For fans of Italian Renaissance Art, we have compiled a list of famous Renaissance paintings that shows the dynamics of Renaissance Art. If you are traveling to Washington, D.C. and choose to spend some time at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. here is a short list that features some of the most prolific Renaissance Period artworks that are currently on view at the art Museum.
1. Ginevra de' Benci
This portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci was commissioned around the time of her marriage when she was 16 years old. She was the daughter of a wealthy banker. Leonardo da Vinci painted her portrait while he was in the Americas when he was about 22 years old. A few key features in this portrait include Leonardo’s skill in rendering naturalism, use of an open space rather than the conventional sheltered setting that women were normally painted in, and his choice to feature Ginevra in a three–quarter pose, which is one of the first in Italian portraiture
2. Madonna and Child with Saints Andrew, Benedict, Bernard, and Catherine of Alexandria with Angels
This elegantly painted triptych was created by Agnolo Gaddi, who was one of Florence’s most coveted artists during the late 1300s. Scholars believe it may have been commissioned for the church of San Miniato by the wealthy Florentine family of Benedetto di Nerozzo Alberti. The depictions of Saints Andrew, Benedict, Bernard, and Catherine of Alexandria contain iconography that relates to their sainthood and hold religious significance that was special to the Alberti family.
3. David with the Head of Goliath
While most shields from this period depict the coat of arms, this unique shield is painted with David standing over the head of Goliath after defeating him in battle. However, it was only used for display purposes rather than in battle. Castagno’s David is rendered as a young athlete, accentuating the Biblical hero’s musculature and veins in the arms and legs. He also displays David in an active pose with a running stance with his garments blowing in the wind. David was a significant figure to 15th century Florence because the city related to David competing with Goliath-like political figures such as the Pope, the Duke of Milan, the King of Naples, and the Doge of Venice
4. Giuliano de' Medici
This portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici is one of several that were commissioned after his murder on April 26, 1478. This specific portrait may have been the prototype for later portraits painted of Giuliano. The open window and mourning dove were common symbols of death during the Renaissance and represent the journey that the soul takes to get to the afterlife.
5. Vincenzo Cappello
Vincenzo Cappello was a highly revered Venetian naval commander who was knighted by Henry VII of England, nominated as ambassador to the papal court, and served as procurator of San Marco (the second-highest lifetime appointment in the Republic). Titian painted Cappello in full armor holding a baton to demonstrate the authority and status as a revered military leader. Cappello’s reputation as a military commander led to many of his portraits painted during his lifetime and after his death in 1541.
6. A Concert
A Concert is considered Cariani’s greatest masterpiece. The painting shows a lute player accurately strumming a six-stringed lute with two companions shown half-length behind a ledge. The musical instruments, the costumes, and the fur-lined cloaks are rendered with close attention to texture and detail. It is believed that all these figures are portraits because of their individualized features. The lute player is the central figure, with the tutor holding the book on the left and the young nobleman/pupil on the right being less of a focus.
7. Four Seasons in One Head
Giuseppe Arcimboldo is well known for his strange but unique composite head paintings. The head combines plants, animals, and other objects that signify the four seasons and the four elements (air, fire, earth, and water). The flowers and fruit (apples, plums, grapes, and cherries) in the Four Seasons are similar to other nature motifs used in other artworks by Arcimboldo. The painting utilizes a more engaged three-quarter view with a much darker and gloomy mood than his other works
8. The Lute Player
Orazio worked with a team of artists decorating the Vatican Library in 1588-1589. Throughout the 1590s, he dominated Roman artistic production of the period. Orazio’s most prominent student was his daughter Artemisia, who established a successful independent career in Florence, Rome, and later in Naples. [Unfortunately, the National Gallery of Art does not have Artemisia work]
9. Saint John in the Desert
Domenico Veneziano art shows a rediscovery of the classical art forms. This is the lower panel of an altarpiece that he painted about 1445 for the Church of Santa Lucia dei Magnoli, in Florence. Because this is not the main portrait, he was able to experiment, and the result is his saint is one of the earliest embodiments of the Renaissance preoccupation with antique models. However, a fusion of pagan and Christian ideas is suggested; the Grecian type is transformed into a religious being by the golden halo above his head.
10. Madonna and Child in a Garden
Cosmè Tura is considered the first great painter in Renaissance Ferrara, a city in northern Italy. He spent most of his professional life in the service of the dukes of Ferrara. Where he was free to develop a very personal style. Cosmè showed an eccentric tendency to exaggerate human anatomy for expressive ends, as seen in the treatment of the Virgin’s elongated hands. Purposeful distortions increase in his later works, which reverberate with spiritual and emotional fervor.
There is a lot going on in this painting so let’s unpack it. The setting for this work is the garden of Eden. The top scrolls are showing an Annunciation scene. Sleep was regarding as “the brother of death,” and representations of the sleeping Christ Child is a symbol of how he would suffer for mankind. Mary is seated on a sarcophagus to strengthen the message of Christ’s suffering.