Part II: Renaissance through Rococo

Part II looks at the visual culture created in Western Europe from ca. 1400 to 1789.

Your essay question for Exam 2 will be chosen from the following list. Remember to cite and describe visual examples in your answer. You should use the major monuments as evidence in your answer, paying close attention to how they convey meaning and support your argument.  You should also make sure to make reference to at least three artists and three objects in your answer.

  • Discuss the changing role of art in society during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries paying close attention to how art was used by the Catholic Church and the aristocracy .
  • How did the introduction of oil paint influence art? Make sure to discuss the concepts of colore and disegno.

The Renaissance in Florence: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael

Reading 1

Reading 2

The Renaissance in Venice: Giorgione and Titian

Reading 3

Colorito vs. Disegno

Colorito vs. Disegno 2

Baroque Drama: Bernini, Velazquez, Caravaggio, and Gentileschi

Reading 4

Reading 5

The 17th c. in the North: Rubens and Rembrandt

Reading 6

Reading 7

The Rococo: Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard

Reading 8



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85 responses to “Part II: Renaissance through Rococo

  1. Out of all the paintings and artists we have looked at during this part of the semester, Fragonard’s “The Swing” really captured my interest. Fragonard’s attention to detail is superb and the sense of movement one gets from looking at the painting is very interesting, with the woman’s dress poofing out around her and her shoe flying off her foot. Also, because the woman is featured on a swing, this gives another 3 dimensionality depth to the painting and adds to the movement aspect. I also find it astonishing that a painting such as this would have been accepted during this time, as it does show a truthful side to the aristocracy in that wealth and the pursuit of pleasure is highly valued. Previous paintings we have looked at have eluded to sexual images, including dogs and dancing, but this specific painting is so much more forthright in the regard of lovers and infidelity. A man is hiding in the bushes, looking up the woman’s dress. Anyone looking at this painting will get a definite sense that the two people featured are lovers. Also the fact that there is another man pushing the swing, leads anyone to believe that he is being used for his wealth and status, while she is secretly having an affair with another man, perhaps one she is more interested in. Overall, this painting has so many different aspects with the vast and vibrant coloring of the woman’s dress and the greenery of the nature around her. But there is also a definite meaning, that is easy to decipher when looking at the painting, making it accessible to a large audience.

    • I also thought this piece was interesting. I felt like there were a lot of hidden messages which I like. I also liked that this painting told a story of true love and love for money.

  2. Tara Trigonis

    My favorite painting we went over in class was The Last Supper 1495-1498. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Last Supper and it can be seen in Santa Maria del Grazia, a monestary in Milan. I enjoyed learning more about this painting because both my Mom and Grandma have a replica of this painting hanging in their kitchens. It was really nice to finally understand the story behind how this painting came to be. There is so much symbolism in this painting that I did not realize, till looking at it more in depth during class. Seeing the slide with the lines pointing towards to center of the painting made it evident for me that Leonardo had centered Christ perfectly. I learned that Christ is situated at the vanishing point in this photo. I never considered the windows in the background to symbolize the “light of divinity” and to represent the idea of a halo being over Christ. It is a shame that a door was cut into the painting and that the painting is already deteriorating. I personally feel like this is a very important piece of art to preserve and it baffling to think that the painting was already deteriorating during Leonardo’s lifetime. But over the years The Last Supper has still managed to hold up after careful preservation. When Leonardo Da Vinci was painting this and was questioned for his work ethic, I love his response, “Work of a painter doesn’t happen with our hands, it happens in our minds.” This commentary explains that every aspect of this painting was well thought out by Leonardo and was depicted in the way it was for a reason. I am fascinated by the symbolism that embodies this painting. Every time I look at it especially at home before a meal I realize how thankful I should be. Although many people can view this as a sad moment because it is close to the time of Christ’s crucifixion, I still gather a sense of togetherness and forgiveness. This meal painted by Leonardo da Vinci looks and feels real. Unlike Andrea de Castagno, the painting depicted the disciples carrying out their normal activity at the dinner table rather than being perfectly lined up. Leonardo Da Vinci painting the disciples in this way felt like he was truly capturing a moment during the meal, instead of just having the painting look and feel staged. Overall I believe this painting by Leonardo Da Vinci is well done and is a piece of art that will still be prevalent and acknowledged in centuries to come.

