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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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Alighieri, Dante

(b Florence, May 1265; d Ravenna, ?14 ?Sept 1321).

Italian writer. He is universally recognized as the greatest poet of the Middle Ages. His masterpiece, the Divine Comedy (begun 1307 or 1314), contains many passages in which Dante expressed his appreciation of painting and sculpture, and the themes in the poem have challenged artists from the 14th century to the present day.

Joan Isobel Friedman

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[Gr. allegoria, description of something under the guise of something else]. Term used to describe a method of expressing complex abstract ideas or a work of art composed according to this. An allegory is principally constructed from personifications and symbols, and, though overlapping in function, it is thus more sophisticated in both meaning and operation than either of these. It . . . constitutes an important area of study in iconography and iconology.

Morgan Falconer

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Barocci, Federico


(b Urbino, c. 1535; d Urbino, 30 Sept 1612).

Italian painter. The leading altar painter in Italy in the second half of the 16th century, he enjoyed a greater popularity and exerted a more profound influence on the art of his time than any of his contemporaries. His patrons included the Pope, Emperor, King of Spain and Grand Duke of Tuscany, and among his admirers were Lodovico Cigoli, Annibale Carracci, Rubens and Guido Reni. However, his work did not begin to receive the acclaim accorded that of Tintoretto or El Greco until the mid-20th century.

Edmund P. Pillsbury

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Bassano, Jacopo

(b Bassano del Grappa, c. 1510; d Bassano del Grappa, 13 Feb 1592).

Son of Francesco Bassano il vecchio. He was apprenticed to his father, with whom he collaborated on the Nativity (1528; Valstagna, Vicenza, parish church). In the first half of the 1530s Jacopo trained in Venice with Bonifazio de’ Pitati, whose influence, with echoes of Titian, is evident in the Flight into Egypt (1534; Bassano del Grappa, Mus. Civ.). He continued to work in the family shop until his father’s death in 1539. His paintings from those years were mainly altarpieces for local churches; many show signs of collaboration. He also worked on public commissions, such as the three canvases on biblical subjects (1535–6; Bassano del Grappa, Mus. Civ.) for the Palazzo Communale, Bassano del Grappa, in which the narrative schemes learnt from Bonifazio are combined with a new naturalism. From 1535 he concentrated on fresco painting, executing, for example, the interior and exterior decoration (1536–7) of S Lucia di Tezze, Vicenza, which demonstrates the maturity of his technique.

Livia Alberton Vinco da Sesso

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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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Bembo, Pietro


(b Venice, 20 May 1470; d Rome, 18 Jan 1547).

Italian ecclesiastic, writer, collector and patron. His literary fame rests chiefly on his contributions to the development of Italian vernacular literature and to his revival of the Petrarchan style in poetry. Among his best-known works is Gli Asolani (written c. 1497; pubd 1505), which consists of Platonic dialogues on love. Born of a patrician family, he made several attempts to follow his father’s distinguished political career before deciding to devote himself to literature.

Clare Robertson

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Bracciolini, Poggio

(b Terranova, Tuscany, 11 February 1380; d Florence, 30 October 1459).

Italian scholar, collector and writer.

After notarial training in Florence, during which he came under the influence of the humanist Chancellor Coluccio Salutati (1331–1406), Poggio worked as a papal bureaucrat from 1404 to 1453, with intermissions including a period in England (1418–23); he then became Florentine Chancellor himself (1453–6). The earlier part of his life was marked by discoveries of Latin texts hitherto unknown, including works of Lucretius, speeches of Cicero, Vitruvius’ On Architecture and the complete works of Quintilian. He later issued histories and treatises on moral, social and scholarly questions.

M. C. Davies

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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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Design engraved, carved or moulded in relief on gemstones, glass, ceramics etc; it uses layers of different colours, which can be transparent or opaque, so that the background and raised ground contrast. There are often just two colours: one dark colour, the other lighter, often white. The most common form is a medallion with a profile portrait. The cameo technique is the opposite of intaglio. Cameos were made in Classical Greece and Rome and revived during the Renaissance.

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Carpaccio, Vittore

[Carpathius; Carpatio; Scarpaza; Scharpaza; Scarpazza; Scarpatia]

(b Venice, ?1460–6; d Venice, 1525–6).

