I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and with this blog, I finally can. We’re going to decide history’s greatest Western artist since 1400, using the time-tested structure of the NCAA basketball tournament brackets. The field will consist of 64 artists, broken into four historical eras: Renaissance (1400 and 1500s),  Baroque (1600 and 1700s), 19th Century and Modern. Seedings are determined by me.  I’d love to get enough people to vote on the “games” to determine the results, but we’ll see. I’ll publish the seedings, with an iconic work by each artist, this week, then we’ll start the match ups next week.

Today, we’ll start with the Renaissance bracket:

1, Michelangelo (1475-1564)


2, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)


3, Raphael  (1483 – 1520)


No surprises in the first three seeds; the only debate is probably the order. I went with Michelangelo because of his versatility and longevity. If this contest was to determine history’s greatest creator, Da Vinci would probably be the No. 1 seed. If Raphael lived longer, he might have moved up. (According to Vasari, Raphael succumbed at 37 after he “continued to divert himself beyond measure with the pleasures of love” and died from too much sex.)

4, Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528)


Durer is the first non-Italian in the bracket. Prolific and accomplished, Durer’s wood cuts were widely reproduced in his lifetime, making him an early art star.

5, Titian 1488/90 – 1576


Leader of the Venetian school, master of color and light. Titian’s birth date is unknown, which led to a public spat between British politicians David Cameron and Gordon Brown over his age at death.

6,  Sandro Botticelli 1445 – 1510


7, Hieronymous Bosch (c 1450 – 1516)


500 years later, Bosch’s work is still creepy as hell.

8,  Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569)


Maybe the greatest painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Maybe the greatest Old Master painting in North America.

9, Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506)


10, Jan Van Eyck (c. 1390 – c. 1441)


11, Veronese (1528 – 1588)


12, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497- 1543)


13, Antonio da Correggio (1489 – 1534)


14, Paolo Ucello (1397 – 1475)


No one paints horses (or dragons, or anything else) like Uccello.

15, Donatello (1386 –  1466)


One of only two sculptors in the bracket.

16, Masaccio (1401 – 1428)


Another artist who would have been higher had he lived longer. Sneaks in to grab the last seed.

On the bubble: Lucas Cranaach the Elder, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Giovanni Di Paolo