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17-1. Paolo Uccello. The Battle of San Romano. 1438–40. Tempera on wood panel, approx. 6¿ * 10¿7– (1.83 * 3.23 m). National Gallery, London. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees. EARLY RENAISSANCE ART IN EUROPE HE FEROCIOUS BUT BLOODLESS battle we see at left (fig. 17-1) could take place only in our dreams. Under an elegantly fluttering banner, the Florentine general Niccolò da Tolentino leads his men against the Sienese at the Battle of San Romano, which took place June 1, 1432, near Pisa, in Italy. Niccolò holds aloft his baton of command, a sign of his absolute authority and obedience. His gesture, together with his white horse and fashionable gold damask hat, ensure that Niccolò dominates the scene. The general’s knights charge into the fray, and when they fall, like the soldier at the lower left, they join the many broken lances on the ground—all arranged in conformity with the new mathematical depiction of space, one-point (also called linear) perspective. The battle rages across a shallow stage, defined by the debris of warfare arranged in a neat pattern on the pink ground and backed by a tapestry-like hedge of blooming orange trees and rose bushes. In the cultivated hills beyond, crossbowmen prepare their lethal bolts. An eccentric painter nicknamed Paolo Uccello (“Paul of the Birds”) (c. 1397–1475) created this panel painting, housed in London’s National Gallery. Uccello also painted two others like it, which reside in major museums in Florence and Paris. The strange history of these paintings has only recently come to light. Lionardo Bartolini Salimbeni (1404–79), who headed the Florentine Council of Ten during the war against Lucca and Siena, probably commissioned the paintings. Uccello’s remarkable accuracy when depicting armor from the 1430s, heraldic banners, and even fashionable fabrics and crests would appeal to civic pride. The hedges of oranges, roses, and pomegranates—all ancient fertility symbols—suggest that Lionardo might have commissioned the paintings at the time of his wedding, in 1438. He and his wife Maddalena had six sons, two of whom inherited the paintings. According to a complaint brought by one of the heirs, Damiano, Lorenzo de’ Medici “forcibly removed” the paintings from his house. The paintings were never returned to Damiano, and Uccello’s masterpieces are recorded in a 1492 inventory as hanging in Lorenzo’s private chamber in the Medici Palace. Perhaps Lorenzo, who was called “the Magnificent,” saw Uccello’s heroic pageant as a trophy worthy of a Medici merchant prince. In the sixteenth century the artist, courtier, and historian Giorgio Vasari devoted a chapter to Paolo Uccello (whose real name was Paolo di Dono) in his book, The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Architects, Painters, and Sculptors. He described Uccello as a man so obsessed with the study of perspective that he neglected his painting, his family, and even his beloved birds, until he finally became “solitary, eccentric, melancholy, and impoverished.” (Vasari, p. 79). His wife “used to declare that Paolo stayed at his desk all night, searching for the vanishing points of perspective, and when she called him to bed, he dawdled, saying: ‘Oh, what a sweet thing this perspective is!’ ” (Vasari, p. 83). (translation by J.C. and P. Bondanella, Oxford, 1911) 577 1400 ▼ 1420 ▼ 1440 ▼ ▲ 1417 GREAT SCHISM ENDS 1445 GUTENBERG ▲ PRINTS FIRST BOOK ▲ 1430s ALBERTI WRITES ON ARCHITECTURE; PUBLISHED IN 1485 TIMELINE 17-1. Early Renaissance Europe. The fifteenth century in Europe was an intense period of transformation, aided by the introduction of printing, the growth of cities, and a rapid secularization of whole societies. OC Map 17-1. Early Renaissance Europe. The Renaissance flourished first in northern Europe, then in Italy. Lake NORTH A Milan Garda Pavia Mantua Padua Venice SE Po R. SEA ADRIATIC SEA L T IC Bologna Faenza LIGURIAN SEA Arn oAR. Florence B Siena ENGLAND Urbino Arezzo TUSCANY ITALY ATLANTIC Haarlem The Hague Antwerp Bruges Gelders GERMANY Cologne Ghent English Channel Maaseik Tournai Louvain Arras Rouen Flémalle Brussels NO Mainz RMAN D London 50 50 100 Miles Rome 100 Kilometers Y 0 R. 0 er OCEAN Tib CORSICA TYRRHENIAN SEA FRANCE Champmol Dijon Beaune R. N Rhi ne . BERRY R. ine B U RG U N D Y Tours Bourges Se se R Meu Paris Loire R . Dan u BAVARIA Basel Vienna be R. AUSTRIA SWITZERLAND S L P A Lake G ar Geneva Geneva on ne Avignon Florence ES ARAGÓN PO S PA I N A I RT R Lisbon NE D UG RE A AL R. PY CASTILE MALLORCA CORSICA See inset ITALY C SE A Rome Naples SARDINIA GRANADA TI M E D I T E R R A N E A N S E A 0 0 250 250 500 Kilometers In western