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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art

Virgin and Child

Alberti, Leon Battista

(b Genoa, 14 Feb 1404; d Rome, April 1472). Italian architect, sculptor, painter, theorist and writer. The arts of painting, sculpture and architecture were, for Alberti, only three of an exceptionally broad range of interests, for he made his mark in fields as diverse as family ethics, philology and cryptography. It is for his contribution to the visual arts, however, that he is chiefly remembered. Alberti single-handedly established a theoretical foundation for the whole of Renaissance art with three revolutionary treatises, on painting, sculpture and architecture, which were the first works of their kind since Classical antiquity. Moreover, as a practitioner of the arts, he was no less innovative. In sculpture he seems to have been instrumental in popularizing, if not inventing, the portrait medal, but it was in architecture that he found his métier. Building on the achievements of his immediate predecessors, Filippo Brunelleschi and Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, he reinterpreted anew the architecture of antiquity and introduced compositional formulae that have remained central to classical design ever since.

Paul Davies, David Hemsoll

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An image-bearing structure set on the rear part of the altar, abutting the back of the altarblock, or set behind the altar in such a way as to be visually joined with the altar when viewed from a distance. It is also sometimes called a retable, following the medieval term retrotabulum [retabulum, retrotabularium]. The altarpiece was never officially prescribed by the Church, but it did perform a prescribed function alternatively carried out by a simple inscription on the altarblock: to declare to which saint or mystery the altar was dedicated. In fact, the altarpiece did more than merely identify the altar; its form and content evoked the mystery or personage whose cult was celebrated at the altar. This original and lasting function influenced the many forms taken by the altarpiece throughout its history.

Alexander Nagel

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Antoniazzo Romano

[Antonio di Benedetto Aquilio]

(b before 1452; d between 15 April 1508 and 1512).

Italian painter. He was the leading painter of the Roman school during the 15th century. His first recorded commission dates from 1461 when he made a replica (untraced) of the miraculous Virgin and Child of St Luke in S Maria Maggiore, Rome, for Alessandro Sforza, Lord of Pesaro; by 1464 he was working for the papal court. . . . Antoniazzo was one of the three founders of the Compagnia di S Luca, the guild of painters in Rome, and signed the statutes in 1478.

Eunice D. Howe

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Aquinas, Thomas

(b Roccasecca, c. 1225; d Fossanova, 7 March 1274; can 18 July 1323; fd formerly 7 March; since 1970, 28 Jan).

Italian saint and theologian. He studied at Monte Cassino and the University of Naples, and then in 1244 he joined the Dominicans. In 1256, after further study under Albert the Great (1200–80) in Paris and Cologne, he became a Master of Theology. For the rest of his life he worked in Paris and in Italy. His contemporaries and immediate successors regarded him as a very important theologian, but it was not until the 16th century that he came to be thought pre-eminent among Catholic systematic thinkers. He produced two major works, the Summa contra Gentiles and the Summa theologiae, and the latter was unfinished at his death. . . . His emblem in art is a star.

John Marenbon

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Bellini, Giovanni


(b ?1431–6; d Venice, 29 Nov 1516). Painter and draughtsman, son of Jacopo Bellini. Although the professional needs of his family background may have encouraged him to specialize at an early date in devotional painting, by the 1480s he had become a leading master in all types of painting practised in 15th-century Venice. . . . His increasing dominance of Venetian art led to an enormous expansion of his workshop after c. 1490; and this provided the training-ground not only for his numerous shop-hands and imitators (generically known as Belliniani) but probably also for a number of major Venetian painters of the next generation. . . . It was thanks to Giovanni Bellini that the Venetian school of painting was transformed during the later 15th century from one mainly of local significance to one with an international reputation. He thus set the stage for the triumphs of Venetian painting in the 16th century and for the central contribution that Venice was to make to the history of European art.

Peter Humfrey

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Bessarion, Cardinal


(b Trebizond (now Trabzon), 2 Jan 1402; d Ravenna, 18 Nov 1472).

Byzantine cleric and patron. Consequent on the negotiations for the union of the Western and Eastern churches (1438–9), in which he took a prominent part, Bessarion changed to the Latin rite and was created a cardinal by Pope Eugenius IV (reg 1431–47). He resided in Rome from the 1440s as Cardinal Bishop of Sabina and Tusculum and later as titular Patriarch of Constantinople, during which time he employed the considerable revenues that he drew from these appointments to restore churches. . . . Bessarion’s patronage was influenced by his Byzantine roots.

Jonathan Harris

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Brunelleschi, Filippo

(b Florence, 1377; d Florence, 16 April 1446).

Italian architect and sculptor. He is traditionally regarded as the father of Renaissance architecture, who, in the words of Vasari, ‘was sent by Heaven to invest architecture with new forms, after it had wandered astray for many centuries’. The ‘new forms’ were those of Classical antiquity, which Brunelleschi applied to such building types as churches and orphanages for which there were no ancient precedents. In these schemes he was the first since antiquity to make use of the Classical orders; at the same time he employed a proportional system of his own invention, in which all units were related to a simple module, the mathematical characteristics of which informed the entire structure. Brunelleschi worked almost exclusively in Florence, and many features link his architecture with the Romanesque—if not the Gothic—heritage of that city. Nevertheless, he was beyond question responsible for initiating the rediscovery of ancient Roman architecture. He understood its inherent principles and he employed them in an original manner for the building tasks of his own day.

