The Renaissance is arguably the most important artistic movement in world history. Amazingly, almost all Renaissance art was either painted in or greatly influenced by Florence. By the end of the 14th century, Florence had established itself as an economic, political, and most importantly cultural power. Centered around the ruling Medici family, the city was the hotbed for passionate and creative painters, architects and sculptors. In this guide, you can find five famous Renaissance artists who called Florence home.
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If you’ve ever been to Florence or have seen any of the beautiful panoramas taken from Piazzale Michelangelo, you’ve certainly been struck by the beauty and grandeur of Brunelleschi’s dome, the Duomo. The centerpiece of the Florence skyline, Brunelleschi designed the Duomo over Florence’s Cathedral and after nearly 200 years of construction, the Cathedral was completed in 1469. The Duomo to this day is the largest brick dome in the world.
Brunelleschi, like many famous Renaissance artists, was multi-talented. He was not only a brilliant architect, but also an engineer who was able to design the machines that allowed the bricks to be lifted high enough to create this amazing masterpiece.
Born and raised in Florence, Botticelli is known for having two of the most famous early Renaissance paintings which can today be found in the Uffizi Gallery. Botticelli embraced the full spirit of the Renaissance, which brought the themes of ancient Rome and Greece back into the forefront after the Dark Ages. Botticelli’s first masterpiece, La Primavera is one of the most controversial pieces of Renaissance art, as there is no direct moment in Roman mythology where each of the gods present were together. Art historians today believe that Botticelli’s intention was likely to create an allegory of Spring. This painting is important in that it is one of the first times that these mythological figures had been present in art since antiquity.
Painted a few years after La Primavera, Botticelli’s most famous The Birth of Venus is one of the world’s most discussed paintings. Like his earlier painting, The Birth of Venus brought not only classical mythology to the forefront, but also is groundbreaking in its presentation of a female nude as the work’s centerpiece.
Botticelli’s other claim to fame is being the first artist commissioned to paint the newly restored Sistine Chapel. This masterpiece was famously not completed by Botticelli, but instead by the next artist on our list.
Coming from the small Tuscan town of Caprese near Arrezo, Michelangelo split his adult life between Florence and Rome. Even so, it is nearly impossible to discuss the Renaissance without mentioning Michelangelo’s name. His most famous contribution to the art of Florence is the David. The statue stood in Piazza della Signoria until 1873 when it was moved to the Accademia Gallery so it could be preserved away from the elements. Michelangelo was the ultimate Renaissance man. He created two of the most famous statues, the David and La Pieta by the age of 30. He was also one of the world’s great architects in addition to painting the immaculate Sistine Chapel. Along with the Duomo, the David is Florence’s most famous attraction and can be visited together in our Florence Highlights Tour with the Statue of David and Duomo.
Born in Florence in 1401, Masaccio is considered by many as the first great Renaissance painter. Like so many great musicians in modern time, Masaccio passed away at the young age of 26. Little is known about his death and very few of his works still survive today. Masaccio’s masterpiece, The Tribute Money can be found in what some call the “Sistine Chapel of the Early Renaissance”, the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. The Chapel is covered with depictions of St. Peter’s life beginning with the Temptation of Adam and Eve and ending with his crucifixion. The Tribute Money is the centerpiece. It is revolutionary in many of its techniques including the use of perspective and lighting. In many ways it is one of the first paintings produced with dimension. Like Jimi Hendrix, we will never know what Masaccio would have become but we can absolutely appreciate the works he provided and the influence he had on the future of art.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Born out of wedlock in the small town of Vinci about 30 miles from Florence, Leonardo grew into the ultimate homo universalis, universal man in Latin. He was trained in Florence at the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio. Though most famous for his two incredible paintings, the Mona Lisa and Last Supper, Da Vinci was the “Renaissance Man”. An artist, inventor, mathematician, cartographer and much much more, Da Vinci even created a design for a flying machine. Da Vinci’s work can be found around the world, but while in Florence a great way to experience Leonardo is to visit the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum.
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