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Italian Renaissance Masters: Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo

2-Session Daytime Seminar

Friday, November 6, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0539
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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The Prophets Hosea and Jonah, ca. 1510, Raphael (National Gallery of Art)


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

The Renaissance, a genuine rebirth of culture in Italy between the late-15th and mid-16th century, saw extraordinary artistic accomplishments in painting and sculpture. Artists found inspiration in the styles and subjects of ancient Greece and Rome. An interest in accurately—even scientifically—depicting the natural world developed. Recognition of the importance of the individual was reflected in art by the revival of portraiture and self-portraits. In this two-day series, art historian Janetta Rebold Benton highlights a quartet of geniuses of the Early and High Renaissance whose work defines the time.

NOV. 6  Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci

Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) depicted subjects taken from ancient art and literature, such as the Birth of Venus, with idealized, ethereal, immaterial figures of great beauty, created from undulating lines. Although the ideal proportions of antique anatomy were greatly admired, Botticelli’s figures display some surprising anomalies.

Regarded as the definition of the Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was extremely adept in a variety of skills, including those of painter, architectural designer, engineer, and inventor. He created the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa, celebrated for its subject’s enigmatic facial expression.

NOV. 13  Raphael and Michelangelo

Despite a life of just 37 years, Raphael (1483–1520) is considered the paradigm of the High Renaissance in Italy because his style most closely approximates that of 5th-century B.C. Greece. Characteristics of Renaissance art seen in Raphael’s School of Athens include the antique subject, balanced composition, illusion of depth, and clarity of meaning.

Michelangelo (1475–1564), the master of muscular male anatomy, painted the celebrated Sistine Chapel ceiling for Pope Julius II, but considered himself to be a sculptor. He explained his approach to that art by saying, “I created a vision of David in my mind, and simply carved away everything that was not David.”

Benton is a distinguished professor of art history at Pace University.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.