Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Art of the Early and High Renaissance Periods

When comparing artworks from the Early Renaissance period with the High Renaissance period, we can see many similarities and differences in the works done by artists of each of these time periods. The two works of art that I will compare and analyze are, the portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza, c. 1474, and the portraits of Agnelo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi, c. 1506. Both of the paintings were done in oil on wood panels. 
The portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza were made by an Italian artist, Piero della Francesca. "The small panels resemble Flemish painting in their detail and luminosity, their record of surfaces and textures,  and their vast landscapes." (p. 218 Stockstad) We can see that, because of the traditional Italian fashion lasting during the Early Renaissance period, the figures are portrayed in a strict profile view. This makes the figures look emotionless and be psychologically disengaging with the viewer. Another reason for the profile view, was to show the accurate recording of Federico's likeness without emphasizing the two scars which were located on the right side of his face.  Piero emphasized the basic geometry of the forms. This makes the people in the portraits look very flat and not very realistic. Dressed in their most elegant fashion, the forms are silhouetted against a scenic  landscape of hills around Urbino.  
The portraits of Agnelo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi, painted by Rafael, were done during the High Renaissance period. They are painted in a 3/4 view instead of a strict profile view of the face and body. This enables the viewer to almost "see" into the souls of the two subjects.  You can tell that these people have authority and come from very powerful families, but at the same time, there are calm emotions across their faces that look like sadness. Rafael, unlike Piero, had made his portraits look more natural and realistic due to the great impact on realism during the High Italian Renaissance period. You can see how his painting is more 3 dimensional in the way Agnelo's and Maddalena's arms are painted at an angle rather than strictly up and down like that of  Federico and Battista.
Despite their many differences, there are also some similarities between the portraits made by two artists from different time periods. In both works, the portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza, and the portraits of Agnelo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi, the hills and other background scenery seem to be dissolving into the distance. This illusion has been achieved through the use of an atmospheric perspective in the painting of the two portraits. The people in both artworks look like they are found higher in the sky than the hills behind them. Another similarity between the two artworks is the clothing. Both artist had made an emphasis on the fashionable clothing of their subjects adding jewelry on the ladies and hats on the men. 
I think that you can see dynamic unity in both of the artworks. From the many hills in Piero's paintings, to the clouds and angular arm positions in Raphael's paintings, each image feel unified and complete by itself. 


  1. Looking at these two portraits, you can really see how artists of the High Renaissance refined the techniques from the Early Renaissance. The three quarter view in the portraits of Agnelo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi gives their bodies depth and makes them look realistic. On the other hand, the portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza are very flat. I enjoyed reading your comparison these portraits!

    -Hannah Bennett

  2. In addition to placing an emphasis on their fashion for fashions sake, the patrons who commissioned these works wanted to highlight and emphasize their wealth. Thanks for mentioning that the 3/4's view portraits allow the viewer to see the patron in a more human light than the standard silhouette style portrait of earlier times.

  3. I like that you discussed the realism of the figures in each group. It is interesting what a simple change in how a portrait is completed by turning the people in the work to a 3/4 view can make. I like that you discussed how the turn toward the viewer gave the men and women in this painting have a different emotional effect. From a disinterested side profile that hides human experience to a 3/4 view that belies the faces which as you point out have a saddened appearence. Nice post thanks.