Style Guide: all'Antica
Renaissance art all’antica (in the Antique style) took much of its inspiration from the sculpture, buildings and writings of the classical world – mainly Rome and its empire, but also ancient Greece. The style first developed in Italy in about 1400, though its roots were much earlier. Over time, reflecting the classical past became a sign of a fashionable artist or owner throughout Europe. Ideas about art and design were spread through travel and trade, as well as the new technique of printing.
Although nude figures appeared in art after the fall of the Roman Empire, at the beginning of the 15th century artists in Italy reintroduced the classical nude. Later, its use spread all over Europe. In ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, the nude emphasised the beauty and harmony of the body. The Renaissance nude is similarly idealised as beautiful and heroic. Scenes with naked figures were used to decorate the various small-scale objects that were prized by collectors
The grotesque style of decoration is characterised by fantastical creatures. These often combine male or female heads with the hind quarters of animals and with wings and tails made of scrolling leaves. They were inspired by wall paintings discovered in the late 15th century in the ‘grotto’ of the Golden House of Nero, built in Rome in AD 65-68. Although the arrangements appear symmetrical and orderly, the grotesques themselves are impossible concoctions. Heavy objects dangle from looped ribbons. Delicate structures support bulky creatures, defying the laws of physics.
During the 15th and 16tgh centuries, artists throughout Europe included classical stories on a wide range of objects. These scenes were often commissioned by educated clients, who were familiar with classical art and literature. Scenes of transformation as described in Ovid’s Metamorphoses were particularly popular. Portable objects, such as the bronze plaquettes and engravings that were made in Italy, helped to spread the imagery throughout Europe.
Renaissance architects and artists studied the ruins of ancient Roman buildings and used classical elements in their own work. Structural and decorative columns topped by capitals were a key feature. The capitals were usually decorated with scrolls and stylised plants. The columns supported round arches or horizontal beams (called entablatures). This revived classical style was confined to buildings. It could also be seen in interiors, pictures and small objects.
Mirror frame in the form of the Medici ring
In the style of Antonio Polliauolo
Painted and gilded stucco in a gilt wood frame
Museum no. 5887-1859
The Judgement of Paris; The Dream of Paris
Master I. P.
Carved relief in pearwood
Museum no. 4528-1858
Pine case, inner face veneered with rosewood, partly inlaid with boxwood; cypress soundboard
Museum no. 6007-1859
Romulus and Remus taken from their mother Rhea Sylvia
Solnhofen limestone on slate
Museum no. 4888-1858
The Rape of Europa
Giovanni Francesco Rustici
Museum no. A.8:1, 2-1971
The Virgin and Child
Solnhofen limestone carved in low relief
Museum no. 7957-1862
Lorenzo Ghiberti( 1378 - 1455)
Lorenzo Ghiberti was a goldsmith, sculptor, architect, painter and writer. In 1401 he won a competition to make a set of bronze doors for the Florence Baptistery, and in 1426 he began a second set of doors. Dubbed the ‘Gates of Paradise’ by Michelangelo, these later doors took 25 years to produce. Ghiberti’s style drew on classical art, while retaining the Gothic naturalism he admired in earlier painters. His highly influential workshop became a training ground for Florentine artists.
Isabella d’Este (1474 - 1539)
Isabella d’Ese was Marchioness of Mantua and wife of Francesco II Gonzaga. She built a reputation as a a voracious collector and a demanding patron of the arts. Her collection included paintings with classical stories and allegories commissioned from leading masters such as Mantegna and Correggio. Contemporary works, including bronze statuettes in the all’antica style, were displayed alongside classical antiquities
Albrech Dürer (1471 - 1528)
Albrech Dürer was one of the most important artists of the Renaissance. He was active in Nuremberg, but made two journeys to Italy, where he gained an understanding of classical subject matter and style. He also perfected the techniques of engraving and wood cutting. Dürer’s prints were circulated and copied throughout Europe
Gates of Paradise
Lorenzo Ghiberti(after, sculptor)
Franchi and Son (Messrs.) (maker)
1425 - 1452 (sculpted)
About 1867 (cast)
Museum no. REPRO.1867-44
Buildings and Interiors
Pazzi Chapel, Florence
The Pazzi Chapel is an early masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. It was built as a burial chapel for members of the wealthy Pazzi family. The architect Brunelleschi used ancient Roman forms but adapted them to a modern Christian building. The chapel is arranged around a central dome, with an altar opposite the entrance. The proportions of the building are well balanced. They are based around a series of square, rectangular and circular shapes.
Villa Rotunda, near Vicenza, Italy
In his design for the Villa Rotunda, Palladio reworked ancient Roman architecture in a highly original way. Like other Renaissance architects, he was obsessed with symmetrical buildings. The villa has four identical entrance porches with columns, like those on Roman temples, each leading to the circular hall in the centre. The building also revives the ancient Roman idea of the country villa, an idyllic retreat in which its wealthy owners could escape the realities of city life
Villa Belvedere, Prague
Ferdinand I, King of Bohemia, commissioned the Genoese architects Paolo della Stella to design a summer palace for his wife Anna. It was built in the pleasure garden at Prague Castle. The Belvedere was the first all’antica villa in Bohemia. Stella based the design on inventions by the Italian architects Sebastiano Serlio and Andrea Palladio, though the distinctive curved roof was added later, after Stella’s death.