Top Four Italian Painters

Leonardo da Vinci

Recognized for his paintings such as the Mona Lisa and The Last SupperLeonardo da Vinci is one of the renowned artists in history. Aside from his contributions to art, he was also noted for his technical skills including carpentry and metalworking. Da Vinci was an intellectual during the Italian Renaissance, among some famous philosophers who were prominent in that era.

Background

Leonardo da Vinci was born on the 15th of April, 1452, in the town of Vinci, in Italy. He was the love child of a peasant woman and an esteemed notary. Throughout his childhood, Ser Piero, his father, raised him well along with his stepmothers. Thus, he was able to experience love and security as a child and even in his teens.

Since he was naturally interested about science, nature and art, that made him a well-rounded person who knew about a wide range of areas such as drafting, metalwork, painting and sculpting. When he was 14 years old, he underwent apprenticeship with Verrocchio, a brilliant artist. During the time he spent with his master, he was able to learn more about leather arts, sculpting, drawing and painting.

These technical skills helped him explore and improve other areas that made him one of the finest artists in his generation. In fact, by the time he reached 20, he already became Guild of Saint Luke’s master artist. Moreover, he set up his very own workshop and gained much success from it.

Da Vinci’s Famous Artworks

The following are some key details about the artist’s renowned works:

Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa has become one of the world’s most renowned painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The artist was commissioned to work on this piece, and it was believed to have been completed by 1505 to 1507. This significant painting by Da Vinci has captivated the interest of a number of viewers over centuries. According to James Beck, Columbia University’s art historian, Da Vinci was able to present a certain degree of spirituality to the subject of this painting, which gave the image some level of majesty that appealed to people.

Based on scholars, Da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa was the portrait of a woman named Lisa Gherardini. It was painted in oil and in a white-colored Lombardy poplar panel. The painting remained under the possession of King Francis I, but it was soon acquired by the French Republic. Since 1797, however, the painting has been on display in Paris, at the Louvre Museum.

The Last Supper

Another renowned painting by Da Vinci, The Last Supper is a fresco painting that was completed during the late 15th century. It remains in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie’s refectory, in Milan. While it is a popular painting that impressed a number of people, it has also been satirized and scrutinized by critics.

Lorenzo de Medici, a wealthy and member of the prominent Italian family, commissioned the artist in 1482 to make a silver lyre. This was to be given to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, which was intended to serve as a sign of peace. After the lyre was completed, Da Vinci decided to write a letter to Ludovico and expressed how his artistic skills could be of great purpose to the royalty’s court.

Da Vinci received positive feedback from his letter, and he was commissioned by Ludovico to work on several projects from 1482 to 1499. One of these artworks included The Last Supper, which was presumed to have been painted in 1495. The painting depicted the scene narrated in John 13:21. It featured the part where the Twelve Disciples of Jesus where having a discussion as to the person who was believed to betray the Lord.

Considering the painting techniques used by Da Vinci, combined with environmental factors that made the artwork appeared weathered, there was very little that could be done to maintain its quality. The last of all restoration attempts made to this painting was accomplished in 1999.

Renaissance Man

With the immense talent of Da Vinci, it is not surprising that he has been referred to as an archetype of the Renaissance man. As with several primary figures of the Renaissance era, Da Vinci failed to see any division that separates art and science. Thus, he was able to create and record a vast collection of his inventions and personal observations, which were all recorded in a 13,000-page full of the artist’s drawings and notes. These sketches included designs for his idea of flying machines, war machinery, architecture and plant studies.

It is worth noting that Da Vinci’s ideas mainly involved theoretical explanations, and these were presented in detail although hardly experimental. In addition, the artist recorded some drawings of bone and muscular structures, vascular system, and fetus in utero. These accounts were considered as one of the first records on the human body.

Titian

There were minimal accounts on the precise birthdate of Titian. However, in his later years, his letter to King Philip II of Spain indicated that he was born in the year 1474. However, some scholars argue that this is quite unlikely, and they believe his birthdate may be somewhat closer to 1490. As for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Getty Research Institute, they believe that he was probably born in 1488 to 1490.

Early Life

Titian was born of a well-off family. His parents were Gregorio and Lucia Vecelli. Gregorio worked as a superintendent of the Pieve di Cadore’s castle, and he also managed the owners’ local mines. During his early years, Gregorio was a reputable soldier and councilor. As for the other members of the family, some of them were notaries who have established a comfortable and luxurious way of life in their hometown.

