The renaissance or the re-birth of arts happened in Europe in early 14th century. It bought some huge and fundamental changes in people’s mentality and the perspective on life. As a part of the change, the importance of arts increased in general public. More and more people got interested in arts and more and more skillful artist emerged in the society. Artists started innovating ideas and techniques to improve their art. For instance, before the renaissance, in paintings, the size and placement of the objects in were uncertain. You can have a big person standing right next to a house which is the same size of the person. Artists of the renaissance solved this problem with the idea of perspective and proportion, which basically changed the method of painting. Another problem was the flatness of a scene which looked unrealistic. That was solved by the technique of foreshortening which was perfected in renaissance. It gives the scene its accurate depth. Thus, artists kept trying to bring out new ideas to perfect and add more realism to their art.
Some of them reached the sky and they are called the masters of renaissance.
There are different names in every list. The number of the masters are also differs from 3, 4 or 5. For instance, the theory of four masters is more convincible in popular culture, as in the popular cartoon series TNMT’s four lead character’s names are based on the renaissance’s prominent artists (Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello) But, the main three renaissance masters who are available in every list are Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael (or Raffaello). Whenever there is a mention of renaissance this trio gets mentioned unmistakably. Other two artists who are debated to be on the list are Titian and Donatello.
LEONARD DA VINCI:
Today, he is a well-known celebrity, even after nearly 500 years of his death. There are piles of books written about his life and the mysteries and controversies humming around his artworks. But apart from the well-known facts, most people don’t know why he is so much celebrated. Obviously, because of his art-pieces, but why his art-pieces are more popular than any other artist from the renaissance.
The answer is, because, he invented some techniques which helped the art to reach its new heights. Sfumato (or Leonardo’s smoke) is one of them and was used in his most famous paintings Mona Lisa. The technique was a subtle use of shadows, which creates a particular effect to make the nature of her smile suspicious and unknown. That is the reason why Mona Lisa’s smile is so famous. He used this technique in many of his paintings.
Another major change brought by him was the pyramid composition. Placing the object in a way, which creates an imaginary pyramid. Mona Lisa and Madonna and child with St. Anne are the fine examples of the technique.
In both there is an imaginary shape of pyramid is created which gives paintings a strong base and then slowly concentrates viewers’ eyes to the point of attraction. The observers conclude this technique as one of the powerful compositions of painting.
Apart from the paintings, Leonardo contributed in other fields in which he was also considered as the master. He used to draw his concepts and ideas in notes. In those notes we can find his ideas of helicopter, tank, hydraulics, parachutes, hang-gliders and many other scientific discoveries. He researched well-enough about human-anatomy to depict humans in his paintings to more real and close the naturel. He firmly believed that an artist can reach pinnacle in his art, when he gains more natural depictions. In his notes, there are numerous pages filled with the study of human body. There is even a picture of a fetus in a mother’s womb.
Even today, the things which are present more in fictions than real were already imagined by him. Things like, robots and shoes for walking on water. After he studied human anatomy and learned about how muscles empower the bones, he reasoned that the same concept could be used in machines. He drew some outlines and allegedly even made a real robot just for fun and to show-off in his patrons’ parties. We can say it was the world’s first robot. Leonardo’s success in catching the essence of a robot is ascertained when we know that inspired by his robotics studies, modern robotics expert Mark Rosheim subsequently used da Vinci’s some concepts in the design of planetary exploration robots to be used by NASA!
He was way more advanced than his time, we could say. I mean, even today in the world of ‘technology’ scientists are baffled about making a robot which can do some basic things. Supposedly, most advanced humanoid Asimo’s best functions are walking, using stairs, serving and doing some pre-set talks. 500 years ago Leonardo imagined and probably made a Humanoid, when people believed that earth is the center of the universe.
Though Michelangelo was one hell of a personality in private-life (people called him Terribilita meaning fearsome personality), his works and commissions are far better than his personal appeal. He was not as much diverse as Leonardo was in various fields. He was mainly focused on sculptures (always reciting himself as a sculptor), painting and architecture. Though, his contributions were ground-breaking at the time and even the legendary artists like Raphael tried to copy his works of Sistine chapel.
He was one of the perfectionists. He drew his paintings and made sculptures after understanding human-anatomy by dissecting many corpses. His deep research in anatomy reflects in his works like David and Pieta where the bodies of the statues were very realistic and natural. In the statue of David you can even see the veins and the texture of skin on his face. Where in Pieta the perfect proportion and unbelievably realistic sculpting of clothes is awe-inspiring. These intense details made the whole structure an unmatched statue.
His other major contribution was the Sistine chapel ceiling. It is an immense painting with more than 300 figures on the entire ceiling of the Sistine chapel. Pope Julius II commissioned him the work. It took him four years to complete it but the result was jaw-dropping. The grand depiction of nine events from the book of genesis was so impressive that it attracted and inspired so many artists.
The last judgment was another fresco on the altar wall of Sistine chapel. Fresco depicts the time when Christ assigns the various fates to soul, surrounded by the saints. It was another grand portraiture of Christian mythology.
The vast amount of refinement Michelangelo brought in paintings and sculpture puts him on the list.
Raphael’s contributions were more similar to Michelangelo’s than Leonardo’s, as he was also mainly focused on painting. Other than paintings, he tried in architecture and a bit of print-making.
His contributions are as respected as the two mentioned above. His much famous work is known as the ‘Raphael rooms’ of Sistine chapel. He drew in these rooms simultaneously with Michelangelo, who was working in the other rooms. Though, they respected each other’s works, still their rivalry in works was not unknown. A story is famous about Raphael’s fascination about Michelangelo’s work. It says that he bribed the church’s pope to let him see Michelangelo’s works. We are not sure if the story is trustworthy or not but at the early death of Raphael, Michelangelo did say, ‘everything he knew about art, he got from me.’
In architecture he designed Palazzo Aquila (later destroyed), Villa Madama (most sophisticated villa designed in Italy) and some other minor buildings. And another interest of printmaking was not solely accomplished by him only. He collaborated with Marcantonio Raimondi to produce engravings of Raphael’s designs. Together, they created many of the famous Italian prints of the century.
Donatello and Titianare strong contenders to stand up in the line of the masters. But, historians have debates about including Donatello or Titian in the list. It seems a fair tie between them.
These masters of renaissance made the renaissance possible in Italy as we can imagine the other thousands of artists who got inspired by these prominent artists. We can conclude that there was a big contribution of the renaissance masters in pushing the arts and the renaissance itself towards the enlightenment.