Gothic vs Renaissance, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction & Thesis

In assessing the relation between Gothic art and the art of the Renaissance era, I found comparing the Renaissance painting Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child with Saints (1505, Italy) with the Gothic painting Annunciation (1333, Italy) by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi was a clear cut way to draw out core differences between the two styles, seeing as they had so many similarities in both cultural background and theme. The core difference I found was the use of dimensions. Annunciation proved to stay in line with many Gothic works of the time and have two-dimensional layout with intense detail, while Bellini’s piece incorporated the use of three-dimensional techniques made popular by many artists of the Renaissance era; this made for more realistic and captivating image.

Stylistic Analysis

Assessing the paintings it’s clear each have their similarities and their differences. For instance, while one is Gothic and the other is from the Renaissance era, both paintings are Italian done by Italian artists. They both have rich bright colors and religious subject matter. Both works use stylized shaded faces to show more depth. In both paintings the central figures are women, and they are both seated while seemingly being served by all of the other supporting players within their frames. They appear to be seated on thrones, and both paintings attempt to make the posture and presentation of all figures within the frame as realistic and lifelike as possible; of course the Renaissance piece, Madonna and Child with Saints by Giovanni Bellini, does a better job of this as Bellini applied three dimensional concepts, such as shading and spacing to give the appearance of their being more layers and depth. In  Annunciation 1333, the four figures in the painting appear to be facing the observer, but as the piece is two-dimensional this makes for certain sections of the piece where angles are not congruent and suggests unnatural deceiving posture on the behalf of the figures.

There were many differences between Gothic art and that of the renaissance era. There were also many similarities as the Renaissance ultimately evolved out of Gothic traditions. Techniques used by High Renaissance era painters involved the use of incandescent colors created with newly developed oils of the age and they allowed for a unique vividness. Arch use in renaissance were semicircular while in Gothic they were more time than not pointed, small windows use in Renaissance was also a new trend in contrast to the wide elaborate stain glass cathedral presentations for which Gothic artists became known (Read, p113).

Cultural Analysis

Gothic art was a medieval style that evolved out Gothic architecture, which was a popular style of architecture that evolved from France in the mid-12th century. Gothic architecture which evolved from Romanesque architecture, was ultimately church oriented sculptures, and decorative art, such as stain glass windows for cathedrals that were more like two-dimensional paintings with, until that time, never before seen elaborate detail. As Michael Camille notes in his book, Gothic Art: Glorious Visions, when comparing Gothic church décor to that of the previous Byzantine era “…altar statues or large-scale sculptures like those at Namu-berg, whereas in Italy the Byzantine tradition of wall and panel paintings was custom. Here miraculous images- the crucifixes that speak to, bleed before, and interact with Italian saints and mystics like St. Francis and later St. Catherine of Siena- tend to be not statues but to-dimensional paintings (Camille, p106). The author makes it clear, that while the Gothic art was two dimensional and still predominantly based in the church or rooted in architecture; the era was ushering in an entirely new standard of detail. Camille goes on to further describe the relationship Gothic art had with the church and its influence on the times, when he says, “Gothic art in Europe, the word ‘Gothic’ describes not only an art style but a changing concept of space, tie, and society – a new kind of perception, both visual and spiritual (p.194).” Where Gothic art took the church, it could be argued the Renaissance progressed a step further by taking the world.

The Renaissance era is most commonly identified as a time in Europe between 1300 and 1600. The name Renaissance, which is French for “rebirth” represented the rebirth of knowledge and learning, which was depicted by a more realized sense of understanding of logic, science and math in the art and architecture produced during that time.  Knowledge of the world and its true nature became a paramount integral part of life for most Europeans during this time as noted in Janey Levy’s work Renaissance Paintings: Using Perspective to Represent Three-Dimensional Objectives,

Doctors and other scientist studied the human body and how it worked. Explorers, including Christopher Columbus, sailed to distant places. For the first time, Europeans learned about the vast expanse of Africa and about North and South America. The knowledge gained by explorers helped mapmakers create more accurate maps. A polish astronomer names Nicolaus Copernicus laid the foundations of modern astronomy with his observations of the sun, moon, and planets. An Italian scientist names Galileo Galilei studied gravity. (Levy p.4)

She goes on to point out how this vigor for knowledge led to new physical theories and rules on which Europeans during this era based their lives, and ultimately fueled the artwork coming out at that time. This can be seen in how Leonardo de Vinci, who was a famous Italian Renaissance painter, was also an inventor and scientist. It’s Levy’s view that because of this expansion in knowledge incorporated within most of the art during the Renaissance, they were the first to make more life-like use of perspective in their paintings which allowed two-dimensional images to appear as three-dimensional. This use of three-dimensional techniques to play with the perspective of the observer is undoubtedly one of the core differences between Renaissance and Gothic art, among many others.

Conclusion and Thematic Connection

In sum, comparing Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi’s. Annunciation, with Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child with Saints allows for enough similarities between the culture and background of the two works for many of the core differences between their respective eras of production to be more prevalent. The essential difference between the mentioned Renaissance work and the Gothic piece, which also happens to be a major difference between most of the works from their respective eras, is the use of three-dimensional techniques. The reason this plays such an important factor in how the paintings are perceived has to do with how the three-dimensional aspects of the work parallels the immediate world of the observer, while they are in the act of observing. This has the effect of pulling the observer in or mirroring their presence. The Annunciation on the other hand is more congested and has a two-dimensional upright presentation that fails to feel as authentic in relation to real life. The thematic connection between the two pieces centers on the concept of religion, motherhood, and female sanctity. Both women are enthroned, guarded and held in high standing. In Giovanni’s piece Madonna is holding a baby, there is a woman kneeling at her feet and others are serving her. Likewise, the woman in Annunciation also has someone kneeling before her and appears to be guarded. The similarities between these two works are so identical it could be argued that Bellini’s piece is just a Renaissance remake of the Gothic version.

Work Cited

Camille, Michael. Gothic Art: Glorious Visions. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996. Print.

Levy, Janey. Renaissance Paintings: Using Perspective to Represent Three-dimensional Objects. New York: PowerKids, 2005. Print.

Read, Herbert. The Meaning of Art. London: Faber & Faber, 1930. Print.

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