His name is associated above all with the cycles of lively and festive narrative paintings that he executed for several of the Venetian scuole, or devotional confraternities. He also seems to have enjoyed a considerable reputation as a portrait painter. While evidently owing much in both these fields to his older contemporaries, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio quickly evolved a readily recognizable style of his own which is marked by a taste for decorative splendour and picturesque anecdote. His altarpieces and smaller devotional works are generally less successful, particularly after about 1510, when he seems to have suffered a crisis of confidence in the face of the radical innovations of younger artists such as Giorgione and Titian.

Peter Humfrey

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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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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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[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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Este, Alfonso I d’

3rd Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio

(b Ferrara, 21 July 1476; reg 1505–34; d Ferrara, 31 Oct 1534). Son of Ercole I d’Este. In 1502 he married Lucrezia Borgia and became a ruler of notable military and diplomatic ability. His chief claim to fame as patron was his employment of the poet Lodovico Ariosto, but he also patronized some of the outstanding artists of his day. His most important artistic commissions involved the decoration of his rooms in the so-called Via Coperta, the block linking the Palazzo del Corte (now Palazzo Comunale) with the Castello Estense in Ferrara, which he enlarged.

Charles Hope

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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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Eusebius was baptized and ordained in the city of Cesarea in Palestine. He became bishop there in about AD 313. Best known for his Ecclesiastical History, he had earlier produced an outline of world history (the Chronicle) presented country by country and year by year, from the earliest times to his own day. (Jerome’s Latin translation of Eusebius’s lost Greek original preserves and extends the second, tabular part.) Both of Eusebius’s works draw on earlier sources, preserving fragments of older histories otherwise lost. A favorite of Constantine, Eusebius also produced a panegyric life of the emperor.


[Antonio di Pietro Averlino]

(b c. 1400; d c. 1469).

Italian sculptor, architect and theorist. According to Vasari, he trained in the studio of Lorenzo Ghiberti, but he developed a personal style that was relatively independent of Florentine influence. His Trattato di architettura was the first Renaissance architectural treatise to be written in vernacular Italian and illustrated with drawings and was an important work in the development of Renaissance architectural theory.

A. E. Werdehausen

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Florence: Accademia del Disegno

The Accademia was based on the Compagnia di S Luca (founded 1349), an association of artists of a religious character, and was constituted in 1563 largely at the instigation of Giorgio Vasari. Its numbers increased in 1571 when more artists broke away from the Arte dei Medici e Speziali (founded 13th century) and the masons’ guild (founded 1236). The enlarged institution became the sole officially recognized professional body representing Florentine artists, and the school of art. In its final legal form, established in 1585, it comprised the Compagnia and the Accademia sensu stricto, and it was administered on behalf of the court by a Luogotenente (lieutenant) drawn from a distinguished Florentine family. The Accademia survived in this form until it was replaced in 1784 by the Accademia di Belle Arti, founded by Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Z. Waźbiński

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Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Francesco (Maurizio) di Giorgio Martini (Pollaiolo) [Francesco di Giorgio]

(b Siena, bapt 23 Sept 1439; d Siena, bur 29 Nov 1501).

Italian architect, engineer, painter, illuminator, sculptor, medallist, theorist and writer. He was the most outstanding artistic personality from Siena in the second half of the 15th century. His activities as a diplomat led to his employment at the courts of Naples, Milan and Urbino, as well as in Siena, and while most of his paintings and miniatures date from before 1475, by the 1480s and 1490s he was among the leading architects in Italy. He was particularly renowned for his work as a military architect . . .

Francesco Paolo Fiore, Pietro C. Marani

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Gian Cristoforo Romano

Gian [Giovanni] Cristoforo Romano

(b Rome, c. 1465; d Loreto, 31 May 1512).

Italian sculptor and medallist. He was the son of Isaia da Pisa. Some scholars have followed Vasari in suggesting that he was trained by his father or by Paolo Romano, but Isaia stopped work and Paolo died too early to have had any significant influence on him. It is likely that he studied with Andrea Bregno, who worked in Rome from 1446 to 1506. He may have been in Urbino before 1482, working at the Palazzo Ducale with the Lombard master Ambrogio d’Antonio Barocci. Several doorframes in the palazzo have been attributed to him. He then probably went to the Este court at Ferrara. In 1490 he carved a portrait bust of Beatrice d’Este (Paris, Louvre), the daughter of Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, for her betrothal to Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The attribution of this bust derives from a letter of 12 June 1491 from Isabella d’Este, requesting that Ludovico send Gian Cristoforo, who had done Beatrice’s portrait, to Mantua to work for her.

