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Art And Architecture In Early Renaissance Italy Notes

History Notes > Culture and Society in Early Renaissance Italy: 1290-1348 Notes

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Art and Architecture in Early Renaissance Italy George Holmes, Florence, Rome and the Origins of the Renaissance (Oxford, 1986). Chapter 9: Realistic Visual Narrative????No papal court after 1305 in Italy. o Creates a new, different world of artistic patronage that led to the work of Giotto at the Arena Chapel and Duccio's Maesta in Siena.
? They incorporated a new system of pictorial narrative that developed in Rome, Pisa, Siena and Assisi from the 1290s.
? Introduction of classical inspiration into sculpture and painting took place with the help of commercial finance. Duccio and the Maesta In Siena, unlike Florence, the Commune commissions the art [Florentine art is decentralised to the guild level]. Building of the Palazzo Pubblico started in the 1290s. Duccio's Maesta o Largest panel piece painting of its age o Intended to glorify the Virgin Mary who protected Siena during the Battle of Montaperti in 1260.
? Part of a wider reverence for Mary
? Lorenzetti, Birth of Mary
? Martini, Annuncation
? Ambrogio Lorenzett's Presentation at the Temple o Brought from workshop to cathedral in 1311.
? A chronicler notes how when it was put up the people 'remained in prayer with much giving of alms...praying God and his Mother who is our advocate to defend us with her great mercy from all adversity and all evil and safeguard us from traitors and enemies of Siena.'
? Emphatic that the Maesta was an expression of the central importance the city oligarchy placed on the Virgin as defender of the Commune. Duccio the artist Worked in Siena as early as 1278.
? Painted the Rucella Madonna for the Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Duccio's paintings are different. o They are different from the work of Guido da Siena and the generation of Sienese artists before 1280. o Duccio has "smoothly modelled, soft features on the faces, given a stronger appearance of real physical outline
? the robustly realistic children, by the delicacy of the handling of transparent, or semi-transparent clothing, by the detailed fineness of the Virgin's clothes, sometimes making effective use of gold striation. o Duccio has developed a novel and more realistic style in the representation of the flesh and clothing. Duccio's influences o French art: Duccio had gone north of the Alps and may have been influenced by the French art from French imported ivories and metal reliquaries

Byzantium: Was Duccio affected by Byzantine art that had recently introduced a new classical realism that greatly affected the painting of faces.
? Just look at his Crevole and Rucellai Madonnas. o Italians at Assisi: o Was Duccio working at the Assisi chapel in the 1280s?
? The Rucellai Madonna looks in competition with another Assisi man, Cimabue, whose Santa Trinita Madonna must have been from the same time. o Nicola and Giovanni Pisano:
? From 1260s, the Pisan sculptors had a great influence on Sienese artists
? Duccio specifically worked with Giovanni Pisano in 1295, on the construction of the Fonte D'Ovile in Siena.
? Duccio's best work is drapery which may have been influenced by Giovanni's upright cathedral-facade statues such as in the Adoration of the Magi from the Nativity Relief from the Pisa Baptistery Pulpit (?)
?????The Maesta specifically
? A large, complex work with more than fifty panels
? Shows the enthroned Virgin with a throng saints and angels on either side and apostles above.
? Above panels show a narrative of the lives of the Virgin and Christ. o This is significant because the Maesta (coinciding with Giotto's Paduan frescoes of 1304-5 and perhaps the Assisi cycle of around 1290-1307) have a similar narrative framework o Indeed, they established a new style of narrative painting that ha d great influence over European pictorial assumptions for the next two centuries.
? What are the characteristics of this new style?

1. The intention of giving buildings and figures a fairly shallow space within which they could be placed to front or rear realistically.

2. A capacity to give figures roundness and weight, especially when they were heavily clothed with folded draperies.

3. A surface design which gave paintings patterns emphasising the main features of the action which the painting was portraying. E.g. emphasis of direction of movement of the figures by the patterns of lines in the partially realistic landscape.

