ITALIAN RENAISSANCE (H6)
Cosimo de Medici,
Leon Battista Alberti,
and Luca Della Robbia.
xxxxxIt was in this year, 1436,
that the architect Brunelleschi completed the cathedral's magnificent dome. That
Florence should be the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance is not really surprising.
Rome at this time was far too unstable politically, whilst Florence
was strongly governed, highly prosperous, and home to the great
patrons of art, the Medici family. This family came to power in 1434
under Cosimo de Medici
aaaaaThat Italy should be the home of the Renaissance is hardly surprising, given its historical association with the Roman Empire and its abundance of classical ruins and artefacts. By the same token, within Italy itself, one would have expected Rome to be the birthplace of this cultural rebirth. But that honour fell to the city of Florence. Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the political situation in Rome was far too unstable to provide the security and the tranquillity, let alone the financial backing, to be the launching pad for such a cultural revolution. Florence, on the other hand, was politically stable, highly prosperous, and the home of those fabulous patrons of the arts, the Medici family, from 1434 to 1492.
aaaaaThe Medici were an extraordinary family. They came into prominence
as merchants and money-
politically secure, Cosimo was able to indulge in his passion for
building. It was at this time, in 1436,
that Brunelleschi completed the Cathedral’s magnificent dome and
started on a number of projects, including the building of the
rotunda of the Santa Maria degli Angeli. Alsoxemployed
on this ambitious building programme was the architect Michelozzo di Bartolommeo
aaaaaCosimo was himself a
humanist. He was a great admirer of the Greek philosopher Plato and,
under his guidance, scholars searched for ancient manuscripts, and
the University of Florence resumed its teaching of Greek. In
addition, he founded the Florence Academy and also established the
extensive Medici library. Above all, he was a great patron of the
visual arts. Apart from promoting the outstanding architects of the
aaaaaIt is hard to believe that
the city of Florence, which, as we have seen, could boast of such
men as Dante, Boccaccio, Giotto, Ghiberti, Donatello and
aaaaaIncidentally, the Medici coat of arms is made up of six balls, five
red and one blue bearing the golden lily of France -
Asxnoted earlier, the portrait
above is by the leading Florentine painter Agnolo
aaaaaFra Angelico (c1400-
aaaaAs one might expect, all of Angelico’s paintings are concerned with religious subjects, and all are calm and devout in their treatment. In them he managed to combine the decorative Gothic style with the naturalism and realism associated with the Renaissance and readily appreciated in the works of his contemporaries, Masaccio, Ghiberti and Donatello. His talented use of the science of linear perspective, whereby the illusion of depth can be realistically captured (seen to good effect in the illustration on the left) owes much to his study of Alberti’s theories on perspective. This is a detail from his Annunciation, painted between 1438 and 1450.
Shown below are (left to right):The Arrest of Christ, The Coronation of the Virgin, and The Resurrection.
xxxxxThe writer and architect, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-
aaaaaThe writer and architect Leon Battista Alberti (1404-
aaaaaA man of immense talent, he was also a philosopher and poet, and one of the first organists of his day. While on a visit to Rome in the early 1430s he also gained a knowledge of architecture. He later wrote a book on this subject and made practical use of his knowledge by designing a number of buildings, including the facades of the Santa Maria Novella (illustrated on left) and the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence (illustrated on right).
xxxxxThe Florentine sculptor Luca della Robbia (1400-
aaaaaFinally, mention must be made of Luca
della Robbia (1400-
aaaaaThis craftsmanship in
marble and ceramics was continued by his nephew and pupil Andrea della Robbia, the artist
responsible for the series of round sculptures on the facade of the
Foundling Hospital, each depicting an infant in swaddling clothes -
Cosimo de Medici:
portrait by the Florentine painter Bronzino (1503-