Moving From the High Renaissance to Late Renaissance - Illustrating the Shift With the Two Paintings The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and Jacopo Tintoretto

Moving From the High Renaissance to Late Renaissance - Illustrating the Shift With the Two Paintings The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and Jacopo Tintoretto

As we move from the High Renaissance to Late Renaissance, we notice a conspicuous shift away from harmony and balance as guiding principles toward a more emotional approach to the same subjects. Compare and contrast Leonardo's The Last Supper with Tintoretto's The Last Supper. How do these two paintings illustrate this shift?

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected the European intellectual life in the early modern period. It began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe. Its influence affected literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, religion, and other aspects of intellectual analysis because artists developed the humanist method in study, and searched for realism and human emotion in art. Renaissance scholars differed so markedly from the medieval scholars of the Renaissance of the 12th century because they focused on studying Greek works of natural sciences and philosophy, rather than on cultural works. Many of the Renaissance's greatest artists were devoted to Christianity, and the Church patronized many works of Renaissance art. However, a subtle shift took place in art because the earlier European art focused on the existence beyond the scientifically visible universe and started shifting to an art style that referred to the depiction of realistic objects in a natural setting that aimed to very accurate and precise details that portrayed things as they were.

The High Renaissance, in the history of art, was the time of the art of the Italian Renaissance which was between 1450 and 1527. The High Renaissance is widely viewed as the greatest explosion of creative genius in history. Many people who were extremely religious like Pope Julius II patronized many artists during this time that the movement was centered in Rome even though it was previously centered in Florence, Italy. The artists who were devoted to Christianity in their art brought majestic proportions signifying the full-scale revival of ancient Roman architecture, the ideal balance, the pleased mood and luminous colors. The High Renaissance emerged in the late 1490s, when Leonardo Da Vinci brought into existence his Last Supper in Milan. Besides paintings, sculptures also emerged in the High Renaissance which became more popular as an expensive art form.

Later on in the Late Renaissance, in other words the Renaissance, was viewed as an attempt by intellectuals to study and improve the secular and worldly in ideas from former art works. It spanned from the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Florence in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. Traditionally, this transformation has resulted in the Renaissance being viewed as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era. Artists started to portray the human form realistically, developing techniques to provide perspective and light more naturally. In other words, an art style that aims the attention to very accurate and precise details that portrays things as they are which is known as naturalism.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s, “The Last Supper” (1495–1498) is an oil painting in Milan that measures 15 feet × 29 ft and covers the back wall of the dining hall at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. It represents the scene of The Last Supper from the final days of Jesus where Jesus announces that one of his Twelve Apostles would betray him. It specifically portrays the reaction given by each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. All twelve apostles have different reactions to the news, with various expressions of anger and shock. The theme was traditional, but, Leonardo's interpretation gave it much greater realism and naturalistic depth. There was no golden background like in the past Christianity art works, the background out of the dining hall was the sky, the sunlight and the mountains of mother nature itself. The inside of the hall gives the viewer the illusion that the building is a three-dimensional building. Also, he adopts the convention of seating the apostles on one side of the table and creates a more dramatic and realistic effect by having Judas lean back into shadow. He also creates a half-moon shaped space above the main painting formed by the triple arched ceiling of the meeting place.

Jacopo Tintoretto’s “The Last Supper” (1592-1594) is an oil on canvas painting that measures 144 in × 224 in that was also made in the Renaissance. It is gathered in the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, northern Italy. Differently from usual depictions of the Last Supper, Tintoretto’s work does not portray the apostles in the center of the scene. Instead it is occupied by secondary characters such as a woman carrying a dish and the servants taking the dishes from the table. Tintoretto creates the use of light, which appears to come into obscurity from both the light on the ceiling and from Jesus' atmosphere. The twisting, darting gleams of light, glowing out suddenly from the deep shadow in the hanging lamp and in the haloes of Christ and the disciples, give the scene a spooky radiance and an air of vibrate energy.

Although both artworks of The Last Supper by Da Vinci and Tintoretto display the scene of Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, they are both distinctively different. Da Vinci’s Last Supper displays the traditional scene while Tintoretto’s Last Supper has secondary characters in the painting which seem to be the servants serving the plates. The source of light from Da Vinci’s Last Supper is from the daylight of nature which goes into the building while in Tintoretto’s Last Supper, there are two sources of light which are the flames of the lamp and the really bright halo of Jesus which seems to be directly inside the building. Da Vinci’s work has realistic and naturalistic depth in the painting and Tintoretto’s work also has realistic and naturalistic depth, but Tintoretto’s work also contains hovering angels that add a supernatural touch to the painting. They both display the table where the bread and wine is served except for the fact that in Tintoretto’s Last Supper, there are two tables that are not at the center. They are at an angular position where the viewer can see the side view of the tables.

When comparing both of the artworks of The Last Supper by Da Vinci and Tintoretto, it can easily be said that both have the same scene of Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. They both demonstrate how their artistic styles have evolved through the Renaissance by displaying the naturalistic depth. In both of their works, the disciples radiate away from Christ in almost mathematical symmetry. Also, they both have the long rectangular table and above the table are the plates served with the food which is the bread and the wine. Although both have their similarities and differences, both of these works display the shift because the earlier works of the Renaissance had balance and a supernatural touch which separated those works from the reality. The works that appeared later in the Renaissance like the works of Da Vinci and Tintoretto adapted a different approach called naturalism, basically painting the world of mother nature as it is. They both paint the true features of humans showing muscle and bone, and the illusions of depth and dimension.

Although the Renaissance spanned from the 14th to the 17th century, it was viewed as an attempt by intellectuals such as Da Vinci and Tintoretto to study and improve the secular and worldly in idea from former art works. It brought a shift that changed the whole term of what art was about during that time. Since most Renaissance artists were so devoted to Christianity, they put the Virgin Mary in a heavenly, golden background that represented her as an important figure from the heavens. Also, many other Renaissance artists adapted to the same approach by painting not only the Virgin Mary, but also Jesus and God. But that all changed when Renaissance artists brought down what us humans praise. They brought down the Virgin Mary, Jesus and God by adapting the new approach of naturalism which demonstrated that the God we praise is just an ordinary human, just like the rest of the humans, including Jesus and the Virgin Mary. This shift changed the term of what is known as the Renaissance, it is the movement of naturalistic art.

Leonardo Da Vinci
Jacopo Tintoretto
The High Renaissance
The Renaissance