Renaissance Notes Essay

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Renaissance Notes

The 15th century artistic developments in Italy matured during the 16th century. The 15th century is thus designated the “Early Renaissance” and the 16th century the “High Renaissance”. Although there is no single style that defines the period, there is a distinct level of technical and artistic mastery that does. This is the age of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian, artists whose works exhibit such authority, that later generations of artists relied on these works for instruction.

These exemplary artistic creations further elevated the prestige of artists. Artists could claim divine inspiration, thereby raising visual art to a status formerly only given to poetry. Painters, sculptors, and architects were elevated to a new level and they claimed for their work a high position among the fine arts.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was born in the small town of Vinci, near Florence. He trained in the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio. He was brilliant man with many interests. His directions foreshadowed those that art and science would take in the future. A discussion of his many interests enhances our understanding of his artistic production. Those interests are seen in his Romulus sketchbooks filled with drawings and notes from his studies of the human body and natural world. He explored optics in-depth, allowing him to understand perspective, light, and color. His scientific drawings are artworks themselves.

Leonardo’s ambition in painting, as well as science, was to discover the laws underlying the processes and flux of nature. Leonardo believed that reality in its absolute sense is inaccessible, and that humans can only know it through its changing images. He considered the eyes the most vital organs and sight the most essential function. In his notes, he repeatedly stated that all his scientific investigations made him a better painter.

Around 1481, Leonardo left Florence, offering his services to Ludovico Sforza, duke of Milan. In his offer he highlighted his competence as a military engineer, mentioning his artistic abilities only at the end. This provided Leonardo with increased financial security and highlights the period’s instability.

During his first trip to Milan Leonardo painted Virgin on the Rocks as a central panel of an altarpiece for the chapel of the confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in San Francesco Grande. The painting builds on Masaccio’s understanding and usage of Chiaroscuro. Modeling with light and shadow and expressing emotional states were, for Leonardo, the heart of painting.

A good painting has two chief objects to paint – man and the intention of his soul. The former is easy, the latter hard, for it must be expressed by gestures and the movement of the limbs… A painting will only be wonderful for the beholder by making that which is not so appear raised and detached from the wall.

Leonardo presented the figures in Virgin of the Rocks in a pyramidal grouping and more notably, as sharing the same environment. This groundbreaking achievement – the unified representation of objects in an atmospheric setting – was a manifestation of scientific curiosity about the invisible substance surrounding things.

The Madonna, Christ Child, infant John the Baptist, and angel emerge through nuances of light and shade from the half light of the cavernous visionary landscape. Light veils and reveals the forms, immersing them in a layer of atmosphere that exists between them and the viewer. Atmospheric perspective is in full view. The figures actions unite them; prayer, pointing, and blessing. The angel points to the infant John. His outward glance involves spectators out of view, perhaps the viewers of the painting. John prays to the Christ Child and is blessed in return. The Virgin herself completes the series of interlocking gestures, her left hand resting protectively on John’s shoulder. The mood of tenderness, enhanced by caressing light, suffuses the entire composition. Leonardo succeeded in expressing “the intention of his soul.”

For the refectory of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Leonardo painted Last Supper. Despite its ruined state (in part from Leonardo’s unfortunate experiments with his materials) and although it has often been restored ineptly, the painting is Leonardo’s most formally and emotionally impressive work. Christ and his twelve disciples are seated at a long table set parallel to the picture plane in a simple, spacious room. Leonardo amplified the drama by placing it in an austere room. Christ with outstretched hands, has just said, “one of you is about to betray me” Matt 26:21. A wave of intense excitement passes through the group as each disciple asks himself or his neighbor, “Is it I?”

In the center, Christ appears isolated from the disciples and in perfect repose, while emotion swirls around him. The central window in the back frames Christ and has a curving pediment above it. The arc serves as a diffused halo. Christ’s head is the location of the single vanishing point on which the orthogonals converge, further emphasizing Christ. Leonardo presented the agitated disciples in four groups of three, united among and within themselves by the figures’ gestures and postures.

The artist sacrificed traditional iconography to pictorial and dramatic consistency by placing Judas on the same side of the table as Jesus and the other disciples. His face in shadow, Judas clutches a money bag in his right hand and reaches his left forward to fulfill the Master’s declaration” :But yeah behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is on the table” Luke 22:21. The two disciples on the end contain the action by their quiet composure.

