Northern Renaissance: Pieter Brueghel: The Kermesse of St George

Background
When we hear the word Renaissance we usually think of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, and Florence, Italy, but there was a Northern Renaissance too. The Kermesse of St George by Pieter Brueghel the Younger is a very interesting piece painted in 1628. Differing from the Italian Renaissance, the Northern Renaissance focusses on the life of peasant rather than the wealthy. We may underestimate any art from 15th to 16th century’s if it is not from the Italian Renaissance, but, I think that this piece is actually better than some paintings from the Italian Renaissance.

Interpretation
As mentioned above, Northern Renaissance art focussed on the life of the peasants instead of the wealthy religious figures, merchants and leaders. This art shows that there were many people doing ordinary jobs and just living their daily life. This art is special because it shows you what you would normally see if you looked outside your window if were to live during the Renaissance. Brueghel didn’t make any single person stand out in his painting, excellently portraying how serfs were all equal and they all worked together. He used perspective a little with how the small village slowly vanishes into the distance with the winding dirt road. This painting definitely captures the spirit of the Northern Renaissance because it describes how life would be for peasants at this time. Although, it doesn’t really resemble the Italian Renaissance because it only focuses on peasants, not wealthy families. The Kermesse of St George by Pieter Brueghel best illustrates life during the Northern Renaissance and is still an outstandingly detailed piece.

Architecture: Brunelleschi Dome

Background
Filippo Brunelleschi was a famous architect/engineer during the Italian Renaissance. He was most creditable for his design of the worlds first large scale concrete dome standing at 125 feet tall and wide. The dome is still around today and is part of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower (Florence Cathedral). Brunelleschi won the spot of constructing and completing the last part of the Cathedral, by competing in a sponsored competition by the Arte della Lana (wool merchants guild), in just one year, started by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. Brunelleschi’s Dome is considered “Renaissance’s Main Building Enterprise,” by Italyguides.it (a sightneing guide for Florence).

Interpretation
This concrete Dome is not only large, but it is also magnificent. Being the only one of its kind at the time, the reddish-brown roof stands out over the city of Florence with its huge lantern on top standing at 375 feet. Once thought impossible by the Greeks and Romans, Brunelleschi’s dome stands tall. Brunelleschi’s dome resembled his personality – thinking nothing was impossible, building the first self supporting concrete dome, and his fearlessness to try something never thought possible. Capturing the Renaissance’s spirit, the Florence Cathedral’s Dome shows how powerful Italy thought they were at the time, making something that was thought impossible and at such an incredible size. Also the dome was a new round idea about architecture and was not like the straight gothic architecture built during the Middle Ages. Brunelleschi’s Dome was a magnificent construction, but also an amazing piece of art, making it a very important piece to the Renaissance, but also to history.

Raphael: School of Athens

Background
Another piece by Raphael, and arguably his most famous, School of Athens, was painted between 1509 and 1511. School of Athens showcases Raphael’s painting techniques because of its perfection and beauty. With all of these people in a huge white room, Raphael really brings out the elaborate colors and details of the people. Being one of his pieces created later in his life, he really pulled together all of his techniques learned from teaching, painting previous pieces and being a student of Perugino. Along with this stunning painting, Raphael intentionally places people in specific locations in the painting.

Interpretation
Taking Raphael four total years to complete, this incredible piece it has many interesting details and symbols. For example, there are two people intentionally placed in the middle/vanishing point of this painting, Aristotle on the Right and Plato on the left. These were two very important philosophers during Ancient Greece times. Since Raphael was very intrigued by these two he put them in the dead center and himself below them, showing how selfless of person he was. Not only did this piece show philosophers it also included many important mathematicians and scientists like Pythagoras (hence Pythagorean Theorem). Raphael used many techniques in his painting like vanishing point and perspective. He used perspective with the gradually fading magnificent building in the background and also with the many people. If you didn’t notice, the people in the front are slightly larger than the many behind them. Raphael’s piece captures the spirit of the Renaissance because it focuses on many “critical thinkers” which were very important during the Renaissance, right after the Black Plague, but also to us today. These people dedicated their lives and professions to figuring out never imagined ideas about the human body, art, math and science. If it were not for them, we would definitely not know as much about technology, medicine, math, science and the human body as we do today. Raphael’s School of Athens was his best piece and my personal favorite of the Renaissance.

Raphael: Mond Crucifixion

Background
As discussed above, Raphael was primarily a painter and was known for his elegant and perfect work. Unlike the other two artists making up the big three, he only painted, but he still produced many beautiful paintings, maybe even better than the others. He even created his own art school to inform and inspire miners about art (specifically painting). You may already know that he is famous for his madonnas, but he also made some other very unique and amazing artwork. Between 1502 and 1503, Raphael painted a religious piece called the Mond Crucifixion. It is believed that Raphael was inspired by his teacher, Perugino when paint this piece.

