Artists of the Early Renaissance (some listed with respect to their primary region of work)...
During the Early Renaissance, it was Florence that proved to be the center for artists. Patronage derived primarily from the wealthy Medici family, but also extended from the rising prominence gained by the middle class merchants.

NOTE: For an alternate document (PDF) containing high quality images for CH19, click the following document: PDF of all CH19 images

SETTING THE SCENE (key events, figures, historical backdrop)

Italy (geographical position / trade routes)
charlemange_empire divided among sons.png
mediter trade routes_early renaissance.png
  • Explain the prominence held by Italy by being located in the very epicenter of the Mediterranean region (in-the-way--so to speak--of the East)?

Sub-divisions / regions within Italy [Geo-political substructure of Italy]
  • Explain the geographical sub-structure of “Italy” as a region (duchies, republics, papal state, etc.)
  • Which “centers” established themselves as a maritime power?
  • How did the interior centers differ form the ports?
  • Are you able to list the major centers and a few items through which they were unique / notable?

Bubonic Plague
  • What effect(s) did this have on the art world?
  • Did the plague hit just once or did it come in waves?
  • Where did it hit hardest?
  • Provide some statistics as they relate to the population of Europe and the plague.
  • What other information can we gather from examining the “path” taken by the plague?
  • What effect did they plague have on commerce (goods, production, & the working class)?

  • History Teachers (remix) - Black Death (Hollaback Girl, Gwen Stefani) - video link
  • Check out a self-made video animation about the "Plague" - video link

Great Schism (Avignon Papacy)
  • Explain what this event entailed.
  • What is meant by the “Avignon Papacy”?
  • Explain who was involved in the Great Schism.
  • Who finally resolved the Great Schism?
  • During the time of the “schism”, what thrived (rose to prominence) within the religious Italian “community”?

Important figures
Screen shot 2012-11-29 at 4.12.57 PM.png
  • Boccaccio
  • Petrartch
  • Dante (Divine Comedy—Trilogy, choice for writing in vernacular / Italian language, his concept of heaven and hell vs. that of the Bible, humanist banned from Florence, concept of Papacy and later “realizations”)
  • Vasari

Being an artist at this time

1. Names of artists
  • Explain how individuals were identified during this time.
  • Were there nicknames during this time as well? Explain.
2. Guilds
  • What is a guild?
  • What benefit(s) would artists gain by establishing themselves as a member of a guild?
3. Patronage
  • Define the term “patron”. Explain the nature of patronage during the Early Renaissance.
4. Training
  • Describe / outline the process (& approx. time periods) through which an artist would learn their craft.

Florence – the extreme importance of this Republic
  • Explain its importance during this time.
  • Who were the “big players” living in Florence during the eve of the Renaissance?
  • What made Florence so successful amidst the other Italian centers?

  • Kenny Mencher - Renaissance / Intro to Florence - link
  • Anatomy in the Renaissance (thematic essay, c/o Metmuseum / Heilbrunn Timeline) - link
  • Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Selection of sources relating to the Renaissance - link
  • The concept of the "Masterpiece" (c/o Fabreras) - link
  • Medieval Guilds and Craft Production (c/o Fabreras) - link
  • The Medici patronage of aspiring artists [@ 37:15 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)
  • Good discussion regarding "art commissions" referenced @ beginning of video until the 23:20 mark - video clip(Kenny Mencher - Transitions into Late Gothic to Proto Renaissance Art)

Attention students: you will be responsible for the following information, as it pertains to each of the works of art listed on this wiki (from here on through). I strongly advise you to devise a form of note-cards (separate from your notes) that can be used as a means for memorizing the information associated with each of the images. Please note the format / nomenclature that you should use...

Artist - Title of Work - Style - Date(s)

example: Nicola Pisano; Nativity; Gothic; 1250-60

TRANSITIONAL WORKS - Examination of the art bridging the old with the new (transitional art)


WORK 1: Nicola Pisano; Nativity (Baptistry Pulpit, Pisa Cathedral); Gothic; 1259-60
Nativity (panel from pulpit)


Annunciation (Giovanni Pisano / from another pulpit)

  • Compare / contrast the work of Nicola Pisano with Giovanni Pisano. If you had to connect each artist’s style with a previously studied work of art, which would you select? Why (explain your choice)?
    • How would you describe the work of Nicola Pisano (father)?
    • How would you describe the work of Giovanni Pisano (son)?
    • If you are "stuck" on this particular question, refer to the following page.
  • Examine Nicola Pisano's Nativity panel. What is the term used to describe the type of work which tells an entire story within one single frame?

