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Art, Power, and Patronage in Renaissance Italy

Art, Power, and Patronage in Renaissance Italy

by John Paoletti, Gary M. Radke, Gary Radke
"Art mattered in the Renaissance... People expected painting, sculpture, architecture, and other forms of visual art to have a meaningful effect on their lives," write the authors of this important new look at Italian Renaissance art. A glance at the pages of Art in Renaissance Italy shows at once its freshness and breadth of approach, which includes


"Art mattered in the Renaissance... People expected painting, sculpture, architecture, and other forms of visual art to have a meaningful effect on their lives," write the authors of this important new look at Italian Renaissance art. A glance at the pages of Art in Renaissance Italy shows at once its freshness and breadth of approach, which includes thorough explanation into how and why works of art, buildings, prints, and other kinds of art came to be. This book discusses how men and women of the Renaissance regarded art and artists as well as why works of Renaissance art look the way they do, and what this means to us. It covers not only Florence and Rome, but also Venice and the Veneto, Assisi, Siena, Milan, Pavia, Padua, Mantua, Verona, Ferrara, Urbino, and Naples—each governed in a distinctly different manner, every one with its own political and social structures that inevitably affected artistic styles. Spanning more than three centuries, the narrative brings to life the rich tapestry of Italian Renaissance society and the art works that are its enduring legacy. For enthusiasts of Italian Renaissance art.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This fine work by Paoletti and Radke (art history, Wesleyan Univ. and Syracuse Univ., respectively) is wide in scope, covering the years from 1300 to the late 1500s, and purposely opens discussion to include many major Italian cities, in response to Vasari's bias solely for Florence. Whereas other books are organized by time (Frederick Hartt's History of Italian Renaissance Art, Abrams, 1994. 4th ed.), by artists (Sydney J. Freedberg's Painting in Italy, Yale Univ., 1992. o.p.), or by patronage (Alison Cole's Virtue and Magnificence, Abrams, 1995), this book's essence is the relationships among artist, art, location, and public. Other recent books have used this focus, but Paoletti and Radke manage a more adroit presentation. Primary source material is interspersed throughout the text to set concepts in their historic framework. Appendixes, including city maps, ruling genealogies, and artist's biographies, are constructive. Highly suitable as an introductory text, this is an excellent choice for public libraries.-Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, Ohio
This combination of narrative and illustrations spans three-plus centuries, covering the social and historical context of art in not only Florence and Rome, but also Venice and the Veneto, Asissi, Siena, Milan, Pavia, Padua, Mantua, Verona, Ferrara, Urbino, and Naples<-- >identifying the distinctive artistic styles that were shaped by the political and social institutions in each area. The 576 illustrations include 140 color plates; familiar as well as rewarding unfamiliar images are presented. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

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Penguin Publishing Group
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9.76(w) x 11.22(h) x 1.85(d)
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For four centuries the history of art produced in Renaissance Italy has been presented as a series of biographies of individual artists. Formulations such as "Michelangelo's David," "Leonardo's Last Supper," "Palladio's Villa La Rotonda" ring true to modern ears, because they celebrate the creative individuality of these masters and their works. But in structuring histories of Renaissance art around artists, rather than according to the places in which they worked, the persons and institutions whom they served, and the societal expectations they met—the point of view taken in this text—historians have often failed to indicate that the critical interrelations of these social forces with the arts gave them a compelling visual life over time. Italian Renaissance artists were no more solitary geniuses than are most architects and commercial artists today. They understood that they might gain personal recognition and fame from their creations. They also knew that their patrons—civic leaders in the case of the David, the Duke of Milan with the Last Supper, and a wealthy churchman for the Villa La Rotonda—expected even greater renown for their patronage and their astute exploitation of the visual arts.

Our point of view—that art must be seen in terms of its patronage and the specific times and circumstances in which it was created—is hardly new to art history. Many specialized studies and a number of more geographically and chronologically limited books have used such an approach. This volume, however, provides a comprehensive, fully illustrated, pan-Italian consideration of art from the thirteenth through the sixteenth century.We have broadened our consideration of the diverse traditions of cities throughout Italy, rather than focusing primarily on Florence (which has too often been used to make other centers, even well-recognized ones such as Venice and Rome, seem like cultural and artistic satellites of the Tuscan capital). Expanded geographic and stylistic parameters provide a richer picture of art produced in (renaissance Italy, including works of Florentine art that have previously been accorded marginal or problematic status. We have also rejected rigid separation of the arts by media, preferring to discuss painting, sculpture, and architecture as complementary arts, recognizing that most artists worked in a variety of forms and that they and their patrons regularly thought in terms of ensembles, not isolated masterpieces.

To set our selected works of art more firmly into their original historical fabric, we have added several special features to this book. Wherever possible, captions indicate the patron as well as the artist who created the work. "Contemporary Scene" boxes give a glimpse of daily life during the Renaissance, suggesting some of the sociological "givens" that affected people's view of the world: their religious practices, how they entertained themselves, the foods they ate, and more. "Contemporary Voice" boxes provide actual period texts, drawn not just from literary figures and the theorists and historians who wrote about art but also from authors who wrote for more mundane purposes, tempering the elite bias that a focus on patronage—or, in previous (texts, on artistic genius—can sometimes bring to art-historical discussions.

In this book we hope to make the familiar seem more intriguing and the unfamiliar more comprehensible. The picture we present necessarily includes a recognition of the ambiguities and paradoxes inherent in reconstructing past events. Chronological boundaries for each chapter are somewhat arbitrary, like all such divisions, but in general they reflect sociopolitical shifts caused by changes of governmental structures or rulers in the various cities covered. Thus the dates in the chapter titles are approximate and have to be adjusted for each of the city-states discussed.

