The Early Renaissance

        

(Renaissance  Art Map)





 




 
 



Matteo di Giovanni

Vecchietta

Francesco Squarcione




See also COLLECTION:


Fra Filippo Lippi


Domenico Veneziano


Antonio Pollaiuolo


Neroccio di Bartolomeo

 

 

  


INTRODUCTION

 

 
 

The Early Renaissance

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

The term Renaissance was first used by French art historians of the late 18th century in reference to the reappearance of antique architectural forms on Italian buildings of the early 16th century. The term was later expanded to include the whole of the 15th and 16th centuries and, by extension, to include sculpture, painting, and the decorative arts. There is still considerable disagreement among art historians as to whether the term should be restricted to a phenomenon that had its origins in Italy and then spread through western Europe (the point of view taken here) or whether directly contemporary developments north of the Alps, and especially in the Low Countries, should be included on an equal footing with what was happening in Italy.

The controversies that raged after the publication of Jacob Burckhardt's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (English translation, 1878) have abated, and the time span of the Renaissance is generally accepted as the period from roughly 1400 to about 1600, although certain geographical areas and certain art forms require greater latitude. This period is characterized as a rebirth or, better, the birth of attitudes and aims that have their closest parallel in the art of classical antiquity. Classical literature and, less often, classical painting were invoked as a justification for these new aims. The theoretical writings on art from the period indicate that man was the dominant theme. In religious painting, drama and emotion are expressed in human terms. From the late Middle Ages the theme of the Madonna enthroned with Christ Child is presented in an earthly setting peopled by mortals. This strongly humanistic trend serves to explain, at least in part, the development of portraiture as an independent genre and the ever-increasing number of profane, usually classical mythological, subjects in the art of the Renaissance. The painting of landscapes, as the earthly setting of man's activity, has its first modest beginnings in this period.

The role of art and of the artist began to take on modern form during the Renaissance. Leon Battista Alberti's De pictura (Della pittura), a treatise on the theory of painting, as opposed to the techniques of preparing and applying colours, appeared in Florence in 1435-36. The directions that art and art theory were to follow for the next 470 years are already present in this little book. The artist is considered to be a creator rather than a technician because he uses his intellect to measure, arrange, and harmonize the elements of his creation. The intellectual activity of art is demonstrated, by a series of comparisons, to be equivalent to that of the other liberal arts. Influences such as Alberti's book led to a new evaluation of the artist, with painters and their works being sought after by the rulers of Europe (Michelangelo and Titian were actually ennobled); the result was that great collections containing the works of major and minor masters were formed. At the same time the artist slowly began to free himself from the old guild system and to band together with his colleagues, first in religious confraternities and later in academies of art, which, in turn, were to lead to the modern art school. During the Renaissance, practitioners of all the arts evolved from anonymous craftsmen to individuals, often highly respected ones. Painting became more intellectual, sometimes to its own disadvantage, and changed from serving as a vehicle for didacticism or decoration to becoming a self-aware, self-assured form of expression.

For the sake of convenience, painting of the Renaissance is divided into three periods, although there is considerable overlap depending upon the painter and the place. The early Renaissance is reckoned to cover the period from about 1420 to 1495. The High Renaissance, or classic phase, is generally considered to extend from 1495 to 1520, the death of Raphael. The period of Mannerism and what has more recently been called late Renaissance painting is considered to extend from the 1520s to approximately 1600.

 

 

Early Renaissance in Italy

The early Renaissance in Italy was essentially an experimental period characterized by the styles of individual artists rather than by any all-encompassing stylistic trend as in the High Renaissance or Mannerism. Early Renaissance painting in Italy had its birth and development in Florence, from which it spread to such centres as Urbino, Ferrara, Padua, Mantua, Venice, and Milan after the middle of the century.