Europe, many of the developments of the late Middle Ages, such as urbanization, intellectualism, and vigorous artistic patronage, reached maturity in the fifteenth century. Underlying these changes was the economic growth in the late fourteenth century that gave rise to a prosperous middle class of merchants and bankers. Unlike the hereditary aristocracy that had dominated society through the THE RENAISSANCE AND HUMANISM 578 CHAPTER 17 SICLIY 500 Miles Early Renaissance Art in Europe late Middle Ages, these businesspeople had attained their place in the world through personal achievement. In the early fifteenth century, the newly rich middle class supported scholarship, literature, and the arts. Their generous patronage resulted in the explosion of learning and creativity known as the Renaissance. Artists and patrons, especially in Italy, began to appreciate classical thought and art, as well as the natural world. The characterization of the period as a renaissance (from the French word for “rebirth”) originated with 1460 ▼ ▲ 1452 HAPSBURGS BEGIN RULE OF HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE 1500 ▼ 1480 ▼ ▲ 1469–92 LORENZO DE’ MEDICI RULES FLORENCE ▲ 1453 HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR ENDS fourteenth-century scholars like the great humanist and poet Petrarch. Petrarch looked back at the thousand years extending from the collapse of the Roman Empire to his own time and determined that history fell into three distinct periods: The ancient classical world, a time of high human achievement, was followed by a decline during the Middle Ages, or “dark ages.” The third period was the modern world—his own era—a revival, a rebirth, a renaissance, when humanity began to emerge from an intellectual and cultural stagnation and scholars again appreciated the achievements of the ancients. For all our differences, we still live in Petrarch’s modern period—a time when human beings, their deeds, and their beliefs have primary importance. But today, we view the past differently. Unlike fourteenth-century scholars, we understand history as a gradual unfolding of events, changing over time. We can see now that the modern worldview that emerged during the fourteenth century was based on continuity and change through the preceding centuries. Humanism, a nineteenth-century term, is used narrowly to designate the revival of classical learning and literature. More generally, in fourteenth- and fifteenthcentury western Europe, humanism embodied a worldview that focused on human beings; an education that perfected individuals through the study of past models of civic and personal virtue; a value system that emphasized personal effort and responsibility; and a physically or intellectually active life that was directed at a common good as well as individual nobility. To this end, the Greek and Latin languages had to be mastered so that classical literature—history, biography, poetry, letters, orations—could be studied. For Petrarch and his contemporaries in Italy, the defining element of the age was an appreciation of Greek and Roman writers. In fact, throughout the Middle Ages, classical texts had been essential for scholars— from the monks in Charlemagne’s eighth-century monasteries, who preserved the books, to the students who mastered them in the universities that arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Italy, France, and England. Especially important to the Renaissance was the balance of faith and reason addressed by philosophers in the twelfth century and achieved by the Scholasticist Thomas Aquinas in the Summa theologica of 1267–73, which still forms the basis of Roman Catholic philosophy. Scholasticism underlay such literary works as the Divine Comedy of Dante—who with literary figures like Petrarch and Boccaccio and the artists Cimabue (active c. 1272–1302), Duccio (active 1278–1318), and Giotto (1266/7–1337) fueled the cultural explosion of fourteenth-century Italy. In literature Petrarch was a towering figure of change, a poet whose love lyrics were written not in Latin but for the first time in the spoken language of his 1492–98 COLUMBUS DISCOVERS THE ▲ WEST INDIES AND SOUTH AMERICA 1498 SAVANAROLA EXECUTED ▲ own time. A similar role was played in painting by the Florentine Giotto di Bondone, who observed the people around him and captured their gestures and emotions in deeply moving mural paintings. Essentially a Gothic artist, Giotto created massive three-dimensional figures, modeled by a natural and consistent light and depicted in a shallow yet clearly defined space. One of art’s great storytellers, Giotto made biblical events and their theological implications immediately understandable to the new