Harold Meek

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Drawing, sometimes coloured, made specifically as a pattern for a painting, textile or stained-glass panel. It is produced on the same scale as the final work and is usually fairly detailed. The transfer of the image works best if the drawing in the cartoon is of a linear nature and if the composition has crisp, clear outlines.

Shirley Millidge

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Castiglione, Baldassare

Castiglione, Baldassare [Baldesar], Conte

(b Casatico, nr Mantua, 6 Dec 1478; d Toledo, 2 Feb 1529).

Italian writer, humanist, diplomat and soldier. He was educated from 1490 to 1499 at the court of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, where he met Leonardo da Vinci and Giovanni Cristoforo Romano. He was in the service of Francesco II Gonzaga, 4th Marchese of Mantua, in 1499–1504, after which he was at the court of Urbino until 1516, serving first Guidobaldo I, Duke of Urbino, and afterwards his successor, Francesco-Maria I della Rovere. There he met Pietro Bembo, Ludovico da Canossa (1476–1532), Giuliano de’ Medici, Duc de Nemours, and Raphael, with whom he developed a strong friendship. In 1508 Castiglione began Il libro del cortegiano, for which he is best remembered. It was finished in 1518 and revised and published in 1528. In these fictitious dialogues, set in the palace rooms of Elisabetta Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, the courtiers, all historical persons, discuss the proper education for the ideal aristocrat. Castiglione dated the dialogues to 1506, when he was in fact in England representing Guidobaldo at the installation ceremony of the Order of the Garter. Il libro del cortegiano is divided into four books. In Book I, in the guise of Ludovico da Canossa, its interlocutor, Castiglione, expressed his views on sculpture and painting.

Doris Fletcher

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Cima da Conegliano

Cima da Conegliano(, Giovanni Battista)

(b Conegliano, nr Treviso, ?1459–60; d Conegliano or Venice, Sept 1517 or 1518).

Italian painter. He belonged to the generation between Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione and was one of the leading painters of early Renaissance Venice. His major works, several of which are signed, are almost all church altarpieces, usually depicting the Virgin and Child enthroned with saints; he also produced a large number of smaller half-length Madonnas. His autograph paintings are executed with great sensitivity and consummate craftsmanship. Fundamental to his artistic formation was the style that Bellini had evolved by the 1470s and 1480s; other important influences were Antonello da Messina and Alvise Vivarini. Although Cima was always capable of modest innovation, his style did not undergo any radical alteration during a career of some 30 years.

Peter Humfrey

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Cione, Andrea di

[Orcagna; Orgagna; Arcagnuolo]

(b Florence, 1315–20; d Florence, 1368).

Painter, sculptor and architect, thought to have also been active as a poet. He was trained as a painter and referred to himself as ‘pictor’ on the tabernacle in Orsanmichele (see below). Details of his training are not known, but his first surviving works reveal various influences, especially of Maso di Banco and Taddeo Gaddi.

G. Kreytenberg

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Cione, Jacopo di


(b Florence, 1320–30; d Florence, after 2 May 1398, before 1400).

Painter, brother of Andrea di Cione, Nardo di Cione and Matteo di Cione. . . . In 1366–7 he was to decorate the vault of a large chamber in the guildhall of the judges and notaries (destr.), Florence. In the same period Jacopo probably created the altarpiece with the Crucifixion (1366–8; London, N.G.), although the execution of the outer groups of figures and the mounted groups was left to Simone, a collaborator. As a result of his brother Andrea’s illness, Jacopo took over some of his commissions. The painting of the Virgin (destr.) in the audience chamber of the capitani of the confraternity of Orsanmichele was begun by Andrea, and on 9 June 1368 Jacopo guaranteed to complete it. In 1368 Jacopo also received the commission that had originally been awarded to Andrea for the altarpiece of St Matthew (Florence, Uffizi) for a pier altar in Orsanmichele. The work is characterized by a predominance of flat surfaces and gold ground and lacks any illusion of corporeal, spatial reality.

G. Kreytenberg

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Cione, Nardo di

(b Florence, c. 1320; d Florence, after 21 May 1365, before 16 May 1366).

Painter, brother of Andrea di Cione. A number of Florentine documents survive concerning Nardo’s membership of the painters’ guild; other documents mention his changing place of residence in the city, and various commissioned works. . . . Nardo emerges as an artist with a style of his own, a pronounced lyrical vein, a feeling for poetic values, strong human sympathies and great sensitivity to colour as a means of subtle differentiation and soft modelling.

G. Kreytenberg

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Daddi, Bernardo

Daddi [di Daddo], Bernardo

(fl c. 1320–48).

Italian painter. He was one of the most important Florentine painters of the first half of the 14th century. According to most critical studies Daddi was a pupil of Giotto and was certainly closely associated with Giotto’s workshop, but he was also open to other influences, including the so-called miniaturist tendency, represented in Florence by the St Cecilia Master and the Master of the St George Codex, which contributed to his sweet, lyrical style. He excelled in small-scale work and made an important contribution to the development of the portable altarpiece, which subsequently became a very popular format.

