Continuation of: Distant Fire, Delightful Gleams
There are certain things in life one feels to be good and beautiful and must hunger after them. Throughout the 15th century Italy (1), it had become fashionable for men of wealth, influence and of the church to decorate their premises with fine arts of those derived from the classical Greco-Roman cultural heritage – collections primarily of Greek art from finds in mainland Italy and Sicily.
It is no small matter how much the architectural and artistic achievements of the ancient Greeks have set its effects on the Western culture in general. The renewed interest in the classical past and in the grammar of Greek architecture came not only with the progress in trade and banking activities of both Venetian and Genoese families in the Aegean, but also from the steadily growing awareness and appreciation in Western Europe for Greek literature. While, amongst other aspects, this was fostered by the printing of Greek type initiated by Aldus Manutius (ca. 1449-1515) in Venice’s Sant’Agostino neighbourhood, it also spearheaded an increase in the influx of visiting scholars between Western Europe and the Greek lands.
The taste for art collecting per se aroused far reaching expectations for a brilliant coterie of sculptors, painters, and goldsmiths which occasioned burgeoning of an imposing series of reproductions of Greco-Roman art, etc.
On an equal par with Genoa, Milan and Venice in northern Italy, Firenze of that time was one of the richest, liveliest regions of varied economic activity. Primarily a manufacturing centre with booming export trades, its principal foundation of wealth lay in the cloth industry. Furthermore, the Medici Bank which ranked as the biggest and most respected financial magnets of Europe was a prestigious laurel to Firenze’s singular privilege as the top most banking centre.
Mindful of the historical personalities of the wealthy merchant families of Firenze, foremost amongst men from the long line of bourgeois Mediceans includes: Cosimo de’ Medici (Cosimo di Giovanni de’ Medici/Cosimo the Elder (Pater Patriae, 1389-1464), his grandsons: Lorenzo de’ Medici (Lorenzo il Magnifico, 1449-92), Giuliano de’ Medici (1453-1478) (see profile pictures on the title card (2)), and counting two of their family popes: Pope Leo X (Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici, 1475-1521, pope from 1513), and Pope Clement VII (Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici, 1478-1534, pope from 1523). As Mediceans, theirs was a procession of one – all too princely a Medici to neglect their great patronage for all kinds of arts and science.
Essentially, the Medici transformed art’s status to “fine arts”. There is some modern-day appraisal that this view could be a myth created by the Medici themselves. Then again, to appreciate the many-sided aspects that could outshine this view, of course, one should go to Tuscany and Italy on the whole. Where better to do it than there?
The Medici’s endeavours helped to remove the impediment on opportunities at hand for their contemporary sculptors, painters, architects, and thereby enriched their earnings, career success and recognition. Above all, they paved the way for most of the artisans to demonstrate their brilliant talents and expressions through so many artistic treasures of the Renaissance. One such personage was Baccio Bandinelli (Bartolommeo di Michelangelo Bandinelli/Brandini, 1493–1560).
Baccio Bandinelli was one amongst the most favoured by the House of Medici which included the great maestro Michelangelo (Michelagniolo di Lodovico Buonarroti (1475-1564), Donatello (Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, ca. 1386-1466), Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440-1491), Giuliano da Sangallo (Giuliano Giamberti, 1443-1516), Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, Ca. 1444-1510), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) amongst others.
Being one of Firenze’s principal mannerist sculptors, it was Baccio Bandinelli who created the sculpture: Hercules and Cacus(1525-34) which stands guard on a pedestal on the right side of the portal of Palazzo Vecchio while, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s David (1501-04) (3) stood in pride of place on the other side along the old Ringhiera (4).
Follow-on: “The Greek Connection” (Part 3)
- The term Italy in this write up refer to the country as a whole since Italy finally became a unified nation-state only in 1871;
- Picture credits of Title header: Source: commons.wikimedia.org: From left:
1) Ritratto di Cosimo il Vecchio – Portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder by Jacopo Pontormo (1494–1557) – Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze;
2) Ritratto di Lorenzo Il Magnifico – Portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici by Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) – at Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze;
3) Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici by Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) – at Accademia di Belle Arti G. Carrara, Bergamo
3) This substitute of Michelangelo’s David was created by sculptor Luigi Arrighetti (1858-1938) with Saul Fanfani (1856-1919) and installed here in June 1910. The original David (installed in May 1504) was removed in 1873 to the shelter of Galleria dell’Accademia Firenze to avoid further weathering and damage. A bronze cast of David by Clement Papi (1803-75), can be seen at Piazzale Michelangelo, Firenze, where it was on view from September 13, 1875
4) Only the remnants of the original Ringhiera of the 14th century remains after its removal in 1812.
(© Joseph Sébastine/Manningtree Archive)
Another excellent post, Jo – full of detail that has opened new areas of exploration for me. Your photography is remarkable, especially the photo that depicts Firenze from afar. The Renaissance has always been a mystery to me. Of course, I know of dates, names, events, but how and why there was a resurgence of art and knowledge at this specific time and place, is remarkable. This is the thought that will stay with me this week: “The Medici’s endeavours helped to remove the impediment on opportunities at hand for their contemporary sculptors, painters, architects, and thereby enriched their earnings, career success and recognition. Above all, they paved the way for most of the artisans to demonstrate their brilliant talents and expressions through so many artistic treasures of the Renaissance”. We need champions of art to create an environment that fosters creative endeavours. The Medici family gain success and recognition in their time, but they gave us a legacy that continues centuries after their passing. I loved travelling virtually with you and Carina to Italy from my kitchen table.
Rebecca, thank you for your kind words. Yes, that Florentine panorama from Piazza Michelangelo you mentioned is the very essence of this write up. The Etruscan Faesulae (present day: Fiesole) uphill on the north side which can be seen in the picture played a major role in the origins of Firenze on the north bank of River Arno. Thanks for accompanying us on this visit.
Another wonderful post. I really liked the wealth of information, right down to the details 💙🙏💙
Thank you, Luisa.
I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but there is something about portraits of many Renaissance clerics that seems quite sinister.
Thank you, Liz. Counting out the modern portraiture, your observation appears factual to me in some Renaissance portraits. I think, to add great element of interest to their creative work most of which was “made to order,” majority of artisans of the Renaissance complied to the requests of their patrons to formulate the pose, style, costume, colour, and above all, the scope to communicate some kind of message about the power and social status of the subject – most likely if the gender of the ritratto is male.
You’re welcome, Jo. Thank you for providing some additional context for Renaissance portraiture.
That was a wonderful post, my dear Jo, on one of the most important periods for the arts, beautifully comprised.
Thank you, Marina