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The Rebirth of The Renaissance

Beginning in 14th century Italy, the Renaissance (meaning “rebirth”) took Europe by storm by re-establishing ancient Roman and Greek culture in all aspects. 

The Renaissance changed the world. Hundreds of years later, it still resonates with us. We admire those great Renaissance artists for their intellects and mastery of art, and we still seek comfort and inspiration from their works. 


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The Big Three of The Renaissance

Even if you aren’t quite familiar with the Renaissance, you will probably have heard of the Big Three: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Raphael (1483-1520) and Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). Collectively, their bodies of work are considered the epitome of the period. As a child, you might even have learned of Da Vinci’s perseverance through the fictional story of him tirelessly drawing eggs for three years. 

True or false, a story doesn’t affect our sentiment for these masters. We honour them, celebrate them and digitize their artworks as screensavers to remember them. You wouldn't be surprised to see someone using a phone case printed with Da Vinci’s The Virgin and Child or carrying a bag with a picture of The Burlington House Cartoon on. Da Vinci was so dedicated that he studied human anatomy via dissection (although completely illegal) to create accurate body movements on canvas.


The Virgin and Child

Follower of Leonardo da Vinci


National Gallery


If Raphael was still alive, he’d probably acquire an insane amount of followers on social media. If you apply the “glass-half-empty/full” analogy to Raphael, he’d see the glass as half full. Raphael took a little bit of others’ work and mixed it up into his own style. He idolized Leonardo but somehow got along with Michelangelo. “Well, it wasn’t easy,” he’d tell you this much.

If you have a friend fangirling Raphael like crazy (he was a handsome man, let’s admit it), get ready for a dozen Raphael-themed objects when you pay them a visit. There is a big chance that you’ll see Raphael’s artworks like An Allegory ('Vision of a Knight’) printed on their pillowcase or blanket with vibrant colours that brighten up the whole space. 


An Allegory ('Vision of a Knight')



National Gallery


As for Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci's old rival, he was a glass-half-empty kind of guy.  Although he followed in Da Vinci’s footsteps as a Renaissance artist, Michelan-gelo believed devoutly in God and was notoriously secretive about his work. Despite having no social graces, Michelangelo managed to get his name known by creating meticulously stunning sculptures like David. One of Michelangelo’s favourite activities was spending years polishing a statue, another was picking fights with Da Vinci in his spare time.

A Time For True Freedom

While the Big Three deserve every bit of lasting fame, they were not the only Renais-sance artists worth praising. In fact, there were many, if not hundreds, of great Re-naissance artists. At a time when women had extremely limited resources to study art, some still managed to overcome huge social and cultural challenges and became acclaimed artists. Artemisia Gentileschi, Levina Teerlinc, Sofonisba Anguissola……the list goes on. These great women broke through the limitations of their time and pro-duced outstanding artworks that hugely impacted the Renaissance.

Greatly inspired by the Big Three, Tiziano Vecelli (Titian, 1488-1576) applied their best elements to create his unique Venetian style. Although he may not be a household name now, Titian was one of the most desirable artists along with Michelangelo. Being a skilled colourist, Titian often played with the most vibrant pigments in his paintings.  Bacchus and Ariadne, now in the National Gallery, has been used as inspiration by a number of fashion and furniture designers to embed in modern home decor and clothing, among others.


Bacchus and Ariadne



National Gallery


And the post-Renaissance entrepreneur Rembrandt (1606-1669), a master of light, created the famous Rembrandt lighting technique where a triangle of light is visible in most of his works to evoke shade and darkness. You often get a cinematic impression looking at his paintings, and you can’t help but pay attention to all the details bathed in and hidden from the light. 

Rembrandt’s painting A Woman bathing in a Stream is a great example of how he controls the colours to create a three-dimensional feel, immersing the viewer in a personal experience. Now you know what our modern-day obsession with Rembrandt is all about!


A Woman bathing in a Stream

Rembrandt 1654

National Gallery


The Renaissance: A Deep Self-Reflection

The Renaissance changed the world in about every way one can think of. Always remaining true to its ideals, the Renaissance saw the fluidity of ideas change and evolve and there were breathtaking advances in art and science. In this tumultuous period, Renaissance art reached way beyond aesthetics. It formed a new discipline in pursuit of humanism and realism.

Through Renaissance art, we see ourselves. This journey of the Renaissance, while seemingly about some long-dead artists, is really about us. We never stop longing for that freedom and creativity. That’s why you see people hang Renaissance art in their homes and wear it as clothes, using material things to commemorate the great. Seven centuries have passed, but Renaissance art continues to withstand the test of time. 

The article is inspired by ARTiSTORY's 2022 Theme "Gathering of the Greats"
Renaissance, Gathering of the Greats, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Rembrandt, National Gallery, ARTiSTORY
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