patrons of art in northern Italy—merchants and bankers like Enrico Scrovegni of Padua, who commissioned Giotto to decorate a chapel dedicated in 1305 to the Virgin of Charity and the Virgin of the Annunciation (fig. 17-2, page 580). As viewers look toward the altar they see the story of Mary and Joseph unfolding before them in a series of rectangular panels. Both Giotto’s narrative skills and his awareness of the medieval tradition of typology—in which earlier Old Testament events foreshadow the New Testament—are apparent in the paintings of the chapel (fig. 17-3, page 581). The life of the Virgin Mary begins the series. Events in the life and ministry of Jesus circle the chapel in the middle register, or layer of space, while scenes of the Passion (the arrest, trial, and Crucifixion of Jesus) fill the lowest register. Thus, the first miracle, when Jesus changes water to wine during the wedding feast at Cana (recalling that his blood will become the wine of the Eucharist, or Communion), is followed by the raising of Lazarus (a reference to his own Resurrection). Below, the Lamentation over the body of Jesus by those closest to him leads to the Resurrection, indicated by angels at the empty tomb and his appearance to Mary Magdalen in the Noli Me Tangere (“Do not touch me”). The juxtaposition of dead and live trees in the two scenes becomes a telling detail of death and resurrection. Giotto used only a few large figures and essential props in settings that never distract by their intricate detail. The scenes are reminiscent of the tableaux vivants (“living pictures,” in which people dressed in costume re-created poses from familiar works of art) that were played out in the piazza in front of the chapel in Padua. Outside Italy, interest in the natural world manifested itself in the detailed observation and recording of nature. Artists depicted birds, plants, and animals with breath-taking accuracy. They observed that the sky is more colorful straight above than at the horizon, and they painted it that way and so developed aerial perspective. They, like Giotto, emphasized threedimensional modeling of forms with light and shadow. Along with the desire for accurate depiction came a new interest in individual personalities. Fifteenthcentury portraits have an astonishingly lifelike quality, combining careful—sometimes even unflattering— description with an uncanny sense of vitality. In a number of religious paintings, even the saints and angels CHAPTER 17 Early Renaissance Art in Europe 579 17-2. Giotto di Bondone. Frescoes, Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua. 1305–6. View toward east wall seem to be portraits. Indeed, individuality became important in every sphere. More names of artists survive from the fifteenth century, for example, than in the entire span from the beginning of the Common Era to the year 1400. A similar observation might be made in nearly every other field. 580 CHAPTER 17 Early Renaissance Art in Europe One reason for this new emphasis on individuality was the humanist interest not only in antiquity but also in people. Humanists sought the physical and literary records of the ancient world—assembling libraries, collecting sculpture and fragments of architecture, and beginning archaeological investigations of ancient 17-3. Giotto di Bondone. Marriage at Cana, Raising of Lazarus, Resurrection and Noli Me Tangere and Lamentation (clockwise from upper left), frescoes on north wall of Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua. 1305–6 Rome—so that they could understand an imagined golden age in order to achieve personal freedom and dignity for everyone in their own time. Their aim was to live a rich, noble, and productive life within the framework of Christianity. Needless to say, the humanist ideal was seldom achieved. Nevertheless, these people extended education to the laity, investigated the natural world, and subjected philosophical and theological positions to logical scrutiny. They constantly invented new ways to extend humans’ intellectual and physical reach. The rise of humanism did not signify a decline in the importance of Christian belief. In fact, an intense Christian spirituality continued to inspire and pervade most European art through the fifteenth century and long after. But despite the enormous importance of Christian faith, the established Western Church was plagued with problems in the fifteenth century. Its hierarchy was bitterly criticized for a number of practices, including a perceived indifference to the needs of common people. These strains within the Western Church exemplified the skepticism of the Renaissance mind. In the next century, they would give birth to the Protestant