4. An awareness of the allegorical, symbolical, or figural significance of the subjects of the paintings. o??

Giotto: Giotto as at Assisi at some point before 1309 and his Santa Maria Novella Crucifix was painted by 1312, when he was already a famous painter. The Crucifix is atypical of the Tuscan tradition of the 13th C. o It marks a new seriousness in the treatment of the male nude
? The rib-cage is more realistic, the ace hangs in suffering: it is a real face, not a series of twisted lines. The Assisi Problem: can the frescoes of the Legend of St Francis in the upper basilica of Assisi and in the Arena both be Giotto's?
o There are strong differences.
? The painting of the faces.
? They are smoother and paler at Padua and not have the patches deep shadow made by leaving dark underpainting bare.
? The structure of drapery and limbs is in general ruder and less finished in the St Francis series.

The contrast between the structure of the individual scenes.
? The Paduan scenes are more tightly organised.
? At Assisi the figures are often more clearly distinguished from the space behind, individuals are sometimes less clearly related to the action or idea which it is the main purpose of the panel to represent
? Architecture is less idealised.
? Landscape can be present in great stretches of hillside which have little relation to the main action. Yet there are some explanations for this:o

From John White, Art and Architecture in Italy 1250-1400 (Yale, 1996) Chapter 9: (and introduction) to Cavallini
?????Cimabue, Isaac Master, Cavallini, Coppo di Marcavolo o Anticipate the great men who succeed them
?????New money-rich commercial class o Want to expiate sin
?????Papacy o Ambitious, prestige-hungry
? Nicholas begins building on the basilica
?????Artists o New methods and nuances entering Italian art
? North Gothic influence
? Antiquity
? Byzantine art influx from Constantinople. o All helped make a more satisfactory depiction of nature's appearance. Chapter 10: Pietro Cavallini
?????Mosaics in Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome
?????Six scenes from the life of the Virgin o Representation of space
? A confidence to the distribution of figures, and the unity of the background.
? Drapery
?????Soft and heavy, o Golden highlights
? 11th C meaning
?????A way of bringing out forms hidden in the darkness of Byzantine semi-domes and cupolas
? 13th C meaning
?????Merely decorative hieratic feature, symbolising someone of great importance.
?????A synthesis of the symbolic, naturalistic and decorative

Introduction to Painting [1300-1350]
?????The structure and appearance of the human form were explored and developed with a range and subtlety that created a new pictorial dimension.
?????Duccio sought to synthesize rather than analyse: a man immediately followed by Simone Martini who contributed to the move away from the International Gothic style.
?????2D ? 3D
?????But don't forget there is a slow moving current of conservatism in the artists' works. Chapter 23: Duccio
?????In 1295, Duccio did coordinate with Giovanni Pisano on the preliminaries for the erection of the Fonte d'Ovile in Siena.
?????October 1308 - June 1311: documents concerning the construction of the Maesta.
?????Duccio died in 1318. The Maesta
?????Commissioned to enhance the Dome's iconographic content, the building's frescoes were overpowered by the black/white marbling of the Commune.
?????Revolutionary theme: having a throng of worshipping, interceding saints and apostles on the same level as the Virgin is a move away from the medieval hieratic to the Renaissance sacra conversazione.
?????It serves as a replacement to the civically commissioned Madonna degli Occhi Grossii. o Four patron saints of Siena are included. o An inscription intercedes for the city (+ for the painter himself)
?????The Cosmati-Gothic marble throne, is probably the Roman school's impact, found in Arnolfo di Cambio and Cimabue.
?????The implied octagon of the footrest, echoes the form of Nicola Pisano's pulpit in the Siena Dome
?????The heads are obviously Byzantine and combine with the Gothicism of the softly hanging draperies, emphasised by the golden edgings.
?????A painting full of colour.
?????A sense of volume is achieved here, that creates a humanity, even actuality to the work!
o The pattern of cloak and halo, the soft flow and fold and edging in the headdresses, the hair-fine delicacy of parallel brush-strokes that make Cimabue's panel paintings seem heavy-handed.
?????The chronology starts at the bottom of the front side, with the Annunciation of Jesus Christ, weaves its way around the back and then upwards. At the very top focuses on Mary, and then this snakes around the front with the Annunciation of Mary's death and ends at the right hand side of the front altar with the Burial of the Virgin.
?????Starts chronologically around the first predella. 7 scenes from the Early Life of Christ in chronological order from left to right. o Annunciation ? Teaching in the Temple followed by nine scenes from the Ministry in the rear predella ending with the Rising of Lazarus.
?????This then prepares thematically and compositionally the way for the twenty-six scenes from the Passion and the Resurrected Life.
?????The pinnacle panels deal with the further Apparitions of Christ after the Crucifixion.
?????The forward surface of the altarpiece which is crowned by the Last Days of the Virgin. o These begin with the Annunciation of the Death of the Virgin, placed vertically above the first Annunciation.

