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Characteristics of Italian Renaissance Art

    • Florence is the cradle of Italian renaissance art.Florence catheral image by Johnson Hor from

      The Italian Renaissance began in Florence in the beginning of the 15th century. The term Renaissance comes from the French word for rebirth. This period was a time of upheaval in a number of domains, including painting and sculpture, and represented a break from the artistic traditions of the Middle Ages. The artists and sculptors of the Italian Renaissance---Masaccio, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci---looked to the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. The Italian Renaissance was a time of great artistic productivity, and many of the works created during this period are the pride of world-class museum collections.

    Perspective and Geometry

    • One of the main characteristics of the Italian Renaissance is the use of one-point perspective in painting to give the illusion of three-dimensional space. Objects and figures in the foreground appear bigger, and therefore closer to the viewer, than those in the background. Renaissance artists also used geometry in the composition of their paintings. Often figures or groups of figures are laid out in geometrical shapes, usually in the form of a triangle.


    • Artists of the Italian Renaissance aimed to represent figures and nature more realistically than medieval artists. They made close studies of nature and the human body, sometimes going so far as to perform autopsies to gain a better understanding of human and animal anatomy.


    • The term chiaroscuro comes from a combination of the Italian words for light and dark. Italian Renaissance artists used contrast between gradations of light and dark, or shading, to create volume, particularly when painting the human body. By using this technique, Renaissance artists created a three-dimensional figure, in contrast to the flat figure of medieval art.

    Classical Themes

    • A major difference between Italian Renaissance art and its predecessor is the choice of subject matter. Whereas medieval art was wholly devoted to religious themes, Italian Renaissance art drew inspiration from the classical themes of Greek and Roman mythology and depicted portraits and other secular subjects. Italian Renaissance artists painted the the first nudes since the classical period.

    Use of the Contropposto

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