Greatest Renaissance Paintings (c.1400-1550)
A list of the most important pictures of the Renaissance and Mannerist periods in Europe.
Renaissance art would not have happened without the contributions of earlier art movements, their painters and sculptors. Proto-Renaissance art, for instance, was indebted to 13th century Gothic art and Gothic sculpture - the latter also being a major influence on Giotto (1267-1337) and his revolutionary Scrovegni Chapel frescoes. The later International Gothic, a style associated with the Royal Courts of various European monarchs, was also very influential, as was the conservative Italian Sienese School of Painting, led by Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319), creator of the Stroganoff Madonna and Child and the Maesta Altarpiece. Papal patronage, as well as support from dynasties like the Medici family in Florence, was another important factor in ensuring the growth and success of Pre-Renaissance painting during the 14th century.
aesthetics relied heavily on humanism - the nobility of Man - and its
imagery made significant use of the individual figure, instead of stereotyped
or symbolic figures. Painters demonstrated noticeably greater realism
in the representation of human faces and bodies. Above all, they showed
better organization of the picture space and mastered the use of linear
perspective. In short, Early
Renaissance painting rejected the hieratic
The Greatest Early Renaissance Pictures
Here is our selection of the most influential paintings from 15th century Italy. Oils were gradually taking over from tempera, although the latter - along with fresco murals - was still popular. See also Famous Paintings Analyzed.
Gentile da Fabriano (c.1370-1427)
Pisanello (Antonio Pisano) (1394-1455)
Paolo Uccello (1397-1475)
Fra Angelico (c.1400-55)
Tommaso Masaccio (1401-28)
Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-69)
Domenico Veneziano (1410-1461)
Piero della Francesca (1420-92)
Vincenzo Foppa (c.1428-c.1516)
Gentile Bellini (1429-1507)
Antonello da Messina (1430-1479)
Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516) Father
of Venetian Painting
Alessandro Botticelli (1445-1510)
Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94)
Pietro Perugino (1450-1523)
The High Renaissance marked the zenith of Renaissance aesthetics - and the summit of their execution. Painters perfected their portrayal of the real world as they mastered illusionistic devices like linear perspective and foreshortening, and developed new techniques like chiaroscuro and sfumato shading. However, realism was mixed with classical beauty, as defined by Greek ideas of the perfectly proportioned human body and pose. (See in particular the work of Michelangelo and Raphael.) At the same time, oil painting was by far the dominant medium, and its rich tonal spectrum enabled artists to represent distance solely through the gradation of tones - a painterly technique known as atmospheric perspective.
The Greatest High Renaissance Pictures
This is our selection of the top examples of Italian High Renaissance painting. They represent the cream of the "colorito" art of the period. For a list of supreme examples of drawing - what 15th century artists called "disegno" - please see: Best Drawings of the Renaissance. As a whole, High Renaissance art became an important element in the development and teaching of fine arts across the Continent.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Filippino Lippi (1457-1504)
Piero di Cosimo (1461-1521)
Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530)
Antonio Allegri da Correggio (1489-1534)
Painting in France was more strongly attached to the courtly traditions of the International Gothic idiom. Fouquet was exceptional, being influenced by Masaccio as well as Flemish painters and the Limburg brothers. He was particularly influential in introducing the progressive ideas of the Italian Renaissance into France.
Limbourg Brothers - Paul, Jan, Herman
Jean Fouquet (1420-81)
Holland and Flanders enjoyed a damp climate which was quite unsuited to fresco painting - one reason why oils became so popular. Indeed, this area of the Northern Renaissance was famous for the microscopic precision of its paintings, notably in the area of portraiture (see Jan van Eyck), although background detail was another specialty, as exemplified by the works of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
The Greatest Paintings of the Dutch & Flemish Renaissance
Here are some of the most influential paintings from the Netherlandish Renaissance during the 15th and 16th centuries. Northern compositions tended to include more secular subjects than those in Italy, although altarpiece art remained a popular medium. Oil on panel was the dominant method of painting: canvas being relatively rare until the end of the period. For more details, see: Flemish Painting (1400-1800) and Flemish Painters (1400-1750).
Robert Campin: Master of Flemalle
Jan van Eyck (1390-1441)
Roger van der Weyden (1400-1464)
Dierec Bouts (1415-75)
Hans Memling (c.1433-94)
Hugo Van Der Goes (14401482)
Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)
Joachim Patinir (Patenier) (1485-1524)
Jan Van Scorel (1495-1562)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569)
If 15th century Italian art was based on Humanism and the idealized style of Ancient Greece, and Netherlandish art on a mastery of oils, the painting of the German Renaissance - somewhat isolated behind the Rhine and the Alps - was influenced by the emotional character of its history and culture. An emotionalism which produced masterpieces of Late Gothic sculpture and wood carving, as well as pictorial wonders like the Isenheim Alterpiece by Matthias Grunewald. The romantic atmospheric landscapes of the Danube School were another illustration of this brooding sensibility. At the same time, the German passion for order and materialism is evident in the wonderful portraiture of Cranach, Holbein, and Durer.
The Greatest German Renaissance Pictures
Here is our selection of the most important paintings from Germany during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Stephan Lochner (1400-51)
Michael Pacher (1434-98)
Martin Schongauer (1440-91)
Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)
Matthias Grunewald (1475-1528)
Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538)
Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545)
Hans Holbein The Younger (1497-1543)
Mannerism was the link between the idealized style of Renaissance art and the religious theatricality of the Baroque. In its determination to escape the strait-jacket of Classical aesthetics, Mannerist painting was noticeably more artificial and less naturalistic. Pictures were typically associated with elongated human forms, strained poses, unnatural proportions, offbeat lighting or perspective, and garish colours.
The Greatest Mannerist Pictures
Here is our choice of the most influential Mannerist paintings from the 16th century.
Jacopo Pontormo (1494-1556)
Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti) (1518-1594)
Agnolo Bronzino (1503-72)
Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)
Jacopo Bassano (1515-1592)
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-93)
Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (1528-88)
El Greco (Domenikos Theotocopoulos)
Spranger Bartholomaeus (1546-1611)
Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)
For more about fine art painting, see: Art Encyclopedia.