?????There is, thus a thematic unity to the work: a coherent upward progress of a story starting with the earthly scenes that form the base and ending with the heavenly episodes and figures that once crowned the pinnacles. Such complexity ?
?????Passion Cycle
?????Link between the play, The Passion, performed in Siena and the disproportionate number of scenes taken from Christ's life pre-Pilate?
?????There is an incredible innovation in the iconography of the individual scenes.
?????Nonetheless, there is much Byzantine prototype being use.
?????The double-sidedness, and the form of the altarpiece is a landmark in the evolution from the pictorially frame, rectangular and gable altarpieces of the 13thC and the fully architectonic designs of the early 14th.
?????The height and width of the main panel, the width of the lateral pinnacle and Passion panels in relation to those of the central elements, including the Crucifixion down to the details of the framing, such as the width of the pinnacles, all lie on a square root 2 series.
? Entry into Jerusalem
?????The Entry into Jerusalem shows how closely Duccio's achievement is bound to his acceptance of the Byzantine heritage o Comparing the Entry into Jerusalem with the corresponding relevant mosaic in the Cappella Palatina at Palermo shows that the figure types and the disposition of Christ and his apostles, of the welcoming crowd, and of the hillside and the city gates, all follow the Byzantine model. o But there is something undoubtedly novel here.
? Duccio accentuates the Byzantine climbing composition by making it a tall rectangular piece at the bottom left of the back of the altarpiece.
? But the low view point, and a novel sense of spatial continuity really gives us a sense of the steep road up above. o The temple-baptistery
? This dominates the town and may represent the centralised Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, but also the constant interplay of painting and goldsmithery. o The bulky central structure, decorated by rounded rilobate arches, and the lacy detail and fully Gothic form of the niches at the angles; the Cimabuesque arcaded half-lengths; the Byzantine undercurrents in the heavy relief with its massive figures and simple narrative realism almost wholly devoid of Gothic elements
? A shift from Romanesque weight and gravity to Gothic grace and lightness.
?????The scenes are very simple. [top of second paragraph of page 298].

Chapter 24: Giotto??

Giotto resided in the parish of the S. Maria Novella in 1301. In December 1328, he was assigned a monthly salary by Robert of Naples and became a member of the royal household In April 1334, he became capomaestro (master builder) of the Duomo in Florence He died in Florence, 1337.

