Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Some great news for those , who wanted to visit and see with your own eyes inside of museum Duomo in Orvieto. This cathedral is in all global anthologies of western art strongly present with one of most important and in same time most strange, unusual late middle age architectural design in Italy with famous Last Judgment of Luca Signorelli. And when we came to this cathedral and put our hand on door knob there was no reaction.
Museum, one of central in Umbria Region, it is constantly closed for almost two decades , most important works are now collected and exhibited in near by Papal palaceand in church of S. Agostino. They addressed the exhibition "Hall of miracles; from Simone Martinni to Francesco Mocchi" and it will be open till first of July, 2008. Beginning of selection of all miracles is dated hundred years before Martini, that is 13. century. Upper limit is Baroque 17. century, most focused artist in that period are Coppo di Marcovaldo, Arnolfo di Cambio, Lippo Vanni, and Signorelli, who is represented with table painting Mary Magdalen, and Giambologna. They put to view works of many other authors, also from field of useful arts, from which they output paravans knitted after cartons of Sandro Botticelli and other authors, all couplet represents introduction act to what supose to be once in far future revenue museum. It is pitty for all those works to wait in deposits for such long time, you are not even able
to se reproductions on line, but you can get further info in link.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Every few year we get new translation of Lives of the Most Eminent Painters. It is a piece of work that resists four century's and a half, and is still one of ground work from field of fine art. IT is one of most important historical document, containing most of information of Italian renaissance. As well Vasari is a man that not only discovered the term Renaissance, he actually started with History of Art.
Giorgio Vasari(1511-1574) was born in Arezzy, Italy, in city that belong to Florentine Republic at that time. His father send him as Giorgio was still a boy to Florence, to study as painter, and as Vasari says for him self he was studying at Michelangelo, but some historians doubt in that, and later he studied at Adndrea Del Sart and Baccio Bandinelli. He studied together with members of Medicci family and so he got strongly related to this important family. Later on he studied under gardiance of Medicci in Rome and he was able to admire works of Michalangelo and Rafaello. Slowly he build his reputation as as an artist as he was working in different Italian cities, so he meanwhile got familiar with masterpieces of great Italian artist. He got his idea for Book about famous painters at dinner 1546, and the idea was provided to him by cardinal Farnese. first book with original title Le vite de'piu eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architetiori was printed in Florence in 1550 and was grabbed of as it was released, so Vasari became preparing him self for second edition, and meanwhile he did some amazing architect projects in Toscany. He modeled the palace Uffizi and long hall that is it connecting to Palace Pitty. He also redo the palace Cavaliero in Pisa. He was one of first members and establisher of Florence Academie del Disegno and he cooperated in renovation of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce churches in Florence. From his painter work is well known his wall painting in Pallazio Vecchio in Florence. No matter of importance of his painting and architect works he is famous for his book Lives of the Most Eminent Painters.
We must not forget that his book is not encyclopedia, but is deep thought study of development of different manner in Italian art till middle of 16. century. The book starts with Givanni Cimabue, and he ends with Tizian, the period of 250 years is covered in his book. Some of Vasari stories are relative short and stubborn, others are long for whole book and with very precise and detailed anecdotes talks about life and art of artist. Case like this is Michaelangelo's and Rafaell, Vasari was deeply admiring those two artis and he is building them piedistall in that book.
He started with the project in way that he organised the artist depending on quality and style, evolution of Italian Renaissance he explained with theory of organic development> this three staged development begun with Cimabuel and Giotto, because they started with innovative and stylistic exploring. In second faze are artist as is Brunelleschi, for which is more recognized sophisticated techniques of modeling and perspective, as well as he was combinating his development in many years in perfection of artist as Leonardo, Raffaelo and mostly with Michelangelo. Important is , that Vasari in his final decisions mostly right; artist that he is writing about in his book are still registered in their canon , and the ones he is critical over are mostly forgot these days. He talks about Renaissance in sense of of again rebirth of old Roman artistic and cultural value after the darkness middle age. VAsari's book became famus as well because of the style that is written.
sometime sthe translator translate just parts of in original extremely long lectures, which is pity, even if the lectures are extremely carefully sorted and in style of Vasari and pondered with opinion of art historians.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Donatello is considered to be one of the greatest sculptors of all time. His techniques are still used by sculptors today.
He was a great Italian sculptor, who was born in Florence, Italy, in 1386, and died at the age of 80 in 1466. He did not marry and had no children. He started practicing at the age of 20 and worked in Lorenzo Ghiberti's shop. Later in his life he studied Roman ruins and became a humanist. Donatello also had a shop in Florence where he created many of his masterpieces.
The city of Florence paid for his sculpture of David. David is the first free standing sculpture in the Christian era. Patrons found him very hard to deal with and to work with. He was not a cultured intellect like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Donatello was essentially a realist. His statues display, for the first time since antiquity, the human body as a functional organism, and the human personality radiated a confidential individuality.
Many of Donatello's masterpieces are located in Florence. Some of these masterpieces include: St. Peter, St. Mark, Zuccone, St. George and the Dragon, St. John the Evangelist, Magdalen, and Angel with Tambourine. Other pieces considered to be some of his finest work are: Herod's Feast, St. Louis of Toulouse, St. Peter, St. Anthony, an equestrian statue called Gattamelata, and Jeremiah. His most classical work is His 'Singing Gallery' for the Florence cathedral is his most popular creation and his statue of the Ventian warrior Gattamelata on horseback is considered his best work.
A lot of his sculptures were Renaissance breakthroughs. David, for one, was the first nude statue of the Renaissance, and the equestrian statue, Gattamelata, was considered to be one of the best proportioned sculptures ever. In Donatello's Gothic style he used expressive ugliness to give the statue a life of its own. He used a powerful realism that gives his statues a distinct look.
Donatello had an immense impact on the art and the artists of the Renaissance. He invented the shallow relief technique. In the shallow relief technique the sculpture seems deep but is actually done on a very shallow plane.
Donatello characterized his figures as individuals. He also made the first bronze sculpture. These were the stepping stones for sculptors to use other materials.
Abraham and Isaac
The need to enclose the two figures in a complex movement within the narrow space of the niche was the occasion for Donatello to express the absolute and natural freedom and plastic language of his compositions. This group, carved in 1421 for the Bell Tower together with Nanni di Bartolo known as The Red, combined in its extraordinary immediacy of a dynamic nucleus fine and divergent plastic solutions, an analytic and descriptive result of optical effects in the distance. Emerging from the vortex of Abraham’s drapes is the nude figure of Isaac exhibiting Brunelleschi- style figures for the Baptistery, a contraposition of a bright background behind a clear shape in the forefront. It was a genial solution to reach a rapid effect of profundity. But of note is also the contrast between the realism of the father’s hands and the classical, abstract purity of the young man’s profile, not necessarily attributable to Bartolo but used by Donatello to underline the cultural insertion.
