Fun/Interesting Art History Facts

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Fun/Interesting Art History Facts

By: Mark Hender

As one might infer, we very much enjoy discussing, reading, and learning about art. Below are a few interesting facts about art history gathered from reading books and browsing the web. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!


The Renaissance masterpiece “The Pieta” is the only work that Michelangelo Buonarroti ever signed. He later regretted what he considered an outburst of pride and vowed to never sign another work again. The Pieta is housed at St. Peter Basilica in Vatican City.

Leonardo Da Vinci started painting Mona Lisa in 1504 or 1505 and finished only shortly before he died in 1519. Some reports say that it took him 10 years to perfect Mona Lisa’s lips. He was a procrastinator and often regretted not finishing many of his works. M. Hatt and C. Klonk, Art History: A Critical Introduction to its Methods (Manchester 2006) A. Potts, 'Sign', in R.S. Nelson and R. Shiff, Critical Terms for Art History

During the Renaissance, and particularly in 1500s, being an artist was not considered a suitable occupation for a gentleman. Since art involved working with hands, artists were considered craftsmen and were given the same social standing as tailors or shoemakers.

Michelangelo Buonarroti’s father Lodovico was horrified when he found out that Michelangelo decided to become an artist. Michelangelo was beaten by his father and uncles when he first began to draw. Lodovico was proud of his ancestry and he worried that an artist in the family will bring the family a disgrace.

Natural Ultramarine was as valuable as gold during Renaissance costing per ounce more than half the annual rent of a good size studio in Florence. It was considered one of the three purest colors beside gold and vermillion and a reflection of God’s glory. Because of its high cost it was reserved by artists for the most revered subjects such as robes of Madonna and Christ.

Linseed oil, the most popular of all oils for painting, comes from the flax seed a common fiber crop. The linen, a popular oil painting support, is made from the flax plant.

Pablo Picasso was baptized Pablo Diego José Fransisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. The name contains 23 words and honors various saints and relatives.

Pablo Picasso was considered a suspect in the theft of Mona Lisa in 1911. He was arrested and questioned after his friend Guillaume Apollinaire pointed a finger at Picasso. Both were later cleared and released.

Vincent Van Gogh produced more than 2000 works during his life time: approx 900 paintings and 1100 drawings and sketches. Although he is now considered one of the greatest artists of all times he was undervalued and only sold one painting during his life time.

Leonardo Da Vinci was left handed and his personal notes were written in mirror writing starting from the right side of the page to the left.


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