Since Prehistoric times, humankind has aspired to create drawings that represent emotion and an acute point of view of the world around them. The commencement of art began on cave walls which still remain today in Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain. Eventually the urge to draw and create art evolved from cave walls to paintings on paper and elaborate sculptures of marble. Each period of art shows the development and the growth of artistic styles and techniques and results in the characteristics that make that era recognizable and important.
Before the days of ancient Rome’s greatness, and Italy, as it is recognized today, the great European country was home of a nation called Etruria. The Etruscans and there civilization prospered between 950 and 300 BCE. in northwestern Italy, between the Arno River and the Tiber River which runs through Rome. The Etruscans developed wealth and power as a nation and then disappeared leaving hardly any documentation and very little evidence of there existence or there downfall.Order now
A major factor in discovering any information about there language and culture has been the inscriptions on their monuments, buildings, vast tombs, and the objects they left behind, notably bronze and terra cotta sculptures and polychrome ceramics. Although it has not yet been determined where the Etruscans came from it appears that the bronze sculptures left behind are similar in style to the bronze statues that the Greek are legendary for. Many art historians believe that the similarities in their sculptures and materials prove that Etruscans descended to Italy from Greece.
Another form of art from Etruria is seen in the form of clay urns. Cremation and the burial of ashes in clay urns was a common practice before the arrival of the Etruscan era, however the Etruscans had huge ceremonies for the dead and decorated their cinerary urns which was somewhat uncommon before this time period. The urns that were left behind help to tell us many of the cultural traits the Etruria nation embraced. The Artistic and Architectural achievements of the Etruscans have helped scholars to gain a lot of information about the people of Etruria and their history. Another early period in Italian art history is the Roman period.
The Roman period, as we know it, begins after the Punic Wars and the subsequent invasion of the Greek cities of the Mediterranean. The Hellenistic styles then current in Greek civilization were adopted. ” The Romans accepted Greek architecture, as did the Etruscans, but they created their own styles by adding certain aspects, and advancing their tools. The Romans created new types of structures, such as public baths and amphitheaters. Up until the late first century BC gladiatorial combats were held in the Forum, the Circus Maximus, and at other sites. When the games were held in the Forum, temporary wooden stands were put up.
In 53 BC the idea emerged to build a theater with permanent seats, thus the concept of an amphitheater was born. The first permanent stone amphitheater in Rome was built by Statilius Taurus in 29 BC. The Romans were able to build larger and more complicated structures than the Greeks with their invention of the arch and the aqueduct. The arch eliminated the need for columns to support heavy roofs. Using arches, the Romans could build huge buildings, long bridges, and long aqueducts that carried water to Roman cities. The Romans also invented concrete, a strong and cheap building material for buildings, arches, walls and vaults.
Roman painting and sculpture was influenced strongly by the Greeks. Greek art portrayed lifelike, though idealized, human subjects. Roman sculptures created works that reflected the subject’s individual personality. Another concept borrowed from the Greeks was the artistic portrayal of mythological figures, for example Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome are depicted in hundreds of pictures and tapestries from this time period. Another popular mythological figure many artists portrayed was Hercules, created either out of bronze or marble material, which were both materials that Greece is recognized for using.
In the thirteenth century a new period emerged for Italy, this era was known as the Gothic period. Art during this period was characterised by the styles and attitudes influenced by the Dominican and Franciscan order of monks, founded by Saint Dominic (1170 to 1221) and Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 to 1226). Franciscans are remembered for Saint Francis and his positive influence and compassion. The Dominicans are recognized for the beginning of the Inquisition and the persicuation of eledged heretics. The Gothic period began much of the religious affiliations with art, sculptures, as well as, literature.
Gothic architecture began during the twelve century in northern Europe and was known “as the french style”, it then spread southward to Italy. The term “gothic” was first used to insult the particular style during the Reformation era. Gothic architecture is most commonly seen in cathedrals and other churches in Europe. The earliest monument of the Italian Gothic style is the great church at Assisi. The Franciscan monastery and the lower and upper church of St Francis were started immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed in 1253. The lower church contains frescos by Cimabue and Giotto di Bondone.
In the Upper church frescos express scenes in the life of St Francis by Giotto and his circle. In order to paint a Fresco the wall or ceiling must be dampened and coated with lime plaster, also referred to as arriccio. Then the painting can be brushed on in red earth pigment, sinopia. Overall a fresco is done in small sections called giorante, which is italian for a days work, it is a very difficult and very time consuming project. Two of arguably the most influential artists of the gothic period were Cenni di Petro (Giovanni) Cimabue 1240-1302 and Giotto di Bondone 1267-1337.
They were the first painters who began the idea of an artist creating an individual style, rather than imitating the traditional styles and techniques. They began to take an interest in improving the depiction of realistic features on their subjects. When the Gothic period came to an end it opened the gates to a new era, the Renaissance, meaning “rebirth”. The Renaissance consists of three parts, the Early Renaissance, the High Renaissance and the Late Renaissance. The Renaissance lasted from the thirteen hundreds until the sixteen hundreds, and is the most recognizable period in Italian art history.
In the Gothic and previous periods the artistic styles where just variations on exisisting techniques and borrowed ideas from Greek and other civilizations, however, in the Renaissance increased awareness of classical knowledge created a new resolve to learn by observation and the study of the natural world. Consequently, secular themes became increasingly important to artists. (Rowlands 15) The leading members of the Early Renaissance were Donatello in sculpture, Filippo Brunelleschi in architecture, and Masaccio in painting.
One thing they all had in common was their belief in the theoretical foundations of art and the understanding that advancement and growth were essential to the life and significance of art. A major concept in the Early Renaissance was that classical art was a record of successful and failed attempts at capturing the essence of art. Artists of the Early Renaissance wanted to capture the natural world around them using their own observations as subject matter, the challenge of accurate representation brought better proportions, perspective, and most importantly created better usage of light and dark contrasts into the artistic community.
Rational inquiry was believed to be the key to success, during the fourteenth century laws of proportion were formed to accuratley display the features of the human body, and to systematize the use of pictorial space. Another basic idea which originated in the Early Reniassance was the concept of idealism, while the artists of this era did focuse on nature and observation, “they made an effort to go beyond straightforward transcription of nature, to instill the work of art with ideal, intangible qualities, endowing it with a beauty and significance greater and more permanent than that actually found in nature.
This characteristic remains as a fundamental of art throughout the Italian Reaissance and particularly today. The High Renaissance sought after the theory of unity, there was no main focal point, this brought balance to the pieces. The High Renaissance is considered the peak of art during the Renaissance, although it did not last more than thirty years. The High Renaissance produced some of the most famous artists such as, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. (Rowlands 18)
After the High Renaissance Italian Renaissance art began its downfall, this period was referred to as the Late Renaissance. One major factor to the slow decline of Renaissance art was the sack of Rome in 1527. The sack of Rome was part of the War of the League of Cognac, the war was between the Papal States and the Holy Roman Empire. Pope Clement VII believed that the Holy Roman Empire had Imperial Domination over the papacy. Overall the sack of Rome resulted in more than 45,500 dead, wounded, or captured.
This tragedy caused many artists to look for inspiration, and schools of art in locations other than Italy. Anticlassical themes began to emerge during the Late Renaissance period which lead to Mannerism. “Mannerism was an aesthetic movement that valued highly refined grace and elegance–the beautiful maniera, or style, from which Mannerism takes its name” . Mannerist artists found the need to out do the brilliant and historical work of their predecessors; the result was overdone development that appeared to anxious and overwhelming.