Leonardo’s, Mona Lisa is the world’s most famous portrait. The sitter’s identity is not certain, but Vasari asserted that she is Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florentine – hence, “Mona (an Italian contraction of ma donna, “my lady”) Lisa.” It is notable because it is a convincing representation of an individual, rather than serving as an icon of status. The ambiguity of the famous “smile” is really the consequence of Leonardo’s fascination and skill with chiaroscuro and atmospheric perspective.

Her they serve to disguise rather than reveal a human psyche. The artist subtly adjusted the light and blurred precise planes – Leonardo’s famous smokey sfumato (misty haziness) – rendering the facial expression hard to determine. The lingering appeal of Mona Lisa derives in large part from Leonardo’s decision to set his subject against the backdrop of a mysterious uninhabited landscape. Originally Leonardo represented Mona Lisa in a loggia with columns. The painting was cropped later on (not by Leonardo) and the columns were eliminated. The remains of the column bases may still be seen to the left and right of Mona’s shoulders.

Leonardo completed very few paintings; his perfectionism, relentless experimentation, and far ranging curiosity diffused his efforts. The drawings in his notebooks preserve an extensive record of his ideas. His interests focused increasingly on science in his later years, and he embraced knowledge of all facets of the natural world. One example is The Fetus and Lining of the Uterus, although not up to 20th century standards for accuracy, it was an astounding achievement in its day. Though not the first scientist, Leonardo certainly originated a method of scientific illustration, especially cutaway and exploded views. Scholars have long recognized the importance of these drawings for the development of anatomy as a science, especially in an age predating photographic methods such a X rays.

Leonardo was well known as an architect and sculptor in his lifetime, but no existing building or sculptures can be attributed to him. From his drawings he was interested in the central style plan of buildings. Leonardo left numerous drawings of monumental equestrian statues of which one was made into a full scale model for a monument to Francesco Sforza (Ludovico’s). The French used it for a target and shot it to pieces when they occupied Milan in 1499. Due to the French, Leonardo left Milan and served for a while as a military engineer for Caesar Borgia, who, with the support of his father, Pope Alexander VI, who tried to conquer the cities of the Romagna region in North Central Italy and create a Borgia duchy. At a later date, Leonardo returned to Milan in the service of the French. At the invitation of King Francis I, he then went to France, where he died at the Chateau of Cloux in 1519.

Julius II: The Warrior Pope

Pope Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere (1503 – 1513), was an individual whose interests and activities effected the course of the High Renaissance. Julius II was a very ambitious man who indulged his enthusiasm for battle in a supposed quest to expand the church and the Kingdom of Heaven by worldly means. This earned him a designation as the “warrior pope”. He selected his name Julius after Julius Caesar, and he ran the papacy using the Roman Empire as his model.

Julius II’s papacy was notable for his contributions to the arts. He was an avid art patron and understood well the propagandistic value of visual imagery. After his election as pope, he immediately commissioned artworks that would present an authoritative image of his rule and reinforce the primacy of the Catholic Church. He commissioned a new design for Saint Peter’s basilica, the construction of his tomb, the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the decoration of the papal apartments. These large scale projects clearly required considerable finances. Because of this need, Julius sanctioned the huge increase in the selling of indulgences as a way to raise the revenue needed to fund the art, architecture, and the lavish papal lifestyle. This perception prompted disgruntlement among the faithful. Despite his exceptional artistic legacy, Julius II’s patronage contributed to the rise of the Reformation.

Saint Peter’s

Old Saint Peter’s had fallen into considerable disrepair and did not fit Julius II’s taste for the large, colossal, and glorious. He wanted control over all Italy and make the Rome of the Pope’s as glorious as or greater than that of the Caesars. This important commission was awarded to Donato D’Angelo Bramante (1444 – 1514). Bramante was trained as a painter. He went to Milan in 1481 and stayed till the French arrived in 1499. In Milan he abandoned painting and went on to become the most renowned architect of his generation. Influenced by Brunelleschi, Alberti, and perhaps Leonardo, who favored antiquity, Bramante developed the High Renaissance form of the central plan church.