When Titian was around 10 to 12 years old, he was sent to Venice with his uncle, so he could undergo apprenticeship with a renowned painter named Sebastian Zuccato. He was a friend of Titian’s family, and his sons were famous mosaicists in town. Furthermore, Titian was fortunate enough to work at a studio of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, who were both noted as the city’s leading artists. In the said studio, Titian became acquainted with some men of his age including Giorgio da Castelfranco, Giovanni Palma da Serinalta, Sebastiano Luciani and Lorenzo Lotto.

Titian’s Paintings

One of the artist’s earliest works was the fresco of Hercules, which is displayed on the Morosini Palace. Several other masterpieces that are found in Vienna include Venus of Urbino and Diana and Actaeon.

Another famous work of Titian was a painting called The Man with a Quilted Sleeve. This was believed to have been completed in 1509, and it served as the portrait of a man named Gerolamo Barbarigo. This was also said to be borrowed by the artist Rembrandt, which he used as an inspiration for his self-portraits.

Other Works

By 1516, Titian was commissioned to paint an image for the high altar of the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. The artist completed the painting entitled Assumption of the Virgin, and this prompted him to become one of Venice’s leading painters. It was his eye for detail and color, as well as immense skil in depicting the human form through his artwork that made him popular during his time.

Titian’s hometown was bustling with numerous artists and literary geniuses. In fact, he was a close friend of Pietro Aretino, who was a writer. This man was instrumental in helping Titian gain more commissions throughout his life.

Later Years

In the latter part of Titian’s career as an artist, he became more inclined on mythological and religious themes. For instance, he painted the one of his renowned works called Venus and Adonis, which was influenced by Metamorphoses, a masterpiece of Ovid. This painting presented Venus who was desperately trying to reach out to Adonis. Another painting involving the goddess was Venus and the Lute Player.

On August 27, 1576, Titian died as he was inflicted by a serious disease. The artist continued to live on in the hearts and minds of other remarkable artists during his time and recent eras including Antoon van Dyck, Peter Paul Reubens, Rembrandt, and Diego Velazquez.

Carvaggio

Known as one of the most influential artists in his lifetime, Caravaggio has contributed so much to the history of art. Aside from being an inspiring painter, he was also quite revolutionary. He was set to abandon the rules and norms that served as a guiding force for other artists who lived centuries before him. Indeed, he made a difference and refused to make his paintings dwell solely on religious and human experience.

Background

Caravaggio was known for his intense artworks such as the David with the Head of Goliath and Inspiration of Saint Matthew . He was born in Italy, in 1571. It was a difficult time in Italy when he was born as it was about one week prior to the Battle of Lepanto. This was a period in time when Turkish invaders in Italy were forcefully driven out because of their faith.

There were minimal details recorded about the early life of Caravaggio. Some facts that were accounted included the profession of his father, Fermo Merisi, who was the architect and steward of the marquis. By the time Caravaggio was 6 years old, nearly all of his family members died of the bubonic plague. His father was one of those who died, and this left the young child orphaned and living on the streets.

When the young boy reached 11 years of age, he moved to Milan and became an apprentice of Simone Peterzano. In his teenage years, he decided to relocate to Rome, despite the fact that he barely had enough money for survival. However, he did the best he could to earn by finding a job as an assistant of painters in that area. He also found himself moving from one occupation to another.

In 1595, the artist decided to explore his own talents and make a living out of selling his own works. He decided that the best thing to make a sale was to get a dealer to help him. Thus, his artworks gained the attention of the Cardinal Franceso del Monte, who recognized the immense talent in this young artist. Eventually, the Cardinal allowed Caravaggio to stay in his house and gave the artist a pension, as well.

Caravaggio was known to be someone who was capable of working on a painting rather quickly. In fact, he was quite skillful that he could finish a single painting in only two weeks. During the time that he remained with del Monte, he has completed 40 artworks. Among the paintings he made were BacchusThe Death of the Virgin and Boy with a Basket of Fruit.

It is typical in his early works to include images of young and chubby boys who were presented as lutenists or angels. He also frequently painted John the Baptist who was his favorite saint. In his paintings, the boys were usually loosely clothed or naked. Cecco, who was an assistant of Caravaggio, was believed to have been shown in his numerous works.

