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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

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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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Apollonio di Giovanni

Apollonio di Giovanni (di Tomaso) [Dido Master; Master of the Jarves Cassoni; Virgil Master; Compagno diPesellino]

(b Florence, c. 1416; d Florence, 1465).

Italian painter and illuminator. He was trained by illuminators in the circle of Bartolomeo di Fruosino and Battista di Biagio Sanguini (1393–1451) and became a member of the Arte dei Medici e degli Speziali in 1442 and of the Compania di S Luca in 1443. Apollonio was influenced by Filippo Lippi, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Paolo Uccello. For much of his working life, from c. 1446 to 1458 and perhaps later, he was in partnership with Marco del Buono di Marco (?1403–after 1480). Apollonio specialized in work for the secular sphere, painting cassoni, deschi da parto (birth trays), spalliere (panels attached to furniture or set into wall panelling), images for private devotion and other furnishings, as well as illuminating manuscripts. His clients were Florentine merchants, bankers, notaries and others.

Ellen Callmann

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Bentivoglio, Giovanni II

(b Bologna, 15 Feb 1443; d Milan, Feb 1508).

Great-nephew of (1) Sante Bentivoglio. He was Signore of Bologna from 1463 to 1506 and gained recognition not only from the popes, beginning with Paul II, but from the Habsburg ruler Maximilian I (Holy Roman Emperor from 1508). In May 1464 he married Ginevra, his predecessor’s widow, who had given Sante two children and was to give Giovanni a dozen. By skilful political manoeuvres, he added greatly to his patrimony, and hence his revenues, and he completed the construction of the Palazzo Bentivoglio, which became a sumptuous court. He also gained from Maximilian the right to coin money (1494).

Giorgio Tabarroni

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Berenson, Bernard

(b Butremancz, province of Vilnius, Lithuania, 26 June 1865; d Settignano, Florence, 6 Oct 1959).

Art historian and connoisseur. Son of a Lithuanian timber merchant who emigrated to the USA with his family in 1875, he was educated at the Latin School, Boston, and at Harvard, where he studied Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew and German. In an unsuccessful application for a travelling fellowship to Europe, he wrote, ‘Art prevails in this programme because it is there that I feel myself weakest. One can study literature here . . . but art not at all.’ On his subsequent visit to Europe in 1885, financed by friends, his visual self-education was rapid and led to the decision to settle in Italy and to devote his life to the study of Italian art.

William Mostyn-Owen

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Boccaccio, Giovanni

(b ?nr Florence, 1313; d Certaldo, 21 Dec 1375).

Italian writer. He was the natural child of an unknown mother and Boccaccino di Chellino, a merchant banker. At the age of 14 Boccaccio was sent to Naples and apprenticed to a Florentine counting house; subsequently he attended the University of Naples, where he studied canon law and met many of the city’s leading scholars and humanists, including Paolo da Perugia, Andalo del Negro and Cina da Pistoia. Boccaccio’s desire to pursue a literary career eventually supplanted all other interests. One of the most influential writers of the 14th century, he is now known primarily for his works in Italian, in particular the Decameron. During his lifetime, however, such works in Latin as De claris mulieribus (1361), De casibus virorum illustrium (1355–60) and the immensely influential encyclopedia De genealogia deorum gentilium (written 1350–60; revised 1371–4) were the major sources of his fame and were often the subject of manuscript and book illustrations, especially in the 15th century.

Joan Isobel Friedman

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Botticelli, Sandro

[Filipepi, Alessandro (di Mariano di Vanni)]

(b Florence, 1444–5; d Florence, 17 May 1510).

Italian painter and draughtsman. In his lifetime he was one of the most esteemed painters in Italy, enjoying the patronage of the leading families of Florence, in particular the Medici and their banking clients. He was summoned to take part in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, was highly commended by diplomatic agents to Ludovico Sforza in Milan and Isabella d’Este in Mantua and also received enthusiastic praise from the famous mathematician Luca Pacioli and the humanist poet Ugolino Verino. By the time of his death, however, Botticelli’s reputation was already waning. . . . From that time his name virtually disappeared until the reassessment of his reputation that gathered momentum in the 1890s.

