These are the 12 most famous Renaissance paintings from art history.
The School of Athens by Raphael (1509–1511)
This fresco was done by the Italian renaissance artist Raphael whose work is admired for its clarity of form. It depicts a congregation of philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists from Ancient Greece. Figures depicted are Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Heraclitus. An interesting fact is that artists da Vinci and Michelangelo were featured in this fresco painting and are shown as Plato and Heraclitus. This painting is regarded as one of Raphael’s best works.
Portrait of a Young Woman, Simonetta Vespucci by Sandro Botticelli (1480–1485)
Sandro Botticelli was a painter of the early renaissance, from Italy. His paintings are seen to represent the linear grace of the late Italian Gothic and some early renaissance painting, even though they date from the second half of the Italian renaissance. He painted mythological and religious subjects, but also some portraits. Therefore, this portrait, which is tempera on wood, depicts a woman standing before a frame, possibly to a door or a window because early renaissance women were associated with indoor spaces. Her plain brown dress would’ve been appropriate for hosting in her home.
The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel (1562)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was the most significant Dutch and Flemish renaissance painter and printmaker. He had a formative influence on Dutch golden age painting and later painting in general in his innovative choices of subject matter. This panoramic painting depicts an army of skeletons wreaking havoc across a blackened, desolate landscape with fires burning in the distance.
Madonna of the Meadow by Giovanni Bellini (1505)
Madonna of the Meadow is a painting of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child that was completed by Bellini, who was an Italian renaissance painter who revolutionized Venetian painting. This painting is partially damaged, as it was primarily painted as oil and egg tempera on wood but transferred to canvas in the middle of the 20th century. Besides the two biblical figures, there is a raven on the tree depicted, which is possibly symbolizing death.
Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci (1490)
Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the greatest minds of the 15th and 16th centuries, one of the geniuses of human history. He was an Italian polymath of the high renaissance, a painter, engineer, scientist, theorist, architect, and sculptor. This drawing on paper depicts the ideal body proportions of a man, originally derived from an ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. It depicts a nude man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart, inscribed both in a circle and a square.
Portrait of Emperor Maximilian I by Albrecht Dürer (1519)
Albrecht Dürer, a German painter and theorist of the German renaissance, painted a portrait of Maximilian I, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The emperor broke the long tradition of requiring a Papal coronation for the adoption of the imperial title when he proclaimed himself Elected Emperor and started his rule. The emperor is portrayed from three quarters on a green background, with a pomegranate in his left hand (his personal symbol).
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (1503)
This is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It is a half-length portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, done in October 1503. The global fame and popularity of this painting began in 1911 after its theft by Vicnenco Peruggia. He attributed his actions to Italian patriotism, as he believed that the painting should belong to Italy. The Mona Lisa bears a strong resemblance to many renaissance depictions of the Virgin Mary, who was at the time seen as an ideal for womanhood.
Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538)
Venus of Urbino was painted by Titian, an Italian painter, considered to be the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. The painting depicts a nude woman laying on a couch or ed in a renaissance palace. The painting has two interpretations, but both agree that it depicts a powerful erotic woman. She is seen as the courtesan Zaffetta, or as a painting celebrating the marriage of its first owner.
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo (1536–1541)
This is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, one of the greatest renaissance painters, sculptors, and architects. It took him four years to finish it and it is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ, and the final and eternal judgment by God. The dead rise and descend to their fates, as judged by Christ surrounded by saints. There are, altogether, 300 figures in this painting, and most of them are males and angels originally shown as nudes. They were later partly covered up by painted draperies.
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (1480s)
This is one of the most popular paintings of all time. It was created by Sandro Botticelli, an Italian painter of the early renaissance whose mythological and religious subjects are very well known today. This masterpiece is a depiction of the birth of Venus, who is shown in the center standing nude in a giant scallop shell. Her neck and torso are elongated and her pose impossible, although she is standing in a contrapposto stance, her weight is shifted too far over to the left leg for her pose to be held.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (1490-1510)
Hieronymus Bosch was an early Netherlandish master, whose work, generally oil on oak wood, contains mainly fantastic illustrations of religious narratives and concepts. His most acclaimed works are triptych altarpieces and The Garden of Earthly Delights. It is not known whether this painting was intended to be an altarpiece, but the general view is that the subject matters make it unlikely that it was intended to function in a church. The two exterior panels left and right, show the world during creation, probably on the third day, after the addition of plant life, but before animals and humans. The interior consists of three panels – The Garden of Eden, The Garden of Earthly Delights, and The Hell.
Annunciation by Jan van Eyck (1434–1436)
Jan van Eyck was an early Netherlandish painter who was one of the most significant representatives of early northern renaissance art, whose artwork is characteristic of the use of symbolism and biblical references. This painting depicts the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she will bear a son of God. It was bought by the Tsar of Russia but was in the 1930s sold by Stalin, due to its Christian depiction.
What famous Renaissance paintings do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.