Venus of Urbino, 1538
Assumption of the Virgin, 1518
The Three Ages of Man, 1511
Tiziano Vecellio (c.1488-1576), more commonly referred to as Titian, is probably Venice’s best known artist of the Renaissance period. It is believed that Titian studied under the tutorage of Giovanni Bellini, perhaps along with Giorgione. After the deaths of these two artists in 1516 and 1510 respectively, Titian began to develop his own personal style, using much larger canvases. He became renowned for his use of vivid colour, luminosity, and depiction of movement, all three of which are epitomised in his religious masterpiece Assumption of the Virgin. This altarpiece is located in the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, and reaches nearly seven metres in height, making it a pretty impressive piece!
However, Titian is perhaps best know for his female nude study, Venus of Urbino. This painting has since inspired many similar compositions from artists working as late as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (La Grand Odalisque, 1814) and Edouard Manet (Olympia, 1863). The way Titian’s reclining Venus stares out so unashamedly at the viewer, despite her nude state, had never been seen before in western art.
c.1300 - c.1450 (early), c.1450 - c.1550 (high)
The term ‘renaissance’ refers to a ‘rebirth’ or ‘revival’ of ideas, beliefs, standards and interests, a concept found profusely throughout Europe from the 14th to the 16th century. The Renaissance is most associated with the development and prominence of Italian art, especially in the Northern cities of Florence and Venice, (the Northern Renaissance refers primarily to the art from Germany, the Netherlands, France and England). This was a time where concerns and passions changed dramatically; people began to seek pleasure in the arts as a form of collection, extroversion and national pride.
The period begins roughly at the start of the 14th century, with painters such as Giotto and Masaccio. The sculptors Donatello and Lorenzo Ghiberti, the architects Filippo Brunelleschi and Michelozzo, and the painters Botticelli and Benozzo Gozzoli characterise the middle stage of the Renaissance, with the ruling Medici family patronage. Prominent artists of the Northern Renaissance include Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein, Hieronymous Bosch, Jan van Eyck and the Brueghel dynasty. The High Renaissance is defined by the masters of anatomical depiction; artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian were responsible for directly linking the arts to the sciences. These ideas of new forms of education were also found across the studies of the Renaissance humanists, (other concepts include the teachings of rhetoric, grammar, poetry, mathematics and ancient philosophy). It was a time where the importance and interest in classical antiquity shone through in the arts and in people’s everyday lives.
There are some excellent books available on the Renaissance, but I would suggest checking out Giorgio Vasari’s Renaissance biographies ‘Lives of the Artists’ (posted here a few months ago) and the philosophical work of Nicolo Machiavelli (you can read his infamous piece ‘The Prince’ online here).
The Birth of Venus by Alessandro Botticelli, c.1486
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503
Venus of Urbino by Titian, 1538