Leonardo’s best-known works, including the “Mona Lisa” (1503-05), “The Virgin of the Rocks” (1485) and the fresco “The Last Supper” (1495-98), showcase his unparalleled ability to portray light and shadow, as well as the physical relationship between figures–humans, animals and objects alike–and the landscape around them.
The origins of Renaissance art can be traced to Italy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
During this so-called “proto-Renaissance” period (1280-1400), Italian scholars and artists saw themselves as reawakening to the ideals and achievements of classical Roman culture.
The style of painting, sculpture and decorative arts identified with the Renaissance emerged in Italy in the late 14th century; it reached its zenith in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, in the work of Italian masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
In addition to its expression of classical Greco-Roman traditions, Renaissance art sought to capture the experience of the individual and the beauty and mystery of the natural world.
Writers such as Petrarch (1304-1374) and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) looked back to ancient Greece and Rome and sought to revive the languages, values and intellectual traditions of those cultures after the long period of stagnation that had followed the fall of the Roman Empire in the sixth century.
Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate "Renaissance man," practiced all the visual arts and studied a wide range of topics, including anatomy, geology, botany, hydraulics and flight.Three great masters–Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael–dominated the period known as the High Renaissance, which lasted roughly from the early 1490s until the sack of Rome by the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain in 1527.Leonardo (1452-1519) was the ultimate “Renaissance man” for the breadth of his intellect, interest and talent and his expression of humanist and classical values.Among the other great Italian artists working during this period were Bramante, Giorgione, Titian and Correggio.Many works of Renaissance art depicted religious images, including subjects such as the Virgin Mary, or Madonna, and were encountered by contemporary audiences of the period in the context of religious rituals.Renaissance artists came from all strata of society; they usually studied as apprentices before being admitted to a professional guild and working under the tutelage of an older master.