You are what you own. So believed many of the elite men and women of Renaissance Italy. The notion that a person's belongings transmit something about their personal history, status, and "character" was renewed in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Objects of Virtue explores the multiple meanings and values of the objects with which families like the Medici, Este, and Gonzaga surrounded themselves. This lavishly illustrated volume examines the complicated relationships between the so-called "fine arts"--painting and sculpture--and artifacts of other kinds for which artistry might be as important as utility-furniture, jewelry, and vessels made of gold, silver, and bronze, precious and semi-precious stone, glass, and ceramic. The works discussed were designed and made by artists as famous as Andrea Mantegna, Raphael, and Michelangelo, as well as by lesser-known specialists--goldsmiths, gem-engravers, glassmakers, and maiolica painters.
This richly textured work examines objects used and venerated in 15th-century Italian art and literary circles, from elaborately carved and painted chests (cassone) to majolica and Venetian glass. At the time, virtue was sought through renewed interest in the classical Greek and Roman past; princes and their courtiers defined their status by collecting and proudly displaying antiques and by studying ancient myths and inscriptions on coins and medals (as evidence of earlier use of their language). In addition, they collaborated meticulously with artists in the creation of new works of art. By quoting records of transactions, Syson (Pisanello) and Thornton, both curators at the British Museum, establish a relationship among the various elements of Renaissance society, from the Medici, D'Este, Gonzaga, and Sforza to the scholars, artists' workshops, jewelers, and goldsmiths. The result is an intimate and wholly satisfying account of the structure of Renaissance life by way of art objects and those who treasured them. Specialists will want this book for its focus on items not fully treated in traditional art history sources and for its fully footnoted text and 136 color and 79 black-and-white quality illustrations. It is also recommended for the interested lay reader as well as artists and art students. Ellen Bates, New York Literature Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Luke Syson is curator of metals at the British Museum. He is co-editor of The Image of the Individual: Portraits in the Renaissance and the co-author of Pisanello. Dora Thornton is curator of Renaissance collections in the Department of Medieval and Modern Europe in the British Museum, and the author of The Scholar in His Study: Ownership and Experience in Renaissance Italy.