More than twenty years after the “David” created for S. Maria del Fiore, probably following a journey to Rome in 1432, Donatello re-engaged the theme of the bronze model for the Medici family. The different cultural moment and the private destination of the work explain the completely different interpretation both in iconography and style that the artist used in the biblical subject, pushed this time by literature of a classical example in a humanistic, symbolic key using refined and esoteric illusions. Even now the cultural and formal apparatus of the Florentine environment is apparent in the overwhelming reality of a physical evidence and sensuality of the adolescent body.
In the full-length view, one gets a complete idea of the new inner values that Donatello imposed on the style and iconography of his time. Classicism becomes an ethical and rational harmony; formal Gothic rhythm is transformed into balanced natural movement, into what Vasari described as "marvelous sense of movement within the stone." The statue was commissioned by the Armorers' Guild; this fact would have led a classical Gothic sculptor to a display of fanciful and affected virtuosity, but it suggested to Donatello's genius the invention of the large, simple, emblematic shield, a basic structural element for the dynamic synthesis of the figure in space.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Twice Freud strayed away into a by-path off the high road of psychoanalytic investigation—once, many years ago, when he he wrote a study of aesthetics, and the second time in his eighties, when he undertook an inquiry into biblical history. Both times the prophet Moses was the object of his investigation. In the first instance it was Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, selected out of all the work produced by Michelangelo and from all the other creations of the plastic arts. Later it was Moses the law-giver, whose historic figure exercised a compelling effect on the spiritual vision of the creator of depth psychology.
Is this accidental? A man may accidentally meet another twice at the same spot, but it is not accidental when an old man returns to the place where once, in the full vigor of his manhood, a figure held him enthralled. What compelled the man who maintained that he was ignorant of the “oceanic feeling” of religious experience to approach the great religious founder and attempt to illuminate his spiritual aspect as well as the traits of his appearance? He said that religion was a neurosis; was he seeking the traits of neurosis in Moses? In not a single line has he given any indication of this. “I decided to put it away [the work], but it haunted me like an unlaid ghost.” (1) Something profoundly personal is hinted at in such a confession.
Freud’s work on Moses, the Egyptian, is not a psychoanalytical or psychological study. But we shall proceed in the manner of Freud when delivering over the author of a literary work to the tribunal of psychoanalysis.
Unless one follows the traditions which have been handed down, a reconstruction of the personality of Moses is not possible on the basis of the remainder of the available historical material. When such an attempt is made to mold anew a statue of this giant from the scraps of relevant history—to give not an analysis of the tradition, but a synthesis of the personality—then we have before us an artistic creation, just as Michelangelo’s prophet with the tablets is an artistic creation. But by referring to such a statue we should not attempt to make an analysis of what is hidden in the mythical past, but rather an analysis of the artist.
Whatever is alien to Freud in the traditional figure of Moses will be regarded in his inquiry as alien to Moses; whatever there is in the figure of Moses that fails to reflect Freud’s concept will be found in historical and exegetical excursions and bound up with the inquiry.
In analysis this is called projection. In order to project one’s inner world onto some personality of the outer world, some similarity must first be found. The associations which lead to this may be positive and also negative. Correspondingly, the associations will be colored by love or negatively charged with hate, everything depending on which unconscious impulses are being outwardly projected. The projections may be on occasion divided up into two personalities: one is taken over by the “good” ego, the other by the “evil” ego; one is idealized and the other hated. Everything which does not correspond to the good or evil ego will either remain unseen or be denied.
“Moses is an Egyptian.” How is this proved? Two explanations are given in the first of the three essays, which bears the title of “Moses an Egyptian.” One is historical and philological, the other is psychological and folkloristic. The first one is: “Moses” is an element of many Egyptian names, such as, for example, Ramses (Ra-mose), Thut-mose; Mose in Egyptian means child. Hence, Moses was an Egyptian.
A man who is not an Egyptologist enters on a difficult excursion in order to demonstrate that an Egyptian name is a proof of non-Hebrew descent, but the very man making this endeavor bears the name of Sigmund and is a Jew. Is he aware of the striking inadequacy of his proof? On the basis of such a demonstration, anyone by the name of Sigmund is a Teuton; therefore this demonstration may be rejected, for the same reason that a child of Jewish parents born in Moravia may be called Sigmund.
In a footnote on page 23, Freud cites Eduard Meyer: “The name Moses is probably . . . Egyptian. This does not prove, however, that these generations were of Egyptian origin, but it proves that they had relations with Egypt.” To this Freud appends a remarkable question: “One may well ask what kind of relation one is to imagine.”
The other, psychological, demonstration that Moses belonged to the Egyptian people is as follows: In many legends about the origin and adulthood of famous men of the past, a stereotype is retained: the hero is of exalted descent; even as a child he is recognized by his father as a future danger to him, is compelled to flee, and is rescued and brought up by poor people; when he is fully grown his noble descent comes to light. Such is the echo resounding through the folk-tales. Since, according to the legend, Moses was born among humble people of an oppressed race, and rescued and brought up by the king’s daughter, Freud associates himself with Eduard Meyer’s idea that the legend was falsified and must be set right; and he arrives at the contention that the historic Moses was of higher descent, of the royal house of Pharaoh, and possibly even the son of the Egyptian princess.
Freud undertakes a detailed psychological demonstration with reference to folkloristic research into the legends of various peoples and heroes—without noticing that the emendation cannot be equated with the legendary stereotype, if he himself does not regard Moses as a legendary prince but as a real one. The fictional element is the princely origin of the hero. It is true that on the basis of history it can be proved that a legendary hero was no prince by blood, but on the basis of a legend about a non-prince can a scientific proof be adduced that the hero was, nevertheless, an historical prince?
In the countless folktales the lowly origin of the hero is denied and a nobler one poetically ascribed to him. Accordingly, in revision and correction doubt must be cast upon the princely blood of the hero. If Moses had been named as the son of royal blood in the biblical tradition, then skepticism would be in place and a suspicion justified that the legend had undergone a conventional distortion. But Freud recognizes Moses as an historical prince by blood, and so it is he who composes the legend according to its usual stereotype. He would like to maintain that Moses was the son of a princess.(2) This anecdote is taken from Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900.
Freud quotes Rank: “As a result of ‘national motives’ the legend was reconstructed into the version we know.”
Freud is aware that the theory of Moses’ Egyptian descent lacks a strong foundation.
. . . Further thought tells us that an original Moses myth of this kind, one not diverging from other birth myths, could not have existed. For the legend is either of Egyptian or of Jewish origin. The first supposition may be excluded. The Egyptians had no motive to glorify Moses; to them he was not a hero. So the legend should have originated among the Jewish people; that is to say, it was attached in the usual version to the person of their leader. But for that purpose it was entirely unfitted; what good is a legend to a people that makes their hero into an alien? (p. 20)
The only thing left was to assume that “in a later, and rather clumsy treatment of the legendary material, the adapter saw fit to equip his hero Moses with certain features appertaining to the classical exposure myths characteristic of a hero.”