Enrica Neri Lusanna

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Disegno e colore

Controversy that developed in Italy in the 16th century over the relative merits of design or drawing (It. disegno) and colour (colore). It was fundamentally a debate over whether the value of a painting lay in the idea originating in the artist’s mind (the invention), which was explored through drawings made prior to the painting’s execution, or in the more lifelike imitation of nature, achieved through colour and the process of painting itself. The disegno e colore debate focused on the rivalry between the two dominant traditions of 16th-century Italian painting, Central Italian and Venetian. Central Italian, especially Florentine, painting depended on drawing and on the use of preparatory studies and cartoons, and the depiction of the human figure was the supreme test of an artist’s skill; Venetian painters built up their pictures directly on the canvas, creating a more spontaneous and expressive art. The difference between the two approaches was formulated in the writings of Giorgio Vasari and Lodovico Dolce.

Claire Pace

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Domenico Veneziano

[Domenico di Bartolomeo da Venezia]

(fl 1438; d Florence, bur 15 May 1461). Italian painter. Venetian by birth or descent, he was one of the founders of Renaissance painting in Florence in the first half of the 15th century and the most enigmatic. His training (north Italian or Florentine), the chronology of his few surviving works (his only documented fresco cycle has perished and there is only one major altarpiece) and his relationship to contemporary painters, sculptors and theorists (particularly Alberti) have been debated . . .  Yet, despite these difficulties, Domenico’s altarpiece for S Lucia de’ Magnoli in Florence (the St Lucy altarpiece; main panel in Florence, Uffizi), with its ambitious architectural setting, acutely described figures and its pale colours bathed in a convincing outdoor light, would alone assure him a central place in the history of Renaissance art.

Keith Christiansen

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[Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi]

(b Florence, 1386 or 1387; d Florence, 13 Dec 1466).

Italian sculptor. He was the most imaginative and versatile Florentine sculptor of the early Renaissance, famous for his rendering of human character and for his dramatic narratives. He achieved these ends by studying ancient Roman sculpture and amalgamating its ideas with an acute and sympathetic observation of everyday life. Together with Alberti, Brunelleschi, Masaccio and Uccello, Donatello created the Italian Renaissance style, which he introduced to Rome, Siena and Padua at various stages of his career. He was long-lived and prolific: between 1401 and 1461 there are 400 documentary references to him, some for nearly every year.

Charles Avery

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Duccio (di Buoninsegna)

(fl 1278; d Siena, before 3 Aug 1319). Italian painter. He was one of the most important painters of the 14th century and like his slightly younger contemporary, Giotto, was a major influence on the course of Italian painting. An innovator, he introduced into Sienese painting new altarpiece designs, a dramatic use of landscape, expressive emotional relationships, extremely complex spatial structures and a subtle interplay of colour. His most important and revolutionary work, the Maestà for Siena Cathedral, was never matched during the 14th century, if at all, and his influence lasted well into the 15th century.

Dillian Gordon

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[Lat.: ‘by reason of a vow’]. Term for a panel painting, usually small, or, more rarely, a statue, donated as a token of remembrance, entreaty or thanks by individual believers or communities and hung at sites of pilgrimage or holy places. In the Latin and Greek churches certain written formulae—ex voto or its equivalent, hyper euchēs—recur repeatedly on votive panels, on votive gifts of every kind and in entries in books of miracles. (Other wordings, often reduced to initials, include Votum feci, gratiam accepi in Italy and Spain and Milagre que fez in Portugal.)

Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck

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Franciscan Order

Religious order founded in 1209 by St Francis of Assisi. In its broader sense the name encompasses two other organizations that he founded: the Order of Poor Clares and the Tertiaries (founded 1221), lay brothers who were affiliated to the Franciscans but usually lived in the world. The Franciscans were active in Italy from the early 13th century, but they spread rapidly and eventually became a worldwide movement; they were wealthy and influential patrons of art and architecture. . . . The first officially approved Rule of 1221 best expressed the spirit of Francis’s mission. Of primary importance was the obedience he pledged to the papacy; the other brethren were to obey St Francis and his successors. Equally important was the vow to live in obedience, chastity and poverty.

Louise M. Bourdua

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Giotto (di Bondone)

(b ?Vespignano, nr Florence, 1267–75; d Florence, 8 Jan 1337).