  • Baptistry Pulpit referenced @ beginning of video until the 3:30 mark - video clip
    (Kenny Mencher - Iconography: Pisano, Martini, Duccio, Giotto and Lorenzetti)
  • Baptistry Pulpit referenced @ beginning of video >>> until the 11:30 mark - video clip
    (Kenny Mencher - Transitions into Late Gothic to Proto Renaissance Art)


WORK 2: Bonaventura Berlinghieri; Saint Francis Altarpiece; Proto-Renaissance; 1235
  • Who was St. Francis of Assisi?
  • Give a brief overview of his life / story, highlighting key events of his life and his convictions.
  • The church could have made him a martyr or considered him a heretic (due to his being a mystic). Instead, the church considered St. Francis to be one of the earliest “apostolic figures”. Explain what this means.
  • What does this work do to reinforce St. Francis’ character / individual?
  • How might this work help reinforce the role of religion during this time period?
  • What were the tenants held dear to the Franciscan order?
  • What is an altarpiece?
  • What word would you use to categorize / define this work? Make a two-column chart and list which characteristics of the work fall under the respective categories of “Medieval / Byzantine” and “Classical”.
  • The term "Maniera Greca" = Italio-what???
  • What term refers to the Catholic church’s acknowledgement of an individual as a “saint”?
  • What is a confraternity?
  • What are mendicant orders?

  • Saint Francis Altarpiece referenced @ beginning of video until the 6:30 mark - video clip
    (Kenny Mencher - Perspectives: Saint Francis, Cimabue and Giotto)

WORK 3: Cimabue; Madonna Enthroned; Proto-Renaissance; 1280-90
  • How did Cimabue break away from the Italo-Byzantine style? What was his pursuit?
  • Why is the lower portion of the composition (architectural framework) considered somewhat awkward or ambiguous?

REGIONS (of the Early Italian Renaissance)



WORK 4: Arena Chapel (AKA Capella Scrovegni); built by Enrico Scrovegni; 1305
arena chapel_pic of outside.jpg
  • Explain the background / history of this chapel. In your investigation, explain the translation of the word “arena” and how it relates to the title.
  • Who were the figures responsible for constructing this?
  • Define “usury” and explain how this relates to the Arena Chapel and those who commissioned it. Another word you may want to use in your explanation is that of “indulgences”.
  • Make a drawing / sketch of the chapel – noting the dimensions and cardinal points of the compass with respect to the building. Note the architectural elements of the building (windows, entrance, altar, etc.)

WORK 5: Giotto; Madonna Enthroned; Early Renaissance; ca. 1310
  • Compare / contrast Cimabue’s Madonna with Giotto’s Madonna.
  • Is Giotto's work an "advance"? Explain.

  • A good discussion relating to a c/c of the "Madonnas" painted by Cimabue & Giotto referenced @ the 11:32 mark - video clip
    (Kenny Mencher - Transitions into Late Gothic to Proto Renaissance Art)
  • Explanation of the term - "chairoscuro" referenced @ beginning of video until the 20:36 mark - video clip
    (Kenny Mencher - Transitions into Late Gothic to Proto Renaissance Art)

WORK 6: Giotto's frescoes in the Arena Chapel; Early Renaissance; ca. 1305
  • Make another drawing / sketch of the chapel – this time of the interior structure.
  • Label the “programs” [basic narrative topics] according to the building’s design.
  • Explain how a fresco painting works. In your explanation, the following words should be used. In addition, make a visual cross-sectional diagram that illustrates the layers of a fresco wall and label the following parts:
    • stone / brick wall
    • plaster (arriccio)
    • sinopia
    • plaster (intonaco)
    • secco fresco (or just plain “secco”)
    • buon fresco
  • Define the word “giornota”. Explain the Italian translation of the word and the connection to the world of art, namely the fresco technique.
  • Explain why the blue color that surrounds the figures in Giotto’s frescoes appears “scratched”, as though it has been eroding from the wall.
  • Many art historians have likened Giotto’s work the chapel to a “big comic strip”. What do you think about the merit of this statement / connection?

Examine the Entry into Jerusalem (scene)...
[L: Giotto's Entry into Jerusalem; R: Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus]
  • What does this have in common with the previously examined Sarcophagus with Junius Bassus?
  • Do you see any humor present in Giotto's depiction of this event?
  • What is meant by the term "typology" or a "typological exogesis"?

Examine Giotto's Lamentation (scene).
  • How / where does Giotto employ foreshortening in this painting?
  • How does Giotto involve your (the viewer) participation in this scene?
  • Typology: How does the concept of "typology" relate to this depiction? Hint: look at the figure of Mary Magdalene. Furthermore, there is a representation to the left and to the right of this scene (as it exists in context on the wall). What might each of these scenes (figures) have to do with the ideology of the Lamentation scene?