Some readers may find that works of art they consider important—even crucial—to an understanding of the history of Renaissance art are not discussed in our text. Such "omissions," in tandem with the addition of unusual works of art, are inevitable in a book that attempts to change the very mode of presentation of the material by expanding its scope. We hope that readers will see in our selections a manifestation of the truly challenging intellectual and artistic richness of the Renaissance. The intention of this book is to provoke questions about approach and stylistic development, not to provide a new canon. We are living in a particularly vital time in historical thinking, when old prescriptive boundaries have been breached. It is critically important to participate in the adventure of these changes.

As is the case with most books of this nature, we have not footnoted the text. However, we have included a bibliography at the end, thereby recording the main source materials we have used and our profound debt to earlier scholars. This bibliography could well be treated as a guide to further reading and understanding of the art and ideas presented in the book. We have also provided a glossary of technical terms which are highlighted in the text in boldface type.

The problem of translating Italian terms into English is always an issue in books on the Renaissance. By and large we have favored English terms and English forms of names according to common usage. In the rare instances of technical terms that do not have an exact equivalent we have provided an approximate translation in the text the first time the word appears, but we then continue to use the Italian term because of its specificity. Nomenclature changed during the period under discussion, but by and large family surnames were not used. Thus artists are referred to in the text either by first name (Michelangelo and not Buonarroti), or by nickname where it was or has become the accepted form (Veronese and not Paolo Cagliari), or by surname (Vasari) if that has become customary usage. There are confusing instances in which an artists patronymic has become transformed in modern usage to a surname: thus Simone di Martino now commonly appears as Simone Martini. In these very few cases usage in the text varies, but the bibliographical references clarify how one can search for more information on the artist.

From the outset of this project Rosemary Bradley, formerly of Calmann & King, was a quietly encouraging first editor. We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. Melanie White took over editorial responsibilities for the book after it was in process and provided firm and helpful direction at critical moments when a gargantuan project threatened to overwhelm us all. We have also been privileged to work with Lesley Ripley Greenfield, our ever-attentive editor at Calmann & King and with the ever-supportive Julia Moore at Abrams; we are grateful for their assistance and kind encouragement in realizing this project. Most particularly we wish to thank Ursula Payne who with kindly persistence, an impeccable eye for accuracy, and good humor guided us through the endless details of editing the first edition; the text is the better because of her perceptive work. For the second edition Richard Mason has guided the editorial process with a sure hand, assisted by Michael Bird and Jan Hunt, the designer. We are grateful for their help. Susan Bolsom has been the photo editor for both editions and we are deeply appreciative of her indefatigable efforts and keen eye.

Special thanks go to students at Wesleyan University and Syracuse University who read the text of the first edition critically and perceptively: Adam Borden, Jennie Diamond, Rachel Posner, Melea Press, and Lisa Rubino at Wesleyan and Sharon Brind, Alexis Drosu, Holly Hurlbun, Jennifer Mosher, and Nathan Peek at Syracuse. The following seminar students at Syracuse also helped in the revisions for the second edition of the text and deserve our gratitude: Ilya-Karina Boner, Elizabeth Butler, Rahel Elmer Reger, Julia Gardner, Caroline Hillard, Alexandra Korey, Laura Macaluso, Lia Markey, Melissa Moreton, Lisa Neal, Soonie Olson, Jenny Patten, Kimberly Santoro, Melanie Taylor, Anne Weatherly, and Julie Zappia. Monica Hahn-Koenig, Holly Hurlburt, Tricia Shapiro, and Sheena Simpson helped as researchers and their work is particularly appreciated. We also warmly acknowledge secretarial assistance from Marilyn Bergen, Linda Straub, Brenda Keating, Carol Kearney, and Tricia Irvine, who kept the project humming.

Many of our colleagues have read and commented on various aspects of this text. We are immensely grateful for their generous offers of assistance and for their criticism. Listing them by name hardly seems appropriate gratitude, but we hope that their students will see their names and realize the dedication of their teachers to their teaching and to their discipline. In particular we would like to note Steven Bule, Jill Carrington, Anthony Colantuono, Roger Crum, Anne Derbes, Phillip Earenfight, Patricia Emison, Adrian Hoch, Ellen Longsworth) Sarah McHam, Susan McKillop, Anita Moskowitz, Gabriele Neher, Jonathan Nelson, Joy Pepe, James Saslow, Richard Turner, Mary Vaccaro, and Shelley Zuraw. David Gillertnan also read portions of the text at various stages of its evolution and consistently offered trenchant, critical, and creative suggestions.

We would like to thank Caroline Bruzelius, the former director of the American Academy in Rome, and the entire staff of the Academy for their hospitality and assistance at a critical moment in the generation of this book, and Suzanne Boorsch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for sharing her knowledge of printed images of Rome and for supplying urgently needed illustrative material. We are also appreciative of the assistance of Denise Allen and Peggy Fogelman in obtaining the images of the lost-wax process that appear in the Introduction (Fig. 27), and to Francesca Bewer for the diagram and succinct text of that process.

The staffs of numerous libraries have also been of enormous assistance in helping us to find the extraordinary range of research materials necessary for the writing of a book such as this one. Among the most supportive were Kathleen Stefanowicz and the late Steven Lebergott of the interlibrary loan office of the Olin Library of Wesleyan University, Susanne Javorski, the art reference librarian at Wesleyan, and Randy Bond at the Fine Arts Library of Syracuse University.

Of course our greatest gratitude goes to our wives, Nancy Romig Radke and Leslie Hiles Paoletti, who watched this book grow from the outset, heard more about the difficulties of putting nearly four centuries of Italian an between two covers than they ever needed to know, and still managed to encourage us in our work. While this book is dedicated to our children, it also belongs to them.

John Paoletti, Gary Radke, February 2001

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