The Arena Chapel at Padua
?????Enrico Scrovegni most likely built the Arena Chapel to atone for the sins of his father, a man condemned by Dante in the Inferno for usury [seventh circle of Hell].
?????The chapel was consecrated on 24th March 1305, but Giotto probably worked there between 1304 - 1313. o The figure of Envy is most likely Giotto's making
? Its position at the bottom of the wall, among the last parts of the decoration to be completed.
?????The chapel is notable for its simplicity. o The main body is just 67 feet long, 28 feet wide and 42 feet high. o Externally, bar brick surfaces articulated by plain pilasters. o Six plain, round-headed windows totally without surrounds, are the only interruption in an unbroken side wall. o Giotto did not most likely design the building himself: there is a dislocation in the ordering of the fresco cycle caused by the interruption of the south wall of the chapel by six openings instead of five. o Also, Scrovegni's chapel is similar to many fresco-begging, tunnel-vaulted country churches:
? Like S. Damiano, the Portiuncala or the Vittorina.
?????There is an absolute subordination to the narrative.
?????There is also a decorative unity created by the way in which the light falls upon all the frescoed architecture in the chapel as if from a single source in the window over the entrance.
?????The story told in the centre of the chapel is of man's Redemption and his final Judgement.
?????Structure of the Fresco Narrative
?????Over the choir arch God the Father, painted upon panel presides over the meeting of the heavenly hosts at which the Virgin was chosen as the means of salvation. o Here, isn't Giotto using Pseudo-Bonaventure's Meditationes Vitae Christae?
? This book was only around in 1300, but attempted to flesh out the sparse gospel narratives with added verisimilitude and human interest.
?????On the side walls, we are following the Life of the Virgin: o The Expulsion of Joachim starts on the top left of the south wall, by panel 6 (the Bridal Procession) we jump across to the north wall to the Birth of the Virgin and at the end of that wall we return to the south wall, seeing the story of Christ from nativity to Pentecost.
? The source here is probably the Apocryphal Gospel of St James the Les or is it Jacopo da Voraigne's Golden Legend?
o The Adoration of the Magi has a reference to Haley's Comet!
?? ? ?While Duccio gave prominence to the Crucifixion in his Maesta altarpiece, our man Giotto has no special emphasis. o The final climax was not to be reached until at last they came, as all must come, to their own, individual judgement day.
?? ? ?A good spot: o In the small quatrefoils between the major scenes appropriate Saints and Prophets and the Old Testament prefigurations of the neighbouring New Testament Stories are presented. o Is this the decision making process of an enlightened patron? Probably!
?? ? ?At the base are the Seven Virtues and Seven Vices, while the whole entrance wall is dominated by the Last Judgement.

The Last Judgement is the climactic moment where the drama of mankind is finished and in the upper sky, two angels start to roll away the curtain of the heavens.
? History ends and eternity begins
?? ? ?Giotto's scheme is revolutionary but can also be derived from earlier models. o To place Old and New Testament stories in between the Annunciation and the Last Judgement can be seen in Cavillini's plan for the decoration of the S. Cecilia o The coherence and compactness of the story is a reflection of the late medieal encyclopaedic tradition.
? Thought the stress is heavily on Christ's redeeming role, this this chapel is a pocket version of the glass and stone compendia of the Gothic cathedrals of the North. o But the spiralling story, making the onlooker revolve ? is this not a solution found in the spiralling narrative of the mosaics of the Baptistery in Florence?
? ? ? ? Specific requests of the Patron
?? ? ?Enrico is found presenting the chapel to Mary, the intercessor, on the same scale as the angels.
?? ? ?The diabolical nature of Judas' Bribe is emphasised as a reference to usury.
? ? ? ? Giotto's frescoes individually
?? ? ?Explusion o At the feast of Dedication, Jewish people came to Jerusalem to make their offerings, and Joachim, childless, a sign of God's displeasure, was turned away by the High Priests. o Giotto cuts to the bone of what is quite a complicated story, magnificently. o The scene is stripped to its bare essentials, the fundamental drama, a stark contrast between acceptance and rejection, is reduced to its simplest terms. o On the right hand side, there is nothing, just a brown gap.
? ? Symbolic of the emptiness of life.
?? ? ?There is an economy to Giotto's frescoes.
?? ? ?Man also has weight, Giotto concentrates on simple, solid volumes in his figures and gives them the firmest and most clearly horizontal platform that he can. o Though it is a medieval tradition to represent buildings by the principal objects it contains, Giotto is cunning.
? The Temple that Joachim is expelled from is stripped to its altar and pulpit: the two central aspects of the Church: sacramental and the predicant.
? This is a portrayal of actual 12th/13th C churches sanctuary enclosures with the liturgical and functional focus of, for instance, the S. Clemente.
?? ? ?Giotto also added episodes that were not specifically to do with Scripture. o He did this to emphasise further the human drama of the piece or underline the spiritual significance. o The Annunciation to Anna.
? The sweeping diagonal between the angelic messenger from heaven, Anna and the maid are brilliantly realised
? The serving-maid is mentioned in Pseudo-Matthew.
? Each plays its part in setting the necessarily static areas of immobile paint in motion.
? The placing of the geometric centres of the main and secondary spatial openings on the all-important diagonal connecting the figures becomes as obvious as the function of the parallel diagonal created by the relationship between the high-lift frontal areas of pediment and balustrade. o

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