Arena Chapel: Wall when facing WEST
  • Examine the west wall fresco of the Arena Chapel. Explain the name / title given to the overall scene.
  • Recall and list any work from the Romanesque style that may have influenced this scene?
  • How does this work relate to / differ from that of the Romanesque era?
  • [overlap-like a ballgame; halos in high relief; presence of mandorla still exists]
  • It is said that Dante’s "hand-prints" are all over this work. Explain. You will need to dig into Dante’s Divine Comedy – to understand how he structures his (heaven, purgatory, hell) and how he chooses to populate each layer. Which classical author did Dante choose to include as a major figure in his trilogy? Provide a few statements that summarize Dante’s overall sentiment towards earthly existence and the fate that awaits us when we die. Interesting to note is the fact that missing from the Arena Chapel's "vices and virtues" program is one of the deadly sins written extensively about in Dante's Inferno. Can you discover which sin has been omitted? Do you think this may have been purposeful? Why or why not?

Linear perspective
Screen shot 2012-11-28 at 12.03.05 PM.png
  • Linear perspective is a system employed by artists to visually manipulate the optical recession of objects within a flat, 2D space. This illusionary device proved revolutionary to the Italian Renaissance, but evolved slowly over time.
  • Create 2 diagrams – each illustrating one-point perspective & two-point perspective, with respect to a simple “box”. Label the following parts, as they relate to your illustration:
    • vanishing point(s)
    • horizon line
    • orthogonal line(s)
  • Explain the difference between the 2 methods (one-point vs. two-point).
  • When might you want to use one over another?
  • What determines the height of the “horizon line”? [hint: the horizon line is often referred to as one’s - level.]
  • What determines the location of a “vanishing point” in a one-point perspective method?
  • What happens to a given object (i.e. your box) when the “horizon line” is raised or lowered within the compositional framework?
  • What happens when the “vanishing point” is moved to the left or to the right?

Intuitive perspective
  • Examine the architecture within Giotto’s frescoes. Scholars refer to his use of perspective as being “intuitive”. What do you suppose this means?

Screen shot 2012-11-29 at 4.15.58 PM.png
  • Giotto's Arena Chapel - virtual tour - link
  • Giotto's Arena Chapel: detail views and history of the chapel - link
  • Kenny Mencher [referenced earlier] - Iconography: Pisano, Martini, Duccio, Giotto and Lorenzetti - video clip
  • Kenny Mencher - Linear Perspective [one- and two-point] - video clip
  • Kenny Mencher - Perspectives: Saint Francis, Cimabue and Giotto - video clip
  • Perspective (one-point, two-point, & "intuitive") referenced @ the 16:58 mark >> until the end - video clip
    (Kenny Mencher - Perspectives: Saint Francis, Cimabue and Giotto)
  • Kenny Mencher - Giotto, Dante and the Arena Chapel - video clip
  • Various paintings by artist Giotto - video clip
  • Giotto and the Arena Chapel (Smart History) - video clip
  • Giotto's Madonna (Smart History) - video clip
  • Giotto's Madonna (at the Uffizi Gallery) - link
  • Giotto's Madonna (c/o Google Art Project) - link
  • Explore Giotto's paintings (good detail views available) - link
  • What is fresco painting? - video clip
  • Presentation / slideshow on "Perspective and its uses in the Renaissance" (added 04/18/17) - link to file
  • Presentation / slideshow on "Perspective" (added 04/18/17) - link to file


WORK 7: Duccio; Maesta' Altarpiece; Early Renaissance; 1308-1311
Screen shot 2012-11-28 at 12.00.25 PM.png
[L: Maesta Altarpiece; R: The Arrest [from the reverse panel of altarpiece]

Click the above thumbnail to see various views, panels and details from the Maesta' Altarpiece

  • In the year 1260, The Sienese defeated the Florentines (Battle of Monteperti). To whom did they tribute this victory?
  • Review the contract for the commission of this work. What does this tell you about the new status artists maintained at this time?
  • What word would you use to describe the Maesta' Altarpiece's formal and symmetric composition?
  • List and describe four (4) ways in which Duccio succeeds in creating a sense of naturalism within the composition.
  • Explain how Duccio's use of "gold" in this work breaks from the Byzantine tradition.
  • Examine that Duccio's saints don a variety of shimmering, precious textiles as their garb. Explain the significance of this, in relation to the time / context.
  • Define the following vocabulary terms: altarpiece, polyptych, diptych, triptych, pinnacles, predella
  • Explain how the entire altarpiece would have looked, noting how the content (overall theme / message) relates to each individual area [front and back]; hint: Ministry, Passion, Resurrection (& appearance to his disciples).
  • How would this altarpiece have served the needs of Siena Cathedral? How would it have functioned?
  • Examine the Betrayal of Jesus (panel from the altarpiece's reverse side). How does this scene illustrate how Duccio succeeded in capturing a more humanized quality in relation to his characters?