Reformation. While wealthy and sophisticated men in the highest ranks of the clergy—bishops, cardinals, and the pope himself—and the royal and aristocratic courts continued to play major roles in the support of the arts, increasingly the urban lay public sought to express personal and civic pride by sponsoring secular architecture, sculpted monuments, and paintings directed toward the community, as well as town houses, fine furnishings, and portraits of family members. The commonsense values of the merchants formed a solid underpinning for humanist theories and enthusiasms. Two ideal cities, as seen through contemporary eyes, exemplify the fifteenth-century view as it emerged in northern and southern Europe. In Robert Campin’s Mérode Altarpiece (see fig. 17-11), windows in Joseph’s carpentry shop open onto a view of a prosperous Flemish city (fig. 17-4, page 582). Tall, well-kept houses crowd around churches, whose towers dominate the skyline. People gather in the open market square, walk up a major thoroughfare, and enter the shops, whose open doors and windows suggest security as well as commercial activity. The tall, narrow buildings recall the CHAPTER 17 Early Renaissance Art in Europe 581 RENAISSANCE PERSPECTIVE SYSTEMS The humanists’ scientific study of the natural world and their belief that “man is the measure of all things” led to the invention of a mathematical system enabling artists to represent the visible world in a convincingly illusionistic way. This system—known variously as mathematical, linear, or one-point perspective—was first demonstrated by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi about 1420. In 1435 Leon Battista Alberti codified mathematical perspective in his treatise De pictura (On Painting), making a standardized, somewhat simplified method available to a larger number of draftspeople, painters, and relief sculptors. One artist, Paolo Uccello (1397–1475), devoted his life to the study of perspective (see fig. 17-1). These artists considered the picture’s surface a flat plane that intersected the viewer’s field of vision at a right angle. In Alberti’s highly artificial system, a one-eyed viewer was to stand at a prescribed distance from a work, dead center. From this fixed vantage point everything in a picture appeared to recede into the distance at the same rate, following imaginary lines called orthogonals that met at a single vanishing point on the horizon. Using orthogonals as a guide, artists could distort—or Benozzo Gozzoli. Saint Augustine Reading Rhetoric in Rome, fresco in the choir of the Church of Sant’Agostino, San Gimignano, Italy. 1464–5 In the 1460s Benozzo Gozzoli (1421–97) began to paint scenes from the life of Saint Augustine for the church dedicated to him in the Tuscan hill town of San Gimignano. In this painting, he shows his debt to Alberti’s theories of perspective, from the coffered ceiling to the tiled floor. Gozzoli’s use of strict one-point perspective here also suggests the orderliness and rationality of Augustine’s thought. Distant views flank the thronelike seat of the professor-saint, while rows of solemn students at either side of Augustine’s desk fill a foreground space that is carefully defined by classical columns and friezes. Only the small dog at the saint’s feet breaks the driving force of one-point perspective in the pattern of the floor tiles. of linear perspective. One has a warm picturesqueness, while the other suggests a cool, balanced, unachievable ideal. To explore how these two images were forged, we will begin in the powerful courts of French royalty, whose patronage supported and in fact spread the early Renaissance style in northern Europe. foreshorten—objects, replicating the optical illusion that things appear smaller and closer together the farther away they are from us. Despite its limitations, mathematical perspective extends pictorial space into real space, providing the viewer with a direct, almost physical connection to the picture. It creates a compelling, even exaggerated sense of depth. Early Renaissance artists following Alberti’s system relied on a number of mechanical methods. Many constructed devices with peepholes through which they sighted the figure or object to be represented. They used mathematical formulas to translate three-dimensional forms onto the picture plane, which they overlaid with a grid to provide reference points, or emphasized the orthogonals by including linear forms, such as tiled floors and buildings, in the composition. As Italian artists became more comfortable with mathematical perspective over the course of the fifteenth century, they came to rely less on peepholes, formulas, and linear forms. Many artists adopted multiple