Born in Rome in July 1593 Artemisia Gentileschi is the most important female painter of the late renaissance and early baroque eras some say that she is the greatest female painter ever.
Because of the notoriety surrounding her rape and subsequent trial it has been too easy to forget about her wonderful talent as an artist. Had Artemisia been a man she would have been regarded as one of the greatest masters of her age.
Until recently the few successful renaissance women painters have been largely overlooked or merely given the briefest of mentions thankfully this has now changed.
The National Gallery in London has an exhibition showing 29 of Artemisia's paintings. The exhibition closes on 24 January 2021.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is undoubtedly the world’s most recognised painting, it is also the most famous portrait in the world. Being the most famous does not imply that it is the best but certainly it is a masterpiece of outstanding quality.
It does not explain the fascination with the Mona Lisa's smile, or the speculation and theories surrounding the painting. According to Vasari, Leonardo employed singers and bell ringers and other entertainers to keep Lisa amused while he was painting her, hence the smile. Others have claimed that the smile evolved during the years that Leonardo reworked the painting.
Leonardo has achieved his masterpiece by leaving something to the imagination. The outline is not firmly drawn and is softened almost merging with the background allowing the colours to mellow. This harmonious invention of Leonardo's has been given the Italian name 'sfumato'.
Leonardo’s original painting has been lost, it was reportedly seen in Fontainebleau in 1625 and was described as being in a poor state having been done on three long panels which had split and broken off. Some experts doubt that Leonardo ever completed the painting we only know the work through countless copies by Leonardo’s followers and from the master’s preparatory drawings.
The subject of Leda and the Swan has been explored by many artists throughout history. Correggio, Michelangelo, and Paul Cezanne are among the artists who have produced versions of the story.
All of Leonardo’s works were much admired by his contemporaries, Raphael made a copy of the standing Leda from Leonardo’s cartoon and the painting has been copied several times.
Lucrezia Crivelli was a lady in waiting to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza's consort Beatrice d’ Este. The beautiful Lucrezia was married to a courtier of Bona of Savoy and bore him a daughter. It has been reported that Ludovico was unhappy with his marriage to Beatrice and certainly by 1495 he was conducting an affair with Lucrezia.
The vitality and beauty that Leonardo has achieved with this portrait was acclaimed at the time when it was first created, the painting’s power to astonish and delight the viewer has remained unabated for more than 500 years.
In 1424 (date disputed) Masaccio painted his Holly Trinity for the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. This fresco is considered to be one of his finest masterpieces and was rediscovered in 1861 after being hidden by a stone altarpiece in the sixteenth century.
The frescoes by Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence are among his most famous and important works. They were painted between 1425 and 1426 and contain Masaccio's best-known work the "Rendering of the Tribute Money".
The followers of St Francis of Assisi, The Friars Minor, founded the church in 1225. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary the S. Maria dei Frari became known locally as simply the Frari.
The Pesaro Madonna is named after Jacopo Pesaro a member of that powerful and noble family
The painting is unusual because of Titian’s innovation that removed the Virgin and Child from the centre of the composition placing the principal figures to one side. Despite this, there can be no doubt that these figures command the apex of the geometrical pyramid within the painting.
Botticelli’s Venus and Mars was painted sometime after Primavera, probably around 1483.
Venus and Mars are lying facing each other in a garden, they are accompanied by four playful satyrs who mischievously disturb the tranquillity within the sacred grotto of myrtle trees. The satyrs are described as lustful figures an emotion which they are attempting to rekindle in the sleeping God.
The Sistine Madonna is one of Raphael's most famous works. The painting takes its name from the church of San Sisto in Piacenza and Raphael painted it as the altarpiece for that church in 1513-1514.
The Madonna holds her child as she floats on a swirling carpet of clouds, she is flanked by St Sixtus and St Barbara. At the foot of the painting are two angels (cherubs) who gaze in wistful contemplation.
The Last Judgement by Michelangelo covers the wall behind the altar in the Sistine Chapel. The work depicts the second coming of Christ and, although the artist is clearly inspired by the Bible, it is his own imaginative vision that prevails in this painting.
The fresco angles out at the top of the painting preventing dust from settling on it and also improving the perspective of the work. At the top of the painting the cross, the crown of thorns, and other symbols of the passion of Christ can be seen.
Renaissance Sculpture is varied and very often executed on a grand scale. You can see (in person) some of the sculpture produced in the Renaissance and lots of it without having to pay an entrance fee to a museum or gallery.
There are several fine examples in Florence. (Michelangelo's David is one of these). St Peters in Rome has work by Bernini and Michelangelo, and the gilded bronze papal altar is a must see.