  • Duccio's Maesta' (Smart History) - video clip
  • Kenny Mencher [referenced earlier] - Iconography: Pisano, Martini, Duccio, Giotto and Lorenzetti - video clip
    (Duccio's Maesta' Altarpiece referenced @ 17:08 >> until 21:00 mark of video)


WORK 8: Simone Martini; Annunciation; Early Renaissance [International Style]; 1333
  • Who was Simone Martini's teacher?
  • Make a list of adjectives and / or descriptive phrases that characterize this work.
  • It has been said that Martini worked in the International Style. Explain what this means.
  • When did the International Style sweep through Europe? To whom did it appeal? Why?
  • Explain the significance of the following symbols: olive wreath & sprig, vessel, white lilies
  • Mary rests on a "throne" / seat and demurely reacts to the presence of Gabriel. What was Mary doing, just prior to Gabriel's sudden arrival?
  • How does Martini (similar to Duccio) portray Mary as "Queen of the Heavens"?

  • Martini's Annunciation (Smart History) - video clip
  • Kenny Mencher [referenced earlier] - Iconography: Pisano, Martini, Duccio, Giotto and Lorenzetti - video clip
    (Simone Martini's Annunciation referenced @ 3:30 >> until 8:45 mark of video)

LORENZETTI BROTHERS (Pietro and Ambrogio)

Pietro Lorenzetti

WORK 9: Pietro Lorenzetti; Birth of the Virgin; Early Renaissance; 1342
  • Painted on three wooden panels, how would this painting best be described (the term)?
  • It has been said that Pietro, another student of Duccio, far succeeded his master with respect to "pictoral illusionism". Explain, with respect to this work, the veracity of statement.
  • Establish a connection to Nicola Pisano's Nativity panel. Furthermore, establish the connection to a work from Ancient Rome.
  • What is taking place in this scene? Explain why the context of this scene is rather unique.
  • Can you spot the "Renaissance waiting room"?
  • What might be the reason a Gothic ceiling is used to cap-off this rather intimate setting? How does the Gothic style connect with the Virgin Mary?
  • The two figures on the right-hand panel are carrying objects. List these objects and explain their significance.

  • Kenny Mencher [referenced earlier] - Iconography: Pisano, Martini, Duccio, Giotto and Lorenzetti - video clip
    (Pietro Lorenzetti's Birth of the Virgin referenced @ 21:00 >> until the end of video)

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

WORK 10: Palazzo Pubblico (exterior view)

The following images are contained within the interior of the Palazzo Publico...

WORK 11: Ambrogio Lorenzetti; Effects of Good Government: Peaceful City & Country; Early Renaissance; 1338-39
Effects of Good Government: Peaceful City

Effects of Good Government: Peaceful Country
  • Why is the work from inside the Palazzo Publico considered unique (with respect to the previous Sienese work just examined -- that of Duccio)?
  • How would you express the concern underlying the vast fresco program (as it relates to Siena)?
  • In Good Government (City), we can see a circle of dancing women. Dancers were regular features of springtime rituals, but what might this symbolize for Lorenzetti?
  • How then, in your opinion, does Ambrogio Lorenzetti view / conceive "good governance"? What might that "look like" to him?
  • In Good Government (Country), an allegorical figure hovers above the land. Who / what is the allegory here? Define the term "allegory".
  • What's unique about this landscape being depicted in the fresco?

WORK 12: Ambrogio Lorenzetti; Effects of Bad Government: City & Country; Early Renaissance; 1338-39
  • How does Ambrogio interpret a "bad government"?
  • What do historians attribute to the disappearance of the Lorenzetti brothers?




WORK 13: Francesco Traini; Triumph of Death; Early Renaissance; 1330s
  • This fresco was done for the Camposanto (Pisa) - painted on the wall of this place. What does the word "camposanto" mean?
  • What is the function of the Camposanto (consider the context of the building)?
  • Describe the scale of this entire work.
  • Who weighed-in (participated) in the design of this fresco program? Explain the effect this may have had on the subject matter?
  • Being a "cautionary tale" of sorts, about what is this fresco warning viewers? At which "type" of viewer might the fresco be aimed specifically?
  • Who is the hermit in the detail view of this fresco?
  • If someone asked you to explain why this work was labeled "Renaissance", how would you respond?

  • For a collection of images relating to Pisa's Camposannto fresco cycle, visit the following page - here
  • Fresco, The Triumph of Death - web link


This section represents the art, from Florence, that is TRUE RENAISSANCE. No longer are we discussing quasi-, proto-, pseudo-Renaissance pieces of art. We are now in full-bloom; Florence has given birth and is now the proud parent of the glorious child we refer to as the Renaissance.

The Renaissance = a "fortunate confluence" of three things:
  1. artistic genius
  2. spread of humanism
  3. economic prosperity

QUESTIONS (related to above):

Item 1
    • How would you explain the notion of "artistic genius"?
    • Explain the manner in which artists were regarded prior to- and throughout the Renaissance (by the society in which they lived)?

Item 2
    • Can you list / explain any points relating to the manner in which humanism was spread throughout the greater Italian peninsula?

Item 3
    • What changes occurred with respect to the economic situation in the Italian peninsula (as well as the greater European context)?
    • Which areas in within the Italian peninsula were exceedingly prosperous (and for what reasons)?

