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This assignment requires you to study in depth works of art in the National Gallery of Art collection. For your essay, you will analyze a genre of painting or sculpture well-represented in the gallery.

Essay must cover the following information:

  1. Why was this genre was important and popular during the Renaissance? How did this genre develop in this period? What were its main themes, aims, and contexts?
  2. A comparison between two works from either different chronological or geographical contexts (e.g. 15th and 16th – century Italian portraits; Sienese and Florentine altarpieces; German and Venetian mythological scenes). Include substantial information and analysis of both artworks.
  3. An unusual, different or unique example of this genre (e.g. portrait of deceased rather than living person; terracotta rather than bronze sculpture in the round; unusual religious iconography).

Delving into the Significance and Popularity of Renaissance Portrait Painting

The following paper is going to make a fruitful analysis of a particular genre of painting well represented in the collection of the National Gallery of Art of Washington. The purpose is to delve deeply into the significance and popularity of the particularly chosen genre of painting and thereafter identify the themes, context, aims as well as developmental phase of that individual genre. Along with the aforementioned motive of the present discourse, the paper will also make an in-depth comparison and contrast between two works from different geographical contexts. Finally, the paper would give an example and would describe an unusual and unique piece of art of this genre in order to highlight the variedness of the genre. In this context, it should be mentioned that for the above-mentioned purpose, the present paper has considered the renaissance genre of Portrait painting, which is well represented in the National Gallery of Art of Washington.

It has been identified through studying the works of' art in the National Gallery of Art collection that renaissance paintings like “Madonna and Child”, “Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence” and “Madonna Enthroned with Saints” are some of the significant work of art of the genre of Portrait painting from the Italian Renaissance time. It has been identified that most of the renaissance Portrait paintings of the renaissance time in the National art gallery of Washington have been bought in the late 19th century. Most of the renaissance Portrait paintings presented in the art gallery are reflective of the particular taste of the renaissance period and distinctly favor the “Italian high Renaissance” along with the Dutch and Flemish painting style of 17th century and the Britisjh art style of the 18th and 19th century.

However, it has been found out that the particular genre of painting that used foreshortening, sfumato and chiaroscuro styles in the renaissance time has been popular as well as significant because they are the evidence of the revival of the classical learning. At the same time, the importance of the painting style is related with the increasing awareness of human individuals with the nature. The painting style as well as the painting contents of the Renaissance time, which are exhibited in the National gallery of Art, represents the truth that people of the contemporary time of Renaissance started to indulge themselves in the realm of nature. Further, the particular genre of painting has depicted the individualistic forms of man. In the particular context, the fundamental characteristics of Renaissance portrait paintings should be considered. Renaissance paintings are found to be more realistic with the use of techniques like foreshortening as well as perspective style. With the help of two of the aforementioned painting style, the renaissance painters used to create effect of illusion in three dimensions.

On the other hand, it has been also noted that the Portrait paintings of the renaissance time had been significant enough as most of the paintings have depicted the contemporary trend of reviving the interest in the values and classical learning of Greece and Rome. Henceforth, it is understandable that the Portrait paintings of the Renaissance genre have been significant for the particular time as each of them depicted the true essence of the contemporary society and their relatively new trend of expressions. Most significantly, it can be assumed that the paintings have become special as well as popular in the time of renaissance as per the reason that most of paintings focused on the religious imagery of Christianity. Moreover, the touch of realism in terms of a staple characteristic of the Portrait renaissance paintings also attracted the audience as they could view similar attributes of life in the paintings.

Themes, Context, Aims, and Developmental Phases of Renaissance Portrait Painting

It has been found out in the particular respect that some of the chief themes of the renaissance Portrait paintings are mythology, role of gender, religion and the form of individual. However, it has been also understood that all of the aforementioned prevalent themes of the renaissance time are portrayed either through realism or through the style of perspective. In terms of mythology, renaissance paintings metaphorically highlighted the moral values as well as virtues of life through the scenes of ancient mythology. On the other side, in terms of gender roles, renaissance paintings highlighted the roles played by the women and men individually. For example, women portrayals display the value renaissance women behold, which are their physical appearance, obedience and dedication towards domestic responsibilities. On other hand, the values, which used to be depicted through the male portrayals, are rationalism, eloquence and knowledge. Nevertheless, it is required to mention here that religion as one of the themes played a key role in the renaissance paintings. It has been identified that Christianity, which is considered as the foundation of European life and a powerful imagery for the purpose of devotion have been a major theme for the renaissance paintings. The possible aim behind applying the distinct theme is to highlight the human qualities and attributes of Christ. More specifically, the context of integrating religious contents in the paintings as well as sculptures is related with the contemporary trend of the renaissance era, which is to connect the divine with the humanity. 