Caravaggio obtained one of the major commissions he received in his life. In 1597, he was tasked to create a decoration for the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi, which was in Rome. This was indeed a challenging responsibility , yet he was able to complete this painting. There were three different works included such as The Martyrdom of St. MatthewThe Calling of Saint Matthew and Saint Matthew and the Angel.

Legacy

Although Caravaggio’s early life was filled with struggles, he was able to surpass his difficulties with his faith in himself. He became more optimistic and dedicated to improving his life, and he was fortunate enough to have met several people who gave him a chance to share his skills and artistic talents.

On July 18, 1610, Caravaggio died. Along with his death, he left a strong legacy that continued to inspire many aspiring artists in his era. The paintings he has left behind also served as his legacies, and these influenced various artists who dream of creating their first artwork and make it as reputable and exquisite as Caravaggio’s works.

Peter Paul Rubens

Born on June 28, 1577, Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens was one of the most celebrated and prolific artists in Europe during his lifetime as well as the entire Baroque era. His patrons included royalty and churches, and his art depicted subjects from religion, history and mythology. Known for such works as Raising of the CrossWolf and Fox HuntPeace and War, and Massacre of the Innocents, Rubens’s style combined a knowledge of Renaissance classicism with lush brushwork and a lively realism. He died in 1640.

Formative Years

Peter Paul Rubens was born on June 28, 1577, in the town of Siegen in Westphalia (now Germany), one of seven children of a prosperous lawyer and his cultured wife. Following his father’s death in 1587, the family moved to Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium), where the young Rubens received an education and artistic training. He served as an apprentice to several established artists, and was admitted into Antwerp’s professional guild for painters in 1598.

Early Career and Travels

In 1600, Rubens traveled to Italy, where he viewed the art of such Renaissance masters as Titian and Tintoretto in Venice, and Raphael and Michelangelo in Rome. He soon found an employer, Vincenzo I Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, who commissioned him to paint portraits and sponsored his travels. Rubens was sent by Vincenzo to Spain, to the city of Genoa in Italy, and then again to Rome. A gifted businessman as well as a highly talented artist, Rubens began to receive commissions to paint religious works for churches and portraits for private clients.

Success in Antwerp

Rubens returned home to Antwerp in 1608. There he married Isabella Brant and established his own studio with a staff of assistants. He was appointed court painter to Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, who governed the Southern Netherlands on behalf of Spain. In a time of social and economic recovery after war, Antwerp’s affluent merchants were building their private art collections and local churches were being refurbished with new art. Rubens received a prestigious commission to paint two large religious works, The Raising of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross, for Antwerp Cathedral between 1610 and 1614. In addition to many projects for Roman Catholic churches, Rubens also created paintings with historical and mythological scenes during these years, as well as hunting scenes like Lion Hunt. Rubens became known as “the prince of painters and the painter of princes” during his career, due to his frequent work for royal clients. He produced a tapestry cycle for Louis XIII of France (1622-25), a series of 21 large canvases glorifying the life and reign of Marie de Medici of France (1622-25) and the allegorical “Peace and War” for Charles I of England (1629-30).

Later Career

Following the death of his wife, Isabella, in 1626, Rubens traveled for several years, combining his artistic career with diplomatic visits to Spain and England on behalf of the Netherlands. When he returned to Antwerp, he married his second wife, Helena Fourment; his family group “Self-Portrait with Helena and Peter Paul” was a testament to his domestic happiness with his wife and new son. In the 1630s, Rubens produced several of his major mythological works, including The Judgment of Paris and The Garden of Love, an idyllic scene of courting couples in a landscape.

Legacy and Influence

At the time of his death, on May 30, 1640, in Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium), Rubens was one of the most celebrated artists in Europe. He left behind eight children as well as numerous studio assistants, some of whom—most notably Anthony van Dyck—went on to have successful artistic careers of their own.

Rubens’s skill at arranging complex groupings of figures in a composition, his ability to work on a large scale, his ease at depicting diverse subjects and his personal eloquence and charm all contributed to his success. His style combined Renaissance idealization of the human form with lush brushwork, dynamic poses and a lively sense of realism. His fondness for depicting fleshy, curvaceous female bodies, in particular, has made the word “Rubenesque” a familiar term.

Admirers of Rubens’s work included his contemporary, Rembrandt, as well as artists of other regions and later centuries, from Eugene Delacroix to Gustave Courbet.

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