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Visual & Performing Arts
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The Renaissance Portrait. Visual & Performing Arts Essay (Essay Sample)


For this assignment, you will imagine yourself as both patron and artist, together designing a portrait for the patron. The assignment has three parts:
1)The first (approximately 2 ½ - 3 pages, or 800 words, double-spaced) will be a letter from the patron (you) to the artist, outlining a commission for a portrait. You will describe what you want the picture to show.
2)The second part (again, approximately 2 ½ - 3 pages, or 800 words, double-spaced) will be the artist’s response, wherein you will write what you, as the artist, have planned for this picture.
3)The third part will be an image, produced by you, showing this portrait.
This image can be hand-made (drawing, painting, collage), digitally made, photographic, or some combination of these. (Worth 10% of the grade.)
For the patron, choose one of the following:
Isabella d’Este (1474-1539)
A wealthy Florentine, Venetian, or Netherlandish merchant of the 16th century*
Pope Julius II (1443-1513)
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Charles V (the Holy Roman Emperor, 1500-1558)
You can find information about these patrons by searching Wikipedia, under the person’s name.
*For a merchant portrait, you can make up an individual, but draw from the sources as you “design” the qualities of this person. The point is to make the person historically believable. (See the guidelines below for further on this issue.)
For the artist:
Choose any Renaissance artist referred to in the sources below (this includes your textbook and any course readings), but make sure he or she was a contemporary of the patron!
For your paper, you will use the following sources –and ONLY THESE SOURCES—in your paper.
You must read and refer to (by means of footnotes or endnotes) at least three of these sources in your paper, besides Wikipedia. (I.e. Wikipedia does not count as one of these three sources.)
The first five essays listed here are posted on Blackboard, as is a link for the National Gallery website.
Falomir, Miguel. “The Court Portrait.” In Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian. Exhibition catalogue, edited by Lorne Campbell, Miguel Falomir, and Luke Syson, 66-79. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
Fletcher, Jennifer. “The Renaissance Portrait: Functions, Uses and Display.” In Renaissance Faces, 46-65.
Syson, Luke. “Witnessing Faces, Remembering Souls.” In Renaissance Faces, 14-31.
Welch, Evelyn. “Art on the Edge: Hair and Hands in Renaissance Italy.” Renaissance Studies 23, 3 (June, 2009): 241-68.
Woods Marsden, Joanna. “The Meaning of the European Painted Portrait, 1400-1650.” In A Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art. Edited by Babette Bohn and James M. Saslow, 442-62. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
On this website, note in particular the units “Presentation of Self” (in which there is a section titled, “Portraiture”) and “Artists and Patrons”. You are, however, free to explore the rest of the site.
Your textbook by Johnson. Note especially Chapter 5, “Portraiture and the Rise of ‘Renaissance Man’”.
Wikipedia, for information on the patrons (as instructed above). (Again, this does not count as one of your three sources!)
You should aim to do the following in your paper.
1)Be historically grounded. Draw from both visual and written sources (but again, only from the list above).
We will be looking for portraits that are historically plausible and that demonstrate a deep understanding of what the source material tells and shows you. This means you should draw on the sources for characteristics of the portrait that are grounded in the Renaissance period. The features of your portrait should also pertain to the particular characteristics of the patron and artist.
2)It should convey not just what the portrait shows, but also what it means, and what its purpose and use was. Think about what ideas the portrait represents, and how it represents them. You can also propose a particular use for the work and/or where it will be displayed. A good paper will not just describe the particular features of your portrait; it will also indicate what portraiture signified, in a general sense, during the Renaissance period.
3)To the above end, as you refer to features of and meanings for your portrait in your written parts, you must provide footnotes or endnotes, to indicate where you found the ideas for these features and meanings. This means you will be referring to the sources above, and to both written and visual material. See the guidelines below and we will give further advice in tutorial.
NOTE: The above applies to all aspects of the portraits, including any symbols or attributes that you want to include. Remember, symbolic meanings are historically and culturally specific: you cannot assume that current meanings for symbols were the same during the Renaissance period! Be sure to cite the sources for your symbols or attributes.
4)Be creative. While your portrait should be historically grounded, at the same time, you should not simply copy one or two Renaissance examples. We will be looking for portraits that show a true synthesis of ideas and features that are found in the readings and visual examples. (HINT: this can be challenging, but it is also the fun part!)
5)Convey the patron-artist dynamic. Another facet of your paper is the rapport between artist and patron. Think about the characteristics of your patron. What was the artist’s status? What are the qualities of her or his style? Try to convey these aspects as you describe the portrait.
6) For the two written parts of the paper, do not just repeat the same points: make your patron and artist contribute different features, qualities, and meanings to the work.
7)At the same time, your portrait should be designed according to one key theme, or two or three closely related ones, to give the paper coherence. Think in terms of what is stated above, about the general significance of portraiture during the Renaissance.
8)As noted above, your illustration can be hand-made (drawing, painting, collage), digitally made, photographic, or some combination of these. It should fit on an 8 ½” x 11” page, but it need not follow exactly this format. (For instance, it might be square, but it should still fit onto this size of page.) Do not worry if you are not an artist! We are looking for images that represent the ideas and aspects presented in the written parts. (Hint: this can also be fun!)
9)Obviously, no thesis is required for this assignment. Your paper must nonetheless be written coherently and clearly, in full, grammatically correct sentences and well organized paragraphs. Again, organize your points around one or two key themes.

10)Be sure to leave time to work on the draft of your paper and proofread it. Marks will be deducted for poor writing, as well as incorrect footnote and bibliographic form.
~ The written parts of your paper must be in 12 point font, double-spaced, on 8 ½ X 11” paper, with margins of 1 ½”. See above for the required word counts and the guidelines regarding the illustration.
~ YOUR FOOTNOTES OR ENDNOTES and the BIBLIOGRAPHY of your paper must be formatted according to the Chicago Style guidelines. An excellent quick guide can be found here:
Be attentive to the different formats for the different kinds of sources! We will also be going over how to use footnotes and endnotes in tutorial.
Link to Renaissance Resources website
On this website, note in particular the units “Presentation of Self” (in which there is a section titled, “Portraiture”) and “Artists and Patrons”. You are, however, also free to explore the rest of the site.


The Renaissance Portrait
Institution affiliation
Letter from the patron
Portrait: Isabella d’Este (1474-1539)
Isabella d’Este was one of the leading women in the Italian Renaissance. She led as a significant political and cultural figure. She was also known as Gonzaga with excellent characteristics such as well-educated and a significant political value. Besides, she is also referred to as the first woman of the Renaissance. She is a figure which was portrayed many times in her life. Her beauty was therefore represented and looked good in the eyes of everyone.

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