  3. Orlay Santa

    We’ve been discussing Renaissance art lately and the one piece that has stuck with me throughout the unit would have to be The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. Aside from being one of the most recognizable painters in art history, Leonardo Da Vinci was also a sculptor, architect, musician, inventor, geologist, inventor, botanist and a writer. It’s clear that Leonardo Da Vinci epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. The Last Supper depicts the final meal Jesus would have with the 12 apostles before going to the cross. As they dined, Jesus told all 12 apostles that one of them would betray him. Jesus then took the bread and wine and told his father to bless it. He broke the bread and gave it to the apostles saying “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” The Last Supper is significant to me mainly due to religious memories I’ve had when I was younger. Growing up in a small apartment in Queens, religion was always around me. It was in my face every Sunday. My father is a devout Roman Catholic. The first painting I’ve ever remembered seeing was The Last Supper. Discussing The Last Supper sparked memories of Spanish mass on hot summer days. I remembered the church had no air conditioning. I never really paid too much attention to mass, just how school would be like the next day. The Last Supper is the greatest painting ever in my opinion. The facial expressions on the 12 apostles are extremely real and definitive. You can see anger and shock on the apostles faces when Jesus tells them that one them will betray him.With the painting in sight it’s easy to imagine the apostles talking among themselves wondering who would do such a thing to Jesus. Who could it possible be? What makes this painting great is the way it draws you into the scene of The Last Supper. You feel like you’re right there in one of the tensest moments in religious history. Making Jesus the vanishing point for all perspectives combined with lighting behind him clearly shows Jesus is the focal point of the piece. It’s a piece that I’ll never forget.

  4. I’ve really enjoyed all of the art that we’ve been reviewing over the past few days, and my favorite painting has probably been The Sacred and the Profane by Titian in 1514. This painting is also sometimes called Venus and the Bride. I thought that this painting really showed that no one is able to be fully defined. In class when asked which woman defined sacred and which defined profane, there was a split amongst the students. We were unable to come to a conclusion, and that seems to be a common theme with art. There is often no definitive answer, art is a subject that is open to interpretation. One possibility that we came to in class regarding Titian’s painting was that perhaps he was showing that there is a mixture of sacred and profane in all of us, the two women in the painting may have even been the same.

    I struggled at first to decide upon which side of the painting I thought best emulated which trait. I finally came to the conclusion that it sees to be the women on the left who best emphasizes the sacred. She is wearing mostly white and the background gives the illusion that she has angel wings. She is also fully clothed which shows modesty. However, I was slightly unsure of her sacredness because of the bunnies in the background and the red on her sleeve. The woman on the left seems to best emphasize the profane to me because her garment is all red with one white segment and she isn’t wearing her clothing. Also, she is perched on the edge of a well of sorts, and there is a relief of a man being beaten. I was slightly unsure of her symbolism of the profane though, because there is a church behind her in the background, also her nudity could be symbolic of the beauty of the female form. I don’t pretend to understand this art though, it is something that people need to see and formulate their own opinions on because there often is no “right” answer.

  5. Cat Tompkins

    One period of art that really stood out to me was Rococo. Learning about and seeing the progression from Baroque to Rococo is both fascinating and interesting. The Rococo era came about during the early 1700’s in France. Everything from the way they dressed, acted, and even their furniture; was ornate and over the top. Rococo painting had a main idea of love and sexuality. In almost every Rococo painting there is a clear idea of what is going on. In Fragonard’s “The Swing”, a young girl is seen getting pushed on a swing while a man is in front of her is peering up her dress. The girl is also seen kicking off her shoe as a representation of her sexuality and virginity. The two men in the painting appear to be her two lovers, but the one that she wants to be with is looking up in front of her, while the one pushing her is the one that she must marry. There are two sculptures located in the garden. One is of two cupids holding each other, symbolizing love, while the other is a sculptured figure putting their finger in front of its face, as a way to tell them to be quite. The painting itself is very dream like. There is a lot of blending shown and a use of many greens and pinks. The Rococo era was new style of painting that was different from any other.

  6. Alexa Lesley

    I enjoyed Fragonard’s “Progress of Love” the most out of all of the paintings we discussed in class. I found it extremely beautiful and a truly exciting narrative of the progression of “forbidden love.” I was surprised to hear the Madame Du Barry rejected this piece. I suppose her rejection is telling of the fickle world of popular art in any time period. Neo-Classicism was slowly overshadowing Rococo Art, and Fragonard’s pieces were not “hip” enough. Another speculation for why these pieces were rejected was the portrayal of the young woman and man was far too similar to the likeness of King Louis XV.

    When I saw the first pendant, or pair from the installment, I did not exactly know what I was looking at. The very subtle romantic and sexual innuendos are what I found most intriguing. The presence of roses and robust flourishes of flowers, cupid and Venus, all point to the love and sensuality of this “dangerous liaison.” After being clued in on the symbolism, I decided and I can guess that many Art Historian would contest to the fact that there is nothing very subtle about the symbolism here at all.

