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Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael

Leonardo Michelangelo Raphael
1452-1519        (67) 1475-1564       (89) 1483-1520     (37)
Vinci (nr Florence) Caprese (nr Florence) Urbino (nr Florence)
Painter Painter Painter
Fresco artist Fresco artist Fresco artist
Draftsman Draftsman  
Inventor Sculpture  
Scientist Architect  
Map maker    
Florence Venice Perugia
Milan     (last Supper) Bologna Florence
France 1516  Florence Rome    (Today's Vatican)
  Rome    (Today's Vatican)  
Jealous of Michelangelo   Influenced by both Leonardo and Michelangelo

Leonardo da Vinci: 1452-1519
Leonardo became the quintessential “Renaissance Man", though it is his work as a painter which interests us here. Born in Vinci (near Florence) he was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence as a boy and this was a fortunate choice of master by the boy’s father because Verrocchio’s studio produced all manner of art works including painting, fresco, and sculpture. Leonardo was almost certainly homosexual and had a reputation for leaving work unfinished. He fits the modern syndrome of someone who “has too much on”. His pictures often feature harsh landscape, pointing figures, compositions with tightly grouped figures, beautiful youths, cadaverous old men, a clear understanding of perspective and his tantalising sfumato style ( Smokey, diffuse colour and shading). 
Leonardo began working in his own right in the 1470s and in 1482 moved to Milan under the patronage of the ruling Sfortzi family. Here he painted his famous “last Supper” as fresco on the walls of a local Dominican Monastery. Sadly the headstrong Leonardo used his own formulation of the plaster and paint and the fresco has deteriorated steadily since its creation. In Milan he began his famous notebooks which detail his various studies. The French invaded Milan in 1499 and Leonardo retreated to Florence (even though he had been living in Milan – at that time at war with Florence). He returned to Milan in 1508-13 then retired to France where he died in 1519.

The Pictures

This picture was shown at the start of the week 2 session as the students came into the class only to excite comment and to allow some speculation as to whether or not Dan Brown's "woman" is indeed a man.

Pictures for Discussion

Andrea del Verocchio and Leonardo  (177 x 151cm)
The Baptism of Christ c 1472-75
Oil and Tempora on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Leonardo was apprenticed to Verrocchio in Florence and collaborated with his Master in some pictures.  Here the angel on the lower left is almost certainly by Leonardo.  Verocchio was amazed by his student's proficiency with colour and anecdotal evidence is that he never painted again after this picture as he felt he could never outdo Leonardo.  The delicate shading and rounding of figures especialy in the skin tones is typical of Leonardo as is the movement of the head to the right and the upper body to the right the left arm following the right arm around.

Leonardo da Vinci
The Annunciatiion  (78 x 219cm)
Oil and Tempora on Wood  
Uffizi Gallery, Florence

This picture was described last week its interest this week is in noting that Veroccchio almost certainly painted the Virgin and her furnature surrounds.  Leonardo painted the Angel and the scenery; note the delicate shading on the face and the misty receding colours of the scenery.  Note also the possible allegorical meaning of the Angel's right hand breaking the continuous wall, possibly signifying the momentous nature of the event of which he is the messenger.

Leonardo Annunciation: Detail; the Angel. 

Leonadro da Vinci
Madonna Benois c 1475-1478 (48 x 31)
Oil on canvas - Transferred from panel
Hermitage, St Petersburg

The painting is named after a former owner and illustrates well Leonardo's great skill at developing rounded shape by shading.  The picture is vibrant with movement the strong left to right upward diagonal emphasising the motion of the Virgin's arm and the Child's hands.  Depth is created by following the diagonal to the light window at the rear.

Leonardo da vinci
Portrait of Ginevra de Benci c 1478-80 (38 x 37cm)
Oil and tempora on wood
National Gallery, Washington DC

This is the only oil painting by Leonardo in North America which attests to the rarity of Leonardo's oil paintings and the tightness with which they are held.  The close-up composition allows us to appreciate Leonardos skill in portraying light as it reflects and forms the subject's face.  Receding, fading vegetation leads us into the picture and Leonardos characteristic hints at movement are seen in the turn of the head and opposite turn of the shoulders.  The portrait has been cut down at the bottom and carries a small painting on the back
with the inscription "Beauty adorns Virtue"

Leonardo da Vinci
Adoration of the Magi  1481-2 (243 x 246cm)
Oil on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence

I have included this famous picture to illustrate two of Leonardo's traits: the inclusion of ugly old men in his pictures and the picture is unfinished.  Note the complexity of the composition and the inclusion of architectural elements to secure it. 

