Florence is considered the Cradle of the Renaissance as the social conditions existing
there in the 15th century were conducive to the flourishing of art, architecture,
and sculpture. There was an accumulation of wealth through trade and banking; the
city had survived the plague, and was at peace following victory in a war with Milan.
Guilds and bankers could demonstrate their piety and wealth through patronage of
Giotto (d.1337) is an early example of breaking away from the old Byzantine style,
with innovations like depicting emotions in facial expressions, sense of drama, “body
language”, light and shade, composition in space, and landscaped backgrounds. Later
artists like Sandro Botticelli (d.1510) implied movement in the painting with a cloak
billowing in the wind, and someone poised as if about to take a step forward.
There was a Guild competition in 1418 to build the Dome of Florence Cathedral. Filippo
Brunelleschi (d. 1446) was eventually successful and travelled to Rome to study and
draw ancient buildings in preparation for the task. These drawings helped him to
develop a mathematical linear perspective which was taken up in paintings that amazed
people with their realism and three- dimensional effect.
There was a revival of interest in Antiquity, in classical ruins, ancient texts in
monasteries on architecture, mythology and philosophy. Classical motifs like egg-and-dart,
wreaths and triumphal arches were reinterpreted to fit in with Christian theology.
There were technological changes as well, eg: in painting the use of canvas instead
of wood panel or fresco, the use of oil as a binder for pigment, mixing of colours,
and painted simulation of metals, instead of actual gold leaf.
There is so much more to this course than what I can write here, and to top it all,
Brian has arranged a trip to Florence in May for the group. I hope I can organize
myself to get a few photos to accompany the next newsletter.
Please note changes to published dates as follows:-