Bramante originally conceived the new Saint Peter’s to consist of a cross with arms of equal length, each terminated by an apse. Julius II intended the new building to serve as a martyrium to mark Saint Peter’s grave and also hoped to have his own tomb in it. A large dome would have covered the crossing, and smaller domes over the subsidiary chapels would have covered the diagonal axes of the roughly squared plan. The ambitious plan called for a boldly sculptural treatment of the walls and piers under the dome. His design for the interior space was complex in the extreme, with the intricate symmetries of a crystal. It is possible to detect in the plan nine interlocking crosses, five of them supporting domes. The scale was so titanic that, according to sources, Bramante boasted he would place the dome of the Pantheon over the Basilica Nova.

During Bramante’s lifetime, the actual construction on the new Saint Peter’s basilica did not advance beyond the building of the crossing piers and the lower choir walls. After his death, the work passed on to other architects and finally to Michelangelo, whom Pope Paul III appointed in 1546 to complete the building. Not until the 17th century did the Church oversee the completion.

An earlier building completed by Bramante is considered the perfect prototype of classical domed architecture for the Renaissance and after. The building is called Tempietto – “Little Temple” because to contemporaries it had the look of a Roman pagan temple. The lower story was directly inspired by the round temples of Roman Italy that Bramante would have know in Rome.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain commissioned the Tempietto to mark the conjectural location of Saint Peter’s crucifixion. Available information suggests the project was commissioned in 1502, but there is dispute over the date.

Bramante relied on the composition of volumes and masses and on a sculptural handling of solids and voids to set apart this building, all but devoid of ornament, from the structures built in the preceding century. Standing inside the cloister along side the church of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, and the Tempietto resembles a sculptured reliquary and would have looked even more like one inside the circular colonnaded courtyard Bramante planned for it but never executed.

At first glance, the structure seems severely rational with its circular stylobate and Tuscan style colonnade. Wonderful harmony is achieved in the relationship of the parts (dome, drum, and base) to one another and to the whole. Conceived as a tall domed cylinder projecting from a wider lower cylinder of the colonnade, this building incorporates all the qualities of a sculpted monument. There is a wonderful rhythmic play of light and shadow on the form. Although the Tempietto may superficially resemble a Greek tholos, the combination of parts and details was new and original.

If one of the main differences between Early and High Renaissance styles of architecture was the former’s emphasis on detailing flat wall surfaces versus the latter’s sculptural handling of architectural masses, then Tempietto certainly broke new ground and stood at the beginning of the High Renaissance. The architect Andrea Palladio credited Bramante as the “first to bring back to light the good and beautiful architecture from antiquity to that time had been hidden.” Round in plan, it is elevated on a base that isolates it from its surroundings.


The artist whom Pope Julius II deemed best able to convey his message was Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564), who received some of the most coveted commissions. Though a man of many talents, architect, sculptor, painter, poet, and engineer, he thought of himself first as a sculptor. He regarded sculptor as a superior calling to painter because the sculptor shares in something like the divine power to “make man.” Drawing a conceptual parallel to Plato’s ideas, Michelangelo believed that the image produced by the artists hand must come from the idea in the artist’s mind. The idea, then, is the reality that the artist’s genius has brought forth. But artists are not the creators of the ideas they conceive. Rather they find their ideas in the natural world, reflecting the absolute idea, which, for the artist, is beauty.

One of Michelangelo’s best known observations about sculpture is that the artist must proceed by finding the idea – the image locked in the stone, as it were. Thus, by removing the excess stone, the artist extricates the ideas, like Pygmalion bringing forth the living form. Michelangelo felt that the artist works through many years at this unceasing process of revelation and “arrives late at novel and lofty things.”

Michelangelo sharply broke from his predecessors in a very important respect. He mistrusted the application of mathematical methods as guarantees of beauty in proportion. Measure and proportion, he believed, should be “kept in the eyes.” Vasari quotes Michelangelo as declaring that “it was necessary to have the compasses in the eyes and not in the hand, because the hands work and the eye judges.” Thus Michelangelo went against Vitruvius, Alberti, Leonardo, and others by asserting that the artist’s inspired judgment could identify other pleasing proportions. He believed that the artist must not be bound, except by the demands made by realizing the idea.

