Medieval versus Renaissance Art

Annunciation by Simone Martini. c. 1333

Annunciation by Simone Martini. c. 1333

Annunciation, by Simone Martini, is a piece of artwork that was painted in 1333, during the medieval age. Simone Martini was a painter who was born in Siena, Italy and died in Avignon, France. He was part of the International Gothic period. Annunciation is painted using egg-tempera, similar to the tempera we did in class, on panel. The painting, like many pieces of art from that age, is about religion. It shows the Angel Gabriel descending to the Virgin Mary and telling her the news about Jesus being born to her. The painting, like many paintings from the medieval age, is not proportionate to real human beings and is very flat. There are no dimensions and shadows in it. All the human figures or humanoid figures look the same. The colors in the painting are mostly gold, as it is the background, dark blues and blacks. It can be seen in the painting, that latin words are flowing out of the angel’s mouth and towards Mary. There is also a dove in the sky, that is leting a beam of golden light out of its mouth and towards Mary.

Female Head, Leonardo da Vinci, charcoal and chalk on paper (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

Female Head, Leonardo da Vinci, charcoal and chalk on paper (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

Female Head, by Leonardo Da vinci is a scketch from the renaissance age and was scketched on paper using chalk and charcoal. It was painted in Florence, Italy, which happened to be the place where Leonardo was from. Leonardo was a renaissance man, and like them, had many talents. He was a painter, sculptor, engineer, architect, inventor, anotomer, and much more. The scketch, Female Head, is about the proportions of a female head. It is black and white, but has all the details of a female head with shadows, depth and seems 3 dimensional. Since it was just a skecth, it has a white background.

The two paintings are similar in some ways, but mostly differ, because they were from very different time periods. Something similar is that both the painting contains a female, and that is where the similarities end. There are many more differences than similarities. Some differences are that the renaissance one has depth, and the medieval one doesn’t, the renaissance one has shadows and shades, and the medieval one doesn’t, the renaissance one has real-life proportions, and the medieval one doesn’t. There are many differences in the paintings because of the knowledge the renaissance artists had and the medieval artists didn’t.

The use of value affects the similarities and differences greatly because there is a lot of use of value in the medieval painting, whereas, the renaissance sketch has many different values. The medieval painting just has solid colors for each shape, while the renaissance sketch has a range of different shades between the colors, and the color of the paper itself is utilized as part of the value scale. The use of value in the renaissance sketch makes it look more realistic and seems as if the person actually exists, whereas, in the medieval painting, it seems that the scene is an old myth and does not seem realistic.

The understanding of proportion and anatomy greatly affect the differences between the two pieces of artwork because the renaissance artist had a greater understanding of it. Because of anatomy, Da Vinci knew how the light would hit the object, and how the object or person works and moves, this way he could draw it much more accurately. Proportion helped Da Vinci because he knows how he can draw person or object. It also makes the person in the sketch seem more realistic, whereas, the painting from the medieval artist seems flat and solid.

I think the renaissance artists were trying to capture everything as it was, and make everything seem realistic. I think they wanted to show everyone that art can also be realistic and that humanism is a big part of it.  The renaissance artists did many things to learn more about how to capture details accurately. The studied the human body to see how to works and how light hits it, they also experimented with oil to make oil-tempera. This allowed their artwork to be more realistic and vivid.

The understanding of the use of value, proportion and anatomy greatly changed art because it allowed the artist the capture the object just as it is and make it look realistic. Anatomy helped for artists to draw better human bodies, and value helped make everything look 3 dimensional and realistic.

I developed an understanding of proportion and value because of the fish we drew. It helped me understand how art can be made better by adding value and having the shapes be proportionate. I don’t think I learnt much about anatomy because I did not cut the fish, and we could not see into the organs of the fish, just the muscle tissue. However, I think this unit helped me to improve as an artist because I understood many things about value, lines and proportions.


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