Monday, April 23, 2007
Among the most important of the continuities with the Classical period was the concept of the Great Chain of Being. Its major premise was that every existing thing in the universe had its "place" in a divinely planned hierarchical order, which was pictured as a chain vertically extended. ("Hierarchical" refers to an order based on a series of higher and lower, strictly ranked gradations.) An object's "place" depended on the relative proportion of "spirit" and "matter" it contained--the less "spirit" and the more "matter," the lower down it stood. At the bottom, for example, stood various types of inanimate objects, such as metals, stones, and the four elements (earth, water, air, fire). Higher up were various members of the vegetative class, like trees and flowers. Then came animals; then humans; and then angels. At the very top was God. Then within each of these large groups, there were other hierarchies. For example, among metals, gold was the noblest and stood highest; lead had less "spirit" and more matter and so stood lower. (Alchemy was based on the belief that lead could be changed to gold through an infusion of "spirit.") The various species of plants, animals, humans, and angels were similarly ranked from low to high within their respective segments. Finally, it was believed that between the segments themselves, there was continuity (shellfish were lowest among animals and shaded into the vegetative class, for example, because without locomotion, they most resembled plants).
Besides universal orderliness, there was universal interdependence. This was implicit in the doctrine of "correspondences," which held that different segments of the chain reflected other segments. For example, Renaissance thinkers viewed a human being as a microcosm (literally, a "little world") that reflected the structure of the world as a whole, the macrocosm; just as the world was composed of four "elements" (earth, water, air, fire), so too was the human body composed of four substances called "humours," with characteristics corresponding to the four elements. (Illness occurred when there was an imbalance or "disorder" among the humours, that is, when they did not exist in proper proportion to each other.) "Correspondences" existed everywhere, on many levels. Thus the hierarchical organization of the mental faculties was also thought of as reflecting the hierarchical order within the family, the state, and the forces of nature. When things were properly ordered, reason ruled the emotions, just as a king ruled his subjects, the parent ruled the child, and the sun governed the planets. But when disorder was present in one realm, it was correspondingly reflected in other realms. For example, in Shakespeare's King Lear, the simultaneous disorder in family relationships and in the state (child ruling parent, subject ruling king) is reflected in the disorder of Lear's mind (the loss of reason) as well as in the disorder of nature (the raging storm). Lear even equates his loss of reason to "a tempest in my mind."
Though Renaissance writers seemed to be quite on the side of "order," the theme of "disorder" is much in evidence, suggesting that the age may have been experiencing some growing discomfort with traditional hierarchies. According to the chain of being concept, all existing things have their precise place and function in the universe, and to depart from one's proper place was to betray one's nature. Human beings, for example, were pictured as placed between the beasts and the angels. To act against human nature by not allowing reason to rule the emotions--was to descend to the level of the beasts. In the other direction, to attempt to go above one's proper place, as Eve did when she was tempted by Satan, was to court disaster. Yet Renaissance writers at times showed ambivalence towards such a rigidly organized universe. For example, the Italian philosopher Pico della Mirandola, in a work entitled On the Dignity of Man, exalted human beings as capable of rising to the level of the angels through philosophical contemplation. Also, some Renaissance writers were fascinated by the thought of going beyond boundaries set by the chain of being. A major example was the title character of Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus. Simultaneously displaying the grand spirit of human aspiration and the more questionable hunger for superhuman powers, Faustus seems in the play to be both exalted and punished. Marlowe's drama, in fact, has often been seen as the embodiment of Renaissance ambiguity in this regard, suggesting both its fear of and its fascination with pushing beyond human limitations.
Friday, April 20, 2007
The rediscovery and reevaluation of writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans suggested a "rebirth". Nineteenth-century historians seized on the idea to create our present image of "The Renaissance".
The gradual change from the feudal system to the modern state
Starting in northern Italy, the hierarchical state -- led by either the urban bourgeoisie or despotic nobles -- replaced the fluid and often chaotic feudal system of the Middle Ages. For this reason, some historians refer to the Renaissance as the Early Modern Era.
A change in the views of the earth and the cosmos
Christopher Columbus (1451?-1506) and Ferdinand Magellan (c.1480-1521) expanded Europe's view of the world. The astronomical studies of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) -- later championed by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) -- called into question the old earth-centered view of the universe.
Increased Interest in Humanist Learning
* The arts became an important measure of learning and culture.
* Music moved from the science of number to an expressive art viewed as an equal to rhetoric.
* The rise and rapid spread of music printing increased access to music and books about music.
Increased Patronage of Music
* The rich courts and civic governments of the Renaissance supported music to a degree not previously seen.
* This level of musical support was also provided by the religious institutions of the day.
Territorial Expansion and Increased Wealth
* As a result of colonial expansion, great wealth flowed into European cities and courts.
* Travel and the resulting musical exchange became a driving force for the creation of a more international musical style.
* MUSICAL STYLE
The composers of the Renaissance concerned themselves with three different areas of music:
All three types of music share many musical features:
> Guillaume Du Fay (1397-1474)
> Josquin Desprez (c.1440-1521)
> Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c.1525-1594)
> John Farmer (fl.1591-1601)
> Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Rene Descartes wrote his Discourse on Method 50 years before Issac Newton published his Principia. The Principia stunned the world and quickly established Newton as the leading intellectual of his age. Everyone recognized it as epoch making. But the Principia and the ideas it contained were built against a backdrop of feverish excitement that began well over a century before with Copernicus who had literally torn the cosmos from its foundations and hurled it into space. Aristotle's universe, Ptolemy's universe, had been overthrown. It took some time to sink in. But when it did, there began a concerted and feverish process of rebuilding the world on a newfooting. The century and a half of reconstruction culminating in Newton's magnificent achievement."The book of nature, Newton's nature was seen in poetic termsas a divine romance -- a book written in disconnectedcorpuscular characters scattered throughout an infinite and empty void following the syntax of motion and the rule of attraction."