Charles Dempsey

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Bronzino, Agnolo

[Agniolo di Cosimo di Mariano Tori]

(b Monticelli, nr Florence, 17 Nov 1503; d Florence, 23 Nov 1572).

Italian painter and poet. He dominated Florentine painting from the 1530s to the 1560s. He was court artist to Cosimo I de’ Medici, and his sophisticated style and extraordinary technical ability were ideally suited to the needs and ideals of his ducal patron. He was a leading decorator, and his religious subjects and mythological scenes epitomize the grace of the high maniera style; his cool and highly disciplined portraits perfectly convey the atmosphere of the Medici court and of an intellectual élite.

Janet Cox-Rearick

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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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Term used for large, lavishly decorated chests made in Italy from the 14th century to the end of the 16th. The word is an anachronism, taken from Vasari (2/1568, ed. G. Milanesi, 1878–85, ii, p. 148), the 15th-century term being forziero. Wealthy households needed many chests, but the ornate cassoni, painted and often combined with pastiglia decoration, were usually commissioned in pairs when a house was renovated for a newly married couple and were ordered, together with other furnishings, by the groom. Florence was the main centre of production, though cassoni were also produced in Siena and occasionally in the Veneto and elsewhere.

J. W. Taylor

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(b Arpinum [now Arpino, nr Frosinone], 3 Jan 106 BC; d Formiae [now Formia, Campagna], 7 Dec 43 BC).

Roman orator, statesman, philosopher and patron. His reverence for the past was reflected in both his public and private life. Having studied in Greece and apparently read at least one treatise on Greek art (see Brutus xviii.70), he was familiar with the work of the greatest Greek artists and alluded to Myron, Polykleitos, Pheidias, Lysippos, Apelles and to Greek art in general throughout his writings.

Valerie Hutchinson Pennanen

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Colonna, Vittoria

Marchesa di Pescara

(b ?Marino, ?1490; d Rome, Feb 1547).

Italian writer. She was the granddaughter of Federigo II da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, and her accomplishments suggest that she received a strong humanist education. In 1509 she married Ferrante Francesco d’Avalos, the Marchese di Pescara, a soldier in the service of Emperor Charles V. Her husband died, disgraced, in 1525, suspected of plotting against the Emperor. After his death, Vittoria wrote sonnets to commemorate him and probably to vindicate his name. She continued to write poetry and was praised by Pietro Bembo and Baldassare Castiglione for her contribution to vernacular literature. From the 1520s she was involved with Catholic reformers, including Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500–58), whose beliefs emphasizing justification through faith and direct personal communion informed her spiritual sonnets. In Rome in the late 1530s the Marchesa became a close friend of Michelangelo and introduced him to reformist circles.

Marjorie A. Och

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A mercenary soldier whose armies and soldiers were available for hire. Many, like Federigo da Montefeltro and Sigismondo Malatesta, were talented military strategists.

Council of Trent

The nineteenth ecumenical council of the Catholic church, which convened between 1545 and 1563 to enact sweeping reforms to meet the challenge of the Protestant Reformation.

Descho da parto

Italian medieval wooden birth tray. Both deschi da parto and the related maiolica accouchement services (vasi puerperali) were used for carrying gifts to a woman who had given birth. The tray was usually painted with mythological or domestic scenes, and sometimes with heraldic decoration. The finest surviving descho da parto is The Triumph of Fame (New York, Met.), which was commissioned by Piero de’ Medici and Lucrezia Tornabuoni to commemorate the birth of Lorenzo, their first son, and painted by Scheggia, the younger brother of Masaccio.

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Desiderio da Settignano

(b Settignano, nr Florence, 1429–32; d Florence, bur 16 Jan 1464). Italian sculptor. His career lasted only about 12 years, but during that time he produced some of the most delicate and intimate sculptural works of mid-15th-century Florence. There are problems of dating and attribution even with his partially documented works, and records survive of several unidentifiable commissions; consequently, it is difficult to chart the course of his stylistic development, and the reliefs and portrait busts attributed to him are grouped around two works: the tomb of Carlo Marsuppini (Florence, Santa Croce) and the sacrament tabernacle (Florence, S Lorenzo).

