Early vs. High Renaissance
The term renaissance practically means “rebirth.” The influence that this period had over many eras that shadowed it is vividly evident. The most significant painters of all times and the most prominent artists that are still famous to date are known to be from the renaissance period (Panofsky, 4). The renaissance movement has been misconceived to be one comprehensive movement that survived into the 16th century, but it typically consisted of two different periods that can be classified into the early renaissance and the high renaissance.
These two periods have a few similarities then based on the elements utilized in each era; there are some noticeable striking differences. The Early renaissance began in Italy from 1400 to 1495, when classical themes pertaining to Greek and Roman influences were the focus of most artists. Contrast between light and darkness to emphasize good and evil was the main feature of the artist’s works during this period. The artist in this period began by focusing on Greek and Roman-inspired scenes that highlighted their god-like nature.For instance, the work of San Giovenale Triptych by Masaccio featured Saint Bartholomew and Saint Blaise on the left and Saint Anthony and Saint Juvenal or San Giovenale with golden clutches and royal mantles to signify authority. Proceeds in the paintings looked as real as possible from years of mastery of people and surroundings, even though their subject matter was mythical figures (Brooks, 7-10). In the art of Madonna and St. Anne with child by Masaccio, the Christ child is depicted as a realistic infant as opposed to a Gothic cherub.
The High renaissance began in the 1490s to 1527 when Florence was placed around the Roman Catholic Church; hence religious themes and epitomes were the artist’s most significant interest. Paintings and sculptures from this period featured a greater focus on bright and vivacious colors to bring more life to paintings. The High renaissance works featured complexity, and great attention to detail in relation to gesture poses and human expression. A noticeable feature of the high renaissance is the harmony of design and technical excellence. For instance, in the art of Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci, he created the virgin as the Madonna of humility instead of as the Queen of Heaven with a customary halo. The Mona Lisa art by Leonardo Da Vinci emphasized the simple personality of a woman by eliminating jewelry and decorative elements that typically portrayed a woman’s status and beauty (Stokstad, 115-117). Deeper detail is captured with her smile and posture.
Leonardo Da Vinci is highly regarded for his contribution to the High Renaissance with his art, most notably The Last Supper. The Last Supper art was created in Milan, but his works were highly appreciated upon returning to Florence, which was the thriving center of art and culture. Da Vinci was not only a painter but also a polymath and scientist, which made him legendary in the art world by delivering precision and accuracy in his works as a painter (Taddei, 2-4). By creating realistic and dynamic pieces based on people and objects, Da Vinci has influenced artists to be more naturalistic with their emotions as well.
The Codex Arundel and Codex Leicester are valued `notebooks just like his paints that comprise the findings and observations he made as an architect, ichnologist, and paleontologist, amongst other achievements. The experiments and findings have changed the face of science in the second half of the 20th century in terms of technology. This technology has enabled the invention and designs, and architecture. In this piece of art, the architectural design of the room shared by Christ and the disciples has been well illustrated in dimension and linearity (Iacobone, 84). It also resembles of monasteries and convents walls where the nun and the monks could take their meals.
Cultural advancement has also been widely spread through art and sculptures of religion throughout the world by expressing the beliefs and teachings. In this art piece, the teaching of Christ and how Judas betrayed him has been summarized in an art form that has been shared throughout history at a glance. Philosophically, the art piece Last supper by Da Vinci can be used to bring out humanity. It is expected that Christ is represented as all-powerful and all-knowing hence should not suffer or feel pain. A halo ring above his head is well-suited to represent his kingly character, but it was evidently eliminated (Bitler, 26-27). This may show that even Christ is a human being and capable of being subjected to the earthly suffering and pain that comes about through betrays by one of the closest counterparts.
The Last Supper art by Da Vinci brings out the high renaissance style using elements of art to depict the scene as told in the Gospel of John at the exact moment when Jesus informed his disciples about his betrayal from one of them. Christ is at the center of a triangular pivot with his disciples seated connected from it in this art (Iacobone, 86). Behind the long rectangular table is where the group is positioned with three rectangular windows behind them, illuminating most of the light to the center of the room to signify the status of Christ in the scene as opposed to the common use of customary halo to imbue him.