This Newtonian cosmos was radically different from Aristotle's.Aristotle's cosmos had been closed, finite,
and differentiated. This universe was open, infinite, and undifferentiated. It was mathematical, knowable, material and
predictable. It ran like a clock with such incredible precision that witnessed for most evidence enough of a divine clockmaker who took an active and omnipresent interest in the affairs of men. Newton did not require God as a first principle in his grand synthesis--but the product of his endeavors was evidence enough that God was. The optimism that this awareness inspired fueled the spirit of Newton's Age, the Age of enlightenment.But Newton's achievements, catalyzed in the first instance by Copernicus, were produced through his fusing and synthesis of many others who took on the challenge of rebuilding the cosmos. These must have been exciting and nervous times. Tradition and authority were dead--but what would take their place? There were many actors in the drama that culminated in Newton's triumph, but three men in particular stood out: Galileo, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes: Italian, English and French. Before looking at the distinctions amongst these three it is important to recognize, that in the grand scheme of the age in which they worked, and that although their strategies differed,they had much in common. They would have made a grand teaching team. All three were optimistic. All three were individualistic and egalitarian. All three were anti-traditionalist and actively about the business of getting on with the business of forging a new cosmos. All three held views that ignorance came from error. The synthesis that Newton produced could be represented as a line drawn from Galileo to Newton with Descartes and Bacon standing on either side. Bacon is the proponent of a method of empiricism, induction, experiment and observation--a gatherer of particulars. Descartes is seen as the champion of deduction, the rational thinker. Newton, is seen as the harmonizer of these two contrasting approaches, claiming, correctly, that induction and particulars are primary, but, in fact, relying heavily on a system of grand intellectual constructions--space and time especially - which are very much from the tradition of Descartes. Notice that while the "language of Newton" is very much Baconian in tone and intent: RULE IV In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions inferred by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur by which they may be made more accurate or liable to exception. (Rules of reasoning). ...that it was Descartes who had the greatest influence on Newton's method through his "Analytic Geometry," which was Descartes' crowning intellectual achievement.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
In Spain, as in other European countries, sixteenth-century painting is characterized by eclecticism, or rather by the synthesis of a number of different trends: national tendencies, the influence of the great Italian masters, and certain elements of the art of Northern and Central Europe. In the early years of the century, the formula was thoroughly Quattrocento, but the use of oils and a growing interest in naturalistic representation and the manipulation of space nullified or progressively diluted the surviving Gothic characteristics. With the passage of time gold backgrounds became increasingly rare, and landscapes gained in breadth and luminosity. Many Spanish artists visited Italy, attracted by the fame of the Italian schools. While there, some underwent a technical and aesthetic transformation, and, on returning to Spain, contributed decisively to the growth of the Renaissance spirit, spreading their version of the great lessons to be learned from the art of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. These influences remained dominant until the middle of the century, though, as we have mentioned, not without interference from Flanders, Germany, and Holland.
The most important characteristic distinguishing the Renaissance painting of Spain from that of Italy, France, and Germany relates more to subject matter than to style. It is the Spanish rejection of mythological themes and the cult of the nude. The Spanish artist of the sixteenth century·shared the spirituality of hís Gothic forebears; in general, he worked for the churches and monasteries, or for nobles with similar religious preoccupations. Many of the better paintings of this period are imbued with the mysticism of the ascetic, and are remote not only from thc sensualism associated with paganistic themes, but also from the cult of art for art's sake and sheer aestheticism. The foreigners who came to work in Spain during this period, which, it must be remembered, coincided with the peak of Spanish imperial power, were quickly assimilated. Far from resisting the established tradition in Spain, they sometimes became among its most passionate interpreters.
Challenge: The weight of history. Leonardo da Vinci first designed a bridge to cross the Bosporus strait at Istanbul in 1502, but the sultan to whom he presented the project didn't believe that the bifurcated, tapered stone arch span could be built.
Solution: Vebjørn Sand, a Norwegian artist, came across the bare-bones design at an exhibition of da Vinci's engineering work and persuaded Norwegian transportation officials to give it a shot. But stone is out; 500 years later, glu-lam - glue-laminated wood - brings the concept to life.
Spanish painting was given a new and more determined thrust in the direction of the Renaissance by two artists trained in Italy: Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina and Fernando Llanos. In 1507 they were jointly commissioned to paint the great retable still in Valencia cathedral. The styles of both masters are distinguished by clarity of composition, a taste for static poses and attitudes, and an appreciation of architecture, less for the sake of the prolific ornamental detail, of which other painters of the period were so fond, than for the balance of masses. In the scenes of this retable, taken from the life of the Virgin, their debt to Leonardo is very obvious. Although the styles of the two painters have much in common, Yáñez's manner is distinguished by the greater monumentality of his figures. Llanos appears to be more addicted to the emotional gesture and the troubled expression. After 1513, the two artists worked independently, Yáñez producing the notable St Catherine in the Prado, the Epiphany and Pieta of Cuenca cathedral, painted in 1531, and the Last Judgment in the March collection in Mallorca. Together, Yáñez and Llanos exerted a widespread influence on the schools of Murcia and Valencia.
Unlike fifteenth-century art, Catalan painting of this period, that is, of the first quarter of the sixteenth century, did not revolve about a group of exceptional personalities. Individual masters, mostly foreigners, produced work of some interest in different centers throughout the province, particularly in Gerona, Tarragona, and Barcelona. The most eminent of these artists was Ayne Bru, a painter of German origin, to whom we owe the magnificent Martyrdom of St. Cucufate, preserved in the Museum of Catalan Art. This painting is remarkable for the sensuous opulence of the modeling, which is rich in tactile qualities and suggestive of the style of Leonardo. Gerona was the home of a very gifted painter known as Juan de Borgoña (of Burgundy). His work also appears in Valencia, and his art, with its wealth of forms and colours, was known along the entire Mediterranean coast of Spain.
About the year 1500 a number of talented painters were at work in the principal cities of southern and central Spain. Their art is often eclectic, comprising both Northern and Italian elements, with the balance weighted somewhat in favor of the latter. In Toledo, the first third of the sixteenth century is dominated by the personality of Juan de Borgoña. In 1495 he worked in Toledo cathedral, together with Pedro Berruguete. His painting is remarkable for its exquisite sensitivity, its balance, and a warm lyricism intolerant of all excess. There is evidence of early exposure to Florentine influences, together with hints of the Gothic, especially strong in the fall of the draperies. Luminous colours and the subtle organization of space are the distinguishing features of Juan de Borgoña's magnificent decorations in the chapter house of Toledo cathedral (1509-11), in which the landscape plays such an important part. In addition to executing several retables in Toledo, the artist also completed the retable of the Cathedral of Avila, begun by Pedro Berruguete, which includes an exquisite Annunciation. In his studio work, which is rather voluminous, some of the more valuable qualities of the master tend to be neutralized. During this same period some outstanding paintings were being produced in Seville by Alejo Fernández. In 1496 he is reported in Cordova, but soon afterward he moved to Seville, where he continued to live until his death in 1545. Strong in composition, Fernández was particularly skillful in handling his figures, which are distributed with imagination and judgment and modeled with unusual grace, as may be seen in his Epiphany in Seville cathedral. The cities of Sevilla and Saragossa possess important examples of his work, in particular the Virgin of the Navigators from the Alcázar of Seville, in which the sober and balanced composition and the nobility of form foreshadow Zurbarán.