The political and economic climate of the Italian Renaissance was often unstable; Florence, however, did at least provide an intellectual and cultural environment that was extremely propitious for the development of art. Although the direct impact of humanist literary studies upon 15th-century painting has generally been denied, three writers of the 15th century (Alberti, Filarete, and Enea Silvio Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II) drew parallels between the rebirth of classical learning and the rebirth of art. The literature of antiquity revealed that in earlier times both works of art and artists had been appreciated for their own intrinsic merits. Humanist studies also fostered a tendency, already apparent in Florentine painting as early as the time of Giotto, to see the world and everything in it in human terms. In the early 15th century Masaccio emphasized the human drama and emotions in his painting "The Expulsion" (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence) rather than the theological implications of the act portrayed. Masaccio in his "Trinity" (Santa Maria Novella, Florence) and Fra Angelico in his San Marco altarpiece seem to be much more concerned with the human relations between the figures in the composition than with the purely devotional aspects of the subject. In the same way, the painter became more and more concerned with the relations between the work of art and the observer. This latter aspect of early 15th-century Florentine painting relies in great part on the invention of the one-point perspective system, which derives in turn from the new learning and the new vision of the world. The empirical system devised through mathematical studies by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi was given theoretical form and universal application by Alberti in De pictura. In this system all parts of the painting bear a rational relation to each other and to the observer, for the observer's height and the distance he is to stand from the painting are controlled by the artist in laying out his perspective construction. By means of this system the microcosm of the painting and the real world of the observer become visually one, and the observer participates, as it were, in what he observes. To heighten the illusion of a painting as a window on the world, the Italian artists of the early 15th century turned to a study of the effects of light in nature and how to represent them in a painting, a study of the anatomy and proportions of man, and a careful observation of the world about them. It is primarily these characteristics that separate early Renaissance painting from late medieval painting in Italy.

 

 

Florentine painters of the mid-15th century
 

Masaccio had no true followers or successors of equal stature, though there was a group of other Florentine painters who were about the same age as Masaccio and who followed in his footsteps to a greater or lesser degree: Fra Filippo Lippi, Fra Angelico, and Paolo Uccello.
Fra Filippo Lippi was a Carmelite monk who spent his youth and early manhood at Santa Maria del Carmine, where
Masaccio's work was daily before his eyes. His earliest datable work, the "Madonna and Child" (1437) from Tarquinia Corneto, relies on the Madonna from the Pisa altarpiece, but in his Christ Child Fra Filippo already reveals an earthiness and sweetness unlike anything by Masaccio. "The Madonna and Child with Two Angels" (Uffizi, Florence)--with its urchin-angels, lumpy Christ Child, and elegant Madonna--is perhaps one of his best-known late works; the placement of the Madonna before an open window is one of the key sources for later Renaissance portraiture, including Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," while the elegance and sweetness of the Madonna were to have their greatest reflection in the work of Fra Filippo Lippi's student, Botticelli.

Born about the same time as Masaccio, Fra Angelico was a Dominican monk who lived at Fiesole (just outside Florence) and at San Marco in Florence. His earliest documented work, the "Linaiuoli Altarpiece" (Museum of San Marco, Florence) of 1433, continues much that is traditional to medieval art, although the male saints in the wings (side pieces of a composite painting, typically a tripartite altarpiece) already reveal the influence of Masaccio. The altarpiece that he executed between 1438 and 1440 for the high altar of San Marco is one of the landmarks of early Renaissance art. It is the first appearance in Florence of the sacra conversazione, a composition in which angels, saints, and sometimes donors occupy the same space as the Madonna and Christ Child and in which the figures seem to be engaged in conversation. In addition to inaugurating a new phase of religious painting, the altarpiece reveals the influence of Masaccio in the sculptural treatment of the figures and an accurate awareness of the perspective theories of painting expressed by Alberti in his treatise. At about the same date, Fra Angelico was commissioned to decorate the monks' cells in San Marco. The nature of the commission--traditional devotional images whose execution required assistants--apparently turned Fra Angelico toward the religious and didactic works that characterize the end of his career; e.g., the Chapel of Nicholas V in the Vatican.

