Art in the Renaissance period was characterized by creativity, learning, and development of new forms of art. The purpose of this paper is to discuss an example of Renaissance art, in order to determine factors that identify it as the renaissance. In this regard, the Mona Lisa painting done by Leonardo da Vinci is used as an example.
Description of the Mona Lisa
This piece of art remains among the most popular across the globe and its replication is still largely used for decoration purposes and as an adornment. The painting which is considered one of the greatest pieces in the 15th and 16th centuries is classified in the Renaissance portrait art genre and was done by Leonardo da Vinci (Visual Arts 1). The Mona Lisa can be found in the Louvre Museum in Paris and is valued at over $1 billion. So famous is the portrait that one can only catch a glimpse of it in the Louvre.
The Mona Lisa features the wife of rich silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, Lisa Gherardini. Lisa sits on a chair, upright and sideways, and her face and chest slightly facing the viewer. Her left arm is placed on the armrest and clasped by the right arm. The position is said to be protective, thus creating a distance between her and the viewer.
- Renaissance art characteristics in the Mona Lisa
Renaissance art had various characteristics that were evident in a majority of pieces. These characteristics are discussed with reference to Mona Lisa.
3.1 Focus on the human figure
The human figure gained considerable importance during the Renaissance as artists rediscovered the human body’s beauty (Fichner-Rathus 270). This is the most notable characteristic in Mona Lisa, given Leonardo’s focus on detail to ensure that he brought out Lisa’s beauty on the painting. This is achieved through ensuring symmetry and proportion.
3.2 Realism and expression
Images were developed to be as realistic as possible, with emphasis on emotions and gestures (Fichner-Rathus 270). Consequently, portraits of real people were common. In Mona Lisa, it is evident that the portrait appears realistic and shows emotion. It is reported that Leonardo hired musicians to keep Lisa entertained during the drawing and this may explain why she was half smiling (Visual Arts 1). The subject also appears like they are directly looking at the viewer, thus making it life-like. Additionally, the three-dimensional painting, which is also a characteristic of Renaissance makes the image appear more realistic.
3.3 Use of perspective
Artists in the Renaissance created perspective through the use of lines and angles, light and shadow, and color, to create depth and distance (Fichner-Rathus 270). A notable characteristic of Renaissance art is the use of blue backgrounds in a bid to create depth. The background landscape in Mona Lisa consists of smoky blues and has no vanishing point. This creates an impression of great serenity and mystery as well as depth. In this painting, da Vinci uses the sfumato painting technique, where the artist uses ultra-subtle tonal graduations to create smooth and almost undetectable color transitions (Visual Arts 1).
3.4 Depictions of nature
Renaissance artists took a high interest in nature and were depicted through the inclusion of landscapes in their paintings. In Mona Lisa, the background scenery consists of a natural landscape with trees, hills, river, and bridge. This gives a natural look on the portrait.
The Mona Lisa is an outstanding example of Renaissance art as demonstrated by its portrayal of Renaissance characteristics. The painting is not only intriguing but it also captures various characteristics of Renaissance art including a focus on the human figure, realism, and expression, use of perspective depictions of nature and three-dimensional painting.
Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Foundations of Art and Design. Cengage Learning, 2014.
Visual Arts. Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) (1503-6). Visual Arts Cork, 2017.
www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/mona-lisa.htm. Accessed 7 July 2017.