Renaissance Sculpture

Introduction

Table Summary

Summary of Renaissance Sculpture
Early Renaissance
ca. 1400-1500
High Renaissance
ca. 1500-25
Late Renaissance
ca. 1525-1600
Ghiberti, Donatello Michelangelo Giambologna

General Features

Renaissance art is distinguished from medieval art primarily by physical realism and classical composition (see Western Aesthetics).

The Early Renaissance was the formative period of Renaissance art; in other words, it was artists of the Early Renaissance who pioneered and developed physical realism and classical composition. These efforts culminated in the High Renaissance, during which the apex of classical balance, harmony, and restraint was attained. During the Late Renaissance, this severe classicism was relaxed, allowing for a measure of complexity and dynamism (thus presaging the rise of Baroque art).

A distinct sub-movement of Late Renaissance art was mannerism: the deliberate pursuit of novelty and complexity. In sculpture, mannerism resulted in such qualities as distorted anatomy (e.g. elongated limbs) and complex postures. Some Late Renaissance artists worked in a full-blown mannerist style, while others were merely influenced by the movement (to varying degrees).

Main Article

Early Renaissance

ca. 1400-1500

Renaissance painting and architecture were founded by Masaccio and Brunelleschi, respectively. The founder of Renaissance sculpture was Ghiberti, whose masterpiece is the Gates of Paradise, a pair of bronze doors for the Florence Baptistry. The main panels of these doors comprise ten biblical scenes rendered with impressive realism, including deep perspective.

Florence Baptistry
Gates of Paradise
Panel from the Gates of Paradise
Panel from the Gates of Paradise
Panel from the Gates of Paradise
Panel from the Gates of Paradise
Panel from the Gates of Paradise
Panel from the Gates of Paradise

One of Ghiberti's assistants, Donatello, became the greatest sculptor of the Early Renaissance. It was Donatello who finally revived classical statues (starting with Saint Mark), including equestrian statues (with Gattamelata, the first equestrian statue since antiquity).G299,H683-89,1 His other primary works include Saint George and David.

Saint Mark
Gattamelata
Saint George
David

High Renaissance

ca. 1500-1525

The uncontested master of High Renaissance sculpture is Michelangelo, who divided his career between Florence (his native city) and Rome. Pieta is the jewel of his early work, while his masterpiece, David, is often considered the greatest sculpture of all time. His foremost late work may be Moses.

Though Michelangelo's career stretched into the Late Renaissance, most of his sculpture dates to the High Renaissance; his later years were devoted to painting and architecture.

Pieta
David
Moses

Late Renaissance

ca. 1525-1600

The foremost mannerist sculptor was Flemish-Italian Giambologna. As noted earlier, typical features of mannerist sculpture include complex postures and elongated anatomy. The former quality is evident in the violent group sculptures Abduction of the Sabines and Heracles and Nessus, as well as several gentler statues of Mercury. The Mercury sculptures also showcase elongated limbs, as does the female statue L'Architettura.

Abduction of the Sabines
Heracles and Nessus
Flying Mercury
Mercury
L'Architettura
1 - "Donatello", Encarta 2004.
2 - "Mannerism", Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed August 2010.