Italian painter and designer. In his own time and place he had an unrivalled reputation as the best painter and as an innovator, superior to all his predecessors, and he became the first post-Classical artist whose fame extended beyond his lifetime and usual residence. This was partly the consequence of the rich literary culture of two of the cities where he worked, Padua and Florence. Writing on art in Florence was pioneered by gifted authors and, although not quite art criticism, it involved the comparison of local artists in terms of quality. The most famous single appreciation is found in Dante’s verses (Purgatory xi) of 1315 or earlier. . . . About the same date, Giotto’s unique status was suggested by his inclusion, unprecedented for an artist, in a world chronicle (c. 1312–13) by Riccobaldo Ferrarese. The artist’s name first became synonymous with ‘the best painting’ in a poem by the Florentine Cecco d’Ascoli (d 1327) and, more subtly, in several observations by Petrarch. . . . Giotto’s frescoes in the Arena Chapel (Capella degli Scrovegni) at Padua comprise his earliest work of known date and that on which our idea of his art is chiefly based. . . . Praise of Giotto began by claiming that he was not indebted to his predecessors; his naturalism was contrasted with the Byzantine ‘Greek manner’ of Cimabue, with whom he is traditionally thought to have trained. The notion of a rigid, lifeless Byzantine art, however, has been challenged, and such works as Cimabue’s Assisi Crucifixion fresco have been shown to stress similar dramatic human concerns to those found in Giotto’s work; differences occur in the drawing of the figures, where Byzantine conventions are rejected by Giotto and a more naturalistic style, much influenced by French Gothic sculpture and Classical Roman work, is adopted.

Creighton E. Gilbert

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Greco, El

[Theotokopoulos, Domenikos [Dominico; Dominikos; Menegos]]

(b Candia [now Herakleion], Crete, c. 1541; d Toledo, 7 April 1614). Greek painter, designer and engraver, active in Italy and Spain. One of the most original and interesting painters of 16th-century Europe, he transformed the Byzantine style of his early paintings into another, wholly Western manner. He was active in his native Crete, in Venice and Rome, and, during the second half of his life, in Toledo. He was renowned in his lifetime for his originality and extravagance and provides one of the most curious examples of the oscillations of taste in the evaluation of a painter, and of the changes of interpretation to which an artist’s work can be submitted.

Fernando Marías

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Term invented in the 19th century, most commonly used to designate developments relating to the revival of Classical literature and learning in European culture from roughly 1300 to 1600. . . . So prominent is the ‘revival of antiquity’ in accounts of the transition from medieval to early modern Europe that ‘renaissance’ and ‘humanism’ are often used as overlapping, even interchangeable, concepts. Scholars in the 20th century seeking greater precision have proposed a variety of more highly differentiated definitions of the terms. None commands scholarly consensus. References to ‘the humanist movement’ are likewise as controverted as they are commonplace, and they highlight similarities if not direct linkages among a wide range of figures, elements and activities. Scholars routinely advise that Renaissance humanism is a broad, complex and multi-faceted category embracing numerous chronological, regional, disciplinary and individual variations.

James O. Duke

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Wooden panel with a painting, usually in tempera, of a holy person or one of the traditional images of Orthodox Christianity, the religion of the Byzantine empire practised today mainly in Greece and Russia. The word also has a range of related but disparate meanings, from the abstract and philosophical to the purely literal. For example, it is still used in modern Greek to mean an image or picture in the ordinary sense. In antiquity, Platonists and Neo-Platonists held that the material, earthly world reflects, or is the image of, the higher and divine cosmos; the Old Testament provides the theme of man as the icon of God in the temple of the world; and St Paul declared that ‘Christ is the icon of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). Thus the idea of the icon is associated with cosmology and the theology of the Incarnation. In the Early Christian period, disputes over such questions as whether or not God can be known or depicted or the invisible can be seen were part of an intense debate surrounding the acceptability, meaning and function of images of Christ. . . . The theory and belief system of icons was developed by theologians between the 4th and the 9th centuries, though only a few icons survive from then and up to the 12th century. Once established, however, the doctrinal principles never changed, and the study of icons is as much a matter of theology as of art. Subject-matter, form and composition did not deviate from the established dogma on which they depended; indeed, icons have been called theology in colour (Trubetskoy).

Richard Temple

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From Greek, literally, “image smashing.” Iconoclastic movements around the world have been variously motivated, but the controversy in Byzantium during the eighth and ninth centuries was directly centered on the legitimacy of religious images—whether or not they were idolatrous. Iconoclasts are those who destroy images, symbols, or monuments (usually religious, sometimes political). Supporters of icons are iconophiles or iconodoules.

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Iconography and iconology

Terms that refer broadly to the study of subjects and themes in works of art. Iconology, which is based on the results of iconography, is the more wide-ranging and comprehensive. One of the principal concerns of iconography is the discovery of symbolic and allegorical meanings in a work of art.

Willem F. Lash

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Immaculate Conception

The doctrine, particularly promoted by the Franciscans, that the Virgin was conceived without sin. The concept was debated from the Middle Ages and grew in acceptance during the Renaissance, but it became official dogma only in the mid-nineteenth century.


The central doctrine of Christianity, namely, that God became flesh (the word comes from the Latin carno, meaning flesh), adopting a human nature as Jesus Christ—both God and man. The human and divine are joined in Him in a complete (hypostatic) union, in which the identity of each is preserved, not commingled or diluted.


In the Christian tradition, full or partial release or abatement of temporal punishment for a sin that has already been forgiven. Bestowed for good works or specific prayers, indulgences can be thought to draw on the capital of merit that Jesus’s life and sacrifice created.