Humanism (What are the impacts of the following? How do the following points relate to the cause / spirit of humanism?)
  1. man's quest for knowledge
  2. establishment of a commonly-spoken dialect (Tuscan)
  3. invention of movable type
  4. concept of the "Renaissance man"
    • observation
    • rational
    • scientific
    • procedural
  5. encouragement of individual improvements (rewarded with honor & fame)

QUESTIONS (related to above):
Item 1
    • In particular, what type of knowledge was sought (the source) by the Renaissance humanists?
Item 2
    • What impact did the establishment of a commonly-spoken tongue have on writers, poets?
Item 3
    • What is "movable type"? When and where was it invented?
    • Explain the impact of this new invention on civilizations. Is this remarkable - why / why not?
Item 4
    • What is meant by the term "Renaissance man"?
    • Consider how the words (listed underneath the term) differ from the philosophy that permeated the preceding Middle Ages.
Item 5
    • How were "individual improvements" (those made in the interest of oneself) viewed, in the context of the Middle Ages?
    • During the Early Renaissance, such "individual improvements" were not only encouraged, but rewarded. Explain how were such efforts rewarded?

What impact (developments) did these humanistic values have (cause) on the art scene?
  1. linear perspective
  2. concern for exactitude
  3. oil paint (a refined development)
  4. patrons

QUESTIONS (related to above):
Item 1
    • In what way did "linear perspective" serve as a reflection of the humanist spirit of the Renaissance?
Item 2
    • Explain your thoughts for "Item 2" - in terms of why "exactitude" in art was now sought and highly desired among both artists and patrons at this time.
    • In what ways does "exactitude" relate to the art of the Renaissance? Provide some examples to support your statement.
Item 3
    • How did the newly-developments in the medium of "oil paint" underscore the desires of the artists and patrons?
Item 4
    • Describe the type of patronage present during the Early Renaissance (15th Century).
    • State how these patrons differed from those of preceding generations. Then, explain how these differences influenced the manner in which these Italian Renaissance artists worked.

  • Website providing background for the video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS) - link
  • Video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS) - video link


WORK 14: Lorenzo Ghiberti; Sacrifice of Isaac (panel from the "Baptistry Door Competition"); Early Renaissance; 1401-02
Ghiberti's panel

WORK 15: Filippo Brunelleschi; Sacrifice of Isaac (panel from the "Baptistry Door Competition"); Early Renaissance; 1401-02
Brunelleschi's panel

  • Who sponsored the competition?
  • When did this competition occur?
  • Explain the concept of a “baptism”. Furthermore, explain the function / role of a building designated for such – a “baptistery”.
  • We know that the intended placement of these doors was the east side of the baptistery building. Why would this be an important factor in making this a rather prestigious competition – one worthy of securing an aspiring artist’s fame at the time?
  • The Gardner text explains that this competition embodies two traits that would eventually become hallmarks of mature Renaissance art. List these.
  • Who had (between 1330-1335) designed the south doors of the Baptistery?
  • Explain the requirements of each entrant for this particular competition (1401)?
  • Summarize, in your words, the story of Abraham and Isaac.
  • Explain the connection that this Old Testament story has with the New Testament - Crucifixion / Christ.
  • What is a covenant? How does this term play into the previous question (OT & NT stories)?
  • How does the term “redemption” factor into these two stories? Furthermore, how does the act of baptism (or elements therein) relate to redemption?
  • List and explain any contemporary events that may have played into the decision to use the story of Abraham and Isaac as the theme for the competition.
  • How many semifinalists were selected by the jury for this commission / competition?
  • Of these semifinalists, how many have survived to this day? List the names of the artists.
  • Define the word “quatrefoil”.
  • Examine Brunelleschi’s depiction of the story (his solution to the competition). How might you describe his solution? To whom (previous artist) might you compare his treatment of the subject matter?
  • Examine Ghiberti’s depiction of the story (his solution to the competition). How might you describe his solution?
  • How many castings (pieces of metal) did Brunelleschi and Ghiberti employ for each of their panels, respectively? How might the number of castings per panel factor into the “success” of an artist (in other words – do you think it matters, either way; if so, why)?
  • Explain how each artist chose to represent the figure of Isaac within their compositions. Which choice do you feel works best? Why?
  • What is unique about Ghiberti’s depiction of Isaac in his panel? Why does the text direct readers to reference the connection in the Hellenistic statue of the Dying Gaul with respect to the figure of Isaac?
  • Explain the manner in which Ghiberti represented the altar upon which Isaac was to be sacrificed. What is the influence present here? What significance does this have on our understanding of the time?
  • Describe Ghiberti’s training prior to this competition; How might this have played into the success of this competition?
  • Who was the younger of the two artists?
  • Read Ghiberti’s description of the award (see text). What does this tell you about the artist, the time?
  • Which artist do you feel told the story better?
  • Of the statements / descriptions below, which would you place with respect to each artist’s work?
    • Dramatic action / emotionalism
    • Gracefully posed figures
    • Planar views / orientation
    • Foreshortened views / orientation
    • Turning and torquing of figures (classicism)