Interpretation
Raphael created a great interpretation of life right after Jesus’s crucifixion in this painting. The Mond Crucifixion was a picture portraying what Jesus and some other spectators looked like after he was crucified. Underneath Jesus, nailed to the cross, are four people including Mary Magdalene, John the Evangelist, Mary, Jesus’s mother, and St. Jerome. Also there are two angels holding chalices catching Jesus’s Blood (Catholics, at Mass, drink “Jesus’s blood,” really blessed wine). With the vibrant colors standing out from the detailed, proportionalized background and flawless lines of Jesus’s cross, you can see why Raphael is known for his perfection and the gracefulness in his art work. Lastly, unlike the Middle Ages or Roman times, all of the faces in this painting are different, and have specific details, rather than them all being the same. All in all the Mond Crucifixion definitely portrays Raphael’s artistic traits and personality with his impeccable work.

Raphael: Madonna of the Meadow

Background
Raphael was the final artist of the big three. Raphael was not multitalented like the other two artists from the big three. He was mostly known for his gracefulness and perfection in his work. Raphael may have not had many talents, but he sure could paint beautiful pictures. He even shared his talents through his own school. He is most remembered for painting his madonnas, and one of his most famous was the Madonna of the Meadow (1505-1506).

Interpretation
Raphael may have only worked on this madonna for a year, compared Leonardo and Michelangelo who worked on their paintings for four years, but it has very specific details and is still very gorgeous. This painting is Raphael’s interpretation of Jesus as a young child, just learning how to walk, as his mother, Mary, supports him. Jesus is trying to stand while John, also known as St. John the Baptist, is kneeling at Jesus’s feet. Since Jesus is standing over John, this could mean, in the future, John would worship Jesus and his teachings. In addition to the symbolism in this piece, there are many artistic techniques used. For example the color selection. Raphael intentionally chose bright colors for Mary’s dress so that both the baby’s pale skin and Mary’s pale skin would jump out. As for many of the pieces in the Renaissance they are religion based, like the Madonna of the Meadow, which captures the spirit of the Renaissance. But this madonna does not only show Jesus and his mom, it also shows the future baptist of Jesus. Furthermore, Raphael’s Madonna of the Meadow is not only a terrific piece, but it also captures the spirit of the Renaissance and the Catholic religion.

Leonardo da Vinci: Last Supper

 

Background

As explained above, not only was Leonardo an artist, he was also a scientist, and a sculptor. Producing only two major pieces of artwork, the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci is still considered part of the big three. Leonardo even created new techniques in art work with his most famous being the idea of perspective which was really visible in Last Supper. He started the Last Supper in 1494 and finished in 1498 as a patron for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan.

 

Interpretation

The Last Supper was a reading from the Bible. In this reading, Jesus tells his twelve apostles that he will be crucified the next day. Leonardo’s painting perfectly portrays the surprised and overwhelmed reaction by the apostles and relaxed manner with which Jesus shared this news. Leonardo created the idea of perspective and vanishing point in this painting by having Jesus as the vanishing point, making him the center of attention, and by having the room slowly fade away in the background, which was a technique never used during the Middle Ages, Ancient Greek or Ancient Rome. Leonardo also made Jesus the center of attention by having him stand alone, while the rest of the apostles are in groups of three or six on each side of him. The Last Supper captures the spirit of the Renaissance because it was a painting based off of a biblical story. Since the Renaissance was a very religious time, especially to the Christians, this verse/painting is important to the Italian Renaissance. Also, the painting gave birth to a whole new idea called perspective, which is still used today. Leonardo may have been a scientist but he did produce two great masterpieces that still are adored today.

Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa

Background

Leonardo da Vinci was another one of the big three. He was a great example of a “Renaissance man” meaning he did almost everything. For example he was a painter, scientist, and sculptor. In addition, he was the first person to understand the blood circulation of the body. He also kept an interesting yet complicated journal. Da Vinci’s journal was written left to right and had many ideas/inventions in it that are used today. Because of the lack of technology at the time his inventions couldn’t be realized, but you can see sketches for things like helicopter and airplanes hundreds of years before their time. As an artist, da Vinci created many new techniques that are still used today. Despite being a inventor before his time, he was famous for making interesting pieces like the Mona LIsa (1503-1506). The Mona Lisa is a very interesting due to its unique features. She is most well known for her “half smile,” and her eyes tend to follow you wherever you go.

Interpretation

Along with the creepy smile and eyes, another interesting thing about her is that she was first thought to resemble Leonardo himself, but after the discovery of a single note, it cleared up things a little. Now people say that the painting is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, patron for da Vinci. Along with being interesting, this piece has many artistic techniques. One, the face is very close to the vanishing point. Another, he makes the pale face stick out by adding vibrant colors more in the background. Unlike the middle ages, the Mona Lisa has many vibrant colors and has many specific details. The details are visible in the background and also in the face itself, bringing out the spirit of the Renaissance in Leonardo da Vinci’s work. As being the most recognizable face in the world, the Mona Lisa is definitely one of the best pieces from the Renaissance, even if it does not involve religion.