Largest city in the Republic of Turkey, occupying the most south-easterly peninsula of Europe and separated from its suburbs in Asia by the Bosphorus. The European part of Istanbul is bisected by a long salt-water inlet, the Golden Horn, on the south bank of which is the oldest section of the city and on the north bank the port of Galata. At the apex of the peninsula the waters of the Golden Horn and Bosporus (Bosphorus) meet and flow into the Sea of Marmara. From the 7th century BC until AD 330 the Greek settlement and Roman city on this site were known as Byzantion. As Constantinople, it was one of the great cities and eventually the capital of the Eastern Roman (subsequently Byzantine) empire from 330 to 1453, except for the years of Latin occupation (1204–61). As Istanbul, it was the capital of the Ottoman empire from 1453 to 1923, although the city continued to be called Constantinople in Western and some official Ottoman sources until the 20th century.

Paul Magdalino

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Lay confraternity

Religious organizations of lay people (members of the church who are not clergy), sometimes organized by profession or guild, who undertook charitable roles and duties like that of tending the dying or condemned.

Leonardo da Vinci

(b Anchiano, nr Vinci, 15 April 1452; d Amboise, nr Tours, 2 May 1519).

Italian painter, sculptor, architect, designer, theorist, engineer and scientist. He was the founding father of what is called the High Renaissance style and exercised an enormous influence on contemporary and later artists. His writings on art helped establish the ideals of representation and expression that were to dominate European academies for the next 400 years. The standards he set in figure draughtsmanship, handling of space, depiction of light and shade, representation of landscape, evocation of character and techniques of narrative radically transformed the range of art. A number of his inventions in architecture and in various fields of decoration entered the general currency of 16th-century design. Although he brought relatively few works to completion, and even fewer have survived, Leonardo was responsible for some of the most influential images in the history of art.

Martin Kemp

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Lippi, Filippo

Fra Filippo (di Tommaso) Lippi

(b Florence, c. 1406; d Spoleto, 9 Oct 1469).

He was one of the leading painters in Renaissance Florence in the generation following Masaccio. Influenced by him in his youth, Filippo developed a linear, expressive style, which anticipated the achievements of his pupil Botticelli. Lippi was among the earliest painters indebted to Donatello. His mature works are some of the first Italian paintings to be inspired by the realistic technique (and occasionally by the compositions) of Netherlandish pioneers such as Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck. Beginning work in the late 1430s, Lippi won several important commissions for large-scale altarpieces, and in his later years he produced two fresco cycles that (as Vasari noted) had a decisive impact on 16th-century cycles. He produced some of the earliest autonomous portrait paintings of the Renaissance, and his smaller-scale Virgin and Child compositions are among the most personal and expressive of that era. Throughout most of his career he was patronized by the powerful Medici family and allied clans.

Eliot W. Rowlands

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Luke, St

(b Antioch, 1st century AD; d Greece; fd 18 Oct). Saint, evangelist and patron of artists. One of the Four Evangelists, he was a gentile and a doctor, according to St Paul, who called him ‘our beloved Luke, the physician’ (Colossians 4:14). He wrote the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He earned a reputation as an accurate observer, particularly of women, in his Gospel. His identification as ‘an artist with words’ probably led to the assumption that he also worked as a painter. In Byzantium mention of St Luke the Evangelist painting a portrait of the Virgin arose between the 5th and 6th centuries (Mango, p. 40). The Byzantine author John of Damascus (c. 675–c. 749) identified St Luke as the painter of the Virgin’s portrait in his defence of sacred images. References to Luke as a painter did not appear in Latin literature until the late 12th century. . . . Because Luke was both doctor and artist, the medieval trade system placed physicians, apothecaries and painters in the same guild under his protection, and thus St Luke became the patron of painters. . . . He is frequently portrayed at the easel, painting the Virgin’s portrait. His symbols include an ink pot and pen (the attributes of a writer), the winged ox or calf and the half-length portrait of the Virgin.

Eunice D. Howe

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Maiano, Benedetto da

(b Maiano, nr Florence, 1442; d Florence, 24 May 1497).

Sculptor and wood-carver, brother of Giuliano da Maiano. He was technically one of the most accomplished marble-carvers of the 15th century and the foremost sculptor in Florence of the generation following Bernardo Rossellino. Technical difficulties had been largely overcome by his predecessors, however, and he lacked the innovative qualities of Rossellino’s generation. There are close parallels between Benedetto and his contemporary and sometime collaborator Domenico Ghirlandaio in their technical proficiency, powers of narrative expression, excellent portraiture and adherence to traditional techniques.

Gary M. Radke

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Mandylion of Edessa

Term for a miraculous image (untraced) of Christ, believed to date from the 1st century AD. It is one of a number of holy images ‘not made by human hands’ whose origins are obscured in legends of the early Christian East. In the late 6th century the image was first mentioned as a miraculous icon. The fully developed 8th-century version of the legend relates how King Abgar V (reg 4 BC–AD 50) of Edessa (now Urfa in Turkey) commanded a portrait to be made of Christ but received instead a cloth miraculously imprinted with Christ’s features (see [not available online]). The image became known as the Holy Mandylion (Arab. mandil: ‘small cloth’).

