The Renaissance in Italy: 1500s

When you think of the Renaissance, the names that come to mind are probably the artists of this period (the High Renaissance): Leonardo and Michelangelo, for instance. And when you think of the greatest work of art in the western world, Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling might come to mind. This is a period of big, ambitious projects. Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, Leonardo’s Last Supper, and Raphael’s Stanza frescos shape our understanding of Western culture even today.

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

Leonardo and his drawings

Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-Portrait at the Easel, 1556, oil on canvas, 66 x 57 cm (Łańcut Castle)
Female painters were rare in sixteenth-century Italy. In self-portraits, Sofonisba made sure to appear virtuous.

Sofonisba Anguissola

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

Quarrying and carving marble

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

Leonardo: Anatomist

Raphael, School of Athens (detail)
Whose side are you on? Two great philosophers of antiquity, Plato and Aristotle, face off in this meeting of minds.

Raphael, School of Athens