vanishing points, which gave their work a more relaxed, less tunnel-like feeling. In the north, artists such as Jan van Eyck refined intuitive perspective to approximate the appearance of things growing smaller and closer together in the distance, coupling it with atmospheric, or aerial, perspective. This technique—applied to the landscape scenes that were a northern specialty—was based on the observation that haze in the atmosphere causes distant elements to appear less distinct and less colorful, the sky to become paler as it nears the horizon, and the distant landscape to turn to a bluish gray. Among southern artists, Leonardo da Vinci made extensive use of atmospheric perspective, while in the north, the German artist Albrecht Dürer adopted the Italian system of mathematical perspective toward the end of the fifteenth century (Chapter 18). ART OF THE FRENCH DUCAL COURTS In the late Middle Ages, French kings, with their capital in Paris, began to emerge as the powerful rulers of a national state. Nevertheless, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, their royal CHAPTER 17 Early Renaissance Art in Europe 583 THE FOUNDLING HOSPITAL ecorated with blue-and-white medallions bearing images of swaddled babies, this ancient orphanage in one of the world’s most beautiful public spaces, Florence’s Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, echoes the long-ago cries of children. Built in 1444, the Foundling Hospital, the Ospedale degli Innocenti, was the first of its kind—although the need to care for abandoned children went back to the thirteenth century with the explosive growth of city populations and consequent social disruption. Care of the helpless and destitute had been the responsibility of families, the village, and the Church. In 1410 a merchant of Prato, Francesco Datini, had left 1,000 florins to build a hospital. Then in 1419 the Guild of Silk Manufacturers and Goldsmiths in Florence undertook an unprecedented public service: It established a public orphanage and commissioned the brilliant young architect Filippo Brunelleschi to build it (fig. 17-35) next to the Church of the Santissima Annunizata (“Holiest Annunciation”), which housed a miracle-working painting of the Annunciation. Brunelleschi created a building that paid homage to traditional forms while introducing what came to be known as Renaissance style. Traditionally, a charitable foundation’s building had a portico open to the street to provide shelter. Brunelleschi built an arcade of hitherto unimagined lightness and elegance, using smooth round columns and richly carved Corinthianesque capitals—his own interpretation of a classical order. The underlying mathematical basis for his design creates a sense of classical harmony. Each bay of the arcade encloses a cube of space defined by the 10-braccia 17-35. Filippo Brunelleschi. Foundling Hospital, Florence, Italy. Designed 1419; built 1421–44 614 CHAPTER 17 Early Renaissance Art in Europe (20-foot) height of the columns and diameter of the arches. Hemispherical pendentive domes, half again as high as the columns, cover the cubes. The bays at the end of the arcade are slightly larger than the rest, creating a subtle frame for the composition. Brunelleschi defined the perfect squares and circles of his building with dark gray stone ( pietra serena) against plain white walls. His training as a goldsmith and sculptor served him well as he led his artisans to carve crisp, elegantly detailed capitals and moldings for the loggia, an open covered gallery. A later addition to the building seems eminently suitable: Andrea della Robbia’s glazed terra-cotta medallions in the spandrels of the arches. Brunelleschi may have intended to divide the triangular spaces with pilasters to create a pattern that would harmonize with the pedimented windows above. If so, they were never executed. Instead, about 1487 Andrea della Robbia, who had inherited the family firm and its secret glazing formulas from his uncle Luca, created blue-and-white glazed medallions that signified the building’s function. The babies in swaddling clothes, one in each medallion, are among the most beloved images of Florence. The medallions seem to embody the human side of Renaissance humanism, reminding viewers that the city’s wealthiest guild, led by its most powerful citizen, Cosimo de’ Medici, cared for the most helpless members of society. Perhaps the Foundling Hospital spoke to fifteenth-century Florentines of an increased sense of social responsibility. Or perhaps, by so publicly demonstrating social concerns, the wealthy guild that sponsored it solicited the approval and support of the lower classes in the cutthroat power politics of the day.