Paolo Uccello's reputation as a practitioner of perspective is such that his truly remarkable gifts as a decorator tend to be overlooked. Studies of his extant works suggest that he was more interested in medieval optics than in the rational perspective system of Alberti and Brunelleschi. His earliest documented work, the "Sir John Hawkwood" fresco of 1436 in Florence cathedral, is a decorative work of a very high order and one that respects the integrity of the wall to which it is attached. Uccello is perhaps best known for the three panels depicting "The Battle of San Romano," executed about 1456 for the Medici Palace (now in the National Gallery, London; the Louvre, Paris; and the Uffizi). The paintings were designed as wall decoration and as such resemble tapestries: Uccello is concerned only with creating a small boxlike space for the action, for he closes off the background with a tapestry-like interweaving of men and animals. His primary concern is with the rhythmic disposition of the elements of the composition across the surface, an emphasis that he reinforces with the repetition of arcs and circles. Uccello's concern with the decorative and linear properties of painting had a great impact on the cassone (chest) painters of Florence and found its greatest reflection and refinement in the work of Botticelli.

Masaccio's greatest impact can be seen in the works of three younger painters, Andrea del Castagno, Domenico Veneziano, and Piero della Francesca. Castagno was the leader of the group. His "Last Supper" of about 1445, in the former convent of Sant'Apollonia in Florence, reveals the influence of Masaccio in the sculptural treatment of the figures, the painter's concern with light, and his desire to create a credible and rationally conceived space. At the same time Castagno betrays an almost pedantic interest in antiquity, which roughly parallels a similar development in letters, by the use of fictive marble panels on the rear wall and of sphinxes for the bench ends, both of which are direct copies of Roman prototypes. In the last years of his life, Castagno's style changed abruptly; he adopted a highly expressive emotionalism that paralleled a similar development in the work of his contemporaries. His "The Trinity with Saints" in the church of the Santissima Annunziata, Florence, was originally planned with calm and balanced figures, as the underpainting reveals. In the final painting, however, the figures, though sculpturally conceived, project an agitation heightened by the emaciated figure of St. Jerome and the radically conceived figure of the crucified Christ. The optimism, rationality, and calm human drama of earlier Renaissance painting in Florence were beginning to give way to a more personal, expressive, and linear style.

One aspect of this new direction is met in the work of the enigmatic Domenico Veneziano, the second of the three principal painters who looked to Masaccio. His name indicates that he was a Venetian, and it is known that he arrived in Florence about 1438. He was associated with Castagno, and perhaps Fra Angelico, and helped to train the somewhat younger Piero della Francesca. His St. Lucy altarpiece of about 1445-50 (Uffizi) is an example of the sacra conversazione genre and contains references to the painting of Masaccio and the early 15th-century sculpture of the Florentine Nanni di Banco. The colour, however, is Domenico's own and has no relation to the Florentine tradition. His juxtaposition of pinks and light greens and his generally blond tonality point rather to his Venetian origins. In the painting he has lowered the vanishing point in order to make the figures appear to tower over the observer, with the result that the monumentality of the painting is enhanced at the expense of the observer's sense of participating in the painting.

Piero della Francesca received his early training in Florence but spent the active part of his career outside the city in such centres as Urbino, Arezzo, Rimini, and his native Borgo San Sepolcro, in Umbria. His "Flagellation of Christ" (late 1450s), in the National Gallery of the Marches, Urbino, is a summary of early 15th-century interest in mathematics, perspective, and proportion. The calm sculptural figures are placed in clear, rational space and bathed in a cool light. This gives them a monumental dignity that can only be compared to early 5th-century-BC Greek sculpture. Much the same tendency can be seen in Piero's great fresco cycle in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo.
              


See also COLLECTION:
Fra Filippo Lippi
 


Fra Filippo Lippi

born c. 1406, , Florence
died Oct. 8/10, 1469, Spoleto, Papal States

Florentine painter inthe second generation of Renaissance artists.While exhibiting thestrong influence of Masaccio (e.g., in “Madonna and Child,” 1437) and Fra Angelico (e.g., in “Coronation of the Virgin,” c. 1445),his work achieves a distinctive clarity ofexpression. Legend and tradition surround his unconventional life.

