Drawing as Discipline

The sixteenth-century painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari called drawing, or disegno, “the father of our three arts: architecture, sculpture, and painting.” Fundamental to the creative process, drawing was the backbone of artistic training in Renaissance Italy and consisted of two principal components: copying from the masters and drawing the human figure. Through the mid-fifteenth century, aspiring artists were instructed to make copies after drawings in a model-book, a compendium of motifs (human figures, flora, and fauna) passed from one generation to another, ready to be inserted into paintings or illuminated manuscripts. With the shift away from this medieval tradition—and toward a greater emphasis on individual artistic expression—copying from a wide variety of easily available sources, such as prints and plaster casts, became a way of honing and perfecting one’s draftsmanship beyond the confines of the workshop or teaching academy. These settings provided the principal context for the study of anatomy and the figure in motion, with apprentices and students often posing as models for life-drawing sessions.

Next section - Freedom of Invention


  • 3946
    Style of Altichiero, Italian, fl. 1369–before 1393
    Coronation of the Virgin, ca. 1430
  • 36938
    Baccio Bandinelli, Italian, 1493–1560
    Studies of a Standing Male Nude, Seated Male Nude, and Bust of a Woman, 1520s
  • 42655
    Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Italian, 1598–1680
    Seated Male Nude, ca. 1618–24
  • 6008
    Cecco Bravo (Francesco Montelatici), Italian, 1601 - 1661
    Semi-Reclining Male Nude, 1650s
  • 16702
    Cornelis Cort, Netherlandish, 1533–1578
    after Jan van der Straet, Flemish, 1523–1605
    The Practice of the Visual Arts, 1578
  • 10202
    Albrecht Dürer, German, 1471–1528
    Adam and Eve, 1504
  • 28024
    School of Vulci
    Statuette of a nude youth, late 4th century B.C.
  • 20129
    Niccolo Giolfino, Italian, 1476–ca. 1555
    Chiomara and the Centurion
  • 4797
    School of Andrea Mantegna, Italian, 1430/31–1506
    Horse Looking to Right, with Cornucopia and Shield, ca. 1500
  • 8197
    Giovanbattista Naldini, Italian, 1535 - 1591
    after Michelangelo Buonarroti, Italian, 1475–1564
    Lorenzo de’ Medici, ca. 1565
  • 8203
    Giovanbattista Naldini, Italian, 1535 - 1591
    after Michelangelo Buonarroti, Italian, 1475–1564
    Giuliano de’ Medici, ca. 1565
  • 5360
    Marcantonio Raimondi, Italian, 1470/82–1527/1534
    after Albrecht Dürer, German, 1471–1528
    Adam, 1505–09
  • 3879
    Domenico Tiepolo, Italian, 1727 - 1804
    after Alessandro Vittoria, Italian, 1525 - 1608
    Palma Giovane, mid-1750s (?)
  • 8192
    Bartolomeo Torre, Italian, 1529 - 1554
    Muscles and bones of the leg, ca. 1560
  • 58883
    Enea Vico, Italian, Rome, 1523–1567
    after Baccio Bandinelli, Italian, 1493–1560
    Published by Pietro Paolo Palombo, Italian, active ca. 1564–1584
    The Academy of Baccio Bandinelli, ca. 1550