This insistence on the artist’s own authority was typical of Michelangelo and anticipated the modern concept of the right of self expression of talent limited only by the artist’s own judgment. The artistic license to aspire far beyond the “rules” was, in part, a manifestation of the pursuit of fame and success that humanism fostered. In this context, Michelangelo designed architecture and created paintings that departed from High Renaissance regularity. He put in its stead a style of vast, expressive strength conveyed through complex, eccentric, and often titanic forms that loom before the viewer in tragic grandeur. Michelangelo’s self imposed isolation, creative furies, proud independence, and daring innovations led Italians to speak of the dominating quality of the man and his work in one word -terribilita, the sublime shadowed by the awesome and the fearful.


In 1501, the Florence Cathedral building committee asked Michelangelo to work a great block of marble left over from an earlier aborted commission. From this stone, Michelangelo crafted David, which assured his reputation then and now as an extraordinary talent. The form and its references to classical antiquity appealed to Julius II who associated himself with the humanists and Roman emperors. This sculpture and the acclaim that accompanied its completion lead to Michelangelo’s papal commissions.

Like other David sculptures, Michelangelo’s had a political dimension. With the political instability of the time, Florentines viewed David as the symbolic defiant hero of the Florentine republic, especially given the statue’s placement near the west door of the Palazzo della Signoria. Forty years after David’s completion, Vasari extolled the political value of David claiming that “without a doubt the figure has put in the shade every other statue, ancient or modern, Greek or Roman – this was intended as a symbol of liberty for the palace, signifying that just as David protected his people and governed them justly, so whoever ruled Florence should vigorously defend the city and govern it with justice.” Michelangelo depicted David, not in victory, but turning his head sternly watching the approaching foe. His whole body and face is tense with gathering power. This energy in reserve is characteristic of Michelangelo’s later figures.

The Roman sculptor’s skill in precise rendering of heroic physique impressed Michelangelo. In David, without strictly imitating the antique style, Michelangelo captured the Lysippan athletes and the emotionalism of Hellenistic statuary. This David differs from Donatello’s and Verrocchio’s as Hellenistic statues depart from classical ones. Michelangelo abandoned the self contained compositions of the 15th century David statues by giving David’s head the abrupt turn toward Goliath. Michelangelo’s David is compositionally and emotionally connected to an unseen presence beyond the statue; a quality in Hellenistic sculpture. As early as David, Michelangelo invested his efforts in presenting towering pent up emotion rather than calm ideal beauty.

Julius II’s Tomb

The first project Julius II commissioned from Michelangelo in 1505 was the pontiff’s own tomb. The original design called for a freestanding two story structure with some 28 statues. This colossal monument would have given Michelangelo the latitude to sculpt numerous human statues while providing the pope with a grandiose memorial which Julius intended to be in St. Peter’s. Shortly after the project began, it was interrupted, possibly because funds had to be diverted to Bramante’s building of St. Peters. After Julius II’s death in 1513, Michelangelo was forced to reduce the scale of the project step by step until, it became a simple wall tomb with one third of the originally planned figures. The tomb was completed in 1545 and was placed in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, where Julius at one time had been a cardinal.

It is with surety that the ambitious Julius II would have been bitterly disappointed. The spirit of the tomb may be summed up in the figure of Moses, which Michelangelo had completed in 1513, during a sporadic resumption of work. It was meant to be seen from below and to be balanced with seven other massive forms related to it in spirit. The position of Moses now in his rather paltry setting’ does not have its original impact. Michelangelo depicted the Old Testament prophet seated, the Tablets of the Law under one arm and his hands gathering his voluminous beard. The horns were a recognizable convention to identify Moses. Michelangelo used the turned head, which concentrates the expression of awful wrath that stirs in Moses’ powerful frame and eyes. The muscles bulge, the veins swell, and the great legs seem to begin slowly to move with pent up energy.

Originally 20 sculptures of slaves in various attitudes of revolt and exhaustion, appear on the tomb. Bound Slave is one of those sculptures. Scholars question whether this sculpture and three other slave sculptures should have been part of Julius’s tomb. Many scholars also reject their identification as “slaves” or “captives.” What ever their intended purpose they are definitive. The figures do not represent an abstract concept, as in medieval allegory, but embody powerful emotional states associated with oppression. Michelangelo based his whole art on his conviction that whatever can be said greatly through sculpture and painting must be said through the human figure.

