• Leonardo da Vinci left many paintings unfinished and destroyed most of his work.
  • Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, are the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time.
  • Leonardo   worked as a military engineer to invent advanced and deadly weapons.
  • Leonardo drew the plans for the first armored car in 1485.
  • Leonardo da Vinci dug into graveyards at night to steal corpses and study human anatomy (and find out where the soul was).
  • He produced aerial maps for Cesare Borgia which are still accurate today.
  • Leonardo is considered by many as the father of modern science.
  • He was also a sculptor, designer of costumes, mathematician and botanist.
  • He designed a movable bridge for the Duke of Milan.
  • The Mona Lisa is perhaps his most famous work. The subject of this portrait is still debated to this day, the most popular current view being that it is of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. One of the most unusual hypotheses is that it is a self-portrait of Leonardo as a woman.
  • It took da Vinci about ten years to paint Mona Lisa’s lips.
  • Leonardo was famous for the way he used light in his portraits.
  • He painted The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan; a dramatic depiction of the moment Jesus announced that he would be betrayed.
  • He established modern techniques of scientific illustration with highly accurate renderings such as ‘Embryo in the Womb’.
  • Leonardo would wear pink to make his complexion look fresh.


Where did Michelangelo grow up?

Michelangelo Buonarotti was born in Caprese, Italy on March 6, 1475. He was young when his family moved to Florence where Michelangelo was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Training to be an Artist

Michelangelo’s talents became apparent as he worked for Ghirlandaio. Within a year or so he was sent to the  Medici family to continue his training under the sculptor Bertoldo di Geovanni. 

Over the next  years Michelangelo produced many sculptures including Madonna of the Steps, Battle of the Centaurs, and Bacchus.

The Pieta

In 1496 Michelangelo moved to Rome. A year later he received a commission to make a sculpture called the Pieta. The sculpture shows Jesus after he was crucified lying on the lap of his mother Mary.  It is the only piece of art that Michelangelo signed.

Statue of David

Michelangelo’s fame as a great artist began to grow. He returned to Florence and received another commission to create a large statue of David. It took him a couple of years to finish the giant statue. The piece of marble he began with was very tall and thin. Many people didn’t think he could do much with it. He worked in secrecy, not letting anyone see it until it was finished.

Michelangelo's David (top half)

David became Michelangelo’s most famous work of art. It is thirteen feet tall and was the largest statue made since Ancient Rome. It is considered by many experts in art to be a near perfect sculpture. Today the statue resides at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.

Sistine Chapel

In 1505 Michelangelo returned to Rome. He was commissioned by the Pope in 1508 to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo considered himself to be a sculptor, but agreed to paint the Sistine Chapel for the Pope. He worked for four years, painting upside down on a scaffold in order to finish the painting. The painting was huge (141 feet long by 43 feet wide). It contained nine scenes from the Bible down its center and over 300 people.

The most famous of all the scenes is The Creation of Adam. At the center of the scene, God’s hand and Adam’s hand nearly touch. This is one of the most recreated scenes in all of art and, along with the Mona Lisa, is one of the most famous paintings in history.

Hands of God and Adam
The Hands of God and Adam
Face of God
The Face of God


Michelangelo was a brilliant man of many talents. He also worked as an architect. In this way he was a true “Renaissance Man” along the lines of Leonardo da Vinci. He worked on the Medici Chapel, the Laurentian Library, and even the military fortifications of the city of Florence. Perhaps his most famous work was St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Interesting Facts about Michelangelo

  • When he was seventeen he was hit on the nose by fellow artist Pietro Torrigiano in an argument. His nose was severely broken as can be seen in the portraits we have of Michelangelo.
  • He also painted The Last Judgment, a famous painting on the wall of the Sistine Chapel.
  • No two of the 300 people painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel look alike.
  • He was also a poet who wrote over 300 poems.


Where did Raphael grow up?

Raphael was born in the Renaissance Italian city-state of Urbino. His father was a painter and poet for the local Duke. As a young boy, Raphael learned the basics of painting from his father.

Training to be an Artist

When Raphael turned seventeen he moved to the city of Perugia, where he worked with  Pietro Perugino for four years. He  developed his own style. In 1504, Raphael moved to Florence. He was now considered a master painter and took on commissions from various patrons including the church.

Raphael studied the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He absorbed a lot of their style and techniques, but maintained his own unique style.

Painting for the Pope

By 1508 Raphael was invited to decorate some of the rooms (called “stanze”) in the Vatican by Pope Julius II. It was here that Raphael painted his greatest work The School of Athens.

Raphael’s paintings were known for their range, variety, grace, strength, and dignity. One art critic said that his work was “more lifelike than life itself.” His artwork is often cited as the perfect example of classical art and the High Renaissance. He is considered one of the greatest painters of all time.


The School of Athens

The School of Athens by Rafael

The School of Athens is a fresco painted by Raphael between 1510 and 1511. It was painted on the wall of the library in the palace at the Vatican. The painting shows many of the philosophers of Ancient Greece including Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Euclid.

The Sistine Madonna

The Sistine Madonna by Raphael

The Sistine Madonna is an oil painting by Raphael from 1513. Raphael was famous for his many paintings of the Madonna which he depicted in different moods and sizes. Today, the most famous part of the painting is the two angels, or cherubim, at the bottom. These angels have been featured on modern day stamps, t-shirts,  and more.

Portrait of Pope Julius IIRafael also painted many portraits. This painting of Pope Julius II was very unique at the time as it showed the pope from the side and in a pondering mood. It became the model for future portraits of the pope.

The Transfiguration

Raphael began painting The Transfiguration in 1517. It was Raphael’s largest painting on canvas and one of the last paintings he finished before his death.


Raphael was also an accomplished architect. He became the pope’s chief architect in 1514. He did some work on the design of St. Peter’s Basilica and worked on other religious buildings such as the Chigi Chapel in Rome.

Interesting Facts about Raphael

  • He was often seen as a rival to Michelangelo who didn’t like him and felt that Raphael plagiarized his work.
  • He was very close with both Pope Julius II and Pope Leo X.
  • Raphael had a large workshop in Rome with at least fifty students and assistants.

The Renaissance The Rebirth of Ideas

Renaisssance in Italy


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