  • Ghiberti & Brunelleschi - Florence's "Baptistry Door Competition" (Smart History) - video clip
  • Kenny Mencher - Ghiberti and the Gates of Paradise of Florence Cathedral - video clip
    [Discussion of the original competition, Ghiberti's Doors and references to Masaccio]
  • Article on Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise (in relation to a special traveling exhibition) - link to article
  • Visit the Baptistry of Florence - link


WORK 16: Donatello; Saint Mark; Early Renaissance; ca. 1411-13
(sculpture from Or San Michele)
  • Who commissioned this work?
  • The text states that Donatello employed "Greco-Roman principles" in his depiction of saint mark. Elaborate and support this statement with an example.
  • How do you think that Donatello accounted for the nature of this particular patron? In other words, are there any characteristics reflected in the work which pay respect to the patron's area of expertise / genre?
  • How does this figure differ from previous examples of clothed human figures (namely those made during the Middle Ages)? Consider the following points:

    1. underlying anatomy of human body
    2. drapery / clothes
    3. the figures' relationship to the architectural context

WORK 17: Donatello; The Feast of Herod (1423-27)
(panel from baptismal font / Siena Cathedral)
  • What are the terms used to describe high-, middle- and low-relief in a "relief sculpture"?
  • Read the story being depicted in this panel.
  • What is the specific scene unraveling in the foreground of this composition?
  • Explain how Donatello handles the composition, in relation to the underlying energy and tension of the story.
  • What is the term we use to describe this type of story -- one in which several events / episodes take place within the same composition?

  • Kenny Mencher - Donatello's David and The Feast of Herod - video clip

WORK 18: Ghiberti; Gates of Paradise; 1425-52
(east doors of Florence's Baptistry)
  • Why is this referred to as the "Gates of Paradise"? Why was this work given this name?

WORK 19: Ghiberti; Isaac and His Sons;1425-52
(panel from his Gates of Paradise - east doors of Florence's Baptistry)
  • Being the winner of the competition, Ghiberti's was charged with the honor / task of executing a number of panels for the door on the East side of Florence's baptistery. So, why then does this piece - which states that this is the east set of doors - look much different than those quatrefoil-framed competition panels originally crafted / proposed from Brunelleschi and Ghiberti? Explain.
  • How does the scene here relate to "painting techniques" (as proposed by the textbook)?
  • How has Ghiberti achieved a greater sense of depth in this relief panel?

  • Kenny Mencher - Ghiberti and the Gates of Paradise of Florence Cathedral - video clip
    [Discussion of the original competition, Ghiberti's Doors and references to Masaccio]


WORK 20: Donatello; David; ca. 1440-1460 (when actually cast)
  • The application of linear perspective systems to relief sculpture was one of the classical principles revived by Donatello at this time. What is the other big revival, case-in-point, his David sculpture?
  • Describe what "first" Donatello's David represents.
  • Who was the patron for this commission? Where was the intended context for this work?
  • Review the Biblical story of "David and Goliath" (from the OT). Despite the religious subject matter, why might the clergy of the Middle Ages have regarded Donatello's version of the figure problematic?
  • How does the OT figure of David relate to the Florentines?
  • Donatello had created an earlier version of this mighty OT warrior for the Palazzo della Signoria (Florence's town hall). Explain the significance this work had for Florence, in relation to the time in which it was produced (consider what was happening to Florence at the time / context).
  • Now them, what would you surmise (what conclusion might you draw) as to the Medici's decision to choose this very figure for their later commission?
  • How many interpretations (lenses) can be applied to this particular work from the hand of Donatello?
  • Perform some Google searches in order to acquire a multitude of high quality images of this statue's many angles of view.
  • In a journal or blank piece of scratch paper, make three columns - each with the following headings (see below). Under each of these headings, jot down information that corresponds to your examination of this work (from as many angles as possible).
    • artistic terminology / vocab
    • objects seen
    • adjectives
  • View the video clip (below) on the lost-wax casting process, in order to achieve an better understanding of how the work was constructed.
  • The David sculptures form Donatello & Michelangelo - video clip
  • Donatello's David (Smart History) - video clip
  • The lost-wax casting process - video clip
  • Cosimo de Medici's relationship w/ Donatello [@ 42:52 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)


WORK 21: Verrocchio; David; ca. 1465-70

  • Lorenzo de Medici (the Magnificent) & Verocchio's studio / Leonardo [@ 32:00 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)


WORK 22: Donatello; Gattamelata; ca. 1411-13
  • The text states that the Gattamelata was the first monument to rival the grandeur of the mounted portraits of antiquity. What work, most likely, may have served as the standard or inspiration from which this work was designed?
  • Explain the setting of this work, in relation to the surrounding context (architecture, etc.).