Life and works

After the death of both his father and mother, the young Filippo Lippi stayed with an aunt in Florence for some years, and in 1421 he pronounced the vows of a Carmelite monk at Sta. Maria del Carmine. The Brancacci chapel of this monastery was at this time being decorated with frescoes byMasaccio. These frescoes, which were to be among the most glorious and influential paintings of the Renaissance, were Lippi's first important contact with art.
In 1432 Lippi left the monastery after having painted some frescoes in the church and in the cloister. According to the Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari, who wrote a lively and fanciful profile of the painter, Lippi was abducted with some companions by the Moors on the Adriatic, held as a slave for 18 months, and then freed after he painted a portrait of his owner. It is known that in 1434 the artist was at Padua. None of the works executed in the period at Padua is known, but the effect of his presence may be recognized in the paintings of others there, such as Mantegna.
In 1437 Lippi returned to Florence, protected by the powerful Medici family, and was commissioned to execute several works for convents and churches.
The qualities he acquired during his years of travel are affirmed with clarity in two works of 1437, immediately after he returned from Padua: “The Virgin and Child Between SS. Frediano and Augustin” and the “Madonna and Child.” In both of these altarpieces, the influence of Masaccio is still evident, but it is absorbed into a different style, having the pictorial effect of bas-relief, rendered more evident by lines, so that it resembles the reliefs of the sculptors Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia. In these works, the colour is warm, toned down with shadings, approaching the limpid chromatics of his great contemporary Fra Angelico. Still further testimony of Lippi's development is the painting “The Annunciation,” formerly believed to be a late work but now dated between 1441 and 1443. It is composed in a new way, using the newly discovered effects of perspective and skillful contrasts between colour and form; the suggested movement of the light garments of the two frightened girls atthe door is rendered with such sensitivity as to anticipate Botticelli.
A famous altarpiece of the same time, Lippi's well-known “Coronation of the Virgin,” is a complex work crowded with figures. The celebrated altarpiece is so sumptuous in appearance that it seems to have been painted in competition with Angelico; it marks a historic point in Florentine painting in its success in uniting as one scene the various panels of a polyptych.
The altarpieces are characterized by a solemnity of composition that is absent from the paintings in which he developed a typical motive of 15th-century Florentine art: the Madonna with the Child at her breast. The masterpiece ofthese is “Madonna with Child and Scenes from the Life of Mary,” a circular painting now in the Pitti Palace in Florence; it is a clear and realistic mirror of life, transfigured in a most intimate way, and it had a great effect on Renaissance art.
A second “Coronation of the Virgin,” executed about 1445, displays a marked change in the style of Lippi—from the plastic values suggested by his study of Masaccio to the serene chromatics of Angelico.
In 1442 Lippi had been made rector of the church of S. Quirico at Legnaia. His life, however, became constantly more eventful, and tradition has given him the reputation (borne out in great part by documents) of a man dominated by love affairs and impatient of methodical or tranquil conduct. His adventures culminated in 1456 in his romantic flight from Prato, where he was painting in the convent of thenuns of Sta. Margherita, with a young woman of the convent, Lucrezia Buti. The Pope later gave permission to the former priest-painter to marry her, and from this union was born a son, Filippo, called Filippino, who was to be one of the most noted Florentine painters of the second half of the 15th century.
The bright and active city of Prato, a short distance from Florence, was the second home of Filippo Lippi. He returned to Prato often, staying there for long periods, painting frescoes and altarpieces. Accompanied by Fra Diamante, who had been his companion and collaborator since he was a young man, Lippi began to redecorate the walls of the choir of the cathedral there in 1452. He returned in 1463 and again in 1464, remaining in the city this time until 1467. At the centre of his activity in Prato stand the frescoes of the cathedral, with the four Evangelists and scenes from the lives of St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen. Perhaps the most solemn scene of the life and death of St. Stephen is the burial; at the sides of the funeral bed of the saint stand a crowd of prelates and illustrious persons in mourning, among them Cardinal Carlo de' Medici, Fra Diamante, and the artist himself.
In 1467 Lippi and Fra Diamante left for Spoleto, where he had received a commission, through the Medici family, for another vast undertaking: the decorations and frescoes of the choir of the cathedral, which included the “Nativity,” the “Annunciation,” the “Death of Mary,” and—in the centre of the vault of the apse—the “Coronation.” These frescoes were Lippi's final work; they were interrupted by his death, for which there are two documented dates—in the monks' necrology of Sta. Maria del Carmine in Florence and the archives of Spoleto. The Medici had a splendid sepulchre, designed by his son, erected for him in the cathedral of Spoleto.

