the great masters of the High Renaissance,

Renaissance Period


Within only a few decades, between the years 1450 and 1550, the history of the world was changed drastically. During that century, in which the modern world was born, Gutenberg perfected printing, Christopher Columbous discovered continents unknown to Europe, it was found that the Earth revolved around the sun, Luther founded a new religion, the cannon and harquebus ended the age of chivalry, and Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo created a new form of art. At the same time most of the great European countries were formed and national languages began to evolve. People started to call themselves French, Italian, Spanish, English, or German. Europeans planted their flags on the shores of every ocean. Artists, writers, philosophers, and humanists proclaimed that ‘nothing is more admirable than man.’ They rediscovered the heritage of Greece and Rome and proclaimed the Renaissance, the ‘Rebirth’ of the spirit, of intelligence, of creativity, and of beauty.





Michelangelo was born March 6, 1475, in the small village of Caprese near Arezzo. Michelangelo’s father a Florentine official named Ludovico Buonarroti with connections to the ruling Medici family, placed his 13-year-old son in the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. After about two years, Michelangelo studied at the sculpture school in the Medici gardens and shortly thereafter was invited into the household of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent. There he had an opportunity to converse with the younger Medici. Michelangelo produced at least two relief sculptures by the time he was 16 years old, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs, which show that he had achieved a personal style at a very early age. His patron Lorenzo died in 1492; two years later Michelangelo fled Florence, when the Medici were temporarily expelled.


Leonardo da Vinci


Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in the small Tuscan town of Vinci, near Florence. He was the son of a wealthy Florentine notary and a peasant woman. In the mid-1460s the family settled in Florence, where Leonardo was given the best education that Florence, the intellectual and artistic center of Italy, could offer. About 1466 he was apprenticed as a garzone (studio boy) to Andrea del Verrocchio.

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the great masters of the High Renaissance, celebrated as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist. His profound love of knowledge and research was the keynote of both his artistic and scientific endeavors. His innovations in the field of painting influenced the course of Italian art for more than a century after his death, and his scientific studies-particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics, and hydraulics-anticipated many of the developments of modern science.




Dürer, Albrecht (1471-1528), the most famous artist of Reformation Germany, widely known for his paintings, drawings, prints, and theoretical writings on art, all of which had a profound influence on 16th-century artists in his own country and in the Lowlands.

Dürer was born May 21, 1471, in Nuremberg. His father, Albrecht Dürer the Elder, was a goldsmith and his son’s first art teacher. From his early training, the young Dürer inherited a legacy of 15th-century German art strongly dominated by Flemish late Gothic painting. After studying with his father, Dürer was apprenticed in 1486 to the painter and printmaker Michael Wolgemut at the age of 15. Dürer embarked on his bachelor’s journey in 1490. In 1492 he was in Colmar, where he tried to join the workshop of the German painter and engraver Martin Schongauer, who, unknown to Dürer, had died in 1491. Dürer was advised by Schongauer’s brothers to travel to the Swiss publishing center of Basel to find work. In Basel and later in Strasbourg, Dürer made illustrations for several publications in 1494. During this early period of his life, between his apprenticeship and his return to Nuremberg in 1494, Dürer’s art demonstrates his extreme facility with line and his keen observation of detail. These qualities are especially evident in a series of self-portraits, including an early drawing (1484, Albertina, Vienna) done when he was 13, a thoughtful portrait drawn in 1491 (University Collections, Erlangen, Germany), and a painting of himself as an extremely confident young man (1493, Louvre, Paris).


Domenico di Tommaso Bigordi Ghirlandaio, (1449-1494) one of the artists that had a major influence on Michelangelo.

Son of Tommaso, Domenico was the outstanding member of the family. He was born in Florence and studied painting and mosaic with the noted Florentine painter Alesso Baldovinetti. Except for a period spent in Rome working for Pope Sixtus IV, Domenico Ghirlandaio lived in Florence, where he became one of the greatest masters of the Florentine school. Ghirlandaio’s keen observation, solid painting, and old-fashioned style appealed to the conservative Florentine businessmen who became patrons of Ghirlandaio’s workshop. Although not an innovator, Ghirlandaio brought to its height in the 15th century the realism that is one of the dominating characteristics of that school. He executed frescoes and paintings with religious themes but often introduced recognisable Florentine scenery and portraits of contemporary personages attired in the costumes of the time.


