16th century

The 16th century is the period known as the Renaissance, which means “rebirth” and refers to the rediscovery of antiquity.

In the 16th century, innovations such as central perspective made their mark on art, and paintings showed an increasing interest in space and landscape. In Northern Europe, especially the Netherlands, the landscape began gaining prominence as a motif in its own right.

The human figure and its proportions were very important to 16th-century artists. From antique sculpture, they began to study the naked human form. Reproducing reality and beauty together was a challenge.

The Church was a major client, but at this time the patronage system started to become more widespread. Patrons were wealthy people who commissioned works from artists.  

They often decided down to the smallest detail what the work should look like, so the patrons had almost as much influence on art as the artists did.

During the 16th century the portrait developed as a genre. Interest in the individual meant that Renaissance portraits attempted to show what kind of person was depicted; artists tried to emphasize individual characteristics. It was also important to be able to clearly identify the subject’s social status and ancestry from the portrait. If someone was particularly pleased with a portrait, they had copies made to send to relatives and allies. A portrait might also be sent as a wooing gift to a prospective spouse.


Nationalmuseum Design
@ Kulturhuset Stadsteatern
Sergels torg, Stockholm 

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