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Renaissance Oil Painting

The Renaissance period as described by historians is generally the period beginning in the mid 14th century and stretching all the way into the mid 17th century. The term, 'Renaissance', is French for 'rebirth' or 'renewal'. The Renaissance period therefore marked a rebirth in terms of a cultural revolution that begun in Tuscany, Italy in the late middle ages and quickly spread to the rest of Europe. As a cultural revolution there was a renewal of learning based on classical sources, the use of linear perspective in painting and widespread educational reforms.

Although the Renaissance saw drastic changes in many intellectual areas, it is best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

The development of Renaissance oil painting begun in the 14th century, when Cennino Ceninni illustrated a painting procedure combining tempera painting with light oily layers. In 1410 Jan Van Eyck the Flemish painter developed a stable varnish based mainly on Linseed oil. He developed a secret mixture which was later discovered to contain piled glass, heat oxidized bones and mineral pigments in linseed oil maintained for a long time in a viscous state at boiling temperature. The wedding portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife (National Gallery, London) painted in 1434, is one of the first and the best example of the new technique. Later Antonello Da Messina (1430-1479) improved on Van Eyck's technique by adding lead oxide to the pigment oil mixtures to improve their drying properties.

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) further improved the preparation by cooking the oily mixtures at low temperature (boiling water) after the addition of a small percentage of beeswax, thus preventing a too dark color. Giorgione (1477-1510), Titian (1488-1576) and Tintoreto (1518-1594) slightly altered the original recipe though this technique was kept secretly in Italian workshops for close to three centuries, thus ensuring the supremacy and radiance of Italian artists in the whole of Europe. In 1600, Rubens, while on a nine year visit to Italy, studied the Italian medium and made his own improvements. He used walnut oil warmed with lead oxide and some aromatic resin from the mastic tree dissolved in turpentine to grind mineral pigments.

Some of the great oil paintings associated with the Renaissance period include;

  • Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
  • The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Young Woman at Her Toilet by Giovanni Bellini
  • The Birth Of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
  • Ganymede by Antonio Allegri Correggio
  • Madonna And Child With Saints by Piero dela Francesca
  • Portrait Of A Gentleman by Castelfranco Veneto Giorgione
  • The Original Sin by Buonarroti Michelangelo
  • The Creation Of Adam by Michelangelo, Buonarroti
  • La Donna Velata by Raffaello Sanzio Raphael
  • Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi, 1518-1519 by Raphael, Raffaello Sanzio
  • Crowning With Thorns by Tiziano Vicellio Titian

 

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