During the second third of the sixteenth century, a number of Spanish painters fell heavily under the influence of Raphael. Typical in this respect, in Valencia, are the members of the Masip family: Vicente Masip and his son, Juan de Juanes. The work of the latter, mostly later than 1550, is distinguished by a certain formalistic elaboration of the directions taken by his father, and is by no means lacking in grace or skill. Juan de Juanes was the creator of a group of models of Spanish piety. His work is harmonious, rhythmically transparent, and well designed. These characteristics are particularly evident in his more popular compositions, such as the Holy Family in the Academy of San Fernando, the Redeemer in the Valencia Museum, and the Last Supper in the Prado Museum. His father's most important achievement is the retable in Segorbe cathedral, painted about 1530.
In Seville, the second third of the sixteenth century also witnessed the introduction of a style of painting that reflected the ascendancy of Raphael. In this center, the most important artist of the period were undoubtedly of Northern origin: the Dutchman Fernando Esturmio (Storm), and the Fleming Pedro de Campaña (Kempener). The latter, the more gifted of the two, was born in Brussels in 1503. He was trained in Italy, but in 1537 he is known to have been employed in the Cathedral of Seville. Shortly before 1563 he returned to his native country. The style of this master includes elements derived from Michelangelo, but these are offset by original plastic qualities and a sense of drama. One of Campaña's key works is the Descent from the Cross (1547) in Seville cathedral, a painting that anticipates the Baroque of Rubens and was much admired by other Spanish artists, particularly Murillo. Campaña had a more amiable and genuinely Raphaelesque side, evident in the altarpiece of the Marshal's Chapel in Seville cathedral, which he was commissioned to paint in 1555. His progress toward the Baroque and his interest in the rendering of light are revealed in his admirable Adoration of the Magi, which was painted in 1557 (church of Santa Ana, Seville).
There is no space to mention all the numerous artists working in Spain at this time, but we must refer, however briefly, to the paintings of that sculptor of genius, Alonso Berruguete, in particular to his Nativity in the Valladolid Museum, and to the work of Pedro Machuca, an extraordinary architect.
Luis de Morales (called El Divino), born in 1510, was a distinctly original personality. The distinctive features of his style - a painstaking technique inherited from the Flemish masters, and elongated forms that foreshadow the art of El Greco - are especially evident in the works of his final period. Morales painted numerous versions of the Virgin and Child, sometimes with the infant St.John, and touching visions inspired by the theme Ecce Homo, which are among his most popular works. Sensitivity to content and concentration on the sacred drama are the chief characteristics of this typical representative of Spanish asceticism.
The third quarter of the sixteenth century brought a strong desire for innovation. This coincided with the infiltration of Mannerism, openly introduced by the Italian painters who decorated the Escorial, and a renewed interest in the Venetians, particularly in their colours. The painter who best represents these tendencies is Juan Fernández Navarrete, called "the Mute" because of the affliction from which he had suffered since boyhood. After a "short" stay in Italy, where he had contact with Titian's studio, he started work in the Escorial in about 1568. Thanks to the forcefulness of the image, his realistic and merciless version of the Martyrdom of St. James (1571) is one of his best known works, but his Adoration of the Magi (1575), also in the Escorial, better reveals his painterly preoccupation with light, chiaroscuro, and colour. Navarrete died in Toledo in 1579.
The art of the second half of the sixteenth century was by no means exclusively religious. Portrait painting also flourished. The Dutch portraitist Anthonis Mor (1519?-1576) was followed by his pupil Alonso Sánchez Coello (1531/32-1588), who gave a decided impetus to this genre with work of the caliber of his portraits of Philip II and the royal children Don Carlos and Isabella Clara Eugenia (Prado Museum). This artist has rightly been praised for his humanity, which, in its intimate relationship to plastic values, makes him the direct precursor of Velázquez portraits. The preoccupation with tactile qualities and the convincing representation of materials, characteristic of Sánchez Coello, is even more noticeable in the work of his pupil and successor, Juan Pantoja de la Cruz (1551-1609). In his somewhat hieratic portraits, the character of the subject is of less interest than the verisimilitude of jewels, lace, silks, brocades, and nielloed armor. Pantoja, like Sánchez Coello, painted religious subjects as well as portraits, and in this genre he worked with greater freedom, achieving a more truly pictorial effect. He was also absorbed in the problems of dark and light, as revealed in his Resurrection (1605), now in the Hospital of Valladolid.
The last quarter of the sixteenth century produced a variety of painters who, for all their interest, are typical transitional figures, associated with a period of fluidity that was soon to crystallize in a new conception of painting. Prominent among these artists were Pablo de Céspedes in Cordova, and, in Seville, Vasco de Pereira and Francisco Pacheco, the teacher and father-in-law of Velázquez, who in his latter years (1649) published an interesting treatise, Art of Painting.
El Greco's Painting
The great revolution that burst on the mediocrity of late sixteenth-century Spanish painting turned largely upon the genius of El Greco, Italian-trained under Venetian masters, yet a supreme individualist and the possessor of a technique as advanced and effective as any in Europe. There is something miraculous about the outcome of a career so full of internal contradictions and exposed to so many apparently conflicting influences. Born on the island of Crete in 1541, Domenicos Theotokopoulos must have begun to paint in the Byzantine icon tradition, which is discernible in much of his later work. Later, under the spell of Venice, he determined upon a very different course. In 1570 Giulio Clovio noted an encounter in Rome with "a young native of Candia, a pupil of Titian, who in my judgment seems to have a rare gift for painting." In fact, El Greco did develop his singular talents under Titian and Tintoretto and produced work of astonishing power even during these youthful years in Italy. Venetian influence is apparent in the Portrait of a Man (National Gallery, Copenhagen), in the Healing of the Blind Man in the Dresden Pinakothek, and in other paintings. In Rome, in spite of his diatribes against him, El Greco learned much from Michelangelo, acknowledging, in particular, the grandeur of his conception of the human body, stressed by tensions that reveal a supernatural world.
News of the building of the Escorial, and the example of the Italian painters who went to Spain to work on its decoration, may have influenced El Greco's decision to seek new goals. His mysticism must have enabled him to identify himself with the Spanish ideals of the Golden Century more completely than with the sensuousness and literary themes of Italian art. In 1577 he was engaged in painting the great retable of Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo, dominated by two great panels, The Trinity and The Assumption, now in museums in Madrid and Chicago. The El Greco of this period is still very restrained, concerned with closed forms, and able to invest his sacred themes with a sense of monumentality, while finding a means of self expression in the tumultuous life of his colours.
El Greco's work is distinguished by a marked interest in human types, to which his success as a portrait painter must certainly be attributed. At the same time, this success is founded less on objectivity than on a talent for selecting models sympathetic to a conception of the world exalted by religious feeling. The culmination of his art is to be found in the paintings based on the Gospels and other sacred themes, such as the famous Espolio, painted in 1577-1579 (sacristy of Toledo cathedral). El Greco used the folds of robes and draperies to establish a rhythmical movement suggestive of the medieval style, but handled with the freedom of the Baroque. The reflections and textures of the fabrics are rendered with marvelous skill. In 1580-1582 he painted his striking version of the Martyrdom of St Maurice (Escorial), a carefully studied composition with an original colour scale of cold blues, yellows, greens, and violets. This work, commissioned by Philip II, failed to please the monarch and was refused.
