Go to content Go to navigation Go to search Change language

Home>Activities & Tours>Visitor Trails>Leonardo, Raphael, Titian...

Visitor trails Leonardo, Raphael, Titian..., The Italian Renaissance

Paintings - Length: 1 hr 30 mins - Tour days: Monday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

Portrait de Baldassare Castiglione, Raphael - 275 x 275 px
Portrait de Baldassare Castiglione, Raphael - 275 x 275 px

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

00Introduction

The works of Leonardo Da Vinci, excluding the Mona Lisa, aren't currently part of this visitor trail. You can find them in the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition running from October 24, 2019 through to February 24, 2020 in the Hall Napoléon.

While the great European powers battled for control of Italy, Italian fifteenth- and sixteenth-century artists broadened the field of Western painting.
The arts developed in a specific political context. Italy was not a united country, and each prince or each family that governed a town wanted to display their splendor and might. The works and vast building sites—all involving commissions—served to demonstrate the magnificence of their patrons. Though Tuscan artists were used as models, from the fourteenth century onwards, each artistic center had its own specialty, and pronounced regional differences persisted throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: Florentine painting gave priority to draftsmanship; Venetian painting valued color above all; while, in the early sixteenth century, papal and princely patronage made Rome an increasingly important artistic hub. The presence of Italian artists at Fontainebleau turned the French sovereign's castle into a hotbed of forms and a European crossroads for the spread of Italian art. The Renaissance artist was an all-round artist, frequently a painter and goldsmith, sculptor and architect, theorist and poet, in the manner of Leonardo da Vinci, Verrocchio and Michelangelo. The artist was also a scholar, who wrote or applied theoretical treatises, understood the rules of perspective, and schooled himself in human anatomy by undertaking dissections, observing and experimenting. In the course of the fifteenth century, as the intellectual purport of the works created was recognized to the same degree as their manual dimension, the artist's status in society evolved. Painting entered the ranks of the Liberal Arts.

How to get to the next stop:
Starting from the Pyramid, head toward the Denon wing. Turn left and continue through the Greek Antiquities collection (room 170, level 1, Denon wing) then go up the staircase with the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the top. Turn right on the landing into room 707 (Italian Paintings). Botticelli’s mural is to your left.

Un jeune homme présenté par Vénus ? aux sept Arts libéraux
Un jeune homme présenté par Vénus ? aux sept Arts libéraux

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

01The Allegory of the Liberal Arts

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, known as Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli received the commission to decorate the Villa Tornabuoni, home of a family allied to the Medici, in about 1483. The frescoes, which had been painted over with whitewash, were rediscovered in 1873. The Allegory of the Liberal Arts shows an initiation scene, in which a bare-footed girl leads a youth—possibly the young Lorenzo Tornabuoni—by the hand, apparently introducing him to a circle of female figures, each bearing an attribute associated with the Liberal Arts. Note that Music (the figure holding a portable organ) is regarded as a science on an equal footing with Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy, and that she enjoys a special relationship with Astronomy (the figure carrying a globe): earthly music was thought to be simply a weaker echo of celestial harmony. On the contrary, Painting is not represented. Late fifteenth-century and early sixteenth-century painters would prove their determination to see their craft elevated to the rank of Liberal Arts. Venus and the Graces, the companion piece to the Allegory of the Liberal Arts, may also have been an initiation scene, in which the gifts received by the young woman might be Grace, Love and Fertility. The graceful curves of the bodies clothed in light fabrics, the dancing silhouettes, and the elegance of the draftsmanship testify to Botticelli's search for beauty and grace, as explained in the treatise written by Alberti.


How to get to the next stop:
After the glass door at the end of the room, walk through the Salon Carré (room 708, level 1, Denon wing) and enter the Grande Galerie (room 710, level 1, Denon wing) to your right. Now turn right into the Salle des Sept-Mètres (room 709, level 1, Denon wing). You will find the portrait painted by Piero della Francesca opposite you.

