10 Most Famous Paintings of The Renaissance

Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly from the 14th century to the 17th century. It saw some of the greatest artists in the history of mankind including Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. Here are 10 of the most famous paintings from this highly significant period of human artistic development.

#10 The Kiss of Judas

The Kiss of Judas (1306) - Giotto
The Kiss of Judas (1306) – Giotto
Location:Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy
Artist:Giotto di Bondone

Many critics consider Giotto as the first genius of modern painting and some claim that no artist has surpassed him with only a handful coming close. His fresco cycle on the Scrovegni Chapel is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art and ‘The Kiss of Judas’ is the most famous painting of the cycle. The painting captures the moment of betrayal when Judas identifies Jesus to the soldiers by kissing him. Giotto masterfully captures the drama and confusion of the arrest of Christ as well as the contrast of expressions of Jesus and Judas as they look face to face.

#9 Assumption of the Virgin

Assumption of the Virgin - Titian
Assumption of the Virgin (1518) – Titian
Location:Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.

‘Assumption of the Virgin’, located on the high altar in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, was the first commission of Titian in Venice and it established Titian as lead painter of the city. The painting depicts the ‘assumption of the virgin’, which is celebrated every year on August 15 and commemorates the rising of Mary to heaven before the decay of her body. In the painting, Virgin Mary is raised to the heavens by a swarm of cherubim while standing on a cloud. ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ is considered as the greatest masterpiece of Titian, one of the most versatile and popular painters in history.

#8 Sistine Madonna

Sistine Madonna (1512) - Raphael
Sistine Madonna (1512) – Raphael
Location:Old Masters Gallery, Dresden, Germany

‘Sistine Madonna’ depicts the Madonna, holding the Christ Child and flanked by Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara. Also there are two winged cherubs beneath Mary, who are perhaps the most famous cherubs depicted in any picture. Such is there popularity that there are many legends regarding how Raphael painted them. ‘Sistine Madonna’ is considered one of the finest paintings by many notable critics and it is especially popular in Germany where it “has been hailed as ‘supreme among the world’s paintings’ and accorded the epithet ‘divine'”.

#7 The Last Judgement

The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
The Last Judgement (1541) – Michelangelo
Location:Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Artist:Michelangelo Buonarroti

The Last Judgement is one of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art. Painted on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, it depicts the Second Coming of Christ (a future return of Jesus to earth) and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. Jesus is shown in the center of the painting and is surrounded by prominent saints; while the Resurrection of the Dead and the Descent of the Damned into Hell is shown in the zone below.

#6 Primavera

Primavera (1482) - Botticelli
Primavera (1482) – Botticelli
Location:Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Artist:Sandro Botticelli

‘Primavera’ means ‘the season of spring’ and the painting is sometimes also referred to as ‘Allegory of Spring’. There have been various interpretations of the painting but it is generally agreed that at some level it is “an elaborate mythological allegory of the burgeoning fertility of the world.” ‘Primavera’ is “one of the most written about and most controversial paintings in the world.” Botticelli’s fascinating use of color and multiple interpretations of the work have made the painting hugely popular and it often cited as a prime example of the grace of Early Renaissance art.

#5 The School of Athens

The School of Athens (1509) - Raphael
The School of Athens (1511) – Raphael
Location:Raphael Rooms, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Raphael’s masterpiece, ‘The School of Athens’, is one of the four main frescoes on the walls of the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The four paintings epitomize Philosophy, Poetry, Theology, and Law; with ‘The School of Athens’ representing Philosophy. Critics have suggested that every great Greek philosopher can be found among the 21 painted in the painting. However, apart from Plato and Aristotle, who are placed in the center of the scene, no one’s identity can be verified with certainty. ‘The School of Athens’ is considered “the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the High Renaissance.”

#4 The Last Supper

The Last Supper
The Last Supper (1498) – Leonardo da Vinci
Location:Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy
Artist:Leonardo Da Vinci

In ‘The Last Supper’, Leonardo masterfully depicts the bewilderment and confusion that occurs among the disciples of Jesus when he announces that one of them would betray him. Leonardo’s detailed knowledge of anatomy, light, botany and geology; his interest in how humans register emotion in expression and gesture; and his subtle gradation of tone; all come together to make this painting among the most revered and famous works of all time.

#3 The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus (1486) - Botticelli
The Birth of Venus (1486) – Sandro Botticelli
Location:Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Artist:Sandro Botticelli

The ‘Birth of Venus’ depicts the classical myth of Venus rising from the sea. In the painting the goddess of love, Venus, born out of a seashell, a fully mature woman, is arriving at the sea shore. Scholars have proposed many interpretations of the painting with the most prominent one being that Botticelli represented the Neoplatonic idea of divine love in the form of a nude Venus. Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ remains one of the most treasured artworks of the Renaissance.

#2 The Creation of Adam

The Creation of Adam (1512) - Michelangelo
The Creation of Adam (1512) – Michelangelo
Location:Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
Artist:Michelangelo Buonarroti

The work done by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is a cornerstone of Renaissance art and ‘The Creation of Adam’ is the most famous fresco panel of the masterpiece. The popularity of the painting is second only to ‘Mona Lisa’; and along with ‘The Last Supper’, it is the most replicated religious painting of all time. The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity and has been imitated and parodied innumerable times.

#1 Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa (1517) – Leonardo da Vinci
Location:Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Artist:Leonardo Da Vinci

The ‘Mona Lisa’ has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about and the most parodied work of art in the world”. Its fame rests, in particular, on the elusive smile on the woman’s face which is why it is also known as “la Gioconda”, or the laughing one. For Da Vinci, the ‘Mona Lisa’ was forever a work in progress, as it was his attempt at perfection. The painting was never delivered to its commissioner; Da Vinci kept it with him till the end of his life. Guinness World Records lists the ‘Mona Lisa’ as having the highest insurance value for a painting in history. It was assessed at US$100 million on December 14, 1962, which after adjusting inflation, would be around US$759 million today.

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