent for the treatment of the female nude in western painting.
Looking at these two paintings, how is the female form treated? How are the women to be viewed and who is the presumed viewer? In what ways can we begin to discuss the “gaze” of the viewer in terms of power?
The Renaissance Beyond Italy
Although in many ways the innovations of Italian artists in the Renaissance were important throughout all of Europe, artists responded to the cultural and artistic shifts of the day in different ways, inflecting regional styles, attitudes, and politics in much the same way as we see in the art of Florence as compared to Venice.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing artists of early 16th century Netherlandish art was Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516). Known for his innovative and fantastic imagery of otherworldly and devilish creatures, Bosch had an international popularity and spawned numerous copyists. His most famous triptych pushes the limits of this traditionally liturgical form with devilish and orgiastic imagery.
How do the details of this painting create a particular type of viewing? Imagine in what contexts this might have been viewed in the Renaissance?
German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) trained in his father’s goldsmithing workshop and also studied printmaking in the German guild tradition. As a young man he was deeply influenced by his trip to Italy, particularly with regard to understanding his position as an artist within society.
Optional: Smarthistory: Who Was Albrecht Dürer?
Dürer was particularly innovative as a print-maker, exploring both woodcut and intaglio processes, such as his famous print of Adam and Eve.
How is Dürer exploring the ideal forms of high humanism in a different way than the artists from previous classes? What do you make of Dürer’s attention to small detail and iconography in the print?
As the Reformation swept through German, Dürer joined Luther’s Protestantism and made artworks promoting the cause. Consider the differences in this work below compared to the Catholic commissions we’ve studied before.
In Catholic Spain and in other regions that were resistant to the Reformation’s insistence that there is no need for an intermediary between God and man mysticism began to take hold. Catholic mysticism involved intense spiritual and bodily encounters with divinity. In the religiously fervent city of Toledo, El Greco (1451-1614) found a welcome audience for his highly stylized treatment of spiritual subjects.
How does the treatment of spiritual figures differ from Dürer to El Greco? How can the particular context of the creation of each work help us read this difference historically?
England and Holbein
The English court preferred the detailed oil painting of the Northern Renaissance style. German and Swiss artist Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) was particularly popular. His painting The Ambassadors is emblematic of many Renaissance ideals we’ve discussed this unit.
National Gallery of Art: Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors (zoom in to picture to see details)
How does this painting connect to many of the Renaissance concepts we have explored thus far (such as perspective, self-fashioning, humanism, religion, the arts, and scientific discovery)?
What similarities and differences do you notice in Renaissance art in and outside of Italy?
How does intercultural exchange affect artistic style and artist’s priorities and ideals?
Outline for Notes