Thereafter El Greco turned from a course that, if pursued, would have brought him greater wealth and honours. In 1586-1588 he executed one of his masterpieces, preserved in the church of Santo Tomé in Toledo, for which it was painted. This is the Burial of Count of Orgaz, a magnificent composition, based on a fourteenth-century legend, in which the artist expresses his disdain for externals and his interest in the "interior light" and the human form. In this picture the figures of knights and monks form a frieze beneath which two saints support the body of the count. The splendors of the heavenly realm are blazoned across the distant sky. The ascent to Heaven was a favorite subject of El Greco, a theme reiterated in his rhythms, chiaroscuro, and colour. In these paintings the mystical element is counterbalanced by a profoundly human interest in the earthly model. In this connection it is enough to note the portrait of Cardinal Fernando Nino de Guevara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the impressive St Ildefonso preserved in Washington.
El Greco was interested in landscape less for the sake of its anecdotal value and natural beauty than for its spiritual qualities and the atmosphere. This is the mood of his masterly View of Toledo (1597 to 1599), also in the Metropolitan Museum. The artist also had to satisfy a steady demand for pictures of the saints. He was therefore obliged to resort to the expedient of painting them in series, sometimes with the aid of assistants. In this way he produced numerous versions, closely similar or with certain variations, of his conception of St Francis of Assisi, the repentant St Peter, St Jerome, Mary Magdalene, and so on. In his maturity he allowed freer rein to a personal tendency to distort and elongate his figures, as in the Resurrection in the Prado (1607) and in the Opening of the Fifth Seal in the Metropolitan Museum. During his final period, this tendency was exaggerated and combined with a process of simplification and elimination of detail and a frequcnt indulgence in contortion. These qualities he brilliantly combined with the most sumptuous palette, as may be seen in the Laocoön in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
It seems probable that the artist accepted the assistance of collaborators in some of the series he painted in the final years of his life, but it is no less certain that he preserved until the very end that absolute mastery over his art so conspicuous in the superb Twelve Apostles in the Casa del Greco. Francisco Preboste and the painter's son, Jorge Manuel, were probably his principal collaborators, while Luis Tristán was the best of his pupils.
Monday, April 9, 2007
"In 1983, a Japanese artist made a copy of the Mona Lisa completely out of toast." This curious fact and many more like it may be found on the "Fun Facts" World-Wide-Web page put out by the Northville Michigan Arts Commission (http://tln.lib.mi.us/~nort/yourpge4.html LINK DEAD 4/02), characterized on their web page as "a highly dedicated group of volunteers chartered to encourage, develop, and promote activities in all of the Arts." This identical piece of trivia is quoted word for word in no less than fifty other locations on the World Wide Web, where it is classified under a variety of demeaning and deprecating titles and rubrics such as "Amusing irrelevant facts," or "Useless (and unsubstantiated) facts," or "Totally useless facts." The list, in each of its iterations, is repeated item by item, with little variation, so that not infrequently, this seeming factoid about a toasted Mona Lisa directly follows the one about the child Albert Einstein who could not speak, or the one about the fellow who found a tooth growing out of his toe.
[Note: What may be the largest of these lists may be the one at the following URL: http://edisto.awod.com/gallery/rwav/wadem/dunno.html LINK DEAD 11/04. Here, the "facts" are presented "To help you through this absurd, twisted and some times silly world." In addition to the report of the Mona Lisa made of Toast, this list includes a notice reporting that Leonardo spent twelve years painting Mona Lisa's smile. This "fact" is repeated no less than 18 times on the Internet as of October 1998 under such titles at "Useless Trivia," or "Stuff No One Should Really Know. The following links to related trivia lists were supplied 10/04 by Carol Selkin:
Reports and illustrations of strange occurrences, prodigious events, wonders and other shocking truths have a long history in Western culture -- dating back (if we ignore Homeric and other ancient legends), certainly to medieval travel-books and tall tales about far-away places and the people who inhabit them. Fixed in place among so many bizarre rumors and curiosities, the report of a toasted Mona may seem to be just another one of those pseudo-facts (or factoids) to be read indiscriminately as "strange, but true," or "strange and not true" -- as you prefer. One thing is certain, however; in the lists of oddities, the story of a Mona Lisa in toast is robbed of context and offered to the public as something thoroughly meaningless and useless, an example of the worthless excesses of man in general and of modern artists in particular. Damned by association, vilified to insignificance, cited without the name of a maker, there is no way in such a context of contempt and derision to rescue the work (should it exist) and to demonstrate any meaning, substance or significance it may or may not have.
The work, in fact, is real, and is the product of artist Tadahiko Ogawa of Kyoto. The Mona as Toast does not always bend to the forces of ridicule, however. In an on-line edition of the Japan Times dated 1997, it is reported that a "Mona Lisa" whose image is burnt into slices of toast is Tadahiko Ogawa. Mona as Toast, ca. 1984displayed in an exhibit on "food as art" that was put up by the Tempozan Contemporary Museum. The above notwithstanding, it is not surprising, therefore that the permanent home of this work is the Orlando Florida exhibition hall of Ripley's "Believe it or not!" -- a collection of museums not known for their dedication to making sense of the world, but famous for showing its non-sense. Indeed, on the web-page of the Orlando Museum, the Mona as toast is cited as one example of work done by people "with too much time on their hands." What is the difference, we may ask, in accepting such an object as a serious or valid work of art and exposing it as a "useless" curiosity? Depending upon one's point of view, this is either a product of wasted time or one of certain ingenuity and verifiable industry. One thing is certain, this kind of criticism reveals more about the author than it does about the maker of the object. In this age when it is so easy to admit that cuisine can be aesthetic and hard to comprehend how art can be eaten, nobody seems to have noticed that the "Mona as Toast" looks surprisingly like a typical Leonardo brown ink drawing, squared off for transfer.
[Note: Japan Times: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/list/museums/1997/museumk6.html (Exhibit: "Delicious Art.")] LINK DEAD 4/02
[Note: From the Ripley's Orlando web page: "Then, there are exhibits which seem to scream 'some people have way too much time on their hands!' - a 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost car made to two-thirds scale from more than a million match sticks, a family portrait made from dryer lint and the Mona Lisa from inch-square pieces of white toast, to name a few." (http://www.iloveorlando.com/ilo_ripleys.htm LINK DEAD 4/02). A telephone call to the Orlando museum provided the name of the artist, the date of acquisition (1984), and the fact that it was made of 1426 slices (or pieces?) of toasted white bread. But note Walter Benjamin's apt rejoinder to this materialistic assumption: "the fruits of idleness are more precious than the fruits of labor," (as quoted in Michael Kimmerman, "Museums in a Quandary: Where Are the Ideals?" The New York Times, August 26, 2001.)]
