There are many famous renaissance portraits, but here are some of the best-known and most sought-after examples. These paintings include the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Lady with an Ermine by Jan van Eyck, and the Portrait of Ginevra Benci by Leonardo da Vinci. You’ll find out how they came to be so famous in this article.
Mona Lisa by Da Vinci
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of the most famous Renaissance portraits. This masterpiece is one of the earliest examples of an aerial perspective in a portrait, showing the sitter before a landscape echoed by the sitter’s hair and clothing. Another notable aspect of the Mona Lisa is that the woman’s face lacks eyebrows, which could be because the colour pigment for facial features was removed during the painting’s cleaning process.
The Mona Lisa has captivated audiences for centuries and is an iconic piece of art. Housed at the Louvre in Paris since 1804, the Mona Lisa has become a global icon of art. Millions of people come to view the painting, and many flock to capture its breathtaking beauty and enigmatic gaze. The painting sparked new trends in portrait painting and has inspired many artists.
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Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci
The painting Lady with an Ermine is considered one of the greatest works of western art. It depicts Cecilia Gallerani, a young lady who became a member of the Italian ermine order and received the nickname “Ermellino Bianco”. Leonardo was in the service of the Duke of Milan from 1485 to 1500, when he commissioned this portrait. The painting evokes curiosity by suggesting that the woman is pregnant, and it was probably painted before 1491, when she had already been married to Ludovico Sforza.
The painting appears to be simple at first glance, but closer inspection reveals more intricate details. In scene II, Leonardo placed a square on the picture, spanning from the golden section to the eye. The square is then bordered on the left and right by a central perpendicular, and the lower edge by a horizontal line. This pattern echoes the ermine’s head and shoulders, suggesting that the painting depicts the duke’s heraldic animal.
Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck
The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Esck was painted around 1446, when the Arnolfini family was well-connected and rich. Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini, an Italian merchant, was the subject. Giovanni married Giovana Cenami in 1447, which means that the painting was painted approximately thirteen years after the couple’s marriage. Giovana’s family had been involved in art for many years, so her presence in the painting is very relevant to the story behind the painting.
The portrait is a double portrait. Giovanni Arnolfini, a prosperous merchant from Lucca, had an office in Bruges. The artist painted him with Giovanna Cenami, the daughter of an Italian banker. Although the portrait is considered a bit unlikely, it is considered one of Van Eyck’s masterpieces. The Arnolfini Portrait exemplifies the naturalism of the Northern Renaissance School and demonstrates the artist’s mastery of oil painting.
The technique of painting the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Esck was revolutionary. Unlike many of his predecessors, he was the first to use oil paints as a base. Oil paints are known to dry much slower than water-based paints, so Van Eyck was able to add a great deal of detail without sacrificing the overall appearance of the painting.
Portrait of Ginevra Benci by Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci painted the Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci in 1474. The aristocratic woman was 17 years old and of high birth. This oil-on-wood portrait is the only painting by the artist in the Americas. Contemporaries in Florence admired Ginevra’s beauty and intelligence. The portrait is unique because it is one of the first three-quarter-view portraits in existence.
This painting of the Florentine nymph reveals a marbled skin tone and ringlets on her hair. She displays both a proud and a sulky facial expression. Leonardo painted this portrait for the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., which gave it a place in history. The painting’s significance extends beyond the portrait.
The juniper bush in the foreground is an interesting contrast to the young woman’s skin tone. A hazy sky is part of the painting’s aesthetic design. The painting also depicts the mountains and trees of Tuscany, a region that would be familiar to many. Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci was commissioned for a portrait commemorating her engagement or marriage to Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini, who was twice her age.
Portrait of a Young Girl by Petrus Christ
Among the best paintings of the 15th century is Petrus Christus’s Portrait of a Young Girl. Painted in oil on oak panel, this portrait was completed between 1465 and 1470, and now hangs in the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin. The work marks a significant stylistic advancement in modern portraiture, with its airy realistic setting and reserved, intelligent gaze. The portrait’s composition and style are also reminiscent of the work of Vermeer.
A study of this early Flemish painter will show that his style was influenced by the work of Jan van Eyck, who worked in Bruges. Petrus Christus also made important innovations in linear perspective, and his meticulous technique seems to have been influenced by manuscript illumination and miniatures. In total, thirty works by Petrus Christus are confidently attributed to him. Of these, the portrait of a young girl and the Portrait of a Carthusian (c. 1470) are two examples. Both paintings display detailed backgrounds and portraiture.
The question of the identity of the sitter is not completely resolved, but it is of little concern compared to the artistic merits of the painting. The portrait captures a childlike beauty that is in keeping with Gothic ideals of female beauty. The black ribbon accentuates the sitter’s long face, while the hair is tightly pulled back. The bottom edge draws the viewer’s gaze into the girl’s almond eyes.
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the younger is an extraordinary piece of art that invokes a number of mysteries. There is Christian symbolism, such as the torn curtain, but there is also neutral symbolism, such as the broken lute string. The painting’s subject matter, religion, and the broader world, all lend themselves to philosophical inquiry. The painting also conveys a sense of futility.
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the younger depicts an important period in English history. Henry VIII had married Anne Boleyn in 1533, despite Catherine of Aragon’s protestations. This was a major defiance of the Catholic Church. In the same year, Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses, which many believe marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. After the schism, many people blamed Anne Boleyn for the separation.
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael
The portrait of Baldassare Castiglione by the artist Raphael represents a gentleman who embodies the ideals of the High Renaissance. Raphael was a friend of Castiglione’s, and this portrait of the diplomat shows the artist’s admiration for the man’s impeccable manners. Raphael portrayed his friend in an elegant, natural pose and used realistic techniques in creating the composition.
Although this portrait is famous for its resemblance to the Mona Lisa, Raphael’s portrait of Castiglione has a long and enduring impact. The sitter’s soft clothing and beard were an expression of Raphael’s humanity. The sculptor’s subject was a great advocate of proper attire, and Raphael’s portrait reflects his belief in this philosophy.
Philip II in Armour by Titian
The portrait of Philip II in armour by Titian is one of his most celebrated paintings.
The painting features the king in richly decorated ceremonial armour. The royal body and armour are surrounded by a table in which his head rests. This arrangement of objects reflects the lack of imperial confidence and control in the scene. Philip is stabilised by the presence of a column to the left, which symbolizes fortitude and heroic virtue. This painting also demonstrates Titian’s mastery of the brush.