07 Renaissance in the Visual Arts

Accounting for art


Example: Florence, Church of Ognissanti


Giotto di Bondone, 1256-1337, Ognissanti Madonna



Sandro Botticelli, St. Augustine, 1480



       work of art

  •        How was it made? By whom? original location? original use?
  •        Who paid for it? What was their relationship with the artist? With the location of the work?
  •         Style. What are the norms? Did the artist meet those norms? Change them?

      producers: the artists

  •         Who are artists in sociological terms? How does this change?
  •         What kinds of education do they have?

Our example: Florence

  • naturalism (painting)
  • ancient models (architecture)
  • linear perspective


humanists: texts; artists; patrons

public competition

   “Art” and “The Arts” as categories


Renaissance: no system of “the arts”

Ars: as opposed to Nature; to Science

ex: Arte della Lana

Scholarly disciplines: Liberal arts; Humanities; Mechanical arts

  •      visual arts: mechanical arts
  •      poetry: humanities;
  •      music: quadrivium


Production of art

Kinds produced ca. 1400

  •    religious
  •    public art and architecture
  •    private: palazzi, villas

Religious art. Who pays for it: mostly private

papacy? (only local patronage)


chapels in churches

private religious art for home meditation

urban guilds may also patronize religious buildings as units

changes in worship affect art

ex: mendicant orders

patronage relationships

“The Customer”

  • Paying for a specific object
  • Deliberate support of an individual’s career
  • Support of some form of expression

shop as location of production

  • independent business
  • Some commissions  by competition
  • contracts

changes by ca. 1500



Changes in artistic style I: Drama and realism in painting

Italy ca 1250: several imported traditions, then innovation

Ex: Giotto

  • Byzantine
  • French: “International Gothic” style
  • Friars  emotional response on part of viewer
  • Ancient models: almost none before 1500

inspire admiration

St Luke

Maddalena master: S. Luca, late 13th c (Uffizi)

Leon Battista Alberti   1404-72

  •    Padua education
  •    law degree (Bologna); cleric; at Florence cathedral

council of Florence, Eugenius IV:

(Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Donatello)

Discovery of Vitruvius On Architecture: 1st c BCE (prob. after 27)

  • Petrarch; Poggio Bracciolini
  • published: Rome, 1486
  • ancient rules, ancient examples
  • Architect as learned person  (like Quintilian, Cicero)

Rimini, arch of Augustus



Changes in artistic style II: Perspective in painting

— Alberti, Brunelleschi

quadrivium: add perspective/optics?

Piero della Francesca, Luca Pacioli

artists need education

Influence of humanists on subject matter

Botticelli, Calumny of Apelles