Introduction | Painting | Sculpture | Architecture | Bibliography

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Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo, commissioned by Pope Julius IIThe High Renaissance begins in Florence, but the center shifted to Rome. Florence was a ciy which narrowly focussed, while Rome was a city of broad focus which accomidated the "Renaissance Man" attitude. There was an increase by both consumers of art and artists themselves in antiquity, and Rome is the undeniable hub of ancient art and architecture. Not only did artists take inspiration from ancient works, but they dreamed of surpassing them.
When Guiliano della Rovere became Pope Julius II, he wanted to have the Catholic papal Rome equal the splendor of ancient Rome. Michelangelo, a sketch in chalk by Daniele da VolterraHe hired an architect, Brumante and comissioned him to create buildings. More importantly, though, he comissioned many great works. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, for instance, painted by Michelangelo. This work is to this day one of the most famous of the High Renaissance, and perhaps one of the most famous in history. Michelangelo, surprisingly, did not consider himself a painter. Pope Julius insisted on this comission though, and if Michelangelo wanted to work on anything else again, he had no choice but to paint the massive fresco. The Pope was frustrated at the amount of time the work took, though Michelangelo was a famously fast worker. What Michelangelo truely wanted to work on Pope Julius II, oil painting by Raphaelwas the 40-figure tomb for the Pope. Julius insisted that it the ceiling be done first, but when he (a Pope remembered for his achievements in war) was called away to battle with the French. When he returned from his victory in 1508, he forced Michelangelo to resume work. Even though Michelangelo did not have a great deal of faith in himself as a painter, he still put a great deal of extra effort into the ceiling. When it wasn't just right, he re-did it. And instead of the original plan to paint the twelve Apostles, he painted about three hundred figures depicting the events of the Bible starting from the Creation and going up to the Drunkeness of Noah. Because of his perfectionism and fantastic designs, the project wasn't complete until 1512, taking a total of four years. Both Michelangelo and Pope Julius II were intense, confident and talented men. Their terribilitą, or "awe-inspiring grandeur" or perhaps "emotional intensity" are evident in their arguing over the commissions. Michelangelo's terribilitą is reflected in his highly expressive figures. He is able to capture each scene in a time of motion. The portions that best show this are probably the Creation of Adam (see art analysis) as well as the images of God seperating light and darkness. These paintings are hugely emotional and Michelangelo would often paint people he knew in his works, framed as either villains or people of virtue.
Another extremely important man of this time was Leonardo da Vinci. A "Renaissance Man" is one who's skills span over manySelf-portrait of Leonardo in chalk from around 1512 areas. This kind of person is rare today, as everyone is generally slotted into having one man focus. However, during the Renaissance there were many multi-talented men. The one who rose to the top of all these talents was Leonardo. The Greeks described such a person as polymathes "having learned much". Leonardo was a polymath indeed, the archetype of the Renaissance Man. He was a scientist, musician, writer, anatomist, painter, sculptor, botanist, engineer, mathmatician, and inventor. He not only did all these things, but he did them well. A mind like his had probably never been seen before him or since his death. His most famous works (though there are many others) are the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Vitruvian man. These works are deeply imbedded in today's culture, often known and parodied by people with no knowledge of art. Less known, but equally interesting are his many notebooks. He wrote down every thought he had, every experiment he did in every field. In mirror text, he explored human anatomy as well as many inventions. During his life, he dissected about 30 human corpses of both gender and all ages both to satisfy his insatiable curiosity and to improve the realism of his art. Many of the inventions from his notebooks such as guns and tanks would have worked if they had had the means to make them at the time. His other studies included hydrodynamics, plate techtonics, solar power and calculators. Dispite his strange personality and inability to form many close bonds with people, he was very well-respected during his time as a fantastic artist and many people paid a fortune for the chance that he would create a work of art for them.