Ode to Italian painters & their creations

An encounter with Renaissance-era paintings of Italy
/ New Delhi
Ode to Italian painters & their creations

The Italian Renaissance era, from the 14th to the 17th centuries, paved the way for a great cultural change across Europe especially in Italy

Italy is home to many unparalleled collections of artworks and was the main centre of artistic developments throughout the Renaissance. From small towns to large cities, everywhere one can find exquisite artistic wonders of the past reproduced in the walls, paintings, statues, courtyards and museums of Italy.
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“The true work of art is but a shadow of divine perfection.” These were the words of Michelangelo Buonarroti. For the man who depicted divinity on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, such a standard for divine perfection seems appropriate.

The Italian Renaissance era, from the 14th to the 17th centuries, paved the way for a great cultural change across Europe especially in Italy. It saw the birth of many iconic artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and many others whose works inspired a later phase of Renaissance, called Mannerism as well.

The following are some of the most exceptionally talented painters and their paintings from Italy that immerse any travel enthusiasts into her divinity.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper or L’Ultima Cena, in Italian, is a fresco which is a classic of the Italian Renaissance Art and is one of the best-known pieces of Christian art painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1495 and 1498. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting portrays the moment during the meal when Jesus tells his disciples that one of them is going to betray him and the apostles express great shock and rage. While making the painting, da Vinci experimented with a new technique, which is tempura. Tempura is a special type of paint made from egg or fig milk.

The scene’s composition is exquisitely brilliant in its simplicity itself and the impact is amplified by the stark contrast in the moods of the 12 disciples as compared to Christ. Over the years it has been vandalised, crumbled, but restored each time. So today we are probably looking at a very little of the original. The painting still remains in its original place, on the wall of the dining room of the former Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It is one of the most celebrated and well-known artworks in the world.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli at Uffizi in Florence

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus was painted by Sandro Botticelli, considered as an icon of Renaissance. His paintings can also be seen in Sistine Chapel in Rome. Botticelli sewed two canvases together to create this masterpiece. The painting depicts the beauty of Venus, born from the sea foam arriving in the land of Cyprus, blown by the west wind Zephyr and the nymph Chloris towards one of the Horai who prepares to drop her with a flowered mantle. Botticelli has used the technique of thin tempura on canvas to give the painting an extraordinary transparency. The Birth of Venus can be seen in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, where it is placed with his other famous painting Primavera.

Madonna of the Book by Sandro Botticelli at Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan

Madonna of the Book by Sandro Botticelli

The Madonna del Libro or The Madonna of the Book, one of three Botticelli on display in Milan, depicts the Virgin Mary enthroned with the child Jesus on her lap. Her lapis lazuli robe glows with the warmth of the twilight sky emanating from the window as the young Jesus looks up in admiration. And the robe’s colour has the symbolic meanings of purity, heaven, and royalty. In this painting, as in Botticelli’s other large series, the Madonna is portrayed as being serious, thoughtful and focused. This work exemplifies Botticelli’s artistic magic in giving the canvas a unique touch and spiritual grace. The masterpiece is housed in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan.




The School of Athens by Raphael at Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City

The School of Athens by Raphael

The School of Athens is a fresco of Raphaello Sanzio da Urbino. It symbolises the marriage of art, philosophy, and science that was a hallmark of the Italian Renaissance. Raphael was known for creating a personal style characterised by skillful utilisation of colour and compositional elegance. Raphael was invited by Pope Julius II to stay in Rome and to paint wall frescoes in four rooms in the Stanza Della Segnatura in the Papal Palace in the heart of the Vatican City. He was one of “The Big Three”, namely Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

In The School of Athens, Raphael presents a scene filled with men sitting, standing, debating, contemplating and calculating. These are all representations of some of the most ancient and classical philosophers and scientists. The central figures are two of the most revered ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, representing two different Schools of Philosophy. Other eminent figures are Socrates, Pythagoras, Euclid, Ptolemy and Zoroaster.  The painting is located in the first of the four rooms designed by Raphael, the Stanza della Segnatura. The Raphael rooms are included in the general admission tickets to the Vatican museums. The rooms can be found in the Sistine Chapel.

Last Judgement by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City

Lat Judgement by Michelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarroti was a renowned painter, sculptor, architect and poet. His Last Judgement, a fresco, is among one of the most powerful renditions of the history of Christian art. It was commissioned by Pope Clement VII. It covers the wall behind the altar in the Sistine Chapel. It depicts the second coming of Christ thereby portraying the Last Judgement by God on all humanity. This mighty composition also represents the final seconds of all earthly existence.  It is like a reminder about justice against perpetrators, in this case, the troops who sacked the city of Rome and held it hostage. This was an understandable agenda on the Pope’s part and using the vehicle of painting was the best way to teach and communicate to people, especially those who acted violently against the Church. It is known to be the weightiest of all subjects in art and it portrays around 300 muscular figures in an infinite variety of dynamic poses. This unique painting truly expands beyond the viewer’s field of vision.

Also Read – Italian destinations promoted through Indian films.

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