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

02Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

Piero della Francesca

Sigismondo Malatesta was prince of Rimini and a celebrated condottiere. He had a temple built in his honor and called upon the finest artists of the day to decorate it. Piero della Francesca painted a fresco depicting Malatesta protected by his patron saint. The Louvre portrait may have been a preliminary study for this fresco. The profile view in the Italian manner, set against a dark background, shows both highly individualized features (bulging eyes, broken nose, thin mouth) and stylized hair, neck and bust, which add an impressive strength to the figure. Although the eyes are painted in profile and so cannot meet our own, the force of his gaze is easy to imagine. The light coming from the left carves out the face and neck, while the entire profile is basically defined by volume. The rendering of the flesh colors that enliven the portrait and the treatment of the jacket embroidered with gold thread recall the Flemish manner of painting, in which Piero della Francesca was particularly interested —an influence that is also evident from the presence of oil in the binder. The numerous portraits of the condottiere all bear witness to Malatesta's inordinate pride, as well as to the emergence of Renaissance individualism. A new "genre" —the individual portrait —made its first appearance in the history of painting in 1420-1450.

How to get to the next stop:
Walk back into the Grande Galerie (room 710, level 1, Denon wing). Immediately to your right you will find the Battle of San Romano.

La Bataille de San Romano : la contre-attaque de Micheletto da Cotignola.
La Bataille de San Romano : la contre-attaque de Micheletto da Cotignola.

© 1997 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

03The Battle of San Romano

Paolo di Dono, known as Uccello

Commissioned by the Salimbeni, a Florentine family, Paolo Uccello painted three panels on the theme of the Battle of San Romano, a skirmish between Florentine and Sienese mercenaries that took place in 1432. These three works were later hung in the Palazzo Medici, in Via Larga. Today they are divided between Florence’s Uffizi Galleries,  London’s National Gallery, and the Louvre. The fundamental quality of the Louvre panel is the expression of movement. The lances indicate the direction of the fighting, from right to left; movement is broken down through the position of the legs of the four horses in the foreground and the fanlike treatment of their bodies; banners flap in the wind; the gold of the ornamental studs and the armor formerly covered in silver-leaf catch the light. Vasari wrote that Uccello was obsessed with problems of perspective; this is conveyed in his use of forms reduced to volumes, foreshortening and mazzocchi (the multi-faceted wooden hoops covered with cloth forming the headgear of the central figure here), a veritable virtuoso exercise for painters. This exploration of geometrical, almost abstract forms fascinated the Surrealists and Cubists.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue along the Grande Galerie: the next artwork is on your right, just before the red columns.

Saint Michel terrassant le démon, dit Le Grand Saint Michel
Saint Michel terrassant le démon, dit Le Grand Saint Michel

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

04Saint Michael Slaying the Devil

Raffaello Santi, known as Raphael

This immense painting, commissioned by Pope Leo X (originally Giovanni de' Medici) for the French sovereign, François I, was one of the diplomatic gifts sent in 1518 to strengthen the ties between France and the papacy. The handsome signature (RAPHAEL URBINAS MD XVIII) on the border of the tunic dates this work to the artist's Roman period, when he was inundated with commissions. The archangel's Apollonian beauty and victory over the hideous monster, which represents the enemies of the Church, is a homage to the king who won of the Battle of Marignan and conquered Milan —especially since François I was also the grand master of the Order of Saint Michael. The vast landscape that forms a backdrop to the captain of the heavenly host may possibly be an allusion to the order's motto: "Immensi tremor oceani". This huge work was immediately acclaimed for the extraordinary inventiveness of the motif, the archangel's superb pose in mid-flight, the outspread wings, the drapery flapping in the air, the powerful gesture, and the facial expression of calm serenity. Engravings of it were made shortly after its completion. Early records reveal that it occupied a distinguished space at Fontainebleau, was hung in the King's Cabinet at the Louvre, adorned the Tuileries Palace, and was then transferred to Versailles, where it was placed in the King's Bedchamber. The great Saint Michael had become a symbol of royal authority.