Assessment

Posthumous judgments of Filippo Lippi were often coloured by the traditions of his adventurous life. Moreover, his works have been criticized from time to time for their borrowings from other painters; nevertheless, it has also been recognized that his art was not diminished but rather enriched and rendered more balanced by what he took from Masaccio and Fra Angelico. He was constantly seeking the techniques to realize his artistic vision and the new ideas that made him one of the most appreciated artists of his time.
The 20th-century critic Bernard Berenson, who maintained that Lippi's true place as an artist was among the “painters of genius,” also described him as “a high-class illustrator,” intending by this to underline the importance of expressive content and the presentation of reality in his works. Later critics have recognized in Lippi a “narrative” spirit that reflected the life of his time and translated into everyday terms the ideals of the early Renaissance.

Valerio Mariani
 


See also COLLECTION:
Domenico Veneziano
 

 
Domenico Veneziano


in full Domenico Di Bartolomeo Da Venezia (active by 1438—d. May 15, 1461, Florence [Italy]), early Italian Renaissance painter, one of the founders of the 15th-century Florentine school of painting.

Domenico was probably first trained in the International Gothic manner in Venice,where it is likely he saw paintings by northern European artists. He settled in Florence about 1439 and, except for brief periods, worked there until his death.
Two signed works by Domenico survive. The first, a much-damaged fresco of the Virgin and Child enthroned and two damaged heads of saints (National Gallery, London), formed part of the “Carnesecchi Tabernacle” and may have been the first work Domenico executed in Florence. Its accurate perspective and the sculptural quality of the figures suggest he was influenced by Masaccio. The second work is an altarpiece for the Church of Santa Lucia dei Magnoli, usually called the Magnoli, or St. Lucy, altarpiece, which was probably painted about 1445. The central panel, the Virgin and Child with four saints (Uffizi, Florence), is one of the outstanding paintings produced in Florence in the middle of the 15th century. It is remarkable for the soft contours of its figures, its fresh and delicate palette, its mastery of light, and its precise and subtle space construction. The five panels of the predella are now dispersed. “The Annunciation” (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Eng.) is the most successful of Domenico's experiments in rendering outdoor light: the pale morning light fills and defines the space of the courtyard, and the coollight on the broad plane of white wall heightens the sense of moment and loneliness in the two figures.
A tondo of the “Adoration of the Magi” (Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin) is of uncertain date. It combines gay colour with careful realism and has an expansive and accurately drawn landscape background.
Domenico's two profile portraits of Matteo and Michele Olivieri (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and Rockefeller Collection, New York City) are in the tradition of Pisanello.
 


See also COLLECTION:
Antonio Pollaiuolo
 


Antonio Pollaiuolo

born Jan. 17, 1432/33, Florence
died Feb. 4, 1498, Rome

born 1443, Florence
died 1496, Rome

Pollaiuolo also spelled Pollajuolo , original names Antonio e Piero di Jacopo d'Antonio Benci Italian brothers who,as sculptors, painters, engravers,and goldsmiths, produced myriad works together under a combined signature. The Pollaiuolo brothers had significant influence on the development of Florentine art, and their workshop is regarded as one of the most important in Florence during the late 15th century.
The brothers received the name of Pollaiuolo because their father was alleged to have been a poulterer (from pollaio, “hen coop”), though he was probablya goldsmith. Antonio learned goldsmithing and metalworking from either his father or Andrea del Castagno. Piero probably learned painting from Andrea del Castagno and became his brother's associate in goldsmithing, painting, sculpture, and engraving.
After 1460 the two collaborated consistently, and the individual contributions of each are frequently difficult to determine. Their Florentine commissions included the altarpiece in the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal in S. Miniato al Monte and the “Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” (1475) for the Pucci Chapel in the church of SS. Annunziata. In 1484 they went to Rome, where their works included the tomb of Pope Sixtus IV (1484–93) in the Vatican Grottoes of St. Peter's and, in the final years of their lives, the tomb of Pope Innocent VIII (1493–97), also in St. Peter's.
Antonio Pollaiuolo is recognized individually as a superb draftsman whose mastery of line is best exemplified in his renderings of the human figure in motion; he was among the first artists to practice anatomical dissection in the study of the human form. His contributions to landscape representation were also significant. Notable works include his engraving “Battle of the Nudes” (c. 1470; see ) and the bronze statuette “Hercules and Antaeus” (c. 1475).
The individual works of Piero are regarded as less artisticallysignificant than those of his brother. His principal works werehis “Coronation of the Virgin,” an altarpiece painted in 1483 (in the choir of the cathedral at San Gimignano); his “Three Saints,” an altarpiece; and “Prudence” (both at the Uffizi Gallery).