Sarah Morgan

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Manutius, Aldus

(b Bassiano, ?1450; d Venice, 6 Feb 1515). Italian printer, publisher, teacher and translator. He studied in Rome and Ferrara and spent some time in Mirandola with Giovanni Pico (1463–94). In 1483 he was tutor to the Pio family. He formed a project to publish Greek texts and in 1489–90 moved to Venice, where soon afterwards he published the Musarum panegyris (1491). His Greek publications formed the core of his activities: he issued c. 30 first editions of literary and philosophical Greek texts including a five-volume Aristotle (1495–8). . . . Manutius established a pre-eminent position in Venetian publishing and in 1495 entered into a formal partnership with Andrea Torresani, his future father-in-law, and Pierfrancesco Barbarigo. His total output has been estimated at 120,000 or more copies. One of his most significant innovations was the production of small-format editions of Classical texts . . .

Laura Suffield

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[Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai]

(b San Giovanni Val d’Arno, 21 Dec 1401; d Rome, before late June 1428). Italian painter. He is regarded as the founder of Italian Renaissance painting, a view established within a decade of his death. . . . Among the painters of his time, he was the first to organize his compositions according to the system of linear perspective developed by Brunelleschi. He thus transposed into painting the mathematically proportioned spaces and Classical architectural vocabulary of Brunelleschi’s buildings, as well as the realistic anatomical structure, heavy draperies and human grandeur of Donatello’s statues. He was also inspired by the paintings of Giotto and the art of antiquity. Masaccio’s revival of Giotto’s monumentality and concentration on volume was, like the writings by humanists on Florentine history, an affirmation of the greatness and enduring values of the Florentine past.

Hellmut Wohl

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Medici, de’

Italian family of merchants, bankers, rulers, patrons and collectors. They dominated the political and cultural life of Florence from the 15th century to the mid-18th. Their name and their coat-of-arms showing five to nine spheres were not derived from medical ancestors, since the family had always been merchants. However, they appropriated this interpretation, making the physicians Cosmas and Damian their patron saints. International trade in wool, silk, metals and spices made them one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Italy.

Marlis von Hessert

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Medici, Lorenzo de’

Lorenzo the Magnificent [Lorenzo de’ Medici; Lorenzo il Magnifico], Lord of Florence

(b Florence, Jan 1449; reg 1469; d Florence, 8 April 1492).

Son of Piero de’ Medici. In 1469 Piero organized a joust to celebrate Lorenzo’s marriage to Clarice Orsini, and in the same year the succession passed, without discord, to Lorenzo. The Pazzi conspiracy (1478) and the following war challenged Medici predominance, yet Lorenzo’s leadership was consolidated by constitutional changes and by his securing peace with the papacy in 1480.

Lorenzo was both ruler and scholar. A distinguished vernacular poet, he was also passionately interested in Classical antiquity and became the centre of a humanist circle of poets, artists and philosophers, which included Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Botticelli, Bertoldo di Giovanni and Michelangelo. His taste in architecture was formed by Leon Battista Alberti, with whom he had studied antiques in Rome in 1465 and whose treatise he read repeatedly. He showed great interest in the architectural projects of his day; this has stimulated a debate on whether he may have been an amateur architect. Even if Lorenzo was not a practising architect, there is no doubt that Giuliano da Sangallo, whom he saw as able to revive the glories of antiquity, worked in close collaboration with him.

Lorenzo’s interest in antiquity is further underlined by the keenness with which he built up an expensive collection of antiquities, including sculptures, gems, cameos, vases and large-scale marble sculpture. . . . Moreover, he established a sculpture garden at S Marco, where he encouraged Michelangelo to study from the Antique, and before 1492 Michelangelo had carved his Virgin of the Steps and the Battle of the Centaurs (both Florence, Casa Buonarroti). Both Bertoldo and Michelangelo formed part of Lorenzo’s household, and this treatment of artists as the equals of humanist scholars and poets was unprecedented in Republican Florence. It introduced a new type of patronage and was associated with an increasing emphasis on the production of collector’s pieces.

Mary Bonn

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Melozzo da Forlì

[Melozzo degli Ambrogi]

(b Forlì, 8 June 1438; d Forlì, 8 Nov 1494). Italian painter. Melozzo occupied a transitional position between the early and High Renaissance. His contact with Piero della Francesca at the court of Urbino was fundamental to his stylistic development. He rose to prominence in Rome during the papacy of Sixtus IV (reg 1471–84) and later worked for the Pope’s family. Many of his works have been lost or damaged, but he enjoyed a long and illustrious career and was famed for his skill in the use of illusionistic perspective.

Eunice D. Howe

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Michelangelo (Buonarroti) [Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni]

(b Caprese, ?6 March 1475; d Rome, 18 Feb 1564). Italian sculptor, painter, draughtsman and architect. The elaborate exequies held in Florence after Michelangelo’s death celebrated him as the greatest practitioner of the three visual arts of sculpture, painting and architecture and as a respected poet. He is a central figure in the history of art: one of the chief creators of the Roman High Renaissance, and the supreme representative of the Florentine valuation of disegno. As a poet and a student of anatomy, he is often cited as an example of the ‘universal genius’ supposedly typical of the period. His professional career lasted over 70 years, during which he participated in, and often stimulated, great stylistic changes. The characteristic most closely associated with him is terribilità, a term indicative of heroic and awe-inspiring grandeur.