WORK 23: Masaccio; Tribute Money Trinity; 1424-27
(fresco / the Brancacci Chapel – Florence)
NOTE: For more, alternate images related to the Tribute Money, visit this page.

  • Locate and read through the passage found in the NT (Matthew 17:24-27).
  • Summarize, in your own words, the story.
  • Examine how Masaccio has chosen to represent the story. How would you explain this in words?
  • Who commissioned the work? Where was the work painted?
  • The textbook states the uncertainty surrounding the reason why the patron chose this particular story (a rather obscure one) for Masaccio. What might be the underlying reason / motivation behind this choice?
  • Who would have been privy to viewing this work (given its context / placement)?
  • Explain how Masaccio has employed "light & shadow" in this composition. In other words, how does it function - in terms of how viewers read the painting?
  • Describe the manner in which Masaccio's figures are created. Consider Vasari's statement: "[T]he works made before his [Masaccio's] day can be said to be painted, while his are living, real, and natural".
  • Analyze the manner in which Masaccio has organized his figures (their placement, in relation to the overall compositional framework). Are you able to see an underlying structure? Explain.
  • Can you locate the "vanishing point"? How did you do this? Where is it located?
  • Besides employing the system of "linear perspective", what other method / system has Masaccio employed, in order to create a believable recession of three-dimensional space in his composition?

WORK 24: Masaccio; The Holy Trinity; Renaissance; 1424-27
NOTE: For more, alternate images related to the Holy Trinity, visit this page.

  • Download and print a black-and-white copy of this image. Use a ruler to extend the orthogonal angles of the architecture. The intersection of these orthogonal lines will reveal the location of the vanishing point. Where does the vanishing point exist?
  • Why is this called "The Holy Trinity"? Explain the basic concept of the Trinity, as it relates to Christianity. How has Masaccio treated each aspect of the Trinity in this fresco?
  • Who are the two individuals flanking the base of the scene (outermost edges of the composition)?
  • Identify the lady standing to our left of the cross; Identify the individual standing to the right of the cross.
  • Do you recognize any classical architectural elements within this composition? Can you list at least four (4) of these? What significance might Masaccio's decision to imbue this scene with such classicism have on the success and power of this work's reception in its day?
  • The scene is comprised, essentially, of two rectangles -- one standing vertically (taking up three-quarters of the upper composition); the other located horizontally (taking up one-quarter of the lower composition). What is unique about the way in which Masaccio's use of perspective connects to the viewer of this scene? Masaccio understood how individuals standing in this church would view this (their vantage point / eye level); Explain this significance.
  • How does Masaccio handle color? What does his meticulous use of color create in this composition?
  • On your printed version of this image, locate and draw any inherent, implied triangles (connect the dots). There is one triangle which is of special note, as it does something to expand the notion of depth relation to a viewer's perspective. Can you find this?
  • The lower quarter of the composition contains a painted crypt (grave). What does the inclusion of this crypt do, in terms of the artistic notion of "space"? If this question is unclear, try drawing what this entire composition might look like from a perpendicular angle (90 degrees, a side view).
  • What can be found lying atop the crypt? An inscription can be found running along a placard above. What does this say (translate) and in what language is it written? Explain the meaning of this inscription and the implied function of its presence within this overall composition. That said, how would you compare / contrast (or simply relate) this scene to that of Giselbertus' Last Judgment (West Tympanum / Autun Cathedral, St. Lazarus)?

  • Masaccio's Holy Trinity (c/o Art Babble - link through Youtube) - video clip
  • Masaccio (Web Gallery of Art) biography and links to his work - link
  • Masaccio's Holy Trinity (c/o Art Babble) - video clip
    [Same link as above, just through another site]
  • Kennny Mencher - Linear Perspective in the Work of Masaccio and Mantegna - video clip
  • A good analysis of Masaccio's Holy Trinity (Smart History) - video clip
  • A good analysis of Masaccio's Tribute Money (Smart History) - video clip


WORK 25: Fra Angelico; Annunciation; 1424-27
(fresco / San Marco – Florence)

  • Who was Fra Angelico? What is the story behind his interesting name?
  • Who commissioned this work?
  • Explain the setting of this work, in relation to the surrounding context (architecture, etc.). In other words, where would one find this work, in the context of San Marco? Why might this be significant?
  • How does the nature of the patronage reflect in the manner in which Fra Angelico executed the common scene of the "Annunciation"?
  • What does the inscription state (found in the lower portion of the composition)? Therefore, if you had to choose "one word" to describe this work's function, what would it be?


