Italian Quattrocento Painting



Italian Quattrocento Painting
Italian Quattrocento Painting
1400 - 1500
Masaccio, Expulsion of Adam and
Eve from Eden
• Desolate world outside of Garden
of Eden
• Volumes are massive and simple
• Monumental, sculptural figures
inspired by Giotto
• Dramatically cast shadows, also
emphasizing weight and
physicality; tragic intensity
• Adam ignores his nudity, covers his
face for shame
• Eve’s profound cry of despair
The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, before and after restoration
Masaccio, Holy Trinity
• Triangular form, dominated by
perspective architecture inspired
by Brunelleschi
• Christ is crucified and a member
of the Trinity
• Viewpoint of average person
standing in front and looking up
at the cross
• Ancient Roman triumphal arch,
round arch, pillars, pilasters
• Flanking Trinity is Mary and John,
then – on the next spatial plane –
the two kneeling donors
• Below is the tomb of a member of
the donor’s family, with his
• Inscription reads, “I once was
what you are, and what I am, you
will become”
Uccello, Battle of San
• Commemorates the victory of
the Florentines over Sienese
in 1432
• Dominated by a fascination
for perspective
• Extremely high horizon line
allows for wealth of action
and detail
• Scale often appears random,
• Toy horses, more ceremonial
than terrifying
• Interest in metal patterns of
the fallen men and lances,
figures fall in bold
• Vanishing points pull the eye
into space
• Miraculously, the dead
knights and their broken
lances fall perfectly along the
orthogonal lines leading to
the vanishing
Botticelli, Birth of Venus
• Delicacy of line and surface
• Sharply drawn figures, focus on
• Landscape flat and tapestry-like
• Stylized V shaped waves
• Little interest in perspective
• Venus rises from a seashell, far
away look in her eyes
• Rose created at the same time
as Venus, a symbol of love: it
can be painful
• Bloodless, weightless, idealized
• Cf. Praxiteles, Aphrodite of
• Zephyr and his love, Chloris,
rush in to scatter roses before
• Handmaiden covers her
Castagno, Last Supper
• Christ is blessing, but Judas already has his food, not sacred to him
• Judas is diabolical, jutting beard, hooked nose, on other side of table
• Inconsistent geometric shape of room: ceiling panels 16 by 14,
stringcourses 12 across back and 6 per side
• Ceiling circles are 33 ½ in the back (the age of Christ at his death) and
17 at the sides
• Six panels on the sides, but six in the back also
Animated marble over Judas’ head and
skeptical Peter’s head reflects mood
Rugged features of individuals
Lit from windows on right
Nearly every figure sits independently
Ghirlandaio, Birth of the
• Saint Anne reclines in a
palace room decorated
with a classically
inspired frieze
• Midwives prepare for
infant’s bath
• Daughter of chapel’s
patron of the work
prominently shown in
golden dress at center
• Living people steal the
show from the saints
• Clear spatial
• Large room divided by
• Upper left corner:
meeting of Joachim
and Anna
Perugino, Christ Delivering the
Keys of the Kingdom to Saint
• Figures lined up in a row
• Emphasis on clarity, bright
• Feeling of easy grace
• Contemporaries in the
• Shapely mantles
• Weight placed on one foot, hip
• Vast Renaissance plaza
• Arch of Constantine, dome of
Florence Cathedral in
• Catholic Church centered on
Saint Peter: open space to
highlight the key
• Middle Left: Render to Caesar
the things which are Caesar’s
• Middle Right: Stoning of Christ
• Located in the Sistine Chapel,
the place where Popes are
Mantegna, Dead Christ
• Uncharacteristic use of
almost grisaille in contrast to
his usual bold coloring
• Emotionally charged
• Bold foreshortening
• Feet placed over the edge
into our own space
• Head enlarged to see it
better; feet reduced to see
body better
• Wounds and dislocated
shoulders of Christ
prominently displayed
Mantegna, Room of the
• Oculus: eight winged putti and a
• Women lean over balcony
• Foreshortening and perspective
• Walls: heavy curtain pulled back
• Antique decorative elements
around main scenes
• Patrons are the Gonzagas, their
colors red and white on their
• Realism of Gonzaga bodies:
hump back, double chins,
protruding foreheads and jaws,
limp and spindly arms and legs
• Charming legend about the
possible use by newlyweds on
their first night: Cupids abound,
with10 a peacock as a symbol of
marital harmony
Piero, Brera Altarpiece
• Light, open, clear space
• Set within an actual Renaissance church interior
• Crystalline, almost bleaching light
• Roman architectural forms
• Classical, quiet and a still quality
• Deeply reverend patron
• Egg as the Renaissance symbol for a perfectly centralized
harmonious and symmetrical space
• Mathematical proportion and balance
• Barrel vault, cf. Alberti’s Sant’Andrea
• Light comes in from left casting shadows on figures and
• Armor-clad patron seen in profile on his knees in front
• Pose requested by patron to hide disfigurement on the
other side of his face: loss of right eye
Verrocchio, David
• Slenderness and angularity of
the adolescent body
• Jutting left elbow, slightly
cocky aspect
• Precise ornament
• Leather jerkin and skirt
classical inspired, reveals
rather than conceals the young
hero’s wiry anatomy
• Pensive and gentle in victory
• Lacks anatomical exaggeration
Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Ten
• Humans as wild beasts
• Dense vegetation
• Meant to teach students
about anatomy, in all its
possible variety
• Many figures are in
reflected/flipped poses
• Composition of intertwined
figures in superimposed
registers to indicate depth
• Mass-produced works of
art, spreading Pollaiuolo’s
fame to Northern Europe
Signorelli, Damned Cast into Hell
• Supreme representation of the nude in
• First large scale painted treatment of the
nude in Renaissance art
• Heaven guarded by armored angels
• Multicolored demons carrying female souls
a suggestion of sexual threat
• Demons with bat-like wings carry off the
• Demons rip off ears and sink their teeth
into victims
• Bizarre and lurid color of devils, some
suggesting decaying flesh
• Impenetrable tangle of demons and victims
• Consuming desperation

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