Shelley E. Zuraw

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Literally, the right, the position of honor. When looking at a painting (or a pair of them), the dexter is the subject or the painting we see on the left. Imagine that the two persons in a portrait pair are conceived as if flanking a more important personage in the center—the Madonna, for example. The person on the Madonna’s right is the one we see on the left.

Este, Isabella d’

Marchesa of Mantua

(b Ferrara, 18 May 1474; d Mantua, 13 Feb 1539).

Daughter of Ercole I d’Este. She was brought up in the cultivated atmosphere of her parents’ court at Ferrara, where she studied with tutors, including the humanist scholars Giovanni Battista Guarino and Mario Equicola. Her intelligence was particularly noted by the envoys sent to assess her by Francesco II Gonzaga, Marchese of Mantua, whom she married in 1490, when she was 16. Her private quarters in Mantua were in the tower of the Castello di S Giorgio, part of the complex of buildings which make up the Ducal Palace. The apartment included her first studiolo and the cave-like grotta beneath, which housed her collection of antiquities. Her fame as a patron is due to the decorations she commissioned for her studiolo, a set of paintings of Classical and allegorical subjects, rather than the religious works associated with other female patrons.

Clifford M. Brown

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Este, Lionello d’

13th Marchese of Ferrara

(b Ferrara, 21 Sept 1407; reg 1441–50; d Ferrara, 1 Oct 1450). Son of Niccolò III d’Este. During his brief rule he used the revenue from family properties and taxes to give lavish support to art and scholarship. His interest, which had developed under the influence of the humanist Guarino da Verona, who came to Ferrara in 1429, and the condottiere Braccio Fortebraccio (1368–1424), was genuine and discriminating. He established Ferrara as a virtually unrivalled centre for humanism. . . . The Marchese appears from this to have favoured poetry and drama above the other arts.

Gordon Marshall Beamish

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Farnese, Alessandro


(b Valentano, nr Viterbo, 7 Oct 1520; d 2 March 1589). Son of Pier Luigi Farnese. He was the most important private patron of mid-16th century Rome. He entered the Church very young and was made a cardinal at the age of 14 by his grandfather, Pope Paul III, although he was not ordained as a priest until 1564. In 1535 he was made Vice-Chancellor of the Church for life and was showered with lucrative benefices. Even after the death of Paul III in 1549, he remained one of Rome’s most powerful men, and his enormous wealth enabled him to commission an immense number of artistic projects, including the Villa Farnese at Caprarola and the church of Il Gesù in Rome.

Clare Robertson

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Farnese, Ranuccio I


(b Rome, 11 Aug 1530; d Parma, 28 Oct 1565). Son of Pier Luigi Farnese. Like his elder brother, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, he entered the Church at an early age and was made Prior of the Knights of Malta and Archbishop of Naples before becoming a cardinal in 1545. The magnificence of Alessandro’s artistic patronage has somewhat overshadowed the achievements of the short-lived Ranuccio. Their patronage was, moreover, intertwined since they frequently commissioned work from the same artists, and after Ranuccio’s death Alessandro took over several of his ecclesiastical commissions.

Clare Robertson

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Ficino, Marsilio

(b Figline Valdarno, nr Florence, 19 Oct 1433; d Florence, 1499). Italian philosopher and writer. After studying the humanistic disciplines, medicine and philosophy in Florence, he embarked on the study of Platonism, sponsored by Cosimo de’ Medici and later Lorenzo. He translated the complete works of Plato into Latin (published 1484) and also wrote elaborate commentaries on some of the dialogues. His interpretation of Plato was Neo-Platonic, heavily based on Plotinus, whose Enneads he also translated and commented upon. Always concerned to stress the compatibility of Platonism with Christianity, in 1473 he became a priest. The ‘Platonic Academy’, which he led and inspired, was not a formal institution but rather a circle of friends who shared a common enthusiasm for Platonic philosophy.

Jill Kraye

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Decorative wood technique in which the design or pattern is made by assembling small, shaped pieces of veneer. The term, which derives from 15th-century Italy, is commonly used on the Continent to describe both marquetry, in which the entire surface is veneered, and inlay, in which the pattern pieces are laid into a solid ground.

