da Vinci

1452 - 1519

 Renaissance Art Map
     Leonardo da Vinci - biography    
     Leonardo da Vinci
     1452-1481 Leonardo in the Florence of the Medici    
     1482-1499 At the court of Ludovico il Moro    
     1500-1508 The return to Florence    
     1508-1513 The Milan of Charles d'Amboise    
     1513-1519 The last years: Rome and France    



Leonardo da Vinci
c. 1512




The return to Florence




Michelangelo in Florence


Like Leonardo, Michelangelo grew up in the Florence of the Medici: a pupil in the workshop of Ghirlandaio and Bertoldo, from the start he displayed a different range of interests to his colleague and rival. Attracted by the strength in modelling form of Giotto and Masaccio, and by Donatello's classicism, he recognized in antiquity a formal and spiritual model to emulate. His approach to the classical world, familiar through the collections of the Palazzo Medici and the Neo-Platonic Accademy, was also of a literary nature. Responsive to Savonarola's preaching, Michelangelo did not share the practical and scientific ideals of Leonardo, and justified the study of anatomy only for artistic ends. Yet the lesson learned from Leonardo's cartoon for StAnne marked a significant development in his career, albeit later superseded by other influences. Leonardo taught Michelangelo how to organize forms within a unified structure (as is evident in the Tondo Doni), formally ordered motifs (the emotional agitation conveyed by the goldfinch in the Tondo Taddei), and the indefinable spatial and atmospheric qualities of the background (present in the first experiments of the unfinished Tondo Pitti).


Michelangelo, David, 1501-04,
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Horence.
Biblical hero, warrior, statesman, precursor of Christ, the David commissioned irom the Florentine Republic sealed the artist's fame thanks lo the enthusiasm it droused. The huge marble sculpture, in the classically counterpoised pose, lacks the delicate s'race of the Donatello and Verrocchio versions, but embodies a vigorous ideal of physical and mental energy. The David, together with Bandinelli's Hercules, flanked the entry portal to the Palazzo Vecchio as contrasted symbols of fortitude, and stood thereuntil 1873, later to be replaced by a copy.


Leonardo da Vinci,
The David of Michelangelo,
with Variations
, 1504-05,
Royal Library, Windsor.
Leonardo himself was invited by the Florentine Republic to sit on the committee which had to find a site for the statue of David.


Michelangelo, Tondo Doni, 1503-04, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Conceived on the lines of the model of the St Anne, the discords and dynamic tensions of the figures achieve perfect equilibrium.

Michelangelo, Tondo Pitti, 1503-05, Bargello, Florence.
The group strains the limits of the material support.


Michelangelo, Study for the St Anne, 1501,
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
The relationship between the figures is here resolved by the clear highlighting of individual parts.






Raphael in Florence


Having already made his mark in Urbino, working alongside his father Giovanni Santi and Perugino, Raphael was in Florence between 1504 and 1508. There he met Leonardo and Michelangelo, then engaged with their battle paintings. The interaction with the two masters was crucial to the development of the young artist, with his extraordinary gift for assimilation. Within four years he had progressed beyond the precepts learned from Perugino to reveal a new flexibility and harmony of structure. To Leonardo he was indebted for his feeling for compositional unity, the potential for emotional effect, and the sense of dramatic and narrative integrity conveyed by the flow of movement and expression. From this period came the portraits, such as those of Angelo and Maddalena Doni, modelled on the Mona Lisa, and the expansive landscapes of Memling, sacred groups such as the Canigiani Holy Family, formal variations on the subject of Madonna and Child, and altarpieces like the Madonna of the Baldaquin, prototype for the Florentine altarpieces of the Mannerists during the 1520s. The compositions are constructed on the pyramid pattern, with figures assembled as a single unit.

Raphael, Madonna Tempi, 1508, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
This composition is built up on a pattern of spiral movement.

Raphael, Study for the Madonna and Child, 1518,
Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
The drawing is a preparatory study for the Madonna of Francis I in the Louvre. The main testing ground for Raphael was the handling of sacred groups and, in particular, versions of the Madonna and Child theme. The latter far surpassed the routine and somewhat lifeless grace of the Umbrian Madonnas, using movement and body language to reflect mental processes, in accord with Leonardo's teachings.


Leonardo da Vinci
Study for Madonna with the Yarnwinder
c. 1501
Red chalk and silverpoint on rose-colored prepared paper
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice


Raphael, Studies for the Transfiguration, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Close to completion when the painter died, the Transfiguration testifies to Raphael's lasting interest in the psychic vitality of Leonardo's figures.


Raphael, Portrait of Angelo Doni,
Galleria Palatina, Florence.

Raphael, Portrait of Maddalena Doni, 1506, Galleria Palatina, Florence. Here, the modelling is confident and imposing, added to which is the emphasis on the facial expressions of the respective subjects. Though founded on the precepts of Leonardo, this has the effect of placing them in their historical context.


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