The traditional view is that the Renaissance of the 15th century in Italy, spreading through the rest of Europe, represented a reconnection of the west with classical antiquity, the absorption of knowledge of experimentalism, the focus on the importance humanism, an explosion of the dissemination of knowledge brought on by printing and the creation of new techniques in art, poetry and architecture which led to a radical change in the style and substance of the arts and letters. This period, in this view, represents Europe emerging from a long period as a backwater, and the rise of commerce and exploration.
The Italian Renaissance is often labeled as the beginning of the “modern” era. A famous artist from Italy during this time was Michelangelo Buonarroti. He commissioned a fresco painting behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel, in Vatican, Rome, known as the Last Judgment. From the northern part of Europe, an artist by the name of Antoine Caron painted his version of the Last Judgment, with oil on panel, displayed at the Ringling Museum of Art (15th century). Each of these paintings are examples of the growth of artistic expression in Europe during the 15th century.
Michelangelo, an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet, was one of the founders of the High Renaissance and in his later years one of the principal exponents of Mannerism. Born at Caprese, the son of the local magistrate, his family returned to Florence soon after his birth. Michelangelo’s desire to become an artist was initially opposed by his father, to be a practicing artist was then considered beneath the station of a member of the gentry. As a result of his talent, he was welcomed into the home of the Medici family where he eventually apprenticed in 1488 for a three-year term to Domenico Ghirlandaio.Order now
Under this apprenticeship, he learned the technique of fresco painting which is the technique he used when he commissioned his painting of the Last Judgment (Sistine Chapel 1534-1541). Antoine Caron was a master glassmaker and illustrator who was born in Beauvais, France. He was known as one of the few significant painters in France during the reign of Charles IX and Henry III. Antoine began his career with religious paintings. Like Michelangelo, Antoine also commissioned work for the Medici family.
The Last Judgment was a religious painting first completed by Michelangelo on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in 1534-1541. On the right and left of the face of Christ are a lily and a sword, symbolizing respectively the innocent and guilty. The painting shows that Christ has come to be the stern judge of the world. He was perceived as a giant whose mighty right arm is lifted in a gesture of damnation so broad and universal as to suggest he will destroy all of creation, Heaven and Earth alike. The choirs of Heaven surrounding him pulse and anxiety and awe.
The spaces are crowded with trumpeting angels, the ascending figures of the just and downward hurtling figures of the damned. On the left, the dead awake and assume flesh; on the right, the damned are tormented by demons whose gargoyle masks the burning eyes revive the demons of Romanesque tympana. Antoine Caron’s painting of the Last Judgment (Ringling Museum of Art, 15th century) is intended to have the same meaning. In France, where Caron’s from, the Last Judgment (Ringling Museum of Art, 15th century) occupied the sculptured Tympana of the center doorway of cathedrals.
Overtime the attitude and attributes of Christ the judge changed. He was fully dressed; later on His right side was uncovered so as to display his wounds; later still sword and lily, symbols of justice and mercy, protrude from His mouth. This tradition of the church was established by Michelangelo, showing how the influence of Italian art made its way to the northern part of the country. The medium of Antoine’s painting is oil on panel. The style of the painting compared to Michelangelo’s is similar due to the fact that Antoine was also a Mannerist.
Coming from the northern part of Europe, many artists, like Antoine, became increasingly entrances with myriad details of the visible world and better and better at capturing them. In the Last Judgment (Ringling Museum of Art ,15th century), he uses elongated figures, in twisted postures and with small heads and tapering arms and legs, frequently inhabit vast spaces. Caron’s exaggerated perspective, in which the forms seem to disappear into space and his unnaturalistic use of color are also part of the Mannerist style. Michelangelo’s painting is fresco.
His figures are grotesquely huge and violently twisted, with small heads and contorted features. The expressive power of ugliness and terror in the service of a terrible message reigns throughout the composition. This was typical for an Italian artist to show extreme emotion along with the bulk and mass of the figures. Michelangelo was able to make the figures appear real because of his knowledge of autonomy and how the human body looks from the inside out. (fig 1) Both artists’ paintings were commissioned during the same time period where humanism was of concern.
The use of inhabitable space allowed for the paintings to look more realistic. Caron and Michelangelo both try to reveal plasticity and depth in their works. Shadows are a major use throughout each one of these paintings which was used to create depth and even show movement. The Renaissance Period marked an important role in history for art in Europe. This period did not happen with the sudden drama that it did in Italy, nor were the concerns quite the same for the northern part of the country.
Northern artists like Antoine Caron, did not live among the ruins of Rome, nor did they share the exciting series of discoveries that make the Italian Renaissance such a good story, the Northern Renaissance style evolved gradually out of the late Middle Ages. Comparing the styles of these two Renaissance painters shows how in time how the styles emerged. Antoine Caron’s, Last Judgment (Ringling Museum of Art, 15th century) and Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (Sistine Chapel 1534-1541) are both meaningful paintings that still hold valid meaning to cathedrals today.