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Julius II, Pope

[Giuliano della Rovere]

(b Albissola [Savona], 5 Dec 1443; elected 1503; d Rome, 20–21 Feb 1513). Nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. The great patron of the High Renaissance in Rome, he commissioned Donato Bramante to build the new St Peter’s, Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling (see fig.) and Raphael to decorate his private apartments, the stanze (all Rome, Vatican). He was born into a noble but impoverished family, the son of Raffaele della Rovere (d 1477) and Theodora Manerola. Following the example of his uncle Francesco della Rovere, he entered the Franciscan Order, and from 1468 he studied law at Perugia. With the election of Francesco as Pope Sixtus IV in 1471 Giuliano became titular Cardinal of S Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, and Cardinal of SS Apostoli there the following year. He undertook the restoration and embellishment of the two churches. . . . Giuliano was elected pope, as Julius II, on 31 October 1503. During his pontificate the Papal States became dominant in Italy and were again a major European power.

Sabine Eiche

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Knights of Malta

The most important of the military orders, it was known as the Hospitallers of Jerusalem until 1309, then as the Knights of Rhodes until 1522. Its present name dates to 1530, when the Holy Roman emperor Charles V ceded the island of Malta to the knights.

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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A place between heaven and hell, where reside the souls of unbaptized infants and Old Testament saints who lived and died before the coming of Christ. The concept is no longer an accepted part of Catholic theology.

Lorenzo di Credi

[Lorenzo d’Andrea d’Oderigo]

(b Florence, c. 1456; d Florence, 1536). Italian painter and draughtsman. He was a fellow pupil of Leonardo da Vinci and Perugino in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio. In 1482–3 he took over the workshop, and by 1490–1500 he occupied an important position in Florentine art life. He is known primarily for his devotional paintings, although he was also much in demand as a portrait painter and was a sensitive draughtsman.

G. Dalli Regoli

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Lotto, Lorenzo

(b Venice, c. 1480; d Loreto, 1556).

Italian painter and draughtsman. He had a long and often prosperous career as a painter, and, although he travelled widely, his style retained a close affinity with the paintings of his native Venice. He was one of an outstanding generation of painters, including Giorgione, Titian, Palma Vecchio and Pordenone, who appeared in Venice and the Veneto during the first decade of the 16th century. In comparison with his contemporaries, Lotto was a fairly traditional painter in that he worked primarily in the long-established genres of altarpieces, devotional pictures and portraiture. Such paintings were popular in the Venetian provinces and the Marches where Lotto spent much of his career and where he often received more money for his commissions than he could obtain in Venice.

David Oldfield

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Malatesta, Sigismondo Pandolfo

(b Rimini, 1417; d Rimini, 1468). At a very young age he distinguished himself as a condottiere in the service of the papacy, and from the 1430s he was involved in many of the important military engagements on the Italian peninsula. His fortunes began to wane, however, when in 1447 he deserted Alfonso I, King of Naples and Sicily (reg 1416–58). This desertion, his subsequent hostilities toward the Montefeltro and Sforza families, and his disregard in 1459 of peace terms proposed by Pope Pius II severely tarnished his reputation and heralded the eventual decline of his political and military fortunes. Although he continued to provide his services as a condottiere, fighting for Venice against the Turks (1464–5), his enemies had managed to reduce his base of power to Rimini alone by the time of his death.

Roger J. Crum

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Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

(b Wiener Neustadt, 22 March 1459; reg 1493–1519; d Wels, 12 Jan 1519).

Son of Frederick III. Through his marriage and those of his children and grandchildren, he contributed substantially to the territorial aggrandisement of the Habsburgs in the Netherlands, Spain and eastern Europe. His patronage tended largely to the glorification of the dynasty, notably in portraiture and in the large statues of his family and ancestors he commissioned for his tomb in Innsbruck. His autobiographical literary works reflect his medieval courtly ideals and were illustrated by major contemporary artists. He was also probably the greatest patron of armourers in the late 15th century.

