Masters of Renaissance Art

In the 16th century Florence and Rome, Michaelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael were known to be artistic masters during the Renaissance. These three artists, along with many others, emphasized the use of design, lines, and sketching. In contrast, artists from 16th century Venice broke away from drawing and emphasized color and light. Venetian artists did not sketch out and draw prior to the final piece, like artists from Florence did. Venetian artists used oil paints and experimented with different colors straight onto the final canvas.

The Venetian school of art greatly different from the Florentine school of art, in medium, content and the use of colors and contrasts. Both schools also differed in the techniques that they used to make their artwork come to life. One of the greatest Venetian artists during the Renassiance time was Tiziano Veccellio, otherwise known as Titian. Titian was famous for using a wide array of colors to portray light and a deep sense of sensual emotion.

One of Titian’s famous paintings, St. Sebastian, greatly portrays the techniques of light, color, emotion and sensuality that the Venetian school of art was famous for. St. Sebastian can clearly be contrasted with artwork from Florence during this time, in order to reveal the great artistic differences that stood between Florence and Venice in 16th century Italy. The impact of the renaissance on art in Rome and Florence greatly contrasts with the impact that the renaissance had on artwork in Venice during the 16th century. During the renaissance period in Florence, artists emphasized the use of design (disegno), drawing and sketching.

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The concept of design was a very influential concept during this period because it allowed artists to make art that was unique to their own taste and personality. Design was the primary way that artists were able to add a sense of realism to their artwork (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Venetian artwork during the 16th century greatly contrasts with 16th century artwork in Florence. In 16th century Venice, the use of oil painting on canvas became widespread and extremely influential.

The canvas that was used in Venice can be contrasted with the use of frescos in Florence during the Renaissance. Canvas was an easier medium to use because a mistake was easier to recover from while painting. Also, oil as a medium was more beneficial than fresco for Venetian painters because of the vast array of colors that could be implemented (Kleiner, 604). Many Venetian artists also explored different ways in which color could be manipulated to portray light. While design was the primary way that artists in Florence made their artwork come to life, Venetian artists used color (colorito), to portray a sense of naturalism in their artwork (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Artists in Florence during the Rennaisance placed a great deal of importance on pre-meditation and planning, before creating the final piece of art. These artists would create many sketches before the final copy was attempted. In contrast, Venetian artists valued the variety of ways in which paint of different colors could be applied to canvas.

One of the most influential painters in Venice during the Renaissance period is Tiziano Veccellio. Titian was highly respected for his ability to capture so much light, emotion and drama in a painting, Titian was able to capture these elements with his experimentation of color. Titian was able to make this all happen because of the introduction of canvas. Titian’s artwork was so influential that many individuals adopted oil on canvas as a common medium in art history at the time. After visiting the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, I was taken aback when I laid eyes on Titian’s painting, named St. Sebastian. With its’ dramatic overtone and the intense use of color to portray light, I knew that this artwork was painted by a Venetian artist. I was further convinced that this artwork was done during by a Venetian painter because the nudity and intense use of colors reminded me of Titian’s painting called Venus of Urbino, which we discussed in class. In St. Sebastian, the subject’s nude torso and abdomen have a light shining on them, while the subject’s face is hidden in the shade.

This depiction of light is indicative of the typical way in which Venetian painters, especially Titian, mixed different colors together to create the illusion of a shining light. Besides for this light on the subjects upper body, the rest of the painting gives off an ominous feeling because of a lack of light. This dramatic and intense feeling is brought upon by the use of chiaroscuro, which is the implementation of contrasts in artwork. St. Sebastian can be slightly contrasted with the rest of Titian’s artworks because of the absence of bright colors, which was very typical of Venetian paintings during this time period (Titian’s Evolution of St. Sebastian). St. Sebastian can be compared to Titian’s Venus of Urbino, which was painted in 1538 and the medium is oil on canvas. In Venus of Urbino, a pop of red color is seen in the cushions under the nude female and in the skirt of the female standing in the back. The red colors stand out vividly due to the fact that the reds are juxtaposed with the white color. As stated before, Titian used colors for other purposes besides just decoration.

In St. Sebastian, color was used to illustrate light and in Venus of Urbino, color is used to portray a sense of distance. In St. Sebastian, the way in which the subject is standing can be described as contrapposto. Contrapposto is when the subject is balanced in a way that is not symmetrical, with one knee pointed upwards. The way that the picture is angled gives us a perspective that we are looking upwards to the subject, St. Sebastian. This could indicate that we are admiring St. Sebastian’s courageousness. St. Sebastian is tied to a tree with two arrows in his leg. His face does not look scared, which may indicate that he is a courageous and strong martyr. Throughout the 15th and 16th century, the bubonic plague had taken over Italy and caused an immense amount of fear and damage. The arrow that is piercing St. Sebastian’s leg is supposed to represent the plague and deadly of an impact it had on individuals. The plague, just like the arrow, caused pain, death and suffering to the people of Italy.

Generally speaking, artists from Venice and artists from Florence differed in the content that they painted during this time period. Artists that resided in Florence primarily focused on themes that were intellectual in nature, like religious themes that involved values and virtues. Venetian artists focused more on evoking emotion and painting about the beauty of nature using a wide range of colors. What I found interesting is that Titian’s St. Sebastian, focuses less on the beauty of nature and more on the impact of the plague and St. Sebastian’s heroic disposition. Nonetheless, St. Sebastian’s nudity portrays the sensual image that Venetian artists aimed to portray to viewers. Venetian artists made a break from using lines and sketching to portray the realism of skin. Instead, Venetian artists used different colors, one on top of the other, to make the skin come to life. This is evident in St. Sebastian, where there are no harsh lines, but the skin looks extremely realistic. Titian’s painting, St. Sebastian, is a great symbol of typical Venetian artwork during the early 16th century, despite the slight deviations that have been observed.

My experience at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn was one that evoked deep emotions. Taking this art history class has forever changed the way that I experience art museums. Previously, I felt like my museum-going experience was very surface level and that I had no background information to fill in the gaps. While perusing through each exhibit at this museum, this class has inclined me to stop and analyze every piece of artwork. I was able to place each piece of artwork onto a mental timeline that I have developed through this class. Also, I was able to predict the medium of many art pieces and I had the knowledge base to analyze the art in terms of line, color and contrasts. After learning about Titian in class, and his painting, Venus of Urbino, analyzing St. Sebastian became easier because of all of my background knowledge. I was able to deduce that this was done by a Venetian artist because of the sensuality and the use of color to portray light. Also, the biggest clue that pointed me towards Venice was the fact that there was an absence of harsh lines.

The subjects torso and legs have very light shading and the skin appears very smooth and not too defined. I was finally able to properly analyze Italian paintings this a strong knowledge base. The differences that can be seen between Titian’s St. Sebastian, and artwork done by Leonardo Da Vinci and other Florentine artists, clearly symbolize a divide and contrast in techniques that characterized the Venetian and Florentine school of art. The Venetian school of art decided to move away from harsh lines that characterized the Florentine school of art, and move towards a softer and more sensual technique that involved a wide variety of colors. Instead of using lines, Venetian artists experimented with the interplay between color and light in order to evoke a sense of emotion in viewers. Venetian art can be compared to poems because both pieces of art are capable of causing an emotional response from their viewers. Both masters of the Florentine and the Venetian school of art did an excellent job at portraying the techniques that they stood for. Titian’s St. Sebastian and the great use of color and light serves as a symbol of what the Venetian school of art had to offer.

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Masters of Renaissance Art. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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