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 Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Last Supper was a fresco painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1495 and 1498.
Leonardo da Vinci The remarkable range of talent is a defining characteristic of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519). He studied nature and conducted experiments, dissected human bodies to learn more about their structure, and drew designs for machines that were far ahead of his time.
Leonardo urged artists to move beyond the earlier emphasis on realism to a portrayal of human beings that reflected their idealized or divine qualities. Two of his most famous paintings are the portrait Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, a fresco, or wall painting using watercolor on wet plaster. The Last Supper demonstrates Leonardo’s mastery of geometric perspective (the representation of three-dimensional objects in two-dimensional art) as well as his skill at depicting idealized human figures with psychological insight.
Michelangelo Another renowned Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet was Michelangelo (1475–1564). In 1501, the government of Florence commissioned (paid) him to create the marble sculpture David, in which he portrays the biblical figure of David to reveal the splendor of the human form.
Michelangelo is probably best known for his painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, which was commissioned by the pope. In the paintings, Michelangelo focused on scenes from the biblical book of Genesis, showing humans as reflections of the divine. In this commission and others, including plans to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the pope sought to revitalize the prestige of the papacy and the Papal States, the lands in central Italy that the pope ruled from 756 to 1870.
Raphael The painter Raphael (1483–1520) created many paintings of the Virgin Mary that idealized her beauty. In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael to paint a series of frescoes in the Vatican Palace. Perhaps the most famous is School of Athens. In this work, Raphael portrayed a gathering of classical scholars, including Aristotle and Plato, using geometric perspective and other Renaissance techniques to demonstrate harmony, balance, and order—all principles central to both classical and Renaissance art. Because of these artists and others, many experts consider the Italian Renaissance a period of tremendous innovation and creativity.
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