Rosemarie Bergmann

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Medici, Alessandro de’

Duke of Florence

(b Florence, ?1511; reg 1531–7; d Florence, 5–6 Jan 1537). Illegitimate son of Clement VII but officially the illegitimate son of Lorenzo de’ Medici. He was not a liberal patron and commissioned little, his patronage guided purely by political motives. . . . In 1532 Alessandro was appointed Duke of Florence; emphasizing his absolute power, he had the council bell removed from the Palazzo della Signoria and reduced to coins and weapons.

Thomas Hirthe

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Medici, Cosimo de’

Cosimo [il vecchio] de’ Medici, Lord of Florence

(b Florence, 27 Sept 1389; d Careggi, 1 Aug 1464).

Son of Giovanni di Averardo de’ Medici. He was the greatest private patron of his time, who, motivated through ambition for his family, and perhaps through a desire to expiate the sin of usury, introduced a new conception of patronage; a humanist, he fully appreciated the propaganda value of architecture and sculpture, and his ambitions rivalled those of the Comune. Primarily an architectural patron, Cosimo favoured Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, but he also gave generous support to Donatello and others. Cosimo increased his father’s trading and banking business and became one of the wealthiest men of his time. He dominated Florence from 1434; yet he himself valued his burgher status and constantly emphasized it, and the artistic tradition associated with him is simple and restrained. He was prior of his guild in 1415 and 1417, accompanied the antipope John XXIII to the Council of Constance and then travelled in Germany and France. He was Florentine ambassador to Milan (1420), Lucca (1423), Bologna (1424) and the court of Pope Martin V in Rome. His long association with Michelozzo began in this period: in the 1420s Michelozzo remodelled Cosimo’s austere villa at Trebbio and the monastery of S Francesco at Bosco ai Frati, both of which were situated in his patron’s native region of the Mugello.

Marlis von Hessert

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Medici, Cosimo I de’

Grand Duke of Tuscany

(b Florence, 11 June 1519; reg 1569–74; d Castello, 21 April 1574).

Nephew of (10) Ottaviano de’ Medici. His mother, Maria Salviati (d 1543), was a granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent; his father, the professional soldier Giovanni delle Bande Nere (1498–1526), was killed when Cosimo was seven. When, in 1537, Lorenzino de’ Medici murdered Alessandro de’ Medici, the tyrannical Duke of Florence, Cosimo was the only available successor. Initially his power was limited, but he became Duke of Florence in 1537, after his victory at the Battle of Montemurlo, and Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1569. Cosimo, more powerful than any earlier Medici, strove to create a court whose splendour should rival the proudest European courts and to express the triumphs and ambitions of his dynasty through the architectural magnificence of his palazzi and public works. He cultivated the myth of the great tradition of Medici art patronage, restoring the plundered Palazzo Medici, and reassembling and enriching the Biblioteca Laurenziana, founded by Cosimo il vecchio.  . . . Humanists and poets, such as Vincenzo Borghini, and artists, such as Agnolo Bronzino, Benvenuto Cellini, Pierino da Vinci and Giorgio Vasari, gathered around him and enhanced his glory and power. In 1554 he established the Arazzeria Medicea, and he was joint head, with Michelangelo, of the Accademia del Disegno.

Marlis von Hessert

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Medici, Francesco I de’

Grand Duke of Tuscany

(b Florence, 25 March 1541; reg 1574–87; d Poggio a Caiano, 19 Oct 1587). Son of Cosimo I de’ Medici and Eleonora de’ Medici. His education included instruction in science and the decorative arts, and these were to remain his abiding interests. Bronzino painted a portrait of Eleonora with Francesco (1549–50; workshop versions, Pisa, Mus. N. S. Matteo; Cincinnati, OH, A. Mus.). He was again painted by Bronzino in 1551 (Florence, Uffizi), the first of a series of quadretti of Cosimo’s children at the same age. The last image of his youth was the idealized portrait by Bronzino’s pupil Alessandro Allori (c. 1559; replica in Chicago, IL, A. Inst.) of Francesco with a miniature of his sister Lucrezia (d 1561).

Nigel Gauk-Roger

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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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Medici, Piero de’

Piero (di Cosimo) [the Gouty] de’ Medici, Lord of Florence

(b Florence, 1416; reg 1464–9; d Florence, 3 Dec 1469).