    The woman falls for her lover, the secretly meet, consummate their love/lust, and they are content–posing for a painting capturing their love, and later reminiscing back on their old love letters. The thing that I find so captivating about this narrative, is its relevance to love today and we can relate it to many stories of love that have been written about, and perhaps we can even relate it to our own experiences with love. Although these pieces would not be considered “popular” today, the message behind this installment is something that is transcendent of popularity and time, and perhaps it could even be considered universal.

  7. During this section of the course I was very interested in the paintings commissioned by the Pope like The School of Athens or the painting of the creation of Adam. I found this so interesting because I visited Italy and saw these things in person but knew nothing about them. I didn’t know about the visual effects that were used to make it look more 3D. The borders in-between paintings look so real. The ceiling of the hallways is amazingly detailed. While I was visiting Italy my favorite painting I saw was the School of Athens by Raphael. I liked it because it has a lot of depth that at first glance, I didn’t notice. For example, I didn’t even notice that Plato was painting up while Aristotle was pointing down. This represents reality being here on Earth to Aristotle while to Plato reality was up in the stars. The School of Athens is painted in Fresco style. This style interested me so I looked further into it. A Fresco is a mural that is done on freshly laid lime plaster. They have to be well planned out since there is not much room for changes. The painter has to take into account air, light, space before painting. Another interesting aspect of the School of Athens was the vivid colors that Raphael used. The extreme different between light and dark is intense. The togas of the scholars stand out with their vivid colors in comparison with background. I love what this painting represents. It explores the levels of knowledge and knowledge that is acquired through logic and reason. I like that this painting allows us to remember history and who the important scholars are. Raphael even inserts himself into the painting where he is listening to Pythagoras talk. When I saw it I immediately noticed how realistic it is. The people pop out and look like they are standing there in the moment. It was an incredible opportunity to see such great works of art and I am glad that this class is giving me the opportunity to understand that.

    • acawley4

      I think it’s perceptive of you to notice the pieces commissioned by the Pope, rather than by a particular artist. The comparison between Raphael and Aristotle is exemplary, and I think it is likely more telling of style and technique than the painting form they use. In my opinion, the motivation of an artist is more important than whether or not fresco i used.

  8. evelynhammond53

    The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture founded by Louis XIV was what fascinated me the most from this unit. From my French civilization course I knew Louis XIV was a powerful man yet also frivolous especially when it came to the arts. I was unaware however how much influence he had over artistic standards of the day and even posthumously as the Academy continued to run. In ranking genres of artwork as most difficult and important to less difficult and important, Louis XIV gave artists a mission. Artists wanted to be recognized for their skill and now they had a clear idea of how skill was determined. As the Academy standard became the standard, the center of the art world shifted from the home of Italian masters to the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

    While the ranking system seems intuitive once laid out, I would not have even thought to rank genres of painting or sculpture at all. If Louis XIV had no developed this system there could potentially have been more landscapes or still life paintings made during the period of the Royal Academy.

  9. Rembrandt has always been a muse for me. I remember visiting the National Gallery in DC and being in a room full of portraits, but there was one small canvas tucked in the corner that took my breath away. When I read it was a Rembrandt I wasn’t surprised. As a photographer you hear the phrase, “Rembrandt Lighting” thrown around a lot, it’s a common term used to describe the quality of light found in most of his portraits that uses a soft key about 45 degrees above and to the side that when aligned correctly creates a small, triangular patch of light underneath the far side eye.

    His Self-Portrait at 34 is an excellent example of this style of light. In addition to using light that flatters the face he also adds lots of detail to the head and progressively muddies his strokes as he reaches the edges of the canvas. This technique draws the viewer into the subject’s face and personality, providing a connection that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

  10. acawley4

    Leonardo Da Vinci seems something of a feature of this specific era, which makes his early piece with his mentor all the more interesting. It was one of the first pieces we discussed in class, but stuck with me because it was such a turning part in art. Granted, it is more important because of what Leonardo went on to accomplish, but seemingly every aspect of this piece is a step forward, from the people that commissioned it, to the subject and incorporation of holy figures, to the style. One of the sticking points during our initial discussion was the soft features on the faces of the angels Leonardo painted, and how they played a role in, or resulted from the humanist movement that influenced artist to give each and every figure a unique face of their own. The fact that Leonardo took the time to give each of his figures such a particular expression shows both humanism and the perfectionism that went into Leonardo’s paintings. I find it fascinating that this was such a revolution inside of art, and I have to wonder how much it had to do with the role of the church in art. Although the church went on to create a set of guidelines to limit the free expression and subject matter of art, there was a certainly flexibility when it came to the interpretation of Jesus and other holy figures. Certainly, this trend was not centrally related to Leonardo, but in conjunction with the growing role of humanism and technique, his style is impossible to ignore, regardless of what context his art was created in.

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