Anthony Hughes

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Neri di Bicci

(b Florence, 1418; d Florence, 4 Jan 1492). Italian painter, son of Bicci di Lorenzo. He was the last artist member of the family, whose workshop can be traced back to his grandfather Lorenzo di Bicci. Under Neri’s direction, the workshop was extremely successful and catered to a wide variety of patrons. The details of its activity, including the names of the many pupils and assistants that passed through it, are recorded between 1453 and 1475 in the workshop diary, the Ricordanze, the most extensive surviving document relating to a 15th-century painter.

Bruno Santi

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Oil painting

Method of painting using pigments dispersed in oil. It is not known how oil painting was first developed, but in Western Europe there are indications of its use from at least the 12th century AD, and it was widely used from the Renaissance. . . . Egg tempera was the main paint medium of the Middle Ages before the advent of oil paint. The use of drying oils as a varnish for paintings was described by the medical writerAetius in the 6th century AD, but the earliest reference to mixing oil with pigment to make paint was not until the 12th century, in the manual De diversis artibus (c. 1110–40) by Theophilus. . . . In the northern countries, particularly the Netherlands, the transparency of oil paint was fully exploited from the outset, and a technique was developed in which layers of glazes were built up from a detailed underdrawing, like sheets of coloured glass. . . . The tempera tradition was, however, well established in southern Europe, thus the introduction of oil paint was a gradual process, with many painters continuing to work in egg and animal size during the 15th century.

Catherine Hassall

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An image thought to provide protection for a city. The word derives from Pallas, one of the epithets of the goddess Athena, and first referred to a statue of Athena in Troy.

Paolo Veneziano

[Paolo da Venezia]

(fl 1333–58; d before 1362). Italian painter and possibly illuminator. He was by far the most prolific and influential Venetian painter of the early 14th century, as well as the only artist of the century who may be considered the official painter of the Republic.

Robert Gibbs

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Term used in two main senses with respect to art: generally, for any systematic technique that renders the illusion of recession behind a two-dimensional surface (including receding lines, gradients of colour, tone and texture, degrees of clarity etc); but also more specifically, for the geometrical technique of linear perspective, the modern form of which was invented in the early Renaissance. . . . At its simplest, linear perspective relies on the way in which sets of inclined lines tend to be read as signalling some degree of space behind the surface on which they are drawn.

Janis Callen Bell

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[Vannucci, Pietro di Cristoforo]

(b Città della Pieve, c. 1450; d Fontignano, ?Feb 1523).

Italian painter and draughtsman. He was active in Perugia, Florence and Rome in the late 15th century and early 16th. Although he is now known mainly as the teacher of Raphael, he made a significant contribution to the development of painting from the style of the early Renaissance to the High Renaissance. The compositional model he introduced, combining the Florentine figural style with an Umbrian use of structure and space, was taken up by Raphael and became widely influential throughout Europe.

Sylvia Ferino Pagden

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Petrarch, Francesco

Petrarch [Petrarca], Francesco

(b Arezzo, 20 July 1304; d Arquà, nr Padua, 19 July 1374).

Italian poet and humanist. He was the central figure of Italian literary culture in the mid-14th century. The son of an exiled Florentine notary who moved to Avignon in 1312, Petrarch led a peripatetic career as a man of letters; after studying law at Montpellier (1316) and Bologna (1320), he alternated residence between France and the Italian courts until 1353, when he finally settled in Italy. He often acted as an ambassador and orator on state occasions. His work largely initiated the transition from the fragmentary humanism of the late Middle Ages to the more systematic classicism of the Renaissance. His observations on art were sporadic and usually marginal, but they are crucially important for the understanding of the development of a critical vocabulary for art, and for revealing the way in which an appreciation of the visual arts began to be absorbed into the concerns of literary humanism. Petrarch also has an important place in art history owing to his known connections with contemporary artists, the visual interpretation or illustration of his work in the Trecento, and the unusually large number of portraits made of him during or just after his lifetime.

John Richards

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Devotional image of the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ, who lies across her lap. Occasionally other figures, such as St John the Evangelist or Joseph of Arimathea, grieve with her. The Pietà was a popular devotional subject in European painting and sculpture from the 13th century to the end of the 17th.

Barbara Watts

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[Santi, Raffaello; Sanzio, Raffaello]

(b Urbino, 28 March or 6 April 1483; d Rome, 6 April 1520).

Italian painter, draughtsman and architect. He has always been acknowledged as one of the greatest European artists. With Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Titian, he was one of the most famous painters working in Italy in the period from 1500 to 1520, often identified as the High Renaissance, and in this period he was perhaps the most important figure. His early altarpieces (of 1500–07) were made for Città di Castello and Perugia; in Florence between 1504 and 1508 he created some of his finest portraits and a series of devotional paintings of the Holy Family. In 1508 he moved to Rome, where he decorated in fresco the Stanze of the papal apartments in the Vatican Palace—perhaps his most celebrated works—as well as executing smaller paintings in oil (including portraits) and a series of major altarpieces, some of which were sent from Rome to other centres. In Rome, Raphael came to run a large workshop. He also diversified, working as an architect and designer of prints.

