In a brief moment of equilibrium, artists achieved the harmonious balance and elevated conception that is the High Renaissance. In Rome this was shortly replaced by the self-conscious artifice of the style we call mannerism. Venice, on the other hand, produced a succession of artists devoted to color, light, and a more sensual approach to paint.
In the early sixteenth century, the center of patronage in the arts shifted to Rome. Pope Julius II recruited the finest artists of the day for his ambitious building program; Raphael and Michelangelo continued and expanded Leonardo's High Renaissance style, characterized by classical balance, controlled movement, and an elevated conception. Raphael learned from Leonardo that a fully resolved composition was attained only after intensive study of the human figure.
The High Renaissance drew to a close in the 1520s with the death of Raphael and the political and social upheaval following the Sack of Rome. Raphael's gifted Roman pupils dispersed as new ideas were ripening elsewhere in Italy. In Venice, for example, brilliant painters came forward at a phenomenal rate. New subjects for painting were devised: landscapes and cityscapes, still lifes, ecstatic visions of saints, and genre scenes of everyday life. Artists greatly expanded the expressive potential of the relatively new medium of oil paint.
Subsequent generations of artists reassessed the Renaissance norm of superb drawing combined with an idealization of nature, which had been established by Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. A group of central Italian painters, including Perino del Vaga and Pontormo, devised mannerism, a style of self- consciously elegant poses and markedly unnatural colors. The style of these artists was not fully accepted by Venetian artists, however, who were more interested in effects of color, light, atmosphere, and texture: Titian instilled a new sensuality in his art, while Tintoretto's scenes are boldly sketched and highly dramatic in mood.
Later in the sixteenth century came stylistic developments that are now called the baroque. A family of artists in Bologna, the Carracci, set about reinvigorating the grand tradition of Italian painting. Their efforts to combine central-Italian skill in drawing with the lifelike warmth and coloristic richness of the Venetians led to a new synthesis of nature and the ideal. The revolutionary dramatic naturalism of the short-lived Caravaggio influenced the work of dozens of artists all over Europe.
- Venice and the North
- Fresco Cycle with the Story of Procris and Cephalus
- The Feast of the Gods
- Giorgione and the High Renaissance in Venice
- Titian and the Late Renaissance in Venice
- Venetian Painting in the Later Sixteenth Century