Andrea del Verrocchio, (1435-1488), one of the artists that had a major influence on Leonardo da Vinci.

Florentine sculptor and painter, who is ranked second only to Donatello among the Italian sculptors of the early Renaissance. He was born in Florence and, according to tradition, was trained in that city as a goldsmith, with Giuliano Verrocchio, whose name he supposedly adopted as his own; as a sculptor, with Donatello; and as a painter, with Alesso Baldovinetti. Later Verrocchio conducted a large academy in Florence that became the principal centre of the arts. Among his pupils were Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Lorenzo di Credi, and Perugino.

Verrocchio’s bronze equestrian statue of the Venetian condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni, which stands in the Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice, is notable for the impression it creates of nobility and power and for the consummate skill in which anatomical and technical problems are overcome. Verrocchio completed only the clay model for this work, which was cast after his death by the Venetian sculptor Alessandro Leopardi.



Rogier van der Weyden, (c. 1399-1464), one of the artists that had a major influence on Dürer.

Flemish painter, a leading artist of the mid-15th century, known principally for his sensitive, deeply moving renderings of religious themes. Rogier was born in Tournai, Flanders (now in Belgium); although details of his early training are sketchy, it is generally accepted that he entered the workshop of the painter Robert Campin in Tournai in 1427 and became a master in 1432. In 1435 he was appointed the official painter of the city of Bruges (now in Belgium), where he spent most of the rest of his life. His many paintings-primarily such religious works as altarpieces, but also including portraits-are undated and unsigned, and the chronology of his career rests almost entirely on stylistic analysis.


Michelangelo’s work exerted a tremendous influence on his contemporaries and on subsequent Western art in general.

Generations of Italian painters and sculptors, among them Raphael, Annibale Carracci, Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, Sebastiano del Piombo, and Titian, admired his treatment of the human figure. His dome for St Peter’s became the model for domes all over the Western world.


Leonardo’s innovations in the field of painting influenced the course of Italian art for more than a century after his death, and his scientific studies-particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics, and hydraulics-anticipated many of the developments of modern science.


Dürer’s paintings, drawings, prints, and theoretical writings on art, all of which had a profound influence on 16th-century artists in his own country and in the Lowlands.


The work of Michelangelo, Leonardo and Dürer differed from each other in the following ways. Michelangelo uses pencil in the attached drawing. His technique is light and delicate, with intense detail. Michelangelo’s skill can be seen in the rendering of the face and the handling of light and shadow.

Leonardo uses brown ink in the attached drawing. His technique is light flowing and sketchy. It shows he is a very skilled artist who is able to draw effortlessly.

Dürer uses ink in the attached drawing. His technique is intense and detailed, paying particular attention to the delicacy of the line quality.


Comparing Michelangelo’s and Leonardo’s paintings.


Both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci have provided us with a side on view of a face. These artists are from the Renaissance period and both have shown individual approaches to similar subject matter.

These two artists have used different types of materials. Michelangelo has used pencil to create a detailed drawing in which his skill can be seen in the rendering of the face and the handling of light and shadow. Leonardo has used brown ink to create a sketchy drawing which reveals the effortless quality of Leonardo’s drawing skill.

Michelangelo has used tone to create a 3d and realistic effect. Leonardo, on the other hand as used tone to create and sketchy and bony effect.

Looking at Michelangelo’s work you get a sense of grandness. The drawing makes you see the man depicted as someone with authority. In Leonardo’s work you get a sense of oldness. The man in the drawn seems to be depicted as haggard and old. The sketchy quality of the drawing suggests that he is frail and that the life is slowing draining from him. Both paintings seem to radiate a sadness.

I think Michelangelo’s drawing is very good. The face draws your eye in so that you look into the eyes. The hat I think has been used to create a balance. Although the painting could very well be a study on the hat. I don’t like Leonardo’s drawing as much as Michelangelo’s. It seems too sketchy and over-exaggerated. I do however think the actually drawing is very good it shows skill.

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