 

             
   
 

Late 15th-century Florentine painters
 

A hiatus occurred in Florentine painting around 1465-75. All the older artists had died, and the men who were to dominate the second half of the century were too young to have had prolonged contact with them. Three of these younger artists, Antonio Pollaiuolo, Sandro Botticelli, and Andrea del Verrocchio, began their careers as goldsmiths, which perhaps explains the linear emphasis and sense of movement noticeable in Florentine painting of the later 15th century.
As well as being a goldsmith, Antonio Pollaiuolo was a painter, sculptor, engraver, and architect. His work indicates his fascination with muscles in action, and he is said to have been the first artist to dissect the human body. In the altarpiece "The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian" (1475; National Gallery, London) he presents the archers from two points of view to demonstrate their muscular activity. His painting (formerly in the Uffizi but now lost) and small sculpture (Bargello, Florence) of "Hercules and Antaeus," like the engraving of "The Battle of the Nudes", depict struggle and violent action. "The Rape of Deianira" (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.) emphasizes yet another new element in Florentine painting, the landscape setting, in this case a lovely portrait of the Arno Valley with the city of Florence in the background.

A similar concern with moving figures, a sense of movement across the surface of the panel, and landscape is found in the earlier works of Sandro Botticelli. In his well-known painting "The Primavera" (Uffizi) he uses line in depicting hair, flowing draperies, or the contour of an arm to suggest the movement of the figures. At the same time the pose and gesture of the figures set up a rising and falling linear movement across the surface of the painting. Botticelli's well-known paintings of the Madonna and Child reveal a sweetness that he may have learned from Fra Filippo Lippi, together with his own sense of elegance and grace. A certain nervosity and pessimistic introspection inherent in Botticelli's early works broke forth about 1490. His "Mystic Nativity" of 1501 (National Gallery, London) is even, in one sense, a denial of all that the Renaissance stood for. The ambiguities of space and proportion are directed toward the unprecedented creation of a highly personal and emotionally charged statement.

Florentine painters active in the closing decades of the 15th century include Andrea del Verrocchio, who is best known as the master of Leonardo da Vinci and Perugino. There was also Filippino Lippi, who was apparently apprenticed to Botticelli when his father, Fra Filippo Lippi, died; he painted a group of madonnas that are easily confused with Botticelli's early work. By 1485, however, he had developed a somewhat nervous and agitated style that can be seen in the highly expressive "Vision of St. Bernard" in the Badia, Florence. His last works, such as the series of frescoes he painted in Santa Maria Novella (1502), reveal a use of colour and distortion of form that may have influenced the later development of Mannerism in Florence a generation or so later. Another painter active at this time was Domenico Ghirlandajo, whose artistic career was spent as a reporter of the Florentine scene. The series of frescoes on the "Life of the Virgin" in Santa Maria Novella (finished 1490) can be viewed as the life of a young Florentine girl as well as a religious painting. His art was already old-fashioned in his own time, but he provided a large number of Florentine artists, among them Michelangelo, with training in the difficult art of fresco painting.

               
 
Matteo di Giovanni

(b Borgo Sansepolcro, c. 1430; d Siena, 1495).

