During the early 16th century, interest in the revival of the classic ideal among artists and patrons alike led to art of great monumentality, clarity and principle, as significantly seen in the work of Michelangelo and Raphael.
From 1505 and 1508 respectively, the two artists were working in Rome for Pope Julius II and his successor Leo X. Their rivalry was notorious. Michelangelo helped Sebastiano del Piombo with his huge Raising of Lazarus, an altarpiece produced in competition with Raphael, destined for Narbonne Cathedral in France.
Study of the natural world led to ever increasing precision and verisimilitude. This quality is evident in the portraiture of the period, both the vivid likenesses produced in Rome by Sebastiano and Raphael, and the unidentified young men portrayed in Florence by Bronzino, Andrea del Sarto and the latter’s pupils, Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino.
Artists of this generation across central Italy came increasingly to place a premium on the formulation of a recognisable, individual style. In Emilia, Parmigianino elegantly elongated his figures and Correggio filled his scenes with tenderness.