Further, the theme of the individual has been also prevalent in the paintings and sculptures of the renaissance time as several paintings of the considered era captured the physical appearance of individual person. At the same time, by applying the theme of the individual in the paintings and art, the renaissance artists pursued their aim of capturing the significance of the individual personality in the society. However, it is to mention in this context that the themes and the trend of painting in the renaissance era has started to develop from the time of 13th century when Tuscan paintings had been started to dominated by the byzantine style of Cimabue of Florence and the Duccio of Siena. At the initial state of the development, the style of renaissance painting or considered as the proto-renaissance painting had been dependent upon the ancient tradition of the icon portrayal. Later through the development of the linear perspective and the use of light, the advancement of renaissance painting flourished. In the high Renaissance period, the renaissance genre of painting developed through the influence of the concept of patronage and humanism and the dominance of Flemish painter namely - Rogier van der Weyden.

However, following the fundamental aim of the present paper, which is to interpret the differences between two individual works of different geographical context, the paper has chosen one work from the Florentine context and one work from the Sienese context. It is to mention in this context that the main difference between the Sienese work of art and the Florentine work of art is found out to be – Sienese painting had been more conservative and inclined than the Florentine paintings. More precisely, the Sienese paintings are more inclined towards the beautification effect that has been decorative and posses the graceful values of late Gothic paintings. On the contrary, the Florentine paintings have been highly influenced by the naturalistic style and had been developed in the middle 14th century. These particular differences can be identified in the works like “Madonna dei Francescani” and the Madonna and Child with Cherubim. In the work of “Madonna dei Francescani”, it seems that it is a conserved painting and is highly influenced by the Byzantine style. It is true based on the fact that the byzantine influence is visible on the gentle lines those are structured in the face of Madonna as well as in the cloak of her. The decorative and beautiful effects of the traditional Sienese paintings are shown in the painting. On the other hand, following the fundamental characteristics of the Florentine painting, Madonna and Child with Cherubim – David is a work of art that displays mother Madonna holding her child and made off with marble.  

Following the Florentine style of art, the chosen work of art is naturalistic and symbolic as it symbolizes the love of mother Mary for her child. Therefore, it is understandable that both of the chosen works of art from different geographical context highlight the parent features of the individual styles. Nevertheless, in this special context of renaissance art, it is interesting to denote that a rather unusual form of the genre of portrait painting is the painting of deceased person rather than living person. The particular unusual form of portrait painting had been famous in the renaissance period following one of the predominant themes related to the genre, which is the individual form. It has been found out that through the portrait paintings of deceased person, the artists aimed to display the realistic condition of those individuals as well as to memorize their presence in real life.

Therefore, from the above discussion and evaluation, it can be deduced that the genre of portrait painting followed the theme of religion, gender role, individual form and mythology. Further, from the above paper, it has been understood that the genre of portrait painting had highlighted the foreshortening, sfumato and chiaroscuro styles of painting that had been popular in the contemporary time of Renaissance.  

References

Allan, Eva Dawn. The Triumph Theme and Variations in Long Renaissance Prints. Yale University, 2014.

Berenson, Bernhard. The venetian painters of the Renaissance. Read Books Ltd, 2013.

Burnaford, Gail E., Arnold Aprill, and Cynthia Weiss, eds. Renaissance in the classroom: Arts integration and meaningful learning. Routledge, 2013.

Ciobanu, Gabriel, and Cristian Ungureanu. "Visible and invisible structures in Renaissance paintings." Materials Today: Proceedings 2, no. 6 (2015): 3884-3888.

John T. Paoletti, Gary M. Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy (Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005

Martha Richler, A World Of Art: National Gallery Of Art, Washington (London : Scala Books, 1997)

Martin, John. Myths of Renaissance individualism. Springer, 2016.

Morrison, Karl F. History as a visual art in the twelfth-century renaissance. Princeton University Press, 2014.

Northern Renaissance Art : Painting, Sculpture, The Graphic Arts From 1350 to 1575, James Snyder; Revised By Larry Silver, Henry Luttikhuizen (Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall, 2005)

Roberts, Ann. Dominican women and Renaissance art: the Convent of San Domenico of Pisa. Routledge, 2016.

Steinberg, Leo. The sexuality of Christ in Renaissance art and in modern oblivion. University of Chicago Press, 2014.

The National Gallery of Art, Washington, foreword by Earl A. Powell III (New York, N.Y. : Thames and Hudson, 1992

Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Artists (Volume III of III). Digireads. com Publishing, 2015.

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