Gods and Heroes: Ancient Legends in Renaissance Art
In the history of European civilization, the term Renaissance describes a surge of interest in ancient Greek and Roman knowledge, literature, and art that began around 1400 and continued into the 16th century. The Renaissance originated in Italy when scholars actively began reading and translating long-forgotten texts by classical authors. The advent of the printing press in the mid-1400s helped to spread these texts, which in turn influenced the larger philosophical movement known as Humanism, which emphasized the value of humanity and stressed the importance of individual expression, curiosity in the natural world, and an appreciation of worldly pleasures. Around the same time, ancient sculptures and buildings were being rediscovered and excavated. Artists incorporated the forms they observed in ancient art and architecture into new sculptures, paintings, buildings, and decorative arts. Meanwhile, the development of the print, an invention capable of replicating hundreds of images from a single woodblock or metal plate, helped disseminated knowledge of classical styles. Gods and Heroes focuses on this attraction to antiquity, bringing together a group of prints, drawings, and sculptures from the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection to explore ways that that Renaissance artists and their patrons endeavored to embrace and surpass the legends of their ancient heritage. Featuring over 80 works, the exhibition includes engravings of Raphael’s Apollo on Parnassus and Michelangelo’s Fall of Phaeton; Andrea Andreani's frieze of chiaroscuro woodcuts reproducing Andrea Mantegna’s Triumph of Caesar; Nicolo della Casa's engraving of Henri II as a Roman Emperor; and a group of prints dedicated to the ever-popular hero Hercules.