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Proto-Renaissance

51 artworks, 17 artists
The Proto-Renaissance (ancient gr. πρῶτος — “first” and fr. Renaissance - “rebirth”) is a period of development of European culture and art of the 13—14th centuries. The researchers distinduish the Duecento — the art of the 13th century and the Trecento — artworks of the 1300s. The Proto-Renaissance was based on medieval traditions and religious beliefs, Gothic and Byzantine art, and it became the forerunner of the High Renaissance. The paintings and sculptures of the transitive period are marked with sensuality, realism, flexible lines and graceful forms. The artists returned the aesthetics and classical traditions of Ancient Greece, filled their works with humanism, light, love of life and subtle emotionality.

Dramatic changes in European public relations triggered the emergence of the new culture. In Florence, the Italian “capital of arts”, the influence of merchants, artisans and financiers grew, and wealthy and noble citizens acted as patrons for young talents. The influence of the Catholic Church on cultural life weakened, which allowed artists, sculptors, and poets to create by the will of their own inspiration and lessened their fear of “critics from the Inquisition”. Fine art ceased to be a craft and became a zone of individual creativity manifestation. “Titans of the Proto-Renaissance” showed their talent not only in painting, but also in sculpture, architecture, poetry. The pace of development of various art areas did not coincide, so the Proto-Renaissance period lasted two centuries before Europe entered the golden age of the Renaissance.

Humanism became the main distinguishing feature of Proto-Renaissance painting, artists sought to convey the beauty of the body and the individuality of a subject. Even depicting God or a mythical hero on canvas, the master painted, primarily, a Man. Religious scenes with symbols and allegories prevailed among other themes, though they still contained the elements of “earthly life”, demonstrated a transition from religiosity to secularism. The artists represented the heroes of the Holy Scripture similar to the patrons, rulers, or ccommissioners of the paintings and frescoes, endowing them with living human emotions. Everyday objects appeared in the images of gods and saints, and public life events were depicted in the religious subjects. Interest in ancient culture revealed in the realistic depiction of the subjects of the paintings, the sculptures emphasized movement, power and flexibility of the human body. Artists conveyed volume and perspective; interiors and landscapes did not look flat and sketchy anymore. The Proto-Renaissance paintings feature tight compositions: numerous subjects are located in the centre, while architectural compositions and landscapes form the periphery. Experiments with chiaroscuro and palette, the creation of soft shades and colour transitions, and fragmentary elements of urban and rural landscapes made it possible to achieve a volume image. The inhabitants of the canvases descended from heaven and came to life, ceasing to be sketchy images. Bright characters, full-blooded and psychologically faithful images appeared. During the Proto-Renaissance, portraiture became a separate genre. The grace of antiquity was combined with the temperament and drama of the Gothic Middle Ages.

Famous Proto-Renaissance paintings:
Ecstasy of St. Francis” 1290s, “Kiss of Judas” 1306 by Giotto di Bondone; “Christ Mocked” 1280, “The Flagellation of Christ” 1280 by Cenni di Pepo (Cimabue).

The artists and sculptors of the Proto-Renaissance:
a painter, sculptor and architect, reformer of painting Giotto di Bondone, Pietro Cavallini, Cenni di Pepo (Cimabue)Niccolo and Giovanni Pisano, Arnolfo di Cambio.
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