The Sistine Chapel

With the suspension of the tomb project, Julius gave the bitter and reluctant Michelangelo the commission to paint the Sistine Chapel in 1508. Michelangelo gave in hoping that the tomb commission would be revived. He faced enormous difficulties in painting the Sistine ceiling. He was inexperienced in fresco painting. The ceiling was some 5,800 square feet of surface to be covered and it was 70 feet above the ground. The vault’s height and curve created complicated perspective problems. Yet, in less than four years, Michelangelo produced an unprecedented work – a monumental fresco incorporating the patron’s agenda, Church doctrine, and the artist’s interests. The theme of the creation, the fall, and the redemption of humanity weave together more than 300 figures.

A long sequence of narrative panels describing the Creation as recorded in Genesis, runs along the crown of the vault. The Hebrew prophets and pagan sibyls who foretold the coming of Christ appear seated in large thrones on both sides of the central row of scenes from Genesis where the vault curves down. In the four corner pendentives are placed four Old Testament scenes with David, Judith, Haman, and Moses and the Brazen Serpent. Scores of lesser figures also appear.

The ancestors of Christ fill the triangular compartments above the windows, nude youths punctuate the corners of the central panels and small pairs of putti (cherub little boys) support the painted cornice surrounding the entire central corridor. The overall concept – a sweeping chronology of Christianity – was keeping with Renaissance ideas about Christian history. Such ideas include interest in the conflict between good and evil and between the energy of youth and the wisdom of age. The conception of the entire ceiling was astounding in itself, and the articulation of it in its thousand details was a superhuman achievement.

One of the ceilings central panels, the Creation of Adam, is also one of the most famous. Michelangelo created a bold, entirely humanistic interpretation of the momentous event. God and Adam confront each other in a primordial unformed landscape of which Adam is still a material part. The Lord transcends the earth, wrapped in a billowing cloud of drapery and borne up by his powers. Life leaps to Adam like a spark from the extended hand of God. The communication between Gods and man was common in myth and the connection here is clear. It emphasizes how High Renaissance thought joined classical and Christian traditions. Beneath the Lord’s sheltering arm is a female figure comprehensive but uncreated. Scholars traditionally have believed this to be Eve, but recent scholarship suggests that it may be the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child at her knee. If this is true, Michelangelo incorporated into the fresco the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Raphael

While Michelangelo was working on the Sistine Ceiling, Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael (1483 – 1520) to decorate the papal apartments in 1508. Raphael painted the Stanza della Segnatura (Room of the Signature – the papal library) and the Stanza d’Eliodoro (Room of Heliodorus). His pupils completed the other rooms, following his sketches. On the Four walls in the Stanza della Segnatura, under the headings of Theology (Disputa), Law (Justice), Poetry (Parnassus), and Philosophy (School of Athens), Raphael presented images that symbolize and sum up Western learning as Renaissance society understood it. The frescos refer to the four branches of human knowledge and wisdom while pointing out the virtues and learning appropriate to a pope.

Given Julius II’s desire for recognition as both a spiritual and temporal leader, it is appropriate that the Theology and Philosophy frescos face each other. The two images present a balanced picture of the pope – as a cultured, knowledgeable, individual, on the one hand, and as a wise, divinely ordained religious authority on the other. The Philosophy mural (the so called School of Athens) is the setting not of a school but a congregation of the great philosophers and scientists of the ancient world. Raphael depicted these luminaries – rediscovered by Renaissance thinkers – conversing and explaining their various theories and ideas. In a vast hall covered by massive barrel vaults that recall Roman architecture (and approximate the appearance of the new Saint Peter’s in 1509 when the painting was executed), colossal statues of Apollo and Athena, patron gods of the arts and of wisdom, oversee the interactions.

Plato and Aristotle serve as the central figures around whom Raphael carefully arranged others. Plato holds his book Timaeus and points to heaven, the source of his inspiration, while Aristotle carries his book Nichomachean Ethics and gestures toward the earth, from which his observations of reality sprang. On Plato’s side are the ancient philosophers, men concerned with the ultimate mysteries that transcend this world. On Aristotle’s side are the philosophers and scientists concerned with the nature of human affairs. At the lower left, Pythagoras writes as a servant holds up the harmonic scale. In the foreground, Heraclitus (probably a portrait of Michelangelo) broods alone. Diogenes sprawls on the steps. At the right, students are around Euclid, who demonstrates a theorem.

