What Was the Black Death's Effect on Renaissance Art?


The effect of the Black Death, or bubonic plague, on Renaissance art is largely philosophical, symbolic and intangible. The plague's influence on art is profound because of the infection's overall impact on many artists and their work. The historical imprint the illness left on Renaissance art is undeniable.

Dance of Death

  • In the "Dance of Death" style of Renaissance art, skeletons mingle and dance among the living in daily, otherwise normal, painted scenes. Such scenes depict the intensity of the Black Death's journey across Europe.

Memento Mori

  • The Latin phrase "memento mori" translates to "remember you are mortal" or "reminder of death." Because of the Black Death, Renaissance art began to explore the nature of mortality and become reminders to live a life worthy of favorable divine judgment.

Death Symbolism

  • Symbols are used to convey beliefs about death. Skulls, decaying bodies and the hourglass are present in many of the works created during the bubonic plague's devastating presence.

Positive Effects

  • Artist gained subject matter to depict emotionally transparent representations of suffering, infection symptoms and philosophical beliefs about death. The Black Death's effect on European society prompted artists to blend realism with communication about events.

Negative Effects

  • Potentially influential and well-known artists such as Giorgione da Castelfranco, Pietro Perugino, Bernardo Daddi are reported victims of the bubonic plague. Untimely deaths affected the evolution of Renaissance art in unidentifiable ways.

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  • Photo Credit John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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