High Renaissance to Baroque

As the Italian Renaissance entered the 16th century, it passed into a period now referred to as the “High Renaissance.” Three of the greatest artists the world has ever known rose to prominence at that time, and they redefined art and its role forever. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Michaelangelo (1475-1564), and Raphael (1483-1520) marked the culmination of the Renaissance’s continual movement toward the unity of religion and humanism – the recognition of the importance of the earthly realm and human existence.

This large gallery serves as the heart of the permanent collection galleries. Visitors will find a range of painting styles and schools here, with paintings and decorative arts objects dating from 1500 to 1800. Thus it covers the artistic movements from the beginning of the High Renaissance through Mannerism, the Baroque, and into the Rococo.

Madonna and Child with Saints and Angels (c. 1510) is a large tondo, or circular painting, by the studio of Fra Bartolommeo (1472-1517), possibly in collaboration with Mariotto Albertinelli (1474-1512). While not painted by Bartolommeo himself, it is almost certainly his design. Born Baccio della Porta, Bartolommeo became a monk in 1500 and continued to paint in the style of Filippino Lippi, mentioned previously as a student of Botticelli. When the great Raphael came to Florence in 1505, he executed a strong influence over the painter-monk, and this beautiful painting reflects the young genius’ presence in Florence.

Among our most important paintings of the Baroque period is Bernardo Strozzi’s St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 1615). Strozzi was born in Genoa in 1581, but moved to Venice in 1630 and died there in 1644. He was influenced by the great Venetian painters Titian and Veronese, but used the dramatic contrast of light and dark that is a hallmark of the Roman Baroque school of painting. The martyred saint treads on the broken wheel, an instrument of torture with which the Roman emperor Maxentius tried to execute her (the wheel broke and he was finally forced to behead her, whereupon milk, rather than blood, flowed from her severed head). In her left hand she holds a palm leaf, another symbol of martyrdom.

While later in date, the small silver box depicting the infant Hercules captures the essence of Italian Baroque and Rococo art. Produced in Naples toward the end of the 18th century, the box has reliefs showing some of the Labors of Hercules – cleaning the Augean Stables, killing the Nemean Lion, battling with the Thebans against the Minyans, confronting the Hydra and the two-headed dog Cerberus – and is surmounted by a figure of the infant Hercules wrestling with a serpent.

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