Nicholas Penny

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Robbia, della

Italian family of sculptors and potters. They were active in Florence from the early 15th century and elsewhere in Italy and France well into the 16th. Family members were traditionally employed in the textile industry, and their name derives from rubia tinctorum, a red dye. Luca della Robbia founded the family sculpture workshop in Florence and was regarded by contemporaries as a leading artistic innovator, comparable to Donatello and Masaccio. . . . He is credited with the invention of the tin-glazed terracotta sculpture for which the family became well known. His nephew Andrea della Robbia, who inherited the workshop, tended to use more complex compositions and polychrome glazing rather than the simple blue-and-white schemes favoured by his uncle.

Giancarlo Gentilini

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Rome: Lateran Palace

Situated near the Porta S Giovanni, the Lateran is a complex comprising the former papal palace, the basilica of S Giovanni in Laterano and the baptistery. It was the popes’ main residence before their departure to Avignon in 1308.

The medieval papal residence at the Lateran was abandoned by the popes on their return from Avignon in favour of the Vatican and was derelict by the late 16th century. Sixtus V removed all traces of the medieval buildings just two months after his enthronement in 1585, except for the Scala Sancta, the Sancta Sanctorum (the papal private chapel of S Lorenzo), both of which were incorporated into a new building (1586–9) by Domenico Fontana, and part of the triclinium of Leo III rebuilt by Ferdinando Fuga in 1741–4.

Bettina Burkart

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Sacra conversazione

Term applied to a type of religious painting, depicting the Virgin and Child flanked on either side by saints, which developed during the 15th and 16th centuries and is associated primarily with the Italian Renaissance. The specific characteristics of the genre are that the figures, who are of comparable physical dimensions, seem to co-exist within the same space and light, are aware of each other and share a common emotion. This relationship is conveyed, with greater or lesser emphasis, by gesture and expression. The compositions are usually frontal and centralized, and are distinguished by an aura of stillness and meditation.

Nigel Gauk-Roger

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Sansovino, Jacopo

Jacopo (d’Antonio) Sansovino [Tatti]

(b Florence, bapt 2 July 1486; d Venice, 27 Nov 1570). Sculptor and architect. After establishing his reputation in Florence and Rome, he moved to Venice following the Sack of Rome (1527) and remained active there until his death. His most important architectural works were buildings that transformed the Piazza S Marco. The influence of his sculptural style continued well into the 17th century.

Bruce Boucher

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Religious order, comprising friars, contemplative nuns and both conventual and secular tertiaries. It was founded in 1233 by seven Florentine cloth merchants, members of a confraternity in praise of the Virgin known as the Laudesi, who had seen a vision of the Assumption and resolved to renounce all earthly concerns and devote their lives to spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They based their new order on the mendicant tradition and adopted a habit similar to that of the Dominicans, except that it is totally black. The Servites have always followed the Roman liturgy, adding special passages of devotion to the Virgin.

Beverly Louise Brown

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[Vecellio, Tiziano]

(b Pieve di Cadore, c. ?1485–90; d Venice, 27 Aug 1576).

Italian painter, draughtsman and printmaker. The most important artist of the Vecellio family, he was immensely successful in his lifetime and since his death has always been considered the greatest painter of the Venetian school. He was equally pre-eminent in all the branches of painting practised in the 16th century: religious subjects, portraits, allegories and scenes from Classical mythology and history. His work illuminates more clearly than that of any other painter the fundamental transition from the 15th-century tradition (characterized by meticulous finish and the use of bright local colours) to that of the 16th century, when painters adopted a broader technique, with less defined outlines and with mutually related colours.

Cecil Gould

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Circular painting or relief carving. It developed as an independent form in Florence in the first half of the 15th century. However, earlier examples of the circular form do exist, for example in France with Jean Malouel’s Pietà (Paris, Louvre) which dates c. 1400. Many of the surviving Italian tondi depict themes that also occurred on the desco da parto, from which the tondo may have evolved. This was a circular or polygonal painted tray made to celebrate the birth of a child and presented to the mother with gifts of sweetmeats and fruit. Tondi paintings were produced in Florence primarily for domestic settings, with the Adoration of the Magi and the Virgin and Child being particularly popular subjects.

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Vasari, Giorgio

(b Arezzo, 30 July 1511; d Florence, 27 June 1574). Painter, draughtsman, architect, writer and collector. From a family of potters (vasaio, hence Vasari), Giorgio was the son of Antonio Vasari (d 1527) and Maddelena Tacci (d 1558). . . . Giorgio’s predilection for learned, allegorical subjects in his paintings and his ability to express himself in writing were unusual for a painter of his time. . . . Vasari’s Vite (Le vite de più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori  . . .) was published, amid widespread interest, in 1550, by the Florentine printer Lorenzo Torrentino (d 1563). The work, two volumes with more than a thousand pages, was dedicated to Cosimo I de’ Medici. It contains a general preface (proemio), an introduction to architecture, sculpture and painting, and three parts consisting of artists’ biographies, each with its own proemio. . . . Vasari’s fame rests principally on this book, of which the second, enlarged edition, published in 1568, was the basis of all subsequent editions and translations. For this work Vasari is considered the father of art history. The Vite is more than just a chronological sequence of biographies (as had already existed), it is the first critical history of artistic style.

Julian Kliemann

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