Central Italy

A new realism appears in the art of central Italy in the 15th century.

1400 - 1500 (Early Renaissance)

Beginner's guide

Learn about the suite of tools Italian Renaissance artists used to create an illusion of space, and a body that moves easily.

videos + essays

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Masaccio, <em>Holy Trinity</em>
Masaccio, Holy Trinity

This painting blends deep piety with scientific observation. Both its architecture and figures were radically new.

Gentile da Fabriano, <em>Adoration of the Magi</em> (reframed)
Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi (reframed)

Brilliant golden brocades. Psuedo-Arabic. Turbans. Leopards and lions. The Adoration of the Magi speaks to the global flow of goods at this time.

Carlo Crivelli, <em>The Annunciation with Saint Emidius</em>
Carlo Crivelli, The Annunciation with Saint Emidius

What are Persian carpets, a peacock, and a cucumber doing in a painting of The Annunciation?

Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius): inventor of the modern book
Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius): inventor of the modern book

Printing and publishing in fifteenth century Venice, the Silicon Valley of its day


Don’t stand so straight! Relax. Shift your weight. Bend a knee. Just respond to the world, like this spear-bearer.

Donatello, <em>St. Mark</em>
Donatello, St. Mark

When the citizens of Florence looked up at St. Mark, they saw a mirror of their own dignity—and of ancient nobility.

Façade of Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Façade of Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Romanesque, Gothic, or ancient Greek? Whether you divide this façade by styles or squares, its stones come alive.

Dissecting Botticelli’s <em>Adoration of the Magi</em>
Dissecting Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi

Three men arrive to bless Christ. Are they wise—or just rich? Better defer to that young painter in the crowd...

Illustrating a Fifteenth-Century Italian Altarpiece
Illustrating a Fifteenth-Century Italian Altarpiece

When reconstructed, the panels of this altarpiece resemble the architecture of an Italian Gothic cathedral.

Lorenzo Ghiberti, <em>Gates of Paradise</em>, East Doors of the Florence Baptistery
Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gates of Paradise, East Doors of the Florence Baptistery

These gilded bronze doors are a masterpiece of clarity and illusionism. Space coheres, and figures move with ease.

Nanni di Banco, <em>Four Crowned Saints</em>
Nanni di Banco, Four Crowned Saints

Capturing figures in thought, stonemasons understood what it meant to be human—just like the ancient Romans.

Donatello, <em>Mary Magdalene</em>
Donatello, Mary Magdalene

This difficult sculpture is an exercise in contrasts: frailty and power, pure spirituality and anatomical accuracy.

Selected Contributors