Top Five: Old masters

Choosing from Italy’s long list of Renaissance artists is not an easy task. Here are five old masters whose exquisite, timeless works of art continue to amaze…

1 – Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Near Arezzo, Caprese, Tuscany


Born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, the legendary artist’s masterpieces are too numerous to mention, although his Statue of David, the Piéta and the roof of the Sistine Chapel count among his most famous works. Raised in Florence, the fledgling sculptor started using a hammer and chisel from an early age and, with little interest in schooling, became apprentice to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio at 13. As a young adult he honed his skills under the patronage of the Medici family, moving from Florence to Venice, Bologna and Rome. At just 24 he completed the Piéta, an exquisite depiction of the body of Christ on Mary’s lap. His masterwork, the towering David, was completed in 1504 back in Florence, while the roof of the Sistine Chapel took four years in a staggering feat of artistry. A painter, sculptor, poet, engineer and architect, he was man who shunned physical comforts, but was the archetypal Renaissance man.

2 – Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Vinci, Florence


To list painter, sculptor, engineer and inventor as his accomplishments would not do justice to one of history’s most remarkable characters. The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and the Vitruvian Man remain his most famous creations.

3 – Raphael (1483-1520)
Urbino, Le Marche


Raphael completes the trinity of great masters of the period, with Leonardoda Vinci and Michelangelo. A most productive artist, despite his death at just 37, he left a vast body of work. The Vatican is home to many fine examples.

4 – Titian (1488/90-1576)
Pieve di Cadore, Veneto


The leader of the Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance, Titian’s versatility was renowned; he was equally skilled in portraiture, landscapes, religious subjects and more. The Assumption of the Virgin is one of his most famous masterpieces.

5 – Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337) Near Florence


Although born in the 13th century, Giotto’s style of painting influenced many of the Renaissance artists that followed. His most famous works decorated the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, including the Lamentation of Christ.