Art History of the Western Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1458 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

In contrasting the Mona Lisa to the High Renaissance portrait of Raphael's Baldassare Castiglione, a number of obvious differences become apparent. First, the portrait by Raphael is against a plan cloth-drop background. The Mona Lisa has a complex dreamlike landscape behind the figure of the Mona Lisa. The lines are more harsh throughout the portrait, though it still shows many of the wonderful aspects of portraits in Renaissance art, such as the move towards real flesh-tones and anatomically correct figures. The Castilgione, of course, is well documented as the subject of his portrait, while the Mona Lisa is still arguably another woman, or more than one person morphed together, it is unknown. The choice by Raphael to paint Castiglion is significant; this subject is one of the most important men of the Italian Renaissance because of his work. He was a humanist and a writer, and he recorded a great deal about Renaissance culture. The look of the Castilione painting has been copied many times by artists attempting to learn the mastery that Raphael employed, in much the same way (but to a lesser extent) that artists have copied the Mona Lisa .Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Art History of the Western Assignment

The Northern Gothic piece, Rogier van der Weyden's Portrait of a Lady, is another famous portrait, yet even more than the two Renaissance pieces, it has a lot of stark differences. Unlike the Mona Lisa, there is no complex background landscape to this picture, the focus of it is truly the girl in question. This is a portrait that follows the geometrical guide rules (designed by Jan van Eyck) for painting the portrait. The sitter has the face turned three-quarters, and the background is a dark uniform background. The person in the painting stands upright, and is within a diamond-shaped structure of diagonals. This was clearer when the painting was new, for the colors would have had a higher contrast. Like the Mona Lisa, the exact lady that posed for this piece is not known for certain. Speculation reveals a common theory that the lady is Marie de Valengin, who was the illegitimate daughter of a well respected community member. Weyden's piece actually has some visual tricks that are reminiscent of the Mona Lisa, for example Weyden altered the placement of the woman's ear; in the painting it is higher than it would have been naturally, so that the line formed by the headdress and the chin-line is continued rather than stopped abruptly by the ear. This trick makes her neck look much longer and emphasized. Da Vinci altered the horizon in the Mona Lisa to affect her expression, while Weyden altered the anatomy of his subject to achieve a proper form in the painting. The Mona Lisa has been shown to be an idealization in many ways of the beautiful model, many of her features being heightened or morphed to create the most perfect form there is. It can be seen also in Weyden's work, with the large eyes and lips, that this is an idealization of the model. Weyden's portrait does not follow Eyck's portraiture formula when it comes to lighting, however, which used a very distinctly realistic form of lighting. Weyden uses a diffused lighting source, which removes the woman from a necessarily real setting, putting her instead in a fantasy world where the painting exists.

The Mona Lisa is one of the ultimate portraits because it manages to captivate the viewer for so long. The reasons for this are very much due to the ideals of the Renaissance that are used within it. The detailed, dreamlike background is reminiscent of other Renaissance work which uses open backgrounds. The Classical was also reemerging during the Renaissance, and the Mona Lisa is an extremely Classical piece. In Greek art, androgyny was one of the highest values, and the Mona Lisa certainly has an androngenous appeal, showing both very feminine and very masculine traits at once. Da Vinci also shows off his understanding of science and mathematics in art in the way he alters the horizon and other small details to manipulate the interpretation of the painting.


Adams, Laurie. Italian Renaissance Art. London: Calmann & King Ltd., 2001.

Cole, Bruce. The Renaissance Artist at Work. Boulder: Westview Press, 1983.

Gombrish, E.H. The Story of Art. London: Phaidon, 1995.

Plumb, J.H. The Italian Renaissance. New… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Art History of the Western.  (2005, May 3).  Retrieved October 1, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Art History of the Western."  3 May 2005.  Web.  1 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Art History of the Western."  May 3, 2005.  Accessed October 1, 2020.