Son of Cosimo de’ Medici. Raised in early humanist Florence, he was trained to assume his father’s civic and cultural leadership. His artistic tastes were apparently stimulated less by the aesthetic ideals of Republican Florence, however, than by those manifested in such north Italian centres of patronage as Ferrara and Venice, where the Medici lived in exile in 1433–4. Piero watched over family interests at the Council of Ferrara (1437–9) and responded positively to the style of Este court patronage, which he may have sought to emulate (with the wealth of the Medici bank behind him) in the decorations he commissioned for the new Palazzo Medici in Florence. His aesthetic preferences may be deduced from such commissions, which contrast with the large-scale ecclesiastical projects that his father sponsored: typically they show precise, often minute detailing (as in a bust of Piero by Mino da Fiesole), brilliant and resonating colour and rich surface finish.

Francis Ames-Lewis

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Montefeltro, Federigo II da

Federigo [Federico] II da Montefeltro, 1st Duke of Urbino

(b Gubbio, 1422; reg 1444–82; d Ferrara, 10 Sept 1482).

He was the illegitimate son of Guidantonio da Montefeltro, Count of Urbino (reg 1404–43). In his youth he spent two years at the Gonzaga court in Mantua, attended the humanist school of Vittorino da Feltre and served as a condottiere from 1437. He became Count of Urbino after the assassination of his half-brother, Oddantonio (reg 1443–4). Federigo’s mastery of warfare was renowned throughout Europe. In 1444 he served the Sforzas of Milan and was later employed by Florence and Naples (1451). He was infrequently engaged after the peace of Lodi (1454), although various city-states retained the promise of his service. In 1469 he headed the alliance of Naples, Milan and Florence against Pope Paul II (reg 1464–71). In 1474, however, he was created Duke of Urbino by Sixtus IV (reg 1471–84) and granted the rights to land in Romagna. He fought for the papacy against Florence in 1479.

Roger J. Crum

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(b Sulmo [now Sulmona, Abruzzi], 20 March 43 BC; d Tomis [now Constanţa, Romania], AD 17–18).

Roman poet. His work is an important source for mythological subjects in Western visual art. He studied in Rome and held minor judicial posts there before becoming a poet. For two decades he was the leading poet in Rome, but in AD 8, for unknown reasons, the Emperor Augustus banished him to Tomis on the Black Sea, where he remained. The principal works of his maturity are the Metamorphoses, stories from mythology related in a historical frame, and the Fasti, a poetical treatise on the Roman calendar.

Willem F. Lash

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Term used to refer specifically to the rivalry of the arts of painting and sculpture. In 1817 in Manzi’s edition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato della pittura the word appeared as the title to Leonardo’s witty defence of painting against the arts of poetry, music and sculpture, although it had not had this association before. Polemical comparisons of the arts are widely documented in 16th-century sources, yet a comprehensive work on the subject has never been attempted.

Claire Farago

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Pasti, Matteo de’

(b Verona, c. 1420; d Rimini, after 15 May 1467). Italian medallist, architect, painter and illuminator. He came from a good Veronese family (his father was a doctor, two of his brothers were in the church and three others were merchants). He is first documented in 1441, when he was working in Venice as painter to Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici illustrating Petrarch’s Trionfi (untraced). Subsequently (1444–6), he worked as an illuminator for the Este court, under the direction of Giorgio d’Alemagna.

Pier Giorgio Pasini

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Paul III, Pope

[Alessandro Farnese]

(b Canino, nr Viterbo, 29 Feb 1468; elected 1534; d Rome, 10 Nov 1549). He received a humanist education at the University of Pisa and at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici (the Magnificent), where he came into contact with such leading scholars as Angelo Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Cristoforo Landino and probably with the young Michelangelo. In 1491 he entered the curia in Rome as an apostolic notary and in 1493 was made a cardinal by the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, who was said to have had Alessandro’s sister, Giulia Farnese, as one of his mistresses. Cardinal Farnese’s career prospered; he accumulated 16 bishoprics and finally realized his ambition to become pope in 1534. Despite a licentious past, which had produced at least four illegitimate children, he worked devotedly and with the skill of a consummate politician to repair the devastations of the Sack of Rome (1527) and to overcome problems caused by the Reformation.