How to get to the next stop:
The next painting is on the left-hand side wall, between the columns.

Portrait de Baldassare Castiglione, écrivain et diplomate (1478 - 1529)
Portrait de Baldassare Castiglione, écrivain et diplomate (1478 - 1529)

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

05Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, Writer and Diplomat (1478-1529)

Raffaello Santi, known as Raphael

Author of the hugely successful Book of the Courtier, the diplomat Baldassare Castiglione was also Raphael's friend. The amicable relationship binding the painter to his model is conveyed in the intensity of the gaze that lights up the latter's face, shown frontally, while the bust is painted in a three-quarter view. In the foreground, the clasped hands are somewhat reminiscent of the Mona Lisa's, as is the general posture of the figure. The rapport between the painter and his model is like that between two people engaged in an informal conversation. The various shades of gray used for the black velvet doublet, warmly enhanced by the gray squirrel fur sleeves, the hat comprising a hairnet and a beret which encircles the face, the white patch of shirt, and the background against which the figure is set serve to embolden the flesh colors and highlight Baldassare's blue eyes. The very thin canvas on which this portrait is executed contributes to the magnificence of the sitter, because it helps the paint catch the light. Raphael seems to have used this new texture as a modulator. In the late quattrocento, wooden supports began to be replaced by canvas, which was to become increasingly widespread. Baldassare Castiglione was one of the great Renaissance humanists and, in his search for elegance, generosity and sobriety, Raphael was the perfect reflection of the ideals expressed in the book written by his friend.


How to get to the next stop:
Still in the Grande Galerie , the next painting can be found on the same wall right after the columns.

Giovanni Battista di Jacopo Rossi, dit Rosso, Fiorentino, Pietà
Giovanni Battista di Jacopo Rossi, dit Rosso, Fiorentino, Pietà

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

06Pietà

Rosso Fiorentino

In 1530, François I called on Rosso to work on the Château de Fontainebleau. The artist, who would become Head of the School of Fontainebleau, painted a great number of works, with the frescoes from the François I Gallery being the only remaining examples. Commissioned by Constable Anne de Montmorency, whose coat of arms it bears, this painting’s striking depiction of the dramatic scene—with the pitiful, faltering figure of the Virgin Mary at the entrance to Christ’s tomb in its center—sets it apart from the Mannerist master’s ornamental creations. At the time of the French Revolution, Rosso’s Pietà was confiscated from its place above the main door of the chapel at the Château d'Écouen, the residence Anne de Montmorency had built for himself. The work may originally have embellished the chapel’s stone altar, now to be found in the Château de Chantilly. After de Montmorency’s fall from favor, his assets passed to the Condé family. This is the only surviving example of the religious works Rosso executed in France.


How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps until you see the Mona Lisa room to your left (room 711, level 1, Denon wing. The rest of the trail is in this room.

<i>Portrait of Lisa Gherardini</i>, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the <i>Mona Lisa</i> (the <i>Joconde</i> in French)
<i>Portrait of Lisa Gherardini</i>, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the <i>Mona Lisa</i> (the <i>Joconde</i> in French)

© RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado

07Mona Lisa — Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, known as Leonardo da Vinci

The world's most celebrated painting has lost none of its mystery. Should it be regarded as a portrait of Mona Lisa, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, painted in Florence between 1503 and 1507, or as a representation of ideal beauty? The face is seen in front view, the bust in three-quarter view, with the sitter's hands crossed on an armrest. This manner of depiction is in keeping with Northern European portrait tradition, and would be borrowed by Leonardo's Italian contemporaries. He nevertheless infused his model with an essential quality: he brought her to life. The life-sized scale, the nearness of the figure whose hands are in the foreground, and the gaze turned towards the spectator all contribute to this sense of vitality. The famous smile, which Vasari described as "divine," invites the onlooker to meditate upon Platonic theories, according to which the smile on a graceful face is a reflection of the beauty of the soul. Could this smile lighting up her face simply be an onomastic reference that confirms La Gioconda's identity ("giocondo" in Italian meaning "light-hearted")? This impression of lifelikeness is also produced by Leonardo's use of sfumato, a technique that replaced firm outlines with hazy transitions from light to dark. It was the "right distribution of light" that gave rise to volume and suggested distance. The landscape behind the figure is bathed in a "light mist," and the mountains in the background are swathed in the atmospheric envelope.


