Renaissance was a reaction to the Middle Ages and serve as the foundation for the subsequent Baroque period in Europe. Its etymological meaning is "rebirth" of classical antiquity, pertaining to the revival of arts and sciences after it was diminished because of the emphasis on religion. However, it should be noted the majority of the art work where commissioned either for the Church or by supporters of it (Gombrich, 1995). The period also marked the significance developments in artistic technique which included the development of linear perspective, spatial composition and definition of the proportions for human form. The most notable artist of the period includes Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael as well as Boticelli who while was briefly eclipsed by the first three artists rose to contemporary regard. However, the Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael have been more specifically associated as High Renaissance artists or for the latter Renaissance arts (Stokstad, 2004).
One of the Botticelli's portraits, early example, if not more pure examples, of the renaissance style is featured in Figure 1. From the example, the subject, a woman of elite standing, dominates the frame. The figure is limited to the upper half or bust of subject, emphasizing the identity of the individual rather than her form. It is likely that Botticelli positioned the subject in such a way to facilitate the effect of the light coming from what appears to be a window in the background of the painting. The impression derived is that the work was done via formal sitting in studio or small space.
In comparison to the other portraits in this paper (see figure 2 and 3), the positioning of the subject provides little detail for the rest of the painting's composition. The dark background with only a hint of a window as detail provides a direct contrast with the subject's red-sleeved dress. The background provides little detail or insight regarding the personality of the subject and essentially on serve to highlight the visual image of the subject.
The subject is defined finely from the background. In a similar manner, details on the subject itself are very definite, if not stark. The technique is reflective of the subscription to classical techniques that emphasize form and figure. There are no discernable brushstrokes and colors are mixed smoothly. Also, the portrait in itself is reminiscent of busts in relief since though there is more depth and application of lighting techniques, there little suggestion of movement or interaction with its space.
Lighting techniques were used predominantly to create facial characteristics, emphasizing the forehead, nose and chin, again reflective of the classical influence. The features are associated with having strong character or persona and therefore may have been emphasized to communicate the social stature of the subject of the painting. The subject's complicated coiffure and quality of clothing also reinforce this idea. The light used is quiet harsh but not so much that the figure of the subject to seem like it is outdoors. Shadowing and graduations in hue on the body of the subject suggests that the light source has elevated and angled from the window in the back