Till R. Verellen

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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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Pontormo, Jacopo da

[Carucci, Jacopo]

(b Pontormo, nr Empoli, 26 May 1494; d Florence, 31 Dec 1556). Italian painter and draughtsman. He was the leading painter in mid-16th-century Florence and one of the most original and extraordinary of Mannerist artists. His eccentric personality, solitary and slow working habits and capricious attitude towards his patrons are described by Vasari; his own diary, which covers the years 1554–6, further reveals a character with neurotic and secretive aspects. Pontormo enjoyed the protection of the Medici family throughout his career but, unlike Agnolo Bronzino and Giorgio Vasari, did not become court painter. His subjective portrait style did not lend itself to the state portrait. He produced few mythological works and after 1540 devoted himself almost exclusively to religious subjects. His drawings, mainly figure studies in red and black chalk, are among the highest expressions of the great Florentine tradition of draughtsmanship; close to 400 survive, forming arguably the most important body of drawings by a Mannerist painter. His highly personal style was much influenced by Michelangelo, though he also drew on northern art, primarily the prints of Albrecht Dürer.

Janet Cox-Rearick

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Predis, Giovanni Ambrogio de

(b Milan, c. 1455; d after 1508).

Painter and illuminator, half-brother of Cristoforo de Predis. He began his career as an illuminator, working with Cristoforo. . . . From 1479 he artist worked in the Milanese mint, together with his brother Bernardino. For some years Giovanni Ambrogio also worked at the court of Ludovico Sforza (‘il Moro’), especially as a portrait painter. This is borne out by the charcoal drawing of Bianca Maria Sforza (1492; Venice, Accad.), which dates from a period before her marriage to Emperor Maximilian I. The portrait was ordered by her future husband, through Frederick III, Duke of Saxony, to give him an idea of her appearance.

Enrica Banti

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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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Roberti, Ercole de’

Roberti, Ercole (d’Antonio) de’ [Grandi, Ercole (di Giulio Cesare) de’]

(b Ferrara, c. 1455–6; d 18 May–1 July 1496).

Italian painter and draughtsman. He was, together with Cosimo Tura and Francesco del Cossa, one of the most important painters working in Ferrara and Bologna in the 15th century. Although many of his works have been destroyed, those that survive show that he raised the depiction of human emotion and narrative drama to remarkable heights. From 1486 he worked as court painter to Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.

Kristen Lippincott

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Rossellino, Antonio

(b Settignano, 1427–8; d Florence, 1479).

Sculptor, brother of Bernardo Rossellino. He belonged to the same generation as Desiderio da Settignano and Mino da Fiesole; his development more closely parallels theirs than it does that of his brother, and his style is softer and more fluid. Yet it should be assumed that Antonio received his formal training from his brother, and there are clearly similarities in their work, especially from the 1450s.

Shelley E. Zuraw

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Savonarola, Girolamo

(b Ferrara, 21 Sept 1452; d Florence, 23 May 1498). Italian friar, preacher and writer. His grandfather was the famous author and physician Michele Savonarola (c. 1385–1464) and his father, Niccolò Savonarola, a prominent doctor at the court of Ferrara. In 1475 Savonarola left Ferrara and entered the Dominican monastery of S Domenico, Bologna, where he studied theology until 1479. He returned to Ferrara in 1481 to preach at the convent of the Angeli and made visits to Florence between 1482 and 1487. In 1487 he was appointed Master of Studies in the studium generale of S Domenico, Bologna. In 1490 he was transferred, at the request of Lorenzo the Magnificent, to S Marco in Florence and was made a prior there in 1491. As early as 1472 he had composed a canzone entitled De ruina mundi, berating the corruption of the world, a theme to which he often returned. . . . Savonarola is associated with the Bruciamenti delle Vanità (bonfires of the vanities), especially with the two that took place on 7 February 1497 and 27 February 1498, in which dice, playing cards, cosmetics, mirrors, false hair, profane books and even paintings were destroyed.

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Sforza, Francesco I

[Attendolo], Duke of Milan

(b San Miniato, 23 July 1401; reg 1450–66; d Milan, 8 March 1466).