Leonardo da Vinci
Burlington House Cartoon (Mary, Christ, St Anne and the Infant St John) 1499? (140 x 101cm)
Chalk on paper
National Gallery, London

This cartoon is preparatory work for a picture which was never completed.  The upper parts of the figures are completed, faces particularly.  The lower parts of the figures are not completed including the hands of the Virgin.  Note the strong triangular composition, christ appearing to slip from his Mother's grasp as he gives a blessing and the wrapt attention of St John. 

Leonardo da Vinci
St John the Baptist c 1513-16 (69 x 57)
Oil on wood
Louvre Museum, Paris

Note the pointed finger and the sfumato and contrapposto techniques which show the lighted figure appearing out of the background as though it is turning to the right.  Does St John have a smile which is reminiscent of the Mona Lisa?

Leonardo da Vinci 
Portrait of Lisa del Giocondo (Mona Lisa) 1503-06 (77 x 53)
Oil on wood
Louvre Museum, Paris


Michelangelo was born near Florence in 1475. His mother died when he was six and his father was essentially unsympathetic to Michelangelo’s wish to become an artist.  Artists were seen as members of the working class and Father had higher social aspirations. In any event his son went on to become the most celebrated sculptor of his day and at least nationally famous for his work at the Vatican-then part of Rome-particularly in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo, who was almost certainly homosexual, is one of the world’s best known artists. 
Michelangelo spent much time on religious commissions but also developed standing as a Humanist artist: focussing on humans and their pre-occupations. His secular works include the statue of David which was commissioned by the Florence town council and is world famous.  A copy stands today in the main Piazza in Florence.  Despite his father’s objections he was apprenticed to the Florentine Master Ghirlandiao at the age of 13 (1488) but then moved on to live with the Medici family with whom he grew up and studied. During his lifetime he moved between Florence, Bologna, Rome and Venice, though most of his life was spent in either Florence or Rome. He was famously bad tempered though this does not seem to have affected his artistic output.
The moment when Christ is taken down from the cross and His dead body is held by his Mother is a subject much depicted in Renaissance art. For Michelangelo his Pieta, done in Marble for St Peter’s Basilica, launched his career as a nationally-known artist and led to many other sculptural commissions both religious and secular. Only one of his panel paintings has survived – the Doni Tondo in the Uffizi- though many drawings and sketches are known.  In 1508 he was invited to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Interestingly both Botticelli and Raphael were both working at the chapel at the same time as Michelangelo, though neither would have seen much of him as he spent most of the next four years working on his 800 sq metres, world-famous masterpiece. For most of that time he lay on his back on scaffolding near the ceiling working paint into wet plaster.  Always working to deadlines both personally and externally imposed, he slept little and ate sparingly but created a work of art which is instantly identifiable and has been a tourist "must see” ever since.
After completing the Sistine Chapel commission Michelangelo retired from painting for the next 23 years but worked on as a sculptor and branched out into architecture and poetry. He greatly admired the dome on Florence Cathedral- The Duomo- designed by Brunelleschi and was invited to design and build a larger version for St Peters Basilica as part of a re-design of the whole building. This huge undertaking was unfinished at Michelangelo’s death and the final version of the dome and the Basilica is not completely Michelangelo's. 
Michelangelo died in 1564. His legacy is the universal illumination of the human spirit through art.
The Art Works

Ghirlandiao (1449-1494) 45
Adoration of the Magi (172cm)
Tempora on Panel
Uffizi Gallery: Florence
Michaelangelo was first apprenticed to Ghirlandiao and we can see from this picture with its handling of crowd scenes, secure perspective and realist figure painting that he found a master who was aware of all the modern aspects of painting at that time.

Michelangelo (1475- 1564) 89
Pieta 1498-99 (174cm)
St Peter’s Basilica Rome
The Pieta shows The Virgin Mary holding Christ’s dead body after the descent from the cross. It is one of the few Pietas to realistically depict Christ as dead. The body lies slumped across the Virgin supported by her knees and right arm, the head thrown backwards. The sumptuously modelled gown of The Virgin contrasts with the bare flesh of Jesus, reinforcing His humiliating death. The sculpture sits elevated on the south side of the nave of St Peters making it the first thing the visitor sees on entering from the north porch. Lighted on an otherwise darkened wall , it sits creating an image of sorrow and despair alleviated only by the serene gaze of The Virgin as she possibly contemplates the events later in Easter. The Virgin’s figure is much larger than that of Christ-compare the right hand for instance- and this reinforces the horror of His crucifixion. Note the contrapposto (opposite) movements in the Virgin’s figure.

Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Study for the Libyan Sibyl (29 x 21cm) (Sibyl = mouthpiece or broadcaster for the Gods)
Red Chalk on paper
The drawings on this sheet reveal evidence of Michelangelo’s studies of human anatomy and striving for detail in all parts of the finished picture. Again note the contrapposto movement in the main figure.

Michelangelo (1475-1564)
The Doni Tondo (The Holy Family with the infant St John the Baptist) Rome (120cm diameter)
Tempora on Panel
Uffizi Gallery Florence

Note the pyramidal composition favoured by Leonardo, the sculptural qualities of the drawing, the masculinity of the attendant figures at the rear and the contrapposto twisting.
Michelangelo (1465-1564)
The Creation of the Sun and the Moon
Sistine Chapel ceiling
Almighty God creates the moon (cold) and the sun (hot). Note the right hand booming out of the picture, the contrapposto, the sculptural painting of the figures, the colouration and the foreshortening to allow the figures to be viewed from below.


Raphael: 1483-1520
Born in Urbino (nr Florence) and the son of the Court Painter to the Duke of Urbino, Raphael had an artistic upbringing even though his father died when he was a child. At age about 20 Raphael began to work in Perugia where he worked with the local artistic celebrity Perugino. Perugino at this time had completed frescoes on the walls of the Sistine Chapel in Rome and the young Raphael’s art-particularly portraiture-began to show the influence of the flowing graceful style which characterises Perugino’s work.
 Raphael visited Florence in 1500 where he came under the influence of the two Florentine masters working there: Leonardo and Michaelangelo. From Michaelangelo he learned the importance of anatomy in showing the human figure and from Leonardo pyramidal-format composition as used in the depiction of groups of people; particularly families, sfumato painting style and the use of subtle lighting to help define and portray emotion in figures.  In 1508 Raphael was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius the Second. In Rome he produced the works for his Patron by which he is best known world-wide today-the frescoes on the walls of the Papal Apartments. One of these works “The School of Athens” contains portraits of both Leonardo and Michelangelo as a tribute from the younger painters to his earlier mentors. It is another “must see” on the tourist trail. While in Rome Raphael was lionised by the artistic community, the church and society so much so that his early death at age 37 is widely attributed to have been due to over- indulgence in both work and pleasure. Raphael’s sympathetic, delicately lighted, rounded painting of figures has rarely been equalled.
The Pictures


Raphael 1483-1520
The Coronation of the Virgin
(The Oddi Altarpiece) 1503-4 Perugia (267 x 163cm)
Oil on canvas
Vatican Museum

Without the upward looking figures in the bottom half of the picture this composition could easily split into two separate pictures.  Not all the figures are upward looking; one is looking at us.  Note the shading to bring out form and the clever invocation of perspective using the figures around the sarcophagus.

Raphael 1483-1502
Self Portrait 1506 Florence (47 x 35cm)
Oil on board
Uffizi Gallery Florence

Sensitive Raphael gazes out at us his body at a slight twist.  Light is cleverly used to give depth to the picture and it owes the emergence of the figure from a dark background to Leonardo.

Raphael 1483-1502
The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari (The Ansidei Maddona)
1505 Florence (217 x 148cm)
Oil on board
The National Gallery London

Here St John is shown as an adult and we are led into the picture by the gently tapering back to the Virgin's throne.  The gentle curves of the arch bring us back to the figures standing on either side of the main subjects

Raphael 1483-1502
Portrait of a Lady 1505-6 (22 x 16cm)
Pen and brown ink over underdrawing and black chalk
Louvre Museum Paris 

Compare this drawing with the Leonardo Mona Lisa: same folded arms, same half twist, same sfumato style of representation and yet another enigmatic smile!

Raphae 1483-1502
The School of Athens 1509-10 (770cm at base)
Vatican Apartments Rome

Probably the most famous of the Frescos in the Papal Apartments.  Plato in the centre is a portrait of Leonardo and Michelangelo sits dejectedly at the bottom left of the picture.  Note the brilliant colouring the emphatic perspective and the multitude of figures reminiscent of Michelangelo

Raphael 1483-1502
The Alba Maddona (Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist) Rome (93 cm diameter)
Oil on wood to canvas
National Gallery of Art Washington

One of the great treasures of American public art this picture sits on the back wall of its room directly opposite the door.  It claims the attention of the room's occupants and passers by.  Note the pyramidal composition characteristic of Leonardo, the muscularity of the Christ Child characteristic of Michelangelo and the superb colouring and three-dimensionality of Raphael.  Scenery takes us back into a picture which we can only assume The master was quite pleased with.