Essay on High Renaissance vs. Italian Baroque

2021-08-25 13:12:16
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George Washington University
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Renaissance and Baroque are two distinct periods in artistic history with various similarities and differences. Creations made during these periods share some similarities such as both being known to excel in depicting realism, point out two distinct things about pictorial art, and emphasize on topics drawn from Judeo Christian-Bible. The differences mostly lie in their use of light and plane. There have been debates trying to identify which of the two periods produced better art with compelling arguments coming from supporters from either side of the camp. This essay describes some of the similarities and difference in creations between these two periods.

The high renaissance period for art started around the 1400s in Italy, a place now regarded as the capital of the world, alongside Paris. This period marked the transition from medieval times into early modern age and is held as the most important period in the history of Europe. The era of Baroque followed in the sixteenth century (1600) marking another transformation involving division of the church into Roman Catholics and Protestants (Schindler 21). Probably many of the creations made during this period were recreations of the original works made during the renaissance era. A good example of a recreation was that of the biblical David, initially depicted by Michelangelo (High Renaissance) and then by Bernini (Italian Baroque) (Mangone 666).

The two periods of art, High Renaissance, and Baroque share several similarities. Both the term Renaissance and Baroque are used to point out two distinct things about pictorial art- the period in history and the style of art (Schindler 22). Both the style used in Renaissance and that used in Baroque are known to excel in depicting realism. In both styles, vivid, evocative judgments are used. The two eras also emphasized on topics from the Judeo Christian-Bible.

In the artistic depiction of David by Michelangelo and Bernini, several similarities can be drawn. The sculptures both illustrate a similar popular subject matter who is the famous David of the Bible (Mangone 668). In both sculptures, marble is used as a material. In both depictions, David is portrayed as strong, confident and beautiful.

Besides the similarities, the two eras bore artists who were very distinct in their approaches to arts especially in their use of light and plane. Light is usually integrated into the work of arts in various ways. However, the primary focus of many artists is mostly on the contrast between light and darkness and the shadow gradations in between. Planes are also paid close attention to by artists in their pictorial depictions.

Artists in Renaissance used light to define their subjects. The subjects here remain defined with sharp boundaries through the works of these artists explored the contrast between light and darkness. The details and forms of artistic subjects are illuminated by light in a controlled fashion. However, in the Baroque, light itself was a subject. The artists in this era employed intense contrast between light and darkness in obscuring their subjects to produce a mystic and dramatic sense. There is a blur in boundaries as well as slipping into the shadow of details and forms. There is also merging of details and becoming distinct. Viewers of these works feel the need to squint a little to comprehend where one object leaves off and the next starts.

Regarding planes, the artists in Renaissance emphasized parallelism, symmetry, and balance. The planes used by these artists in their works are lined up horizontally, guiding the eye smoothly up and down the painting. Images and subjects are also arranged in a proportionate manner all over the work and balance one another frequently in opposition to a flat background. There are order and neatness in everything.

In the works of Baroque, multiple planes that go in separate directions, convene at odd angles, and break down or fade at diverse points in the painting are incorporated. Subjects are rarely balanced in the works of Baroque. Viewers of these depictions have the interpretation of zigzag creations and massive depth along with a little chaos.

In the artistic depiction of David by Michelangelo and Bernini, several differences can be drawn (Mangone 670). Michelangelo depicts David who is nude and very tall while David depicted by Bernini is of life-size and has a robe on. The depiction by Michelangelo shows David whose facial expression depicts strong focus on the future event he is about to face- battle with Goliath. He is designing a strategy he is about to use against Goliath. This work presents David who is intellectual. Berninis depiction of David, on the other hand, demonstrates the time before the immediate launch of the stone from his sling, which is to kill Goliath. He has a facial expression which is filled with determination and energy. The body is twisted on one side as he is about to release the stone from the sling. David depicted here is much more mature and is with strong muscles ready to carry out the task. Michelangelos creation was David with a perfect human form attracting viewers to follow the texture and lines all the way from the head to the legs (Barolsky 121). Berninis David draws the attention of the viewers to the movement. Even though the line and texture do not match that of Michelangelos David, he makes use of the surrounding space to draw the attention of the eyes of viewers to the movement of legs, hands, and arms making viewers feel like they are the scene of the fight.

In conclusion, High Renaissance and Italian Baroque are two distinct periods in history that stand out when talking about art and great masters. Creations made during these periods share some similarities, for instance, they are both known to excel in depicting realism, point out two distinct things about pictorial art, and emphasize on topics drawn from Judeo Christian-Bible. Apart from the similarities, the two eras bore artists who were very distinct in their approaches to arts especially in their use of light and plane.

Works Cited

Barolsky, Paul. "Vasaris Literary Artifice and the Triumph of Michelangelos David." The Ashgate Research Companion to Giorgio Vasari (2016): 121.

Mangone, Carolina. "Like Father, Like Son: Bernini's Filial Imitation of Michelangelo." Art History 37.4 (2014): 666-687.

Schindler, Richard. "ART 111 00 Renaissance to Modern Art." (2017).

Slattery, Patrick. "Toward Proleptic Experience in Arts-Based Educational Research and Practice." JCT (Online) 31.2 (2016): 1.

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