How to get to the next stop:
Turn around to admire Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana.

Les Noces de Cana
Les Noces de Cana

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

08The Wedding Feast at Cana

Paolo Caliari, known as Veronese

Painted by Veronese between 1562 and 1563, this immense canvas once adorned the refectory wall of the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. The theme of the Marriage at Cana, drawn from the Gospel of Saint John, lent itself magnificently to the room. Instead of following the biblical text faithfully, Veronese based his work on Arentino's version of Saint John and transformed the scene into a lavish banquet, recalling a sumptuous Venetian lifestyle. And yet the work remains profoundly religious, as can be seen from the composition. The central vertical cuts through the body of Christ; the central horizontal lies on the balustrade: above Christ, the theme of the Eucharist is evoked by the butchering of the lamb; below Christ, the hourglass on the table and the dog chewing a bone, the symbol of death, evoke the destiny of mankind.
At the same time, the splendor of Venice is recalled through the beauty of the women, all dressed superbly and bedecked with jewels, and through the exoticism of certain figures wearing turbans. The sumptuous palette also pays tribute to Venice. The requirements concerning the pigments to be used imposed by Veronese's patrons here remind us how important color was for Venetian artists. This vast painting, which arrived at the Louvre in 1798, became a reference for young artists such as Delacroix. In his Salon reviews, Baudelaire also sang the praises of Veronese's "magical, heavenly, afternoon colors".

How to get to the next stop:
On the wall to your left is the painting of the Beautiful Nani, also by Veronese.

Portrait d'une Vénitienne, dite La Belle Nani
Portrait d'une Vénitienne, dite La Belle Nani

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

09Portrait of a Venetian woman known as The Beautiful Nani

Paolo Caliari, known as Veronese

The Venetian lady played a specific role in public life: she served as a foil. The splendor of her garments and the costliness of her jewelry were not only signs of her personal wealth, but also a symbol of the city's power. Indeed, women served to adorn the town. The Nani family was foremost in Venetian society, and this young woman may have been one of its members. The use of the word "Bella" in the title leads us to think that this was not an individual portrait, but a representation of ideal beauty. The figure is in fact a depiction of all the criteria of beauty sought after in Venice at the time: blond hair, a pearly complexion and radiance, as well as sweetness of character, reserve, or the quasi-shyness appropriate to any married woman. The wedding ring she wears ostentatiously on her left hand is amply indicative of this. A full blue velvet dress falling in thick folds, the fineness of the transparent white muslin over garment, the sumptuosity of the decoration on the shoulders and the heaviness of the belt around the edge of the pointed bodice with its enormous golden clasp studded with precious stones transform this gentle-looking young woman into a Venetian aristocrat. The Bella Nani bears a striking resemblance to the bride in The Wedding Feast at Cana. They were probably both very close to Veronese's ideal of feminine beauty.

How to get to the next stop:
The next stage of the trail introduces another famous Venetian painter: Tintoretto. His Coronation of the Virgin is on the wall opposite The Beautiful Nani.

