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Rivalry and Competition in Italian Renaissance Art

Renaissance art refers to the sculptures, paintings, and decorative arts that were created during the Renaissance era in Europe. This type of art was introduced in the year 1400 and was considered as a monarchy of early traditions but later adapted to modern arts. With time, many people with artistic talent from various European countries embraced Renaissance art; however, there was a departure from traditional art towards modern art due to the availability of new methods and tools for undertaking artwork. Renaissance art also affected philosophy, literature, architecture, theology, science, and government. During the Renaissance era, there was an influx of artists, who competed and engaged in rivalry against each other, with each one of them trying to justify his/her superiority. This competition could be seen in sculpture as well as in painting, especially in Italy. In this paper, the discussion will focus on rivalry and competition in Italian Renaissance art and its influence on contemporary art.

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Between the years 1300-1650, Europe not only experienced a change in culture and tradition, but also a case of rivalry and competition in places involving politics, arts culture, philosophy, and religion. This rivalry was a result of religious changes, continuous catastrophic war (1618-1648), and the introduction of the Renaissance era. Indeed, this Renaissance era was mainly the time of violence, competition, and great rivalry among most artists and communities. Renaissance artists tried their best to get fame and recognition, a situation that led to stiff competition among them, with each trying to create an antique representing his/her religious views, classical erudition, and personality. This led to a variety of debates and comparisons of different pieces of art, where each had a specific role in making art-related theories and cultural practice in that period. Paragoni (comparison) was also used to refer to debates concerning painting versus sculpture, especially in aesthetic approaches to painting that included painting’s colors.

Each art was supposed to represent an Italian theme and way of life. Even though color paragon was officially introduced in the 16th century, its origins were discovered in the early style preferences and art practiced by Italians in general. The Italian Renaissance artists defined painting as a free and personal preference art, a natural creation, and art focusing mainly on the intelligence of artists. Each group’s preferences led to debates that were later coded in the 16th and 17th-century writings.

In the year 1401, there was a competition conducted in Florence, which was used to reward the commission. The artists were to put a bronze door on the Baptistery of San Giovanni. Some of the artists, that was defeated, like Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Filippo Brunelleschi relocated to Rome, where they dedicated all their time to learning everything about early architecture and sculpture. After they completed their study, they went back to Florence and practiced what they had learnt, thus the rebirth of Renaissance art.

Famous ancient artists like Apelles and Praxiteles were not only role models to Renaissance artists but also a source of envy by many who found their work interesting. This resulted in a variety of innovations, with each Renaissance artist trying to improve ancient arts; for instance, Giambologna’s ‘Rape of a Sabine’ artwork was made up of three human sculptures standing on one block of stone, which attracted significant interest from other artists. These Renaissance artists also went into rivalry with one another, either personally or as a community. A good example is that of the city-states of Siena and Florence, which competed against each other. There were also competitions held amongst the Renaissance artists in exchange for money and fame. One example of this competition involved Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, who actively rivaled each other in trying to capture a contract of sculpturing bronze doors for the Florence Baptistery, with the Lorenzo becoming the winner.

Another great debate that has sparked remarkable rivalry in art is the issue of painting to imitate the natural world. The painting was majorly meant to create the illusion of naturalism, ideally from the artist’s mental ability to perceive the natural world other than physical and technical skills. Sculptors felt that painters depended largely on already sculpted figures to display their work. They argued that painting majorly consisted of depth and volume, while the sculpture was three dimensional and more interactive. An example of this rivalry is seen in the works of Petrus Christus, who used fictive stone ark reliefs, used in sculpture, to create a painting that was rich in well-organized colors; this showed that painters were as good as sculptors if not better.

Works created in competition and rivalries among artists greatly led to innovation and immense change in the Renaissance art world, although most of the ideas were drawn from ancient art. Paintings and sculptures became modernized, while at the same time being creatively and beautifully made without losing the ancient philosophy of art. For instance, the competition between sculptors and painters led to the creation of durable works made from marble bronze, that borrowed ideas from ancient art. Indeed, the rebirth of ancient philosophy of art can be traced to the competition held in Florence to award a contract of creating bronze doors. Most people also understood the importance of art both in relation to benefit to community and prestige associated with it. Social status of great artists changed and they changed the world while still embracing history.

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Educated scholars and patrons who were earlier involved in debates with artists helped to classify the artists as very intelligent people, thus eliminating their earlier perception that they were mere craftsmen. These debates about Renaissance art led to fame of artists and raised their social and economic standards. Indeed, most of the incredible artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian among many others became an important part of the Renaissance history. Apart from all this, everyone’s talent was nurtured, especially when it came to art. This was done by establishment of art schools, which were used to teach and produce great and very talented artists of the future. Indeed, these art schools are the pioneers of contemporary art, as they are known to train some of the talented modern artists.

In conclusion, art has become an important aspect in both modern and historic times. It has led to the discovery of hidden talents as well as nurturing of such talents to enhance growth of art. In addition, through art, we get to appreciate and love the nature around us. Moreover, Renaissance art was valued and considered as a means of personal expression to viewers of the art. Rivalry was also used to increase the level of people’s creativity, which led to desirably better creations. If nature is art and art is beauty then the world is a beautiful place.

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