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Arcangelo Di Jacopo Del Sellaio

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15th Century, Attributed to Arcangelo di Jacopo del Sellaio, Moses
Located in Petworth, West Sussex
Attributed to Arcangelo di Jacopo del Sellaio (Italian, c. 1441 - 1493) Moses and the first plague

16th Century Old Masters Figurative Paintings


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A Close Look at old-masters Art

Encompassing centuries of change in Europe between 1300 and 1800, from booms of prosperity to bloody revolutions, Old Masters describes a wide range of artists. The informal term was derived from the title of an artist who trained in a guild long enough to become a master, such as Leonardo da Vinci, who studied in a Florence painters’ guild. However, Old Masters paintings, prints and other art is now used to refer to work made by any artist with a high level of skill in painting, drawing, sculpture or printmaking who worked during this era.

The 15th century’s expansive trade and commerce spread culture across borders. A vibrant period of art emerged, bolstered by studies of anatomy and nature that influenced a new visual realism. From Raphael and Michelangelo in the Renaissance to Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer in the Dutch Golden Age, artists expressed emotion, naturalism, color and light in new ways. El Greco and Paolo Veronese were leaders in the dramatic style of Mannerism, while Caravaggio and Peter Paul Rubens demonstrated the movement and meticulous detail of Baroque art.

Historically, most attention was concentrated on male artists, but recent research and exhibitions have elevated the impactful work of women such as Rachel Ruysch and Artemisia Gentileschi. In late-18th-century France, female artists like Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun were prominent names. Nevertheless, access to the academies and guilds was highly restricted for women, and even those able to establish practices were expected to adhere to portraits and still lifes rather than the grand history paintings being created by men.

Find a collection of Old Masters prints, paintings, drawings and watercolors and other art on 1stDibs.

Finding the Right figurative-paintings for You

Figurative art, as opposed to abstract art, retains features from the observable world in its representational depictions of subject matter. Most commonly, figurative paintings reference and explore the human body, but they can also include landscapes, architecture, plants and animals — all portrayed with realism.

While the oldest figurative art dates back tens of thousands of years to cave wall paintings, figurative works made from observation became especially prominent in the early Renaissance. Artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance masters created naturalistic representations of their subjects.

Pablo Picasso is lauded for laying the foundation for modern figurative art in the 1920s. Although abstracted, this work held a strong connection to representing people and other subjects. Other famous figurative artists include Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Figurative art in the 20th century would span such diverse genres as Expressionism, Pop art and Surrealism.

Today, a number of figural artists — such as Sedrick Huckaby, Daisy Patton and Eileen Cooper — are making art that uses the human body as its subject.

Because figurative art represents subjects from the real world, natural colors are common in these paintings. A piece of figurative art can be an exciting starting point for setting a tone and creating a color palette in a room.

Browse an extensive collection of figurative paintings on 1stDibs.