Andrea S. Norris

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Guarino da Verona

(b Verona, 1374; d Ferrara, 4 Dec 1460).

Italian humanist and educator. He was one of the great humanist teachers of the 15th century. Having studied in Verona, Padua and Venice, Guarino was among the first Italian scholars to visit Constantinople, where he studied Greek from 1403 to 1408, living part of the time in the household of the neo-Platonic philosopher Manuel Chrysoloras (1350–1415). Laden with Greek manuscripts, Guarino returned to Italy via Rhodes and Chios in 1409, stayed in Venice for a short period, moved to Verona (1409–10) and finally settled in Florence, where he was employed as a Greek tutor (1410–14). Between 1414 and 1419 he was teaching in Venice and in 1419 he opened a private school in Verona. In 1429 Guarino was summoned to Ferrara by Niccolò III d’Este as tutor for his son Leonello. He remained there until his death.

Kristen Lippincott

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Italian city on the south-western slope of Mt Ingino in Umbria . . . Traces of human settlements dating back c. 130,000 years have been found in the area . . . From 1384 Gubbio was ruled by the Montefeltro family, and in that year Antonio Montefeltro set about reinforcing the existing castle (destr.) and the walls. In 1480 the commune presented Federigo II Montefeltro with a new Palazzo Ducale (begun c. 1476) built in the old cathedral square. The medieval Palazzo della Guardia formed its nucleus, the cathedral square became the courtyard, and a water-tank and service areas were located in Corte Vecchia. The design of the courtyard and the interiors recalls the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, supporting the attribution of the plan to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who is named in a document as having designed at least one room, perhaps the studiolo.

Carmen Ravanelli Guidotti

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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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Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

(Venice, 1499). Illustrated treatise on Italian art. One of the most mysterious books of the Renaissance, it takes the form of a long romance in two parts, written in a curious Italian language that is rich in rare Latinisms and Graecisms. The first part, strongly allegorical in tone, tells the story of a journey made by Poliphilo to meet Polia. He marries her, and together they go off to worship the statue of Venus, the goddess of love. In the second and shorter part, Polia and Poliphilo recall the story of their love, at first beset by problems but afterwards happy. Although precise references to Treviso and to the 1460s create a sense of actuality, the Hypnerotomachia adopts the literary convention of pure dream. Hence the strange Graecizing title of the work, which means ‘the dream of a battle for love fought by Poliphilo’ (i.e. ‘lover of Polia’).

Marco Collareta

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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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Landino, Cristoforo

(b Florence, 1424; d Borgo alla Collina, nr Pratovecchio, 24 Sept 1498).

Italian humanist and writer. After studying at Volterra, he moved to Florence. In 1458 he began lecturing at the Florentine Studio (the university) on poetry and rhetoric, also working as a secretary in the chancellery after 1483. He became a member of Marsilio Ficino’s circle, whose Neo-Platonic philosophy he applied to the interpretation of poetry.

Jill Kraye

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Machiavelli, Niccolò

Machiavelli (1469–1527) was a Florentine statesman and political philosopher. Despite the cynical picture of power in his book The Prince, which was circulated privately but not published until after his death, Machiavelli held republican views and is regarded today as a pioneer of political science. The Prince was dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici and was probably written, in part, to suggest the usefulness of its author to Florence’s most powerful family.  Machiavelli also wrote poetry, plays, and fiction. Some of his reputation for “machiavellian” intrigue and treachery derives from those other works.

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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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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Mantegna, Andrea

(b Isola di Carturo, nr Padua, 1430–31; d Mantua 13 Sept 1506).

Italian painter and printmaker. He occupies a pre-eminent position among Italian artists of the 15th century. The profound enthusiasm for the civilization of ancient Rome that infuses his entire oeuvre was unprecedented in a painter. In addition to its antiquarian content, his art is characterized by brilliant compositional solutions, the bold and innovative use of perspective and foreshortening and a precise and deliberate manner of execution, an aspect that was commented on during his lifetime. He was held in great esteem by his contemporaries for his learning and skill and, significantly, he is the only artist of the period to have left a small corpus of self-portraits . . . His printmaking activity is technically advanced and of great importance, although certain aspects of the execution remain to be clarified. Due to the survival of both the Paduan and Mantuan archives, Mantegna is one of the best-documented artists of the 15th century.

