Central and Northern Italy in the 16th century

This is a period of ambitious commissions—the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Tomb of Pope Julius II...

1500 - 1600

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Leonardo, <em>The Mona Lisa </em>
Leonardo, The Mona Lisa

Such a tease! This ambiguous portrait plays psychological and optical games with the viewer.

Leonardo and his drawings
Leonardo and his drawings

From military machines to playful cats, Leonardo’s extraordinary drawings capture his incessant curiosity.

Michelangelo, Medici Chapel (New Sacristy)
Michelangelo, Medici Chapel (New Sacristy)

Night and day, rough and polish—this chapel embodies opposition and traps the viewer in a moment of transition.

Giambologna, <em>Abduction of a Sabine Woman</em>
Giambologna, Abduction of a Sabine Woman

With a complex, multi-figure composition, this monumental sculpture captures a moment from ancient Roman history.

Sofonisba Anguissola
Sofonisba Anguissola

Female painters were rare in sixteenth-century Italy. In self-portraits, Sofonisba made sure to appear virtuous.

Quarrying and carving marble
Quarrying and carving marble

Cracks, picks, polish—and teeth. Sounds like dentistry, but the pearly whites here are blocks of Carrara marble.

The many meanings of Michelangelo’s <em>David</em>
The many meanings of Michelangelo’s David

Location, location, location. Meant for the cathedral, David presided over a public square—and now stands inside.

Michelangelo, Studies for the <em>Libyan Sibyl</em> (recto); Studies for the <em>Libyan Sibyl</em> and a small <em>Sketch for a Seated Figure</em> (verso)
Michelangelo, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto); Studies for the Libyan Sibyl and a small Sketch for a Seated Figure (verso)

Michelangelo transforms a male model into a female figure. Discover the artist’s working process.

Leonardo: Anatomist
Leonardo: Anatomist

Human cadavers and dead cows—Leonardo dissected both. He kept his notes private, but paintings betrayed this work.

Carving marble with traditional tools
Carving marble with traditional tools

Watch a sculptor demonstrate the use of traditional tools as he carves a block of marble.

Benvenuto Cellini, <em>Perseus with the Head of Medusa</em>
Benvenuto Cellini, Perseus with the Head of Medusa

Forget mythology—Cellini makes his skill the subject. Defying skeptics, he cast this upright bronze without flaw.

Raphael, <em>School of Athens</em>
Raphael, School of Athens

Whose side are you on? Two great philosophers of antiquity, Plato and Aristotle, face off in this meeting of minds.

Selected Contributors