In a word: Yes.

Much of what made Renaissance art revolutionary in its time and enduringly popular today is the daring exhibited by the artists.

The movement begins with Sandro Botticelli's iconic Birth of Venus, painted in the mid-1480s. The original tempera on canvas measures only about five feet by nine feet, about the size of a kitchen table. Still, its impact upon Western art dwarfs the relatively small scale of this early Renaissance work. Today Botticelli's Birth of Venus, painted for a member of the Medici family, hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, estimated at $500 million.

Why did this image of the goddess of love arriving on shell create such waves in world culture? To begin with, she is unclothed. However, this fact alone is not what caused a scandal in deeply Christian 15th century Italy. Medieval Europeans were accustomed to seeing the human body depicted without clothing; however, these images were almost entirely religious in subject, inspired by Bible verses. The real problem was that Botticelli had chosen a pagan goddess as his subject in place of a tender-faced Madonna.

From an art historian's point of view, this rendering of Venus has much in common with earlier Gothic art. The placement of her hands is known as Venus Pudica, the modest Venus. Her pose and body are elongated, slender, and sloping, and we can infer by the delicate placement of her narrow feet on the crest of her seashell that she should not be able to support even her modest weight. But she is, after all, a goddess: she floats rather than stands above the shell, approaching the shore with infinite grace. 

Although the artist's choice to paint a pagan goddess shocked conservative Florentine society, the dreamy sweetness of the subject's gaze continues to make this image a beloved classic. As a piece of Big Canvas Wall Art, this idyllic image has a calming effect in any setting, making us understand the original commissioner's desire for the piece.

Birth of Venus PaintingBirth of Venus Painting Canvas by Vintage Images

Lady with an Ermine
Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine was painted in oils on a walnut panel between 1489 and 1491. The subject, Cecilia Gallerani, was the 16-year-old mistress of the Duke of Milan. Leonardo da Vinci served as court painter to the powerful Sforza family, of which the Duke was a prominent member.

The ermine was the Duke's heraldic animal, serving as a brand or logo in Renaissance Europe. In fact, the Duke called himself "the White Ermine," in part due to their virility and reputations as ferocious little fighters.

The ermine was also a symbol of royal power. For centuries, portraits of kings and nobles included regal robes edged with ermine tails. These featured black specks in a wide hem of snowy white fur and consisted of hundreds of ermine tails. Reaching further back into antiquity, the ermine was believed to protect pregnant women and ensure the safe, healthy delivery of the baby—a fact the artist certainly took into account as he painted the young Cecilia, who conceived the Duke's son.

Modern X-ray examination of the painting reveals that the original began simply as an image of the young woman, but when news of Cecilia's pregnancy was shared with him, da Vinci added the ermine. In this respect, this portrait may be viewed as a sort of coded Renaissance birth announcement. The artist depicted the ermine at three or four times its actual size, further flattering the Duke's virility.

Deep colors and rich textures make this painting lush, sensual, and slightly provocative. Like da Vinci's better-known masterpiece, the Mona Lisa or "La Gioconda," the young woman has a secretive smile. Unlike the Mona Lisa, who meets our gaze head-on, Cecilia looks to her left, knowing that her first child will soon replace the animal she holds in her embrace. The original painting showed the subject against a dreamy sky-blue background, but later restorers replaced the pastel field with opaque black, adding to its sense of intrigue and drama. As an elegant piece of Boho Canvas Wall Art, this sophisticated painting makes a stunning focal point for a traditional dining room, library, or office.

Perhaps the most memorable image from the Renaissance is this close-up detail from Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam." While many Renaissance painters defied decades of Christian sacred art by painting scenes from real life, this image of the Almighty bringing Adam to life brought a new level of humanism to religious imagery.

 MichelangeloMichelangelo by Michelangelo

While much of medieval Christian art depicted human beings as fallen and sinful, Michelangelo's vision portrays God's creation's vital urgency and nobility, serving as a focal point to the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The muscular and idealized figures in this portrayal depict Adam before the Fall. Some purists quibble about the artist's decision to represent Adam with a navel, something he physiologically would not have had since he would have had no umbilical cord. Like Botticelli's Venus, who rises from the surf fully formed, Adam is God's will made manifest. Although the Scriptural argument has logical merit, Michelangelo's decision to portray Adam as wholly human expresses the departure of Renaissance art from the more stylized, emotionally detached painting style of the Middle Ages.

While the Almighty is painted as forceful and urgent, the physical attitude of the first man is relaxed and almost languid. The detail of the hands, drawn with tremendous sensitivity and attention to detail, is a natural for a piece of Big Canvas Wall Art, perfect for a studio, workshop, classroom, office or anywhere creativity is welcomed!

Portrait of a Venetian Gentleman cPortrait of a Venetian Gentleman c  by Giovanni Bellini

When Giovanni Bellini painted his "Portrait of a Venetian Gentleman" in 1500, Venice was the center of Western civilization. For centuries, the spice and silk roads had brought the riches of Asia into the port city. Because of its ideal position on the Adriatic Sea, Venice quickly evolved into Europe's most prominent trading center. This strategic location also empowered Venice to become a dominant military force, with more than 3,000 armed naval galley ships defending the coastline during the Renaissance. 

Giovanni Bellini is recognized as the first major artist of the Venetian Renaissance, so it's fitting that he chose to portray an individual who perfectly captures the innovative times he lived. A key aspect of the Renaissance movement places emphasis on color versus line. This is evident in this portrait, where the man's features are treated as flat fields of color, with very little modeling or perspective.

This painting departs from the egg tempera medium of the Middle Ages, relying on the richness of oil painting on wood panels to great effect. Scholars recognize the three-quarter view as a Dutch influence on Bellini's piece when most Italian artists painted their subjects in profile. 

This painting, now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., measures only 11 11/16" by 7 7/8", about the size of a sheet of copy paper. This diminutive size is more than compensated by the scrutinizing gaze of the subject. The man is dressed in the refined but expensive attire of the influential merchant class. Clothing took on tremendous importance in Renaissance Venice since "la Serenissima," as the city-state was called. Venice was the world's leading textile center, providing velvets, damasks, jacquard silks, and miles of gold-wrapped trims and threads for Popes, Kings, and Queens across the continent. Bellini frequently painted similar portraits of prosperous Venetian men in a similar style. In many cases, these portraits were commissioned by the subjects themselves and hung in their places of business.

The subject's expression is one of determination, without the slightest trace of a smile. In fact, a slight frown crosses his brow. As a young merchant, this young man's life was anything but carefree. For the Venetians of the 1500s, who fiercely ruled their mercantile empire with an iron fist and monopolized the spice trade, this gentleman would have had to display both wit and grit to maintain his family's dignity and standing. 

The Renaissance was a rebirth of humanism in the arts, a quality lost during the asceticism of the Dark Ages. Medieval art concerned itself primarily with religious themes, while later artists like Bellini, Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Botticelli widened their lens to intimately capture the joys and tears that define the human family. Secular love songs in native languages (versus Latin), brought across Europe by the troubadours, developed for the first time in human history. The visual arts portrayed the human body with an enriched understanding of anatomy, aided by significant scientific and medical discoveries. This is why Renaissance art immediately floods our senses with a feeling of belonging.

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