This group is especially interesting; Euclid may be the portrait of the aging Bramante. At the extreme right, just to the right of the astronomers Zoroaster and Ptolemy, both holding globes, Raphael included his own portrait. The figures’ self assurance and natural dignity convey the very nature of calm reason that balance and measure the great Renaissance minds so admired as the heart of philosophy. In this work Raphael placed himself among the mathematicians and scientists. His convincing depiction of a vast perspective space on a two dimensional surface was the consequence of the union of mathematics, with pictorial space, here mastered completely.

All the characters in the School of Athens, communicate moods that reflect their beliefs, and the artist’s placement of each figure tied these moods together. From the center, Raphael arranged groups of figures in an elliptical movement around Plato and Aristotle. It seems to swing forward, looping around the two foreground groups on both sides and then back again to the center. Moving through the wide opening in the foreground around the floor’s perspective pattern, the viewer’s eye penetrates the assembly of philosophers and continues, by way of the reclining Diogenes, up to the here reconciled leaders of the two great opposing camps of Renaissance philosophy. The perspective’s vanishing point falls on Plato’s left hand, drawing the viewer’s attention to Timaeus. In the works in the Stanza della Segnatura, Raphael reconciled and harmonized not only the Platonists and Aristotelians but also paganism and Christianity, surely a major factor in his appeal to Julius II.


Pope Leo X (Giovanni de Medici, 1513 – 1521), the son of Lorenzo de Medici, succeeded Julius II as Raphael’s patron. Leo was a worldly, pleasure loving prince who spent huge amounts on the arts. Raphael moved in the highest circles of the papal court, the star of a brilliant society. He was young, handsome, wealthy, and adulated, not only by his followers, but also by Rome and all Italy. Genial, even tempered, generous, and high minded. Raphael’s personality contrasted with the mysterious and aloof Leonardo, or the tormented and obstinate Michelangelo. The Pope was not Raphael’s only patron. His friend Agostino Chigi, an immensely wealthy banker who managed the papal state’s financial affairs, commissioned Raphael to decorate his palace, the Villa Farnesina, on the Tiber with scenes from classical mythology. Outstanding among the frescos was Galatea, which Raphael based on Metamorphoses, by the ancient Roman poet Ovid.

In Raphael’s fresco, Galatea flees from her uncouth lover, the Cyclops Polyphemus, on a shell drawn by leaping dolphins. Sea creatures and playful cupids surround her. The painting erupts in unrestrained pagan joy and exuberance, an exultant song in praise of human beauty and zestful love. Raphael enhanced the liveliness of the composition by placing the sturdy figures around Galatea in bounding and dashing movements that always return to her energetic center. The cupids, skillfully foreshortened, repeat the circling motion. Raphael conceived his figures sculpturally. Galatea’s body is strong and vigorous in motion suggesting the spiraling motion of Hellenistic statuary, and contrasting with Botticelli’s, almost dematerialized Venus. Pagan myth presented in monumental form, in vivacious movement, and a spirit of passionate delight resurrects the naturalistic art and poetry of the classical world.

Pope Paul III

Pope Paul III maintained the lavish lifestyle of previous popes and was a great patron of the arts. He commissioned a palace for himself while he was still Cardinal Farnese. The Palazzo Farnese in Rome was designed by Antonio Da Sangallo the Younger (1483 – 1546) who established himself as the favorite architect of Pope Paul II and received many commissions that might have otherwise gone to Michelangelo. Antonio was from a family of architects and was an assistant and draftsman for Bramante. Antonio built fortifications for almost the entire papal state and received more commissions for military than for civilian architecture.

The Palazzo Farnese set the standard for the High Renaissance palazzo and fully expresses the classical order, regularity, simplicity, and dignity of the High Renaissance. It was finished by Michelangelo after Antonio’s death in 1546.

The Last Judgment

Many of Pope Paul III’s commissions were part of an orchestrated campaign to restore the prominence of the Catholic Church in wake of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was the result of widespread dissatisfaction with the leadership and practices of the Catholic Church. Led by Clerics such as Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) and John Calvin (1509 – 1564) the Reformation directly challenged papal authority. The disgruntled Catholics voiced concerns about the sale of indulgences, nepotism, and high Church officials pursuing personal wealth. This reform movement resulted in the establishment of Protestantism, with sub groups such as Lutheranism and Calvinism. Central to Protestantism is a belief in personal faith rather than adherence to decreed Church practices and doctrines. This personal relationship between an individual and God, in essence eliminated the need for Church intercession central to Catholicism.

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