Italian painter. His large surviving oeuvre exemplifies the development of Sienese painting in the 15th century from an emphasis on line and pattern to an early interest in the innovations of contemporary Florentine art. It has been suggested that he was first influenced by Umbrian painting of the mid-15th century, but he was already active in Siena by the early 1450s. This was a decade of transition in the artistic life of the city after the death of Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo and Pietro di Giovanni d’Ambrogio and before the influx of new ideas during the pontificate of Pius II. Matteo is first documented in Siena in 1452, when he was commissioned to gild an angel carved in wood by Jacopo della Quercia for Siena Cathedral. In 1457 he decorated the chapel of S Bernardino there. The modest nature of these projects suggests that he was still an apprentice. In this period he collaborated with Giovanni di Pietro, the brother of il Vecchietta, which supports the hypothesis that his early training was in the circle of il Vecchietta.
 


Matteo di Giovanni
Madonna and Child with Saint Jerome,
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Angels
c. 1465/1470
Samuel H. Kress Collection
 

 

 

 

Diffusion of the innovations of the Florentine school

The discoveries and innovations of the early 15th century in Florence began to diffuse to other artistic centres by mid-century. Siena painters in general continued the traditions of the 14th century except for such artists as Matteo di Giovanni, Neroccio di Bartolomeo, and Vecchietta, who alone in that city were to a certain degree under Florentine influence. In Ferrara, Cosme Tura , Francesco del Cossa, and Ercole de' Roberti felt the influence of Florence as transmitted by Piero della Francesca. Only in Padua and Venice, however, did painters arise who could actually challenge the preeminence of Florence.

 


Matteo di Giovanni
The Apostle St Bartholomew

about 1480
Tempera on wood, 80,5 x 48 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

 


Matteo di Giovanni
Madonna with Child and Two Angels

Tempera on wood, 66 x 76 cm
Christian Museum, Esztergom

 


Matteo di Giovanni
St Jerome

1460s
Tempera on wood, 42 x 25 cm
Christian Museum, Esztergom

 

 









Matteo di Giovanni
Madonna and Child with Angels and
Cherubim
c. 1460/1465
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
 


Matteo di Giovanni
Christ Crowned with Thorns

1480-95

 


Matteo di Giovanni
Saint Sebastian

1480-95

 


Matteo di Giovanni
The Assumption of the Virgin

1474

                       

Vecchietta

(bapt Siena, 11 Aug 1410; d Siena, 6 June 1480).

Italian painter, sculptor, goldsmith and architect. He was formerly believed to have been born c. 1412 in the Tuscan town of Castiglione d’Orcia, but del Bravo has identified him with the Lorenzo di Pietro di Giovanni who was baptized in Siena in 1410. His name appears in a list of the members of the Siena painters’ guild in 1428. From the evidence of later works he is generally supposed to have been apprenticed to Sassetta, but his early work has not been identified. Between c. 1435 and 1439 he executed for Cardinal Branda Castiglione (1350–1443) a series of frescoes at Castiglione Olona, near Varese in Lombardy. He has been considered an assistant of MASOLINO DA PANICALE in this enterprise, but the scenes of the martyrdoms of SS Lawrence and Stephen in the apse of the Collegiata, below Masolino’s vault frescoes, show that Vecchietta’s closely packed compositional style was already fully formed. He also painted the frescoes (partially published by Bertelli) in the chapel of the Cardinal’s palace in the town, depicting the Evangelists (vault) and friezes of male and female saints (side walls). Although abraded and fragmentary, they nevertheless indicate the naturalistic effects of atmospheric lighting and foreshortening that, more than any other Sienese painter of his day, he had learnt from Masolino and the Florentine painters. In 1439, aided by Sano di Pietro, he painted the figures of a wooden Annunciation group (untraced) for the high altar of Siena Cathedral.

 


Vecchietta
Christ Resurrected
c. 1476
Bronze
Chiesa dell'Ospedale della Scala, Siena

           
        

   

Francesco Squarcione

born 1397, Padua, Carrara [now in Italy]
died c. 1468, Padua


early Renaissance painter who founded the Paduan school.