He was the son of the condottiere Muzio Attendolo and established himself as one of the most important military figures in 15th-century Italy. In 1441 he married Bianca Maria, the illegitimate daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. Following Filippo Maria’s death in 1447 and a short-lived attempt by the Milanese to create a republic (the Ambrosian Republic), Sforza declared himself Duke in 1450. His sponsorship of the arts was primarily directed towards religious and civic building projects. During the first ten years of his rule his patronage was dominated by the need to reconstruct and restore major Visconti fortresses, particularly the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, which had been destroyed during the Ambrosian Republic. Francesco also took up the traditional ducal sponsorship of the building of Milan Cathedral and the Certosa di Pavia.

E. S. Welch

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Sforza, Galeazzo Maria

Duke of Milan

(b Fermo, 14 Jan 1444; reg 1466–76; d Milan, 27 Dec 1476).

Son of Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Sforza. Lacking a juridical right for his father’s conquest of the duchy of Milan, his ten-year rule was dominated by the need to legitimize Sforza control. He emphasized his Visconti descent through his mother by supporting such traditional Milanese projects as the construction of Milan Cathedral and the Certosa di Pavia. His greatest contributions, however, concerned the building of a new residence within the Castello Sforzesco in Milan and the redecoration of the Castello in Pavia.

E. S. Welch

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Sforza, Ludovico

Ludovico (Maria) Sforza [Ludovico il Moro], Duke of Milan

(b Abbiategrasso, 3 Aug 1452; reg 1494–99; d Loches, Touraine, 27 May 1508).

Son of Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Sforza. In 1480, several years after the death of his brother Galeazzo Maria Sforza in 1476, he succeeded in gaining control of the regency but did not become duke in name until his nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza died in 1494. His commissions, both public and private, were divided between Lombard and Tuscan masters. . . . Of the artistsLudovico encouraged to come to Lombardy, an undated letter reveals that he was considering Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Perugino and Ghirlandaio as court artists. About 1482 Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Milan, where he remained as an intimate member of Ludovico’s household for 18 years. As court painter, Leonardo is documented as having portrayed two of Ludovico’s mistresses, Lucrezia Crivelli and Cecilia Gallerani. . . . Much of his work was for such courtly ephemera as the designs for the spectacle Festa del Paradiso, composed in 1490.

E. S. Welch

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Sixtus IV, Pope

[Francesco della Rovere]

(b Celle, nr Savona, 21 July 1414; elected 1471; d Rome, 12 Aug 1484).

Of humble origin, he rose through the Franciscan Order to become its general in 1464. His reign as pope was marked by his promotion of his della Rovere relatives and his aggressive pursuit of Italian politics. He was the first pope to act on the programme of renovation of Rome that had been conceived by Nicholas V, and his projects of urban planning, building and artistic patronage had a more lasting impact on the city than those of any Renaissance pontiff except his nephew Julius II.

Hellmut Wohl

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Term applied to Tuscan 15th- and early 16th-century painted wall panels. Originally the term denoted panels that were set into the wall panelling at head or shoulder height above the backrest of a piece of furniture. It was later extended to include panel paintings set into the wall and was an integral part of the wainscoting. With few exceptions, spalliere are characterized by their size and shape—larger than cassone panels and proportionally higher, but still two to three times as long as high. . . . These pictures were installed above a piece of furniture, such as one or more cassoni, a bed or a lettuccio (a high-backed bench with a chest below the seat that doubled as a narrow bed). . . . The upward migration of pictures from chest to wall was necessitated by the increasing acceptance of the idea that the perspective within a composition ought to be constructed to work from a spectator’s viewpoint. Furthermore, whether cause or result, by the third quarter of the 15th century, paintings were much more highly esteemed in the domestic setting and quality was deemed more desirable, as attested by a higher proportion of panels by leading artists made specifically for domestic settings.

Ellen Callmannr

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Sumptuary laws

Regulations enacted to curb extravagant expenditures and displays of wealth by, for example, limiting the number of rings worn by certain classes or regulating the types of fabric allowed in clothing. Men and women in all societies and periods, not least Renaissance Italy, have found inventive ways around such restrictions.


[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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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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