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7 Masterpieces of Italian Art You Have to See Before You Die

With so many works of art found across Italy, even an art aficionado can get overwhelmed. But even if you’re just an average Joe with a general interest in art, you’ll get to appreciate the wealth of beauty Italian art has to offer. Here are 7 masterpieces that you should not miss when you start your journey across the country:

  1. Arch of Constantine (AD 315)
    The Forum, Rome

    Erected to commemorate the victory of Constantine I at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, the Arch of Constantine is the last existing triumphal arch in Rome. It is considered the most impressive surviving civic monument from Rome, as the design of many monuments and buildings worldwide are influenced by its style. These include everything from the façade of the Union Station in Washington DC to the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang.

  2. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1486)
    Uffizi Gallery, FlorenceThe Birth of VenusAllegedly commissioned by the Medici family, the painting depicts the legendary birth of the Roman goddess Venus, who rose from the sea as an adult. As such, the painting seems flat; scholars theorize that it is an attempt by Botticelli to imitate the same style of painting found on old Greek vases.
  3. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1494–1499)
    Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan


    While similar to many works from the same era, this painting of Jesus Christ and his apostles at the Last Supper is one of the most controversial yet influential works of da Vinci. From speculations about its symbolism to the processes used to restore it in the decades and centuries past, this mural still manages to ignite the imagination of many.

  1. David by Michelangelo (1501–04)
    Galleria dell’Accademia, FlorenceDavid by Michelangelo in Florence, ItalyThis sculpture of the Biblical character is one of the finest still-extant examples of Renaissance sculpture. Originally installed in the square outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of Florence’s civic government, it also embodied the spirit of the then-independent Republic of Florence. From this original position, the sculpture is seen to glare in the direction of Rome; a warning for all the warring states surrounding it.
  2. Judith Beheading Holofernes by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1598–1599)
    Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, Rome

    This painting not only shows Caravaggio’s expertise in creating chiaroscuro, a technique employing bold contrasts. It also shows his mastery in recreating emotion on his subjects’ faces. Based on the story from the Old Testament, it depicts the widow Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes, all in a bid to save her people.

  3. The Kiss by Francesco Hayez (1859)
    Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

     

    While not as well-known as the others on this list, this painting is considered to have one of the most passionate representations of a kiss in Western art. It is also representative of Italian Romanticism, symbolizing the art movement’s top ideas. These ideas include the emphasis on deep feeling over rational thought and a patriotic and nostalgic look at the Middle Ages.

  4. Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni (1913)
    Museo del Novecento, Milan Unique Forms of Continuity in Space - Boccioni
    If this sculpture looks familiar, then it’s because you may have already seen it on one side of the Italian version of the 20 cent Euro coin. One of the most popular works in the Futurist style—a homegrown art movement—it exemplifies the art movement’s chief ideas: speed, technology, and forceful dynamism.

These 7 works are just a taste of what’s in store for you in Italy. To help you organize a tour of its top museums and galleries, call us now!

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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