Gabriele Finaldi

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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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Piece of metal (or sometimes other material) that is usually coin-like, with an image and/or inscription, usually on both sides. It is generally a commemorative object. Large ancient Roman presentation pieces of bronze, silver and gold, produced between the 2nd and the 5th century AD, are generally called medallions; the term is also somewhat loosely applied to particularly large Renaissance and later medals. Medals are usually discs of gold, silver, copper alloy (bronze or brass) or lead, bearing images. . . . Traditionally, the images included on the obverse a portrait with identifying inscription, and on the reverse a text or some sort of figure or scene associated with the subject of the portrait. . . . The medal’s primary function is to honour, commemorate, glorify, criticize or even satirize its subject through an extended pictorial and verbal message that usually covers both of its surfaces. It is reproduced in varying numbers and distributed, in the manner of a book or print, to what may be a large public.

Stephen K. Scher

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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, 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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Michiel, Marcantonio

(b Venice, c. 1484; d Venice, 9 May 1552). Italian writer and collector. He was an important Venetian dilettante and connoisseur whose surviving writings constitute a valuable source of information on 16th-century art patronage in the Veneto. . . . Although Michiel’s writings on artistic matters are significant, most of his work was devoted to current affairs and politics. He regarded himself primarily as a historian and prepared notes for studies of Venetian history and Pisan/Venetian relations. In February 1527 he married Maffea Soranzo (d 1576), a member of a powerful family, and after several attempts to secure public office he was elected to the Venetian senate on 28 September 1527, but his political ambitions were never fully realized.

Helen Geddes

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Minello, Antonio

Antonio (di Giovanni) Minello (de’ Bardi)

(b Padua, c. 1465; d Venice, ?1529). Italian sculptor, son of Giovanni Minello. He worked in a stolid, classicizing style influenced by the Lombardo family of sculptors and architects. Antonio is first recorded working as an assistant to his father on 10 April 1483. . . .  In the early 1520s Minello moved to Venice, where, in 1524, he purchased the contents of the workshop of Lorenzo Bregno. . . .  In 1527 Minello executed a statuette of Mercury (London, V&A) for Marcantonio Michiel.

Thomas Martin

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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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In Greek mythology the Muses—their number varied—were daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Eventually nine were identified with the arts and associated with specific attributes:

Calliope: epic poetry, tablet and stylus

Clio—history, book roll

Erato: lyric poetry, lyre

Euterpe: music, flute

Melpomene: tragedy, tragic mask

Polymnia: sacred poetry, thoughtful expression

Terpsichore: dance and choral song, lyre or dancing

Thalia: comedy, comic mask

Urania: astronomy, globe

Niccoli, Niccolò

(b Florence, c. 1364; d Florence, 3 Feb 1437).

Italian humanist and calligrapher. The son of a wealthy wool merchant, he abandoned trade for a scholarly pursuit of the values and artefacts of the ancient world as a touchstone of the present. He attained eminence as the catalyst for and guardian of Florentine letters, while leaving no writings of his own. With others he was responsible for the introduction in Florence of the teaching of Greek, and he stimulated such friends as Leonardo Bruni and Ambrogio Traversari to do what he could not do himself, that is, to spread Greek learning in stylish translations. He was a central figure in the organized search for Classical texts.

M. C. Davies

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Nicholas V, Pope

[Parentucelli, Tommaso]

(b Sarzana, nr La Spezia, 15 Nov 1397; elected 1447; d Rome, 24 March 1455). Italian pope and patron. He was the first humanist pope of the Renaissance and the first to conceive of Rome as the cultural capital of Europe, putting the authority and wealth of the papacy at the service of a long-term plan for its architectural renovation. According to the biography composed by Gianozzo Manetti (1396–1459), he would have liked to have spent all of the papal wealth on books and buildings. In this spirit, he began the collection that became the Vatican Library and devised a coherent project for the restoration of Rome, which promoted architecture in the grand manner, subordinating the other arts.

Hellmut Wohl

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Italian university city on the River Bacchiglione, the provincial capital of Veneto . . .  Padua was conquered by the Venetians in 1405, after a long war that practically halved the population. In the 15th century Padua was allowed to retain its old administrative practices. At the beginning of the 16th century, however, Venice imposed its rule more firmly after recapturing territories lost to the League of Cambrai (a coalition of major European and Italian states). . . . The artistic life of Padua was at its most vital and its artistic products most influential during the later Middle Ages and the early Renaissance period. The city is particularly important for its painting.

