The Renaissance Period and the Rebirth of Classical Ideals

The Renaissance saw a rebirth of classical ideals. As examined in the first question, the emergence of the artist as someone with status and an intellectual approach to their craft was an important part of post-gothic art history. The role of the art historian was also critical to art development. Giorgio Vasari, who wrote The Lives of the Artists, was one of the first art historians and his tendencies towards a connoisseurship approach to “good art” had a resounding effect on art history following the death of Michelangelo Buonarrati, as it stifled artistic progress that inevitably led art back to Neo-Classicism.
Vasari’s first edition of The Lives of the Artists, was published in 1550 and was largely a celebration of fellow painter and friend Michelangelo. For Vasari, quality was based primarily on the artist’s skill in the illusion of naturalism and the technical ability required to achieve a classical degree of idealized beauty. This kind of approach to art history creates problems because; it encourages the attribution of works of art to an artist and the influence of one artist on another, on the basis of stylistic similarities. However, this is not the only problem with Vasari’s history of art as it relates to the progression from the Renaissance into Neo-Classicalism.
Another problem with Vasari’s trajectory of art history is the question of what happened to art after Michelangelo. Did it stop or go into decline? Once the ‘pinnacle’ of perfection had been reached with Michelangelo’s, Sistine Chapel (1508-1512), where could art go? Was Caravaiggio’s, Baroque painting, Calling of Saint Matthew(1599-1600), a lesser expression of art or message about society because he rejected the dominant Mannerist style, and Renaissance idealism, in favor of greater Realism and dramatic painterly techniques, such as tenebrism and chiaroscuro (Adams 675-77)? Certainly, it was not. If anything, Caravaggio’s portrayal of religious figures as …

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