All of these techniques were used by many artists in the Italian renaissance, including Donatello, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo and of course Lorenzo Ghiberti. These are some of the main artists that made up the Italian renaissance by making new contributions, new advances in art and created a style of their own. Donatello’s The Madonna of the Clouds is a true Italian Renaissance piece that can be compared to another piece of this time done by Lorenzo Ghiberti, called The Gates of Paradise, on the East Doors of the Florence Baptistery created in 1425-52.
The relationship between these artists is interesting because first this was a master working with a student, in the time of new development, but now they are both masters known for their great work in the Italian Renaissance. Comparing these two pieces we see that they are being made at the same time using similar techniques, in different materials, as Donatello uses marble and Ghiberti uses bronze. In Donatello’s The Madonna of the Clouds we see from the piece and as we know from before this is made from a technique Donatello cerated which is called “rilievo schiacciato” of flattened relief, this technique is carried on in Ghiberti’s, The Gates of Paradise, by creating a relief sculpture with figures that are in the round instead of flat. Both pieces represent the renaissance style because they show us how they are “capable of creating a pictorial world within the space of the work” (Greenhalgh 132). By using linear perspective and the illusion of space in both works, figures step into our world by being carved out in great depth. We are also pulled into their space by objects, figures and buildings that recede back into very shallow reliefs. The way the Madonna and the Child of The Madonna of the Clouds step into our space or create this illusion of space is, the madonna and child are centered and shown as the biggest figures to show their importance.
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These figures are carved the deepest to create more depth and emphasis around them. It shows the audience they are the most important part of this message in this work of art. We know this because not only are they front and center but what pulls us in and really tells us that, are the cherub figures and overall cloud scene carved within the background of the piece. These seven cherub figures are placed around The Madonna and The Child, as if they are flying around them through the sky, this “creates an illusion of how we can interact and go back into the space with the figures” (Grassi 72) because of the shallow carvings and linear perspective of how we and figures move back in space. Space and linear perspective were not the only key points of the Italian renaissance, but they lead the viewer to other important aspects of this style like, the naturalism and attention to detail. Donatello shows great naturalism throughout his piece within his figures by keeping them proportional to themselves, each other, and to how they go back in space.
The Madonnas body compared to the childs body is proportional, because of the use of naturalism and the study of human anatomy, The Madonna and The Child compared to the cherubs are also proportional, as they go back in space they become smaller and more shallow. In Ghiberti’s The Gates of Paradise, there is everything you expect to see from the Italian Renaissance, from the use of naturalism and detail in the figures, to the illusion of space and linear perspective but he clarifies what we expect in a beautiful way. Throughout the ten pieces that make up The Gates of Paradise, Ghiberti shows the figures he uses in a naturalistic way by making them not only look like real humans but act like them to, from the detail to how they “move” around in the piece. If we look at one of the pieces specifically like, Isaac and his Son, 1425-52 we see a beautiful scene from the Book of Genesis. The figures in this piece pop out or are referred to as in the round because they are significantly more off the piece then they are carved into it, only making it a relief not a “rilievo schiacciato”. The figures move around in space themselves by standing contrapposto or interacting with other figures, Ghiberti shows he knows the human body because of the linear perspective or illusion of space, figures in the front are bigger and more pronounced, but as we go back and follow the buildings or scenery we see figures get smaller and shallower.
This illusion of space is created from a vanishing point in the piece which is in the center of the columns, using linear perspective, we can see the orthogonals or diagonal lines that recede into space, into the floor, and also into the arches. A beautiful and admirable piece of its time, The Madonna of the Clouds truly represents what Italian Renaissance artists set to accomplish during this time period. The Italian Renaissance focused on space, illusion of space, linear perspective and the study of anatomy. Artists like Donatello and Ghiberti used there knowledge and experience as did many others to create new and innovative art. Donatello’s new relief technique “rilievo schiacciato” was a success, and led to other glorious works of art that were directly influenced from his work, like Ghiberti’s The Gates of Paradise.