Renaissance artist’s workshop

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When you look at a masterpiece, you admire not only the work of a great artist but also the training received by those who came before him.
That happens if you look at The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, but also at one of the several works by Titian.
These are artists who, since they were children, attended artists’ workshops and learnt the tricks of the trade.

How did they transmit knowledge and techniques from a generation to another in the Renaissance?
I’ll explain in this post.


Between the 15th century and the 16th century there wasn’t a school to attend to become an artist. You had to attend a workshop.
Basically, a young inexperienced artist had to attend a workshop, and that was the artistic journey each artist followed to take up his career.

If a child or a boy showed a talent for drawing, sculpture or painting, he joined the group of the pupils of a master, better if he was famous, in order to start a period of apprenticeship which could last several years.

What a workshop is?

The apprentice began from the bottom, by cleaning paint brushes, grinding colours up, preparing surfaces to be painted, until he could make preparatory drawings and help the master finish his most important works.
In the 15th century the art school par excellence was the goldsmith’s workshop, where the pupil got a complete training, by learning how to draw, engrave, carve and decorate. But, generally, all pupils had to be educated and learn how to copy ancient or real models.
At the end of this long period, which could last even more than ten years, the pupil could become the closest assistant to the master.

READ ALSO: Sabbioneta: the ideal Renaissance city.

The work of a workshop

The Renaissance workshop was organized like an enterprise; some workshops were family-run business, and thus fathers, sons, brothers and other relatives worked there. But more often the workshop was run by a master who managed the work, dealt with clients and contracts, and chose the most suitable pupils and assistants to finish a work. Obviously, for the most complex works, a team was organized under the direction of the master in order to conclude the work.

Which were the best Renaissance workshops?
Those in which the owner was also a great artist capable of honing his pupils’ talent.

For example Raphael’s workshop: he accepted whomever had a special artistic talent, and educated great artists such as Giulio Romano.

Another prestigious workshop was Andrea del Verrocchio’s one, who in the 15th and 16th century in Florence gave a training including, in addition to painting, sculpture, and architecture, also music, optics and botany.
Very important artists such as Botticelli, Perugino and Leonardo da Vinci attended his workshop.

READ ALSO: Aldus Manutius and the Renaissance in Venice.

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4 thoughts on “Renaissance artist’s workshop

  1. Adoro trasmettere ai ragazzi della mia classe, il mio amore per l’arte; penso che i tuoi articoli siano adatti anche al mondo della scuola.
    Domani, leggerò, andremo alla lim a leggere questo articolo veramente chiaro e completo
    Grazie infinito

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