The "lists" do not tell us that Toast is in Orlando. It could easily be viewed as a fabrication of urban legend. It may be seen, illustrated, in an article from an unidentified magazine, where we are told that it is composed of 1,426 slices, and where, in the tradition of the lists, it is likened to other bizarre curiosities from the Orlando Ripley's: to a portrait of a Chinese emperor made from a laundry shirt and a reproduction of a Van Gogh self-portrait made from 3,000 postcards of the artist's paintings (also in Orlando). The caption begins: "From the ridiculous..." and only gets "to the sublime" when it mentions the Van Gogh. It is difficult to imagine why a Van Gogh made of 3,000 postcards is more sublime than a Mona Lisa made of 1500 slices of toast. Ostensibly, in the hierarchy of applied values at work here, postcards carry more weight than toast, or 3000 is more divine than 1500. These are not aesthetic criteria, of course, these works are being judged materialistically.
Is this the finale of one of the Western world's most revered works of art: to be ridiculed, commercialized, trivialized, and made ripe for any sort of exploitation? Do these stories indicate how far reverence for Leonardo's masterpiece has fallen since the 19th century, when it came to stand as a hallmark and embodiment of Renaissance beauty and accomplishment -- as the quintessential document expressing the relationship between the artist and his subject? Is the Mona Lisa toast (to borrow modern parlance)? Does this fall from the Renaissance tradition signify a re-death of the classical/naturalistic hold on representation? Or are these manifestations indicative of something else -- of a process by which modern society re-invents itself and comes to terms with its own past while it defines the path that lies ahead?
Friday, April 6, 2007
The smile on the face of the Mona Lisa is so enigmatic that it disappears when it is looked at directly, says a US scientist. Professor Margaret Livingstone of Harvard University said the smile only became apparent when the viewer looked at other parts of the painting.
The Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 1500s, has intrigued art lovers for five centuries because of its subject's mysterious smile.
The theory has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, this week.
The smile disappeared when it was looked at because of the way the human eye processes visual information, said Prof Livingstone.
The eye uses two types of vision, foveal and peripheral.
Foveal, or direct vision, is excellent at picking up detail but is less suited to picking up shadows.
"The elusive quality of the Mona Lisa's smile can be explained by the fact that her smile is almost entirely in low spatial frequencies, and so is seen best by your peripheral vision," Prof Livingstone said.
The more a person stares fixedly ahead, the less useful is their peripheral vision.
Prof Livingstone said the best example of this effect was if someone was to stare at a letter on a page of print.
Concentrating on one letter made it difficult to pick out other letters even a short distance away, Prof Livingstone said.
She said the same principle was used by da Vinci on the painting. The smile only became apparent if a viewer looked at her eyes or elsewhere on her face.
Da Vinci's painting, possibly the most famous portrait of all time, is housed at the Louvre in Paris.
Prof Livingstone also used French painter Monet's Impression: Sunrise, which features a dazzling orange sun in a blue sky, to show how artists had understood human sight.
"I'm demystifying the procedures that some artists have known about for years, but not debunking their art in any way," she said.
"These artists - the Impressionists, Da Vinci, Chuck Close, and Robert Silvers, for example-discovered fundamental truths that scientists are only now unravelling.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Paris's Louvre Museum warned that the wood on which the Mona Lisa was painted is bending.
Her unknown identity has plagued art historians for centuries. Her enigmatic smile has seduced millions of art lovers. Now the mystery of the Mona Lisa is deepening.
Earlier this week the Louvre Museum in Paris, where the Renaissance masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci is housed, warned that "the thin panel of poplar wood, on which this mythical image is painted, is more warped than it was previously." Its deterioration, they said, has aroused "some worry."
Repairing the world's most famous artwork is no easy task, especially since da Vinci has an uncanny way of making life difficult for conservationists. Experts are unsure of the materials the Italian artist used and their current chemical state.
"Basically nobody wants to touch it, because nobody wants to mess it up," said Henri Zerner, a French art history professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachussetts. "What if you—oops!—lost the ear of the Mona Lisa?"
Da Vinci painted the portrait in Italy over a long period beginning in 1505. The painting was immediately celebrated as a great work of art, and da Vinci himself loved it so much that he always carried it with him, until it was eventually sold to France's King François I.
The identity of the subject has long been fiercely debated. The most likely candidate is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo.
Another, many say outlandish, theory—revisited in novelist Dan Brown's hugely popular bestseller The Da Vinci Code—is that the painting was an androgynous self-portrait. Some see similarities between the facial features of the Mona Lisa and those of a da Vinci self-portrait painted years later.
Da Vinci used a technique known as sfumato—the blurring of sharp edges by blending colors—to leave the corners of the eyes and the mouth in shadow.
"It's an extraordinarily rich portrait. That is what portraiture is about: an effort to stop time," said David Rosand, an art history professor at Columbia University in New York. "The beauty of that face will last forever, but in life it will not."
According to Margaret Livingstone, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard University, the Mona Lisa's smile is so elusive that it disappears when looked at directly.
That's because direct vision is excellent at picking up detail, but less suited to picking up shadows. Peripheral vision, on the other hand, picks up low spatial frequencies like the blurry smile of the Mona Lisa.
"She has a mocking quality," said Livingstone, who is the author of the book Vision and Art. "When you're not looking at her, she seems to be smiling behind your back, and then you look at her and she stops."
The turbulent history of the Mona Lisa has added to its universal fame. In 1911 the painting was stolen from the Louvre by a former employee who believed it belonged in Italy. The thief walked out of the gallery with the picture under his painter's smock. He was apprehended in Florence, Italy, two years later, and the painting was safely returned.
Since then, the Mona Lisa has been frequently caricatured, dissected by psychologists like Sigmund Freud, and portrayed as a femme fatale in advertising campaigns.
"The story around the Mona Lisa [is] more famous than the painting itself," Zerner said.
To preserve the fragile work, curators many years ago enclosed the Mona Lisa behind a thick pane of glass. The barrier guards against climatic changes and camera flashes from the six million people who visit the Louvre every year.
But experts say the true Mona Lisa is difficult to see, because it has been buried under thick layers of various varnishes. Over the years, the painting has gained a dull brown-and-yellow tint from chemical changes in the varnish.
Now the wood on which it's painted is also changing.
Wood is particularly difficult to repair, because it easily absorbs and releases water, changing its dimensions and shape. There is always a chance of doing more harm than good.
To make matters worse, the experts don't really know what materials da Vinci worked with.
The Center for Research and Restoration of Museums of France will now conduct a technical study to determine what materials the painting is made of and evaluate its vulnerability to temperature changes.
Said Rosand: "I would be surprised if that painting wasn't in fairly desperate need of some sort of help."
About 1450, European scholars became more interested in studying the world around them. Their art became more true to life. They began to explore new lands. The new age in Europe was eventually called “the Renaissance.” Renaissance is a French word that means “rebirth.” Historians consider the Renaissance to be the beginning of modern history.