There are narrow diagonals created from the walls in either sides towards the background to depict the spaciousness of the room that they are in. This illusion of depth on a flat surface using parallel lines converging at a single vanishing point refers to linear perspective. Da Vinci has truly captured arts elements such as light, shape, texture, form, and line in this master art.
Leonardo Da Vinci, in his work, had expertly depicted Judas firmly hidden in shadow as the traitor just before the moment Jesus said to the disciples that one of them was going to betray him, which is basically the subject matter of this art piece. Most traditional artists have isolated Judas from the group or have his back to the viewer to convey his betrayal of Christ. In addition, using a lighter texture on the disciples, Da Vinci was able to show the powerful dramatic results obtained from his statement. The disciple’s psychological moment has been clearly shown, with each disciple conveying their most profound feelings in their individual way. The disciple’s reaction is purely Leonardo’s belief that expression, posture, gesture, ought to portray the concepts of the mind. The scene represents a sequential moment and not a solid scene (Adams, 1). The deceptively simple composition is rendered due to the complex study of varied human emotions by Leonardo Da Vinci.
In the art, one speaks to the other’s ear, and the listener lends him his ear by twisting his body towards him. One of the disciples even gestures toward himself, saying, “Certainly not I, Lord!” “The one who I have immersed his hand in the bowl with will betray me,” seems to be Christ’s response to Judas as they reached the same dish on the bench before them simultaneously (Matthew 26:23). Judas appears to be gripping a bag that will hold the price for selling Christ (Bible, 41).Another has his hands raised in astonishment that they have a traitor amongst them. Another turns with a frown to his counterpart as he wrings the fingers of his hands as if representing Thomas, who touched Christ’s wounds from the crucifixion. Another is mouth astonished as he waves his shoulders up to his ears. Another disciple holds a knife representing the one he will use to cut the soldier ear who attempted to arrest Christ. This is an orderly progression of events by Da Vinci with a rhythm of events to it.
Leonardo has created a logic of movement that resembles a wave of emotion by utilizing shadow and light from his study of Optics. Jacob Burckhardt, an art historian, referred to this marvel as a “restless masterpiece. “The choice of this location in relation to the integration of elements in the scene is phenomenal. Da Vinci created Jesus and his disciples as an extension and a reflection of the position where monks shared dinner after Duke Ludovico Sforza presented his art to Santa Maria Convent. Ordinary elements that would be recognizable by the monks were brought into the famous religious scenes using Italian models for the disciples and including a plate of dishes that were popular at the time (Bitler, 32-34). Leonardo has organized the elements to bring a state of balance, rhythm, repetition, and progression.
The high renaissance style of art was most attractive due to the famous artist that had significant contributions to it. The works by these artists are undeniable breathtaking and of great inspiration. The art piece of the last supper particularly has a personal cultural effect on the Christianity religion as it’s informative of the events that took place on the last supper that Christ had with his disciples. In addition, from previous experience, it turns out that the person who betrays oneself tends to be the one most close to them.
Adams, David. GREAT WORKS: ‘THE LAST SUPPER’.” Sight Magazine – an Editorially Independent, Australian-based Website Covering Local and Global News and Issues from a Christian Perspective, 8 Apr. 2018, www.sightmagazine.com.au/lifestyle/great-works/9106-great-works.
Bible, H. O. L. M. A. N. Holy bible. Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Bitler, Nicole. “Leonardo da Vinci’s study of light and optics: a synthesis of fields in The Last Supper.” Intersect: The Stanford Journal of Science, Technology, and Society 4 (2011): 26-34.
Brooks, Susie. The Renaissance. Compass Point Books, 2019.
Iacobone, Damiano. “Leonardo and water: a brief historiography.” Inter disciplina 8.21 (2020): 89-106.
Panofsky, Erwin. Renaissance and renascences in Western art. Routledge, 2018.
Taddei, Dott Mario. “Digital restoration of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and multimedia tools to experience edutainment.” IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering. Vol. 364. No. 1. IOP Publishing, 2018.
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