Early Renaissance in Italy: 1400s

The engineering of Brunelleschi’s dome, the naturalism of Donatello’s David, and the humanism of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus each help define the Early Renaissance in Italy, which gets going in the early years of 15th century in Florence. In this period, Florence is not a city in the unified country of Italy, as it is now. Instead, Italy was divided into many city-states (Florence, Milan, Venice etc.), each with their own government (some were ruled by despots, and others were republics).


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

Contrapposto



10 inches—that’s how far Venice has sunk. As sea levels and tourism rise, can this historic city survive?

Saving Venice


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.

Donatello, St. Mark













Oil paint in Venice
Their island climate didn’t suit fresco, so the Venetians tried oils instead—these paints blend when wet.

Oil paint in Venice


Donatello Mary Magdalene - detail
This difficult sculpture is an exercise in contrasts: frailty and power, pure spirituality and anatomical accuracy.

Donatello, Mary Magdalene





Andrea Mantegna, Dead Christ, tempera on canvas, c. 1480 - 1500 (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan) - detail
Mantegna was fascinated by perspective. His radical foreshortening and realism focus attention on Christ’s wounds.

Andrea Mantegna, Dead Christ