Donata Battilotti, John Richards

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[Mazzola, Girolamo Francesco Maria]

(b Parma, 11 Jan 1503; d Casalmaggiore, 24 Aug 1540). Italian painter, draughtsman and printmaker. Beginning a career that was to last only two decades, he moved from precocious success in the shadow of Correggio in Parma to be hailed in the Rome of Clement VII as Raphael reborn. There he executed few large-scale works but was introduced to printmaking. After the Sack of Rome in 1527, he returned to North Italy, where in his final decade he created some of his most markedly Mannerist works. Equally gifted as a painter of small panels and large-scale frescoes both sacred and profane, he was also one of the most penetrating portrait painters of his age. Throughout his career he was a compulsive draughtsman, not only of preparatory studies for paintings and prints, but also of scenes from everyday life and of erotica.

David Ekserdjian

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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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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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Piero di Cosimo

[Piero di Lorenzo di Piero d’Antonio]

(b ?Florence, 1461–2; d Florence ?1521). Italian painter and draughtsman. . . . By 1480 Piero appears no longer to have been living at the family house in the Via della Scala, Florence, but was an unsalaried apprentice or workshop assistant to Cosimo Rosselli, from whom he received room and board and eventually took the name of Piero di Cosimo. . . . Despite Piero di Cosimo’s significant contribution to landscape painting, his imaginative, unorthodox and often poignant treatment of pagan as well as Christian subjects and the vital role he played in the formation of some of the most important artists working in Florence in the first quarter of the 16th century (Fra Bartolommeo, Mariotto Albertinelli, Jacopo Pontormo and possibly Andrea del Sarto were among his pupils), he was for centuries better known for the personal eccentricity that constitutes the focus of Vasari’s biography.

William Griswold

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(b Argos or Sikyon, fl c. 450–c. 415 BC). Greek sculptor. Along with Pheidias, with whom he is often compared in the sources, Polykleitos was the most important sculptor in bronze of the 5th century BC. He wrote a manual (the Canon) and headed the first recorded major ‘school’ of sculptors, which lasted three generations, and he influenced not only the sculpture of his own time but also Hellenistic and Roman sculpture.

A. Linfert

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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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(b Athens, ?c. 400 BC; d Athens, c. 330 BC).

Greek sculptor. His career spanned the 370s to the 340s BC. He was the foremost Attic sculptor of the Late Classical period, son (or possibly son-in-law or brother) and pupil of the sculptor Kephisodotos and father of the sculptors Kephisodotos the younger and Timarchos. Praxiteles’ affluence is attested by his practice of fashioning models for statues without having to depend on commissions and by his expensive gifts to his favourite model, the courtesan Phryne.

Olga Palagia

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Riccio, Andrea

Riccio [Briosco], Andrea

(b Trent, 1 April 1470; d Padua, 8 July 1532). Italian sculptor. He worked in terracotta and bronze, mostly on the small scale of statuettes, plaquettes and elegant domestic items such as inkstands and oil lamps. Usually regarded as the greatest exponent of this kind of work, he was a specialist in rendering themes of Classical mythology to the satisfaction of the erudite humanist professors of Padua University. His oeuvre is often neglected because of its small scale, but it constitutes one of the loftiest and most fascinating manifestations of the poetic paganism of the High Renaissance: the equivalent, and sometimes perhaps the inspiration, of the great Venetian mythological paintings of the period, by Giovanni Bellini, Cima, Giorgione and Titian.

Charles Avery

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Rimini: S Francesco

The church, built by the Franciscans in the second half of the 13th century, was chosen by the lords of Rimini as their burial place. Around 1450 it was enlarged and embellished by Sigismondo Malatesta: carved inscriptions in the building record that this work was in fulfilment of a vow taken during the Italic Wars, when Sigismondo’s troops served as mercenaries in the armies of Venice and Florence. This official motive must, however, have been accompanied by a strong desire for self-glorification. The work came to a halt in 1461. It was completed by the Franciscans over subsequent centuries but not to the intended scheme. The two easternmost chapels and the apse were added in the 18th century, and from about this period the church was also known as the ‘Tempio Malatestiano’.

