Top 3 Italian Old Masters
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a leading artist and intellectual of the Italian Renaissance who's known for his enduring works "The Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa."
Born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy, Leonardo da Vinci was concerned with the laws of science and nature, which greatly informed his work as a painter, sculptor, inventor and draftsmen. His ideas and body of work - which includes The Last Supper, Mona Lisa, The Annunciation and Virgin of the Rocks, - have influenced countless artists and made da Vinci a leading light of the Italian Renaissance.
Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy. Born out of wedlock, the love child of a respected notary and a young peasant woman, he was raised by his father, Ser Piero, and his stepmothers. At the age of 14, da Vinci began apprenticing with the artist Verrocchio. For six years, he learned a wide breadth of technical skills, including metalworking, leather arts, carpentry, drawing and sculpting. By the age of 20, he had qualified as a master artist in the Guild of Saint Luke and established his own workshop.
The Last Supper
In 1482, Lorenzo de' Medici, a man from a prominent Italian family, commissioned da Vinci to create a silver lyre and bring it to Ludovico il Moro, the Duke of Milan, as a gesture of peace. Da Vinci did so and then wrote Ludovico a letter describing how his engineering and artistic talents would be of great service to Ludovico's court. His letter successfully endeared him to Ludovico, and from 1482 until 1499, Leonardo was commissioned to work on a great many projects. It was during this time that da Vinci painted "The Last Supper."
Da Vinci's most well-known painting, and arguably the most famous painting in the world, the "Mona Lisa," was a privately commissioned work and was completed sometime between 1505 and 1507. Of the painting's wide appeal, James Beck, an art historian at Columbia University, once explained, "It is the inherent spirituality of the human creature that Leonardo was able to ingenuine to the picture that raises the human figure to some kind of majesty."
Da Vinci has been called a genius and the archetypal Renaissance man. His talents inarguably extended far beyond his artistic works. Like many leaders of Renaissance humanism, he did not see a divide between science
and art. His observations and inventions were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, including designs for flying machines (some 400 years before the Wright brothers' first success), plant studies, war
machinery, anatomy and architecture. His ideas were mainly theoretical explanations, laid out in exacting detail, but they were rarely experimental. His drawings of a fetus in utero, the heart and vascular system,sex organs, and other bone and muscular structures, are some of the first on human record.
Born sometime between 1488 and 1490, Titian became an artist's apprentice in Venice as a teenager. He worked with Sebastiano Zuccato, Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione before branching out on his own. Titian became one of Venice's leading artists around 1518 with the completion of Assumption of the Virgin. He was soon creating for works for leading members of royalty, including King Philip II of Spain and Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Pope Paul III also hired Titian to paint portraits of himself and his grandsons. Titian died on August 27, 1576.
Born Tiziano Vecellio in what is now Pieve di Cadore, Italy, sometime between 1488 and 1490, Titian is considered one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance. The oldest of four children born to Gregorio
and Lucia Vecellio, Titian spent his early years in the town of Pieve di Cadore, near the Dolomite mountains.
In his teens, Titian became an apprentice to the Venetian artist Sebastiano Zuccato. He soon went work with such leading artists as Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione. Giorgione proved to be especially influential to the young painter.
In 1516, Titian began work on his first major commission for a church called Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. He painted "Assumption of the Virgin" for the church's high altar, a masterwork that helped
establish Titian as one of the leading painters in the area. He was known for his deft use of color and for his appealing renderings of the human form.
Titian's Venetian home was a mecca for many of the community's artistic types. He had an especially close friendship with writer Pietro Aretino. Aretino is said to have helped Titian get some of his commissions. Sculptor and architect Jacopo Sansovino was another frequent visitor.
Over the years, Titian created portraits of leading figures of the day. He painted two works featuring Pope Paul III between 1545 and '46, and spent six months living at the Vatican while making these paintings. In 1548, he traveled to the court of Charles V, where he painted his portrait as well.
In his later career, Titian focused more on religious and mythological works. For Spain's Philip II, he painted Venus and Adonis, a piece inspired by Ovid's "Metamorphoses" that shows the goddess Venus trying in vain to hold on to her beloved Adonis. Titian again explored his fascination with the Roman goddess of love in Venus and the Lute Player.
Death and Legacy
Titian continued to paint until his death, on August 27, 1576, in Venice. He reportedly died of the plague. Through the wealth of works he left behind, Titian has inspired countless generations of artists.
Rembrandt, Diego Velazquez, Antoon van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens are just a handful of painters who were influenced by the great Venetian artist.
Probably the most revolutionary artist of his time, the Italian painter Caravaggio abandoned the rules that had guided a century of artists before him. They had idealized the human and religious experience.
Caravaggio, whose fiery masterpieces included Inspiration of saint matthew and David with the Head of Goliath,
and who inspired generations of artists, was born as Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1571 in Italy. The world he arrived in was violent and, at times, unstable. His birth came just a week before the Battle of
Lepanto, a bloody conflict in which Turkish invaders were driven out of Christendom.
Not much is known about Caravaggio's early family life. His father, Fermo Merisi, was the steward and architect of the marquis of Caravaggio. When Caravaggio was six, the bubonic plague rolled through his life, killing almost everyone in his family, including his father.
Orphaned, Caravaggio took to the streets and fell in with a group of "painters and swordsmen who lived by the motto nec spe, nec metu, 'without hope, without fear,'" wrote an earlier biographer.
At the age of 11, Caravaggio relocated to Milan and began apprenticing with the painter Simone Peterzano. In his late teens, perhaps as early as 1588, a penniless Caravaggio moved to Rome. There, to keep himself fed, Caravaggio found work assisting other painters, many of them far less talented than he. But as instability defined his existence, Caravaggio jumped from one job to the next.
Sometime around 1595, Caravaggio struck out on his own and started selling his paintings through a dealer. His work soon caught the attention of Cardinal Francesco del Monte, who adored Caravaggio's paintings and quickly set him up in his own house, with room, board and a pension.
A prolific painter, Caravaggio was known to work quickly, often starting and completing a painting in just two weeks. By the time he had come under the influence of del Monte, Caravaggio already had 40 works to his name. The lineup included Boy with a Basket of Fruit, The Death of the Virgin and Bacchus.
Much of Caravaggio's early work featured chubby, pretty young boys done up as angels or lutenists or his favorite saint, John the Baptist. Many of the boys in the paintings are naked or loosely clothed. Caravaggio's only known assistant was a boy named Cecco, who appears in a number of Caravaggio's works and who may have also been his love.
In 1597, Caravaggio was awarded the commission for the decoration of the Contarelli Chapel in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. It was an important and daunting assignment, charging the 26-year-old painter with the task of creating three large paintings depicting separate scenes from St. Matthew's life.
The three resulting works, St. Matthew and the Angel, The Calling of St. Matthew, and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew, were finished in 1601, and together showed Caravaggio's remarkable range as an artist.
Caravaggio's career, however, was short-lived. He killed a man during a brawl and fled Rome. He died not long after, on July 18, 1610.