National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION

All over Europe, the late middle ages favored a decorative and courtly manner known as the International Style. By the early 15th century, however, people in Florence and other towns of central Italy genuinely believed they were living in a new era—the Renaissance. Not only did the Renaissance bring new, more naturalistic styles, but also increased patronage from private individuals, and new, secular subjects.

In the fifteenth century, artists learned to depict the visual world in a naturalistic manner. They extended their understanding of light and shadow, of space and anatomy. The idealized statuary of classical antiquity served as models, while in architecture the classical orders were applied to Renaissance buildings.

The prosperous mercantile economy of Florence helped to nurture the arts. Commissions came from the church, the state, and wealthy families. Classical as well as biblical heroes and heroines were portrayed as examples of virtue and moral fortitude.

However, to view the art of the Renaissance as a mere conquest of naturalistic representation would overlook the complexity of the period. Carlo Crivelli painted sumptuous altarpieces in a boldly ornamental manner, and Cosimo Tura frequently departed from logical, naturalistic norms in favor of an energetic idiom with an eccentric elegance. Portraiture flourished during the Renaissance, and the Venetians, foremost among them Giorgione and Bellini, excelled in their depictions of pastoral landscape.

Painting in Siena in the 14th and Early 15th Centuries
The Early Renaissance in Florence
Portrait Painting in Florence in the Later 1400s
Patrons and Artists in Late 15th-Century Florence
Siena in the 1400s
Venetian Painting in the Early Renaissance
Revelations from Reproductions: Fifteenth-century Italian Paintings
Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi: The Adoration of the Magi (Download RealPlayer)