The Renaissance began in northern Italy and then spread through Europe. Italian cities such as Naples, Genoa, and Venice became centers of trade between Europe and the Middle East. Arab scholars preserved the writings of the ancient Greeks in their libraries. When the Italian cities traded with the Arabs, ideas were exchanged along with goods. These ideas, preserved from the ancient past, served as the basis of the Renaissance. When the Byzantine empire fell to Muslim Turks in 1453, many Christian scholars left Greece for Italy.The Renaissance was much more than simply studying the work of ancient scholars. It influenced painting, sculpture, and architecture. Paintings became more realistic and focused less often on religious topics. Rich families became patrons and commissioned great art. Artists advanced the Renaissance style of showing nature and depicting the feelings of people. In Britain, there was a flowering in literature and drama that included the plays of William Shakespeare.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
The word 'Renaissance' is a French term first coined in the 19th century to describe the intellectual and artistic revival, inspired by a renewed study of Classical literature and art, which began in Italy in the early 14th century and reached its culmination in the early 16th century, having spread in the meantime to other parts of Europe. The equivalent Italian term is Rinascimento. The concept enshrined in the word 'Renaissance' is actually one of rebirth rather than revival and carries with it the loaded, and absolutely discredited, argument that the Middle Ages was a dead period intellectually and artistically. Such a view effectively renders Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic art as being without aesthetic value. Though this position is untenable, the term 'Renaissance' is useful in so far as it denotes a view that was held by contemporary, especially Italian, thinkers and because the period covered by the term, in the leading artistic centres of Italy, exhibits a growing preoccupation with a coherent set of values based on antique Classical models.
It was Petrarch (1304-74) who first evoked the complementary images of the prevailing darkness of the Middle Ages, when the intellectual achievements of the Classical world had been forgotten, and the subsequent illumination of his own period following their rediscovery by scholars such as himself. Thus, the renewal of interest in the antique was first and foremost an intellectual and literary revival. The importance of Classical texts to the development of the visual arts was their inherent view of a world with man at the centre. Also, references to the arts in the antique world revealed that artists were valued for their ability to represent nature with great fidelity and that, furthermore, they enjoyed a higher status than their medieval counterparts. Thus, the beginnings of Renaissance art in Italy should be recognizable by seeking out not only those artists who adopted motifs or borrowed models from antiquity, but also those who sought to represent the human figure and the material world more naturalistically than had their predecessors.
Until the 20th century the generally accepted model for the development of the artistic Renaissance was that constructed by Vasari, writing in 1550. He gave to Giotto the credit for the rebirth of art after centuries of barbarism and structured his chronological model like the ages of man, with Giotto and his immediate heirs as representing the infancy of art; Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Donatello and Ghiberti as the experimental youth; and Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo as the perfected maturity. Although notions of rebirth (and the previous death the term implies) and artistic progress are now rejected, and although it is recognized that Vasari was above all a Florentine writer structuring history in Florentine terms in order to set the scene for his friend and idol, the Florentine all-round artist, Michelangelo, Vasari's account is useful in that it does reflect what is a perceptible movement away from an art based on conventionalized representations of a supernatural reality towards an increasing technical expertise (in which Florence mostly led the way) in the representation of a visually convincing and rationally ordered natural world. The subject matter was still preponderantly sacred, but Christ and the saints were now conceived with more corporeality, and increasingly not in an ethereal Heaven, but at the centre of the physical world.
If we accept Vasari's implication that Giotto was a Renaissance artist we should also be aware that he was in fact preceded by a non-Florentine, the sculptor, Nicola Pisano. Both artists imbue the human figure with a new power, dignity and gravity; and, furthermore, Pisano quotes directly from antique Roman sarcophagi, thus fulfilling the second requirement for a true Renaissance artist. Unfortunately, the following century does not present an ordered development from the achievements of these two figures and it is more usual today to agree with Alberti (writing in 1435) that the artistic Renaissance of Italy actually began in Florence in the early 15th century. The strength of this model is that what follows in Florence and in all those centres affected by Florentine art, presents a largely coherent artistic development throughout the century.
Brunelleschi, placed by Alberti in the vanguard of the new art, was the first architect to go beyond the arbitrary usage of the vocabulary (i.e. the recognizable motifs) of Classical buildings towards a perception of the underlying grammar (the order and harmony created by the rational proportional relationships of part to part and part to whole). Brunelleschi also seems to have made the earliest experiments in single point linear perspective and may have advised Masaccio in its possibilities for constructing a rationally ordered picture space. Certainly the fictive architecture in Masaccio's Trinity (c. 1428, Florence, Sta Maria Novella) is Brunelleschian. The earliest surviving use of linear perspective, however, is in Donatello's St. George and the Dragon relief (c. 1417, Florence, Or San Michele). Of the sculptors that looked towards Classical models, Donatello, like Brunelleschi with his architecture, was the one that most clearly understood the underlying spirit of Classicism. Throughout the 15th century (today usually designated the 'Early Renaissance'), Florentine artists were at the forefront of investigations into the representation of the natural world. To some, one particular area of investigation or another might take precedence: to Uccello it was the underlying geometry of form and the organizational possibilities of perspective and to Antonio Pollaiuolo, anatomy. Another hallmark of the Renaissance is that although the overwhelming majority of commissions were still sacred there was also, as the century progressed, a growth in lay patronage requiring portraits and other secular images, particularly those dealing with themes from Classical mythology.
The first quarter of the 16th century is generally termed the 'High Renaissance'. It is the period when the leading artists had sufficient technical expertise to achieve virtually any naturalistic effect they wished, coupled with a controlling, Classically-based intelligence which imposed visual harmony and compositional balance while eliminating gratuitous detail. Although most of the leading protagonists were Florentine - Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael - the centre of production had shifted to Rome (where these three men worked) and to Venice, where Bellini, Giorgione and Titian were creating their own High Renaissance style. The most important architect of the High Renaissance, whose buildings were the first to be considered as having fully recaptured the grandeur of ancient Rome, was Bramante.
It was not until this period that Italian Renaissance ideals began to spread in a significant way north of the Alps, Durer being the first northern artist to fully assimilate the ideals of the Renaissance into his work. Increasingly, from the 16th century onwards, northern artists would finish their artistic education by visiting Italy. Foreign rulers and states also sought to buy in Italian artists, but from the 1520s Mannerism had supplanted the High Renaissance style and thus in France, for example, direct Italian influence in the 16th century is essentially Mannerist (e.g. Francis I's School of Fontainebleau). Nevertheless, Mannerist art is inconceivable without the Classical ideals of the Renaissance (whether to flout deliberately or to exaggerate) and those ideals continued to exert a powerful influence on artists, alongside the art of Classical antiquity, as the supreme exemplar up until the second half of the 19th century and the advent of Realism and Impressionism.