The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of life. The century opened with the discovery of a new continent


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The Mona Lisa, Leonardo's most famous work, is as well known for its mastery of technical innovations as for the mysteriousness of its legendary smiling subject. This work is a consummate example of two techniques—sfumato and chiaroscuro—of which Leonardo was one of the first great masters.



Sfumato is characterized by subtle, almost infinitesimal transitions between color areas, creating a delicately atmospheric haze or smoky effect; it is especially evident in the delicate gauzy robes worn by the sitter and in her enigmatic smile.

  • Sfumato is characterized by subtle, almost infinitesimal transitions between color areas, creating a delicately atmospheric haze or smoky effect; it is especially evident in the delicate gauzy robes worn by the sitter and in her enigmatic smile.



Chiaroscuro is the technique of modeling and defining forms through contrasts of light and shadow; the sensitive hands of the sitter are portrayed with a luminous modulation of light and shade, while color contrast is used only sparingly.

  • Chiaroscuro is the technique of modeling and defining forms through contrasts of light and shadow; the sensitive hands of the sitter are portrayed with a luminous modulation of light and shade, while color contrast is used only sparingly.





Italian Renaissance painter, considered one of the greatest and most popular artists of all time. Raphael was born Raffaello Santi or Raffaello Sanzio in Urbino on April 6, 1483, and received his early training in art from his father, the painter Giovanni Santi.

  • Italian Renaissance painter, considered one of the greatest and most popular artists of all time. Raphael was born Raffaello Santi or Raffaello Sanzio in Urbino on April 6, 1483, and received his early training in art from his father, the painter Giovanni Santi.









In 1510, upon hearing of the abilities of the young Raphael, Julius II ordered him from Florence. Once in Rome, Raphael was ordered by the pope to destroy the paintings on the walls of his council chambers in the Vatican Palace: to plaster over the frescoes by Piero della Francesca, Signorelli, Perugino, Raphael's friend Sodoma and the rest, and to cover the walls of the rooms now known as the Stanze of Raphael with subjects of his own choice.

  • In 1510, upon hearing of the abilities of the young Raphael, Julius II ordered him from Florence. Once in Rome, Raphael was ordered by the pope to destroy the paintings on the walls of his council chambers in the Vatican Palace: to plaster over the frescoes by Piero della Francesca, Signorelli, Perugino, Raphael's friend Sodoma and the rest, and to cover the walls of the rooms now known as the Stanze of Raphael with subjects of his own choice.



This fresco, painted by Raphael for the Vatican apartments of Pope Julius II, depicts Aristotle as a symbol of the active life and Plato as a symbol of the contemplative life. Aristotle, on the right, carries his Ethics and gestures forward. Plato, on the left, carries the Timaeus and points upwards. Others shown in this fresco are practical mathematicicans assembled beneath Aristotle; beneath Plato are gathered the abstract mathematicians.

  • This fresco, painted by Raphael for the Vatican apartments of Pope Julius II, depicts Aristotle as a symbol of the active life and Plato as a symbol of the contemplative life. Aristotle, on the right, carries his Ethics and gestures forward. Plato, on the left, carries the Timaeus and points upwards. Others shown in this fresco are practical mathematicicans assembled beneath Aristotle; beneath Plato are gathered the abstract mathematicians.



While Michelangelo was next door painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling his version of the Christian world, Raphael was painting on the walls of the Vatican Palace his vision of the world of Humanist thought.

  • While Michelangelo was next door painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling his version of the Christian world, Raphael was painting on the walls of the Vatican Palace his vision of the world of Humanist thought.

  • Within the clear, uncluttered space of this imaginary setting Raphael displays, like classical statues or clear and distinct ideas, idealized portraits of his contemporaries to represent the major figures of classical wisdom and science.



Heraclitus looks a lot like Michelangelo, who was at this time slaving away next door on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is said that despite Michelangelo's efforts to keep his work in total secrecy, Raphael managed to sneak into the Chapel to see what his anti-social older rival was up to. And sure enough, not only does the Heraclitus figure look like Michelangelo; in its block-like sculptural solidity, it looks like it was painted by Michelangelo.

  • Heraclitus looks a lot like Michelangelo, who was at this time slaving away next door on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is said that despite Michelangelo's efforts to keep his work in total secrecy, Raphael managed to sneak into the Chapel to see what his anti-social older rival was up to. And sure enough, not only does the Heraclitus figure look like Michelangelo; in its block-like sculptural solidity, it looks like it was painted by Michelangelo.





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