Sandro Botticelli, one of the greatest painters of Florentine Hungary, spent most of his life in Florence, where the Medici family were his protectors. Venus’ birth is one of his main works, painted around 1468.
The mannerisms in the visual arts are evident in Florentine painters such as Jacopo Pontormo (1494–1557) and Agnolo Bronzino (1503–72) and the sculptor Giovanni Bologna (1529–1608). Still farthest went Parmigianino (1503-40), for example in the painting Madonna with long neck. Venice arrived in Venice around 1540, and expressed itself in an intensified color and light attitude, as with Tizian. His foremost student Tintoretto (1518–94) utilized the effects of mannerism to enhance the religious experience of biblical wonders and legends. Paolo Veronese (1528–88) partially reverted to the High Renaissance harmony, but also used diligent illusionist effects in their decorative wall frescoes.
The Baroque painters followed two main lines, one idealizing and one realistic. The idealizing line was initiated by Annibale (1569-1609) and Agostino Carracci (1557-1602). They sought their role models in the High Renaissance masters, Michelangelo, Rafael and Tizian.
In contrast to the idealizing direction stood Caravaggio (1573–1610), who created personal interpretations of biblical and mythological events. Typical of his images are the realism, the bold abbreviations, the tension in the composition’s baselines (most often diagonals) and the light that models the characters from a dark background (clair-obscure).
17th century painters benefited from both the Carraccians’ ideals and Caravaggio’s realism and lighting effects, for example. Domenichino (1581–1641), Guido Reni (1575–1642), Guercino (1591–1666), and Lanfranco (1582–1647). Several of the Baroque painters were commissioned to decorate churches and palaces with ceiling paintings. The large ceiling paintings often had perspective painted architecture, so-called quadratura, or a roof that opens to a “sky” where floating figures are drawn in strong abbreviation. Pietro da Cortona (1596–1669) created magnificent ceiling paintings in Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo Pitti.
Emphasis on expressions and emotions united with a nuanced realism characterizes the Baroque’s foremost sculptor and architect, Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680). As a sculptor he sought a naturalistic illusion and a dynamic movement in sculptures such as Apollon and Daphne and the Holy Teresa. He also created a number of groundbreaking fountains in Rome; Il tritone (Triton fountain) and Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of the Rivers).
In the Late Baroque another Italian specialty, the woodcut, is being developed, a topographical representation of urban prospects and landscapes. Venice’s canals and squares are the main motifs for the woodcut masters Canaletto (1697–1768) and Francesco Guardi (1712–93). The motifs of everyday life in Venice are portrayed by Pietro Longhi (1702–85). Venice was Italy’s artistic center in the 18th century, also within the monumental painting. Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770) decorated the ceilings and walls of churches and palaces with frescoes. In composition and motif he completed the great Baroque tradition, but used the light palette of the rococo.
It was the Italian Juste Aurèle Meissonier who actually formulated the rococo in France. This style gained significant support in the painting where Francesco Solimena, Giovanni Battista Crespi, Alessandro Magnasco, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta mediated the transition to Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s monumental decorations. Like Geno painter Pietro Longhi and architectural and wood painters Francesco Guardi, Antonio Canaletto and Bernardo Bellotto, he belonged in Venice, which was a center for the rococo. Giovanni Paolo Pannini,Rosalba Carriera, Pompeo Batoni and eraser Giovanni Battista Piranesi seemed different elsewhere.
Italian painting during the Baroque was characterized by a close realism and extensive use of dramatic lighting effects, something that Caravaggio is known for. The picture is his Paul’s conversion, 1600–1601. Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.
The excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid-18th century had provided new knowledge of life in Roman times, and antiquity became a source of inspiration in art again. Rome’s monuments and ruins were already monumentally depicted in Giovanni Battista Piranesis (1720–78) etchings and copper engravings.
Antonio Canova (1757-1822) took a leading position in Italian neoclassical sculpture, and performed a number of marble monuments, including Clemens 7’s tombstone in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Canaletto introduced a new genre into the painting, the so-called firewood painting. The painting Bucentoros’ Return (1729) depicts a feasting ceremony organized by the Venice Daughter every Christ’s Ascension Day, in the period 1311–1789, to mark the Venetian Republic’s sea rule.
Italian art in the 19th century played a modest role in contemporary international production. Giovanni Segantini (1858–99) painted pictures inspired by Impressionism, Naturalism and Symbolism. The artist circle in Macchiaioli in Florence in the period 1860–80 worked in a more modern, powerfully realistic, roughly impressionistic form of expression, primarily Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini. Portrait painter Giuseppe De Nittis won fame in Paris with his elegant and refined coloristic technique. Only with Medardo Rosso (1858-99) did Italy again get an interesting sculptor, inspired by Auguste Rodin in his impressionism, but with an intimate and gentle relationship with the form, which later became important for several Italian sculptors, including futurist Umberto Boccioni.
One of Bernini’s many fountains in Rome – Fontana del Moro on Piazza Navona.