WORK 26: Fra Filippo Lippi; Madonna and Child with Angels; ca. 1455

  • The Medici's tolerance of artists >> namely the "wayward monk" - Filippo Lippi [@ 39:40 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)


WORK 27: Ghirlandaio; Birth of the Virgin; 1424-27
(fresco / Santa Maria Novella – Florence)
  • Who commissioned this work? Explain the nature of the overall commission.
  • You could find this in the context of Santa Maria Novella (Florence). What two figures were held in high esteem, within the context of this church?
  • What's taking place in this scene?
  • Who is the first young lady seen in this painting - the individual leading the procession of women?
  • The text states this work epitomizes the achievements of 15th-century Florentine painting. Make a list of the reasons supporting this assertion.
  • Are there any artistic traits of the "pre-Renaissance" or "Gothic" style that can be seen in this work (despite its exemplary status as a Renaissance tour-d-force)?


WORK 28: Uccello; Battle of San Romano; ca. 1455 (?)
  • In what artistic "style" was Ucello was trained?
  • Who commissioned this work?
  • Explain the overall nature of this commission (what is entailed, its context, etc.).
  • The text book labels this work as being "commemorative" in purpose. Exactly what does it commemorate?
  • What is the identity of the man riding the white horse (left / center of composition's foreground)? Why is he significant?
  • How is the Medici family acknowledged in this painting?
  • Uccello was obsessed with the new science of perspective (as were the humanists). How has he employed his perspectival system within this composition? In other words, how has Ucello organized masses and forms within the given framework - in effort to create a rational, believable sense of three-dimensional space (on a totally flat surface)?


WORK 29: Botticelli; Birth of Venus; ca. 1484-86
  • From whom did Botticelli gain his artistic training?
  • How does the use of "line" factor into the paintings of Botticelli?
  • Explain Botticelli's relationship with the Medici family.
  • Why does this painting warrant our attention, in terms of its significance?
  • Which Greek figure sculptor's work may have served as the model from which Botticelli's Venus was composed? Name the artist and title of the work.
  • The textbook alludes to the idea that Botticelli's work (both the Birth of Venus & La Primavera) paralleled a certain type of "event" which took place in Florence at this time. Explain what this is all about.
  • Words, such as: lyricism, courtliness, and visual poetry - are used to describe Botticelli's work. What other words or phrases might you add, in order to provide someone who has never seen his work with a complete "picture" of his style?

  • The Birth of Venus - video clip
  • The Birth of Venus (Smart History) - video clip
  • Large version of the Birth of Venus (c/o wikipedia commons) - link
  • Lorenzo de Medici & his connection with Botticelli [@ 16:45 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)
  • Botticelli's Birth of Venus [@ 34:45 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)
  • Savonarola & artistic cencorship [@ 36:00 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)

WORK 30: Brunelleschi; The Duomo (The Dome of Florence Cathedral); 1420-3

Diagram / cross-section of the dome
Exterior view / photo of Florence Cathedral

  • Explain the problem that Florence had regarding their cathedral, prior to Brunelleschi. Why might have this been humorously insulting to Florence (or at best, a cruel irony)? Be creative: Invent an contemporary analogy from this problem facing Florence.
  • How many feet needed to be spanned for the dome? Explain why this distance posed an architectural problem?
  • When did Brunelleschi begin working on the dome?
  • In the year 1420, what did the officials overseeing the project award?
  • What was unique about Brunelleschi's solution for the dome (list 4 things)?
  • View the video clips below for further insight into the genius of Brunelleschi. In addition, the PBS special Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance contains a decent section dealing with Brunelleschi and his innovations in perspective and the Dome (this can be accessed through Youtube).

  • A first-hand view of Florence Cathedral's Duomo (tourist-made video) - video link
  • Kenny Mencher - Brunelleschi and Florence Cathedral - video clip
  • Video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS) -
  • This is a link to Ross King's excellent book entitled Brunelleschi's Dome - link
  • Linear Perspective: Brunelleschi's Experiment (Smart History) - video clip
  • The Medici's powerful wealth & the need for a dome for Florence Cathedral - @9:00 mark >> video link & @26:00 mark >> video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)
  • Brunelleschi's invention of linear perspective [@ 41:42 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)
  • Brunelleschi's revolutionary "herringbone design" [@ 45:50 mark of video] - video link
    (from video series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (PBS)


WORK 31: Perugino; Christ Delivering Keys to Kingdom to St. Peter; 1481-83
(fresco / Vatican) Rome / papal states


WORK 32: Signorelli (Luca); Damn Cast into Hell; 1499-1504
(San Brizio Chapel)


WORK 33: Piero Della Francesca; Brera Altarpiece; ca. 1472-74
(done for the princely court – Urbino)

WORK 34: Piero Della Francesca; Flagellation of Christ; ca. 1455-65
(done for the princely court – Urbino)

WORK 35: Mantegna; Camera Picta; 1465-74
(done for the princely court – Mantua)

Other interesting links:
  • Kenny Mencher - Mantegna and the Camera Picta - link

WORK 36: Mantegna; Foreshortened Christ; ca. 1500
(done for the princely court – Mantua)

Other interesting links:
  • Kenny Mencher - Women and Art During the Renaissance - link

Other works...