Renaissance Art and Architecture: a transformation of aesthetics in Europe
It would take nearly a century after its nascence for the influence of the Italian Renaissance to make an impact in other parts of Europe - it would be introduced first by way of Italian artists migrating to other parts of Europe but also because of the availability of printed texts like pattern books, reference works, and engravings - made possible with the invention of the printing press. Renaissance art and design was also disseminated by northern Europeans that returned with new found knowledge after travel to Italy and through increased commerce and trade that allowed for exchange of ideas.
Renaissance style was enthusiastically embraced by 16th century French King Frances I who did much to invite a shift in French aesthetics during the early 1500s. Political instability in Italy also perpetuated a migration of Italian artists to France during this time. King Frances' father King Charles VII had begun in the late 1400s an integration of Renaissance style and motifs at the Chateau d’Amboise, the royal residence in the Loire Valley, yet King Francis I also adopted an interest in the this aesthetic hence inviting to France Italians like Francesco Primaticcio, a painter and craftsman, and Sebastiano Serlio, Italian architect.
King Francis I established his court not in Paris but at Fountainebleau Palace, southeast of the city, where he convened the School of Fountainebleau, sort of salon and commune for Renaissance art that would come to promulgate the Renaissance vision especially through the painting of Mannerism - an associate Renaissance style of exaggerated figurative realism that originated with Italian painters like Michelangelo and Raphael. French aristocrats afforded the services of Italian artisans like Primaticco, Serlio, and Italian woodworker Francesco Scibec da Carpi among others, who came to design and build Fountainebleau and other chateaux in and near the Loire Valley and to decorate their interiors with Renaissance art and design.
The interiors at Fountainebleau offer proliferate examples of decoration in the French Renaissance style especially the Francis I Gallery. Together with Primaticco, the massive corridor inside the palace was designed and built by Italian painter Rosso Fiorentino (at least until his death in 1549), who was also a member of the First School of Fountainbleau. Every inch of the surface of this gallery is layered in ornament, color and craft work. Decorative molded stucco, coffered ceilings, tapestries, chimneypieces, carved wainscoting, intarsia (mosaic type art made with wood pieces) and frescoes are incorporate in Renaissance artistic style. Since the art of the Italian Renaissance sprung partly out of a rediscovery of classical designs, details by which its art is characterized include grotesques (busy and colorful images of masks, birds, foliage) arabesques (curved, flowering lines) and putti - cupids and angels.
The aesthetic influence of the Italian Renaissance would eventually infuse itself into the rest of Europe. In the Low Countries (Holland, Flanders, Burgundy), increased trade and commerce, and the prosperity that came with that, promoted an exchange of ideas and an increased interest in commissioned and decorative art. While lacking the sponsorship of a king like Frances I, Low Country artists as well became familiar with trends of the Italian Renaissance with the access to printed material, their travels (many sojourned to Rome), and immigration of Italian artisans to Northwest Europe (architects Tommaso Vincidor and Marcantonio Pasqualini were two). These Renaissance artists would produce paintings, tapestries and sculpture that modeled art of the Italian Renaissance expressed by bold colors and dramatic depictions.
In Krakow, Poland, King Alexander was moved by the fervor over Renaissance style and so hired Polish-Italian Renaissance artist Francesco Fiorentino (not related to Rosso Fiorentino in France) to redesign Wawel Castle in Renaissance style after a fire. In the wake of Fiorentino's death in 1516, Italian Renaissance architect Bartolommelo Berrecci continued the remodel of the castle. German ruler Duke Albrecht V (or Albert) of Bavaria was also a admirer and patron of Renaissance arts during the 16th century and created a museum of classical antiquities in an exhibition hall in Munich, now part of Munich Residenz, in the Renaissance style . Bohemia also embraced Renaissance art and architecture; Prague Castle was rebuilt in Renaissance style after a fire in 1541 and Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor seated in Prague in the 16th century, was a renowned patron of Renaissance arts. Spain also came to know Renaissance aesthetics that would to some extent be blended with Spanish and Moorish style, expressed frequently in ornamentation - metal work, paintings and decorative stucco. The interior of the Generalitat of Catalonia in Barcelona is an example of Renaissance style in Spain.
England was slow to embrace the Italian Renaissance and its development is coupled with the Tudor, Elizabeth and Jacobean. Yet printed material - architectural texts like those by Serlio (Seven Books of Architecture), Alberti, Vignola and Palladio, pattern books like those from Flanders like Vredeman de Vries’ Architectura, and etched “cartoons” (exploratory drawing by Raphael, Da Vinci, Dürer, and other artists) - helped speed the process of integrating the Renaissance into English art and architecture. Also instrumental was again, the migration of Italian Renaissance craftsmen like Pietro Torrigiano, who remodeled Hampton Court to reflect the influence of the Renaissance in its décor, under the commission of King Henry VIII.
Around the same time, Stuart kings of Scotland built one of the most marked examples of English Renaissance architecture at Falkland Palace in Fife, Scotland. Needless to say, it was Indigo Jones the 17th century British architect who truly recognized the significance of the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance. He embarked on a “Grand Tour” of the highlights of Italian Renaissance architecture in Vincenza, Venice, Florence and Rome, and used this knowledge to transform British architecture.
France was first to embrace the aesthetic sensibilities of the Italian Renaissance and England was last to integrate its artistic influence; The Hundred Years War and the English Civil War may have been obstacles to the spread of the ideas of the Italian Renaissance. Yet, the Italian Renaissance directly impacted the emergence of the Baroque style of the 17th century. No matter how small or great its presence was felt in Europe, it was the means in which classical methods of perspective, symmetry and harmony in art and architecture, were rediscovered and come to immemorially inform arts and architecture worldwide.
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