Pier Giorgio Pasini

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Rome: Trajan’s Column

Monument in the Forum of Trajan (see §2(V) above), covered in relief carving, which was dedicated 18 May AD 113. The inscription over its door (Corp. Inscr. Lat., vi, 960) indicates that it commemorated Trajan’s accomplishment in excavating the Quirinal Hill and building his forum and markets, which are visible (through 43 windows) from the inner stair and crowning platform. Eight blocks form the base (26.83 sq. m, h. 5.37 m), entered by a door in the south-east face; its chamber received Trajan’s ash-urn at his death in AD 117 (Dio: Roman History XLVIII.xvi.3); if Titus’ ashes (d AD 81) were in the attic of the Arch of Titus, intramural burial had precedent. The Tuscan Doric column held a colossal bronze Trajan c. 5.5 m tall, of which the head (now lost) was 694 mm; coins of AD 113 show a heroic nude, a spear in the right hand. The 29.78 m Luna marble shaft (17 drums, each 1.44 m high with diameters tapering from 3.83 m to 3.66 m) made with the capital a columna centenaria of 100 Roman feet. Column portraits were traditional in Rome from the 5th century BC; new were the shaft’s spiral narrative relief and internal stair of 185 steps.

Ann Kuttner

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Sanvito, Bartolomeo

Sanvito [San Vito], Bartolomeo

(b Padua, 1435 or 1438; d Padua, after 1518).

Italian scribe and illuminator. He was also the most important humanist scribe in Padua, whose monumental epigraphic style was influential also in Rome and Naples. He is first documented as ‘scriptor’ at the end of the 1450s in Padua, where he was in contact with academic circles and in particular with Bernardo Bembo (1422–1519), a Venetian patrician, who in those years was a student in Padua and for whom Sanvito produced splendid manuscripts (e.g. the Oratio gratulatoria, London, BL, Add. MS. 14787). In these, as in other works executed in Padua in the late 1450s and early 1460s, script and decoration were revived in a humanist and antiquarian vein, aimed at recreating the Classical codex. From 1469 to 1501 Sanvito was in Rome at the papal court, where he transcribed numerous books, some signed with the monogram b.s., for such illustrious patrons as the humanist Bartolomeo Sacchi or il Platina (1421–81) and cardinals Francesco Gonzaga and Giovanni d’Aragona (1456–85). Sanvito’s writing, recognizable by certain graphic features and other idiosyncracies, clearly shows his role in the spread of italic script, a cursive variant of the ‘littera antiqua’.

Federica Toniolo

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Term generally used in 15th- and 16th-century Italy to describe a private domestic room, especially that of a ruler or other distinguished figure. It was not the bedchamber, which usually had a semi-public character, but a smaller, inner room, to which no-one but the owner had automatic access. Earlier studioli were used as studies or libraries. Later examples were essentially private museums. The contents were customarily the owner’s most precious possessions—books, jewels, objets d’art and other artefacts—which would be shown to favoured guests.

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Term used to describe certain types of sign that are designed to extend the realm of representation, particularly so as to incorporate abstract ideas. Though overlapping in function, they are broadly less sophisticated in operation and meaning than allegories, of which they might form elements. They constitute an important area of study in iconography and iconology.

Jean Wirth

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Three Graces

In ancient mythology the Graces were goddesses who embodied grace and charm. They were: Aglaia (Brilliance), Thalia (Flowering), and Euphrosyne (Joy). They were popular figures—particularly in a linked-arm pose—for both Roman and Renaissance artists.

Tornabuoni, Lorenzo

(b Florence, 1465; d Florence, 1497). Son of Giovanni Tornabuoni. He married Giovanna degli Albizzi (1468–88) in 1486. As a cousin of Lorenzo the Magnificent he moved in Florentine Neo-Platonic circles. He was educated by Angelo Poliziano, who dedicated L’Ambra and La Selva to him.

Donatella Pegazzano

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Italian hilltop city in the Marches. Set in a relatively isolated position east of the Appenines, c. 12 km south-west of Pesaro, Urbino (population c. 16,000) achieved an extraordinary cultural importance in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially under the rule of Federigo II da Montefeltro, who built the great Palazzo Ducale that dominates the walled city.

Francesco Paolo Fiore

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Publius Vergilius Maro (70–19 BC) was the greatest poet of the Latin Golden age and author of the Aeneid, which tells the story of the founding of Rome, after long trials, by the Trojan prince Aeneas. Tradition holds that the epic was commissioned by Augustus; it includes Augustan imagery and prophetic lines about the brilliance of Rome’s future under the first emperor. Other works include the Eclogues and the Georgics. Virgil was popular in the Middle Ages; many Christians found him more sympathetic than other ancient writers. Dante made Virgil his guide in Hell and Purgatory.