Squarcione was associated in 1434 with the influential Tuscan painter Fra Filippo Lippi during the latter's stay in Padua. His two extant panel paintings, a Madonna in a museum of the Prussian Cultural Property Foundation in Berlin and a polyptych of 1449–52 in the Civic Museum of Padua, show the influence of the Florentine early Renaissance style, especially that of the sculptor Donatello, who worked in Padua from 1443 to 1453. The only record of his mature style is contained in a cycle of frescoes of scenes from the life of St. Francis on the exterior of San Francesco at Padua (c. 1452–66). Such compositions as canbe reconstructed confirm the traditional view of Squarcione as one of the channels through which the early Renaissance style of Florence diffused in Padua. According to Scardeone (the prime source for knowledge of the painter's work), Squarcione had 137 pupils. Among the artists he taught or influenced were Andrea Mantegna, Marco Zoppo, Giorgio Schiavone, and Cosme Tura.

 

 

 


Vecchietta
Resurrection
1472
Bronze
Frick Collection, New York

 

Andrea Mantegna was influenced by the sculpture executed by Donatello in Padua, the art of antiquity around him, and the teaching of his master, Francesco Squarcione. The frescoes he completed in 1455 in the Ovetari Chapel of the Eremitani Church in Padua (destroyed in World War II) grew out of the traditions of Florence, traditions to which Mantegna gave his own special stamp, however. His space is like that devised by the Florentines except that he lowers the horizon line to give his figures greater monumentality. His sculptural and often stony figures descend from Donatello and from ancient Roman models. His use of decorative details from antiquity reveals the almost archaeological training that he had received from Squarcione. By 1460 Mantegna had moved to Mantua, where he became court painter for the Gonzaga family, executing a number of family portraits and pictures depicting ancient myths. His altarpieces, interpretation of antiquity, and engravings made him preeminent in northern Italy and a strong influence on his contemporaries and successors.

 


Francesco Squarcione
Virgin and Child
c. 1460
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

 

The Bellini family of Venice forms one of the great dynasties in painting. The father, Jacopo, who had been a student of Gentile da Fabriano, adopted a style that owed something to both that prevailing in the Low Countries and that in Italy; he also compiled an important sketchbook (British Museum; Louvre). A daughter of Jacopo's was married to Mantegna, and the two sons - Gentile and, more especially, Giovanni Bellini--dominated Venetian painting until the first decade of the 16th century. Gentile followed more closely in his father's footsteps and is perhaps best known for his portraits of doges and sultans of Constantinople and his large paintings of Venetian religious processions. Giovanni early fell under the influence of Mantegna. The paintings each executed of "The Agony in the Garden" (both in the National Gallery, London) indicate how close they were stylistically and also their common reliance on Jacopo Bellini's sketchbook. At an unknown point in his career, Giovanni was in addition introduced to Flemish painting. These different influences permitted him about 1480 to evolve a highly personal style that greatly influenced the work of subsequent Venetian painters. This style consists above all of a softly diffused Venetian light that can only be achieved in an oil medium. Giovanni's work in the traditional medium for painting on panels--egg tempera--retains the crispness of contour and tightness of composition that the medium seems to require. The oil paintings, however, emphasize by their use of light the textures of the objects represented, softening the outlines and creating an elegiac mood. The "Madonna and Child with Saints" of 1488, in Santa Maria dei Frari, Venice, derived its composition from the Florentine sacra conversazione and two earlier altarpieces by Mantegna in which the Madonna and attendant saints are located in a unified but compartmentalized architectural setting. Giovanni's greatest innovation is the way in which the soft light suffuses the entire space, an effect particularly remarkable where it strikes the golden half dome of the apse and the ample draperies of the figures, which seem almost palpable. The "Enthroned Madonna from San Giobbe" (Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia) of about the same date goes even further in defining a composition and a way of painting that endured in Venice for centuries. The painting of "St. Francis in Ecstasy" (c. 1480; Frick Collection, New York City) adds yet another dimension to Giovanni's art. The observer's eye tends to wander from the saint and his cell into the distant landscape, for Giovanni was one of the greatest 15th-century masters of landscape painting. Figures, animals, trees, and buildings provide a series of guideposts leading the eye back into space. Giovanni influenced several Venetian painters: Lorenzo Lotto and Vittore Carpaccio and also, more importantly, Giorgione and Titian.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 

See also COLLECTION:


Fra Filippo Lippi

Domenico Veneziano

Antonio Pollaiuolo

Neroccio di Bartolomeo

 

 

 

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