The Coronation of the Virgin, known as Paradise
The Coronation of the Virgin, known as Paradise

© 2006 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

10The Coronation of the Virgin, known as Paradise

Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto

In 1577, a fire broke out in the Hall of Great Council at the Doge's Palace in Venice, destroying works by the Bellini brothers, Carpaccio and Titian. A competition was held to choose the artist who would paint a vast canvas (7 x 2.20 m) to cover the whole width of the wall behind the Tribunal. The commission was awarded to Veronese, but his death shortly thereafter prevented him from completing the project; the task was then entrusted to Tintoretto. This vision of Paradise is coupled with the theme of the Coronation of the Virgin, surrounded by the heavenly host. The Virgin —a metaphor for Venice —kneels at Christ's feet at the top of the hierarchy of angels, arranged in a series of elliptical rows that give the composition its swirling rhythm. The circles represent divine perfection, as described in Dante's Paradiso. The angelic choir, composed of string and wind instruments, recalls the importance of music in Venice in the composer Palestrina's day.
This fiery, dynamic preparatory study draws its inspiration from Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, which Tintoretto had seen on a visit to Rome in 1547. His powerful, spectacular, almost convulsive style owes much to his admiration of Michelangelo. These grandiose stage effects would be seen again in the Scuola San Rocco cycle, executed between 1564 and 1587.

How to get to the next stop:
This introduction to Italian Renaissance painting ends with another Venetian painter: Titian. His paintings can be found on the wall directly behind the Mona Lisa.

Le Concert champêtre
Le Concert champêtre

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

11The Pastoral Concert

Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian

Formerly attributed to his master Giorgione, this painting is now regarded as a youthful work by Titian, still bearing his master's influence. From the pastoral, elegiac atmosphere and the sensuality of the bodies caressed by the light, to the absence of biblical or mythological references, everything recalls Giorgionesque themes. Two young people, obviously from two different social classes, are engaged in conversation. One, clad in magnificent garments, plays the lute. The other, modestly dressed, turns his head towards his companion. Both of them ignore the two naked young women in the foreground, who are probably not human beings, but rather nymphs, allegories or deities. The one standing on the left seems to be dipping the vase she holds in her hand into the well, while the other, seated on the right and seen from the back, is a flute-player. Could the theme of the painting lie in this confrontation between the two musicians? Could it be an initiation scene in which the young shepherd is depicted the moment he abandons the woman playing the flute —the instrument associated with Dionysos, said to arouse human passions —in order to turn towards the man playing the lute, an Apollonian instrument that elevates the spirit? Giorgione was himself a lute player, and a familiar figure at the court of Catherine Cornaro in Asolo, where music and poetry were highly important. The "poems" were transposed into paintings that combined love, music and pastoral verse, but had no story.


How to get to the next stop:
You will find another painting by Titian on the same wall, just next to The Pastoral Concert.

Le Transport du Christ au tombeau
Le Transport du Christ au tombeau

© 2009 RMN / Stéphane Maréchalle

12The Entombment of Christ

Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian

This canvas showing the body of Christ being carried is one of Titian's mature works dating to 1520-1530. In this classical period, when frieze-like compositions were the norm, works were often dramatic. In The Entombment, the arrangement of the figures around Christ forms a tympanum, outlined by the stooped backs of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, on either side of John who gazes heavenward. The body of Jesus, placed in the shroud, lies in an inverted circular arc, forming an almond-shaped group of four central figures. Outside of, yet accompanying this group, the Virgin and Mary Magdalene, contemplating the body of Jesus being carried to his burial place, form a quarter-circle; the curve of one's back being extended by the other's head. Acting as backdrop to these figures is a landscape with a low horizon lit by a glowing red sun. The low-angled light effects create a doleful chiaroscuro that places Christ's bust and face in shadow —a prefiguration of the darkness of the tomb. Color assumes a tragic dimension here. The deathly pallor of Christ's body is accentuated by the creamy whiteness of the linen shroud on which he is laid, as well as by the russet-toned hair, and green and red clothes of the men carrying him. Joseph of Arimathea's strong, amber-colored arms holding Christ's legs form a striking contrast between life and death.

The trail ends here. Take the exit behind you, then turn left. Continue all the way across the red room to the Mollien staircase. Walk down the stairs, then continue through the Michelangelo Gallery (room 403). Go down into room 405. Turn right to find the spiral staircase which will lead you up to the Pyramid exit.