HIGH Week IV: notes & slides

Week IV: Monday

Visit: Palazzo Vecchio
Originally referred to as the Palazzo dei Priori, after the group of priors elected to govern the Florentine commune during the 13th century, the building to this day is the seat of Florentine government. With its imposing stone façade, the Palazzo Vecchio, as it is now called, built in the 1290s, recalls the earliest history of the warring Guelph and Ghibelline factions of Dante’s (1265-1321) day. The interior of the palazzo tells an even more complex story, with elements of Florence’s republican past in the sleeping quarters and chapels of its priors, who were required to live onsite, through the Salone dei Cinquecento, built under the influence of Girolamo Savonarola in 1494 to hold meetings of the Great Council of the Republic. The walls of that hall were to be decorated by Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari and Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina, which along with the latter’s statue of David (1501-1504) placed at its entrance, was to celebrate the brave, triumphant Florentine Republic. However, the building is also testament to the frailty of Florence’s democratic enterprise and the ambition of the Medici family, who overthrew the Republic in 1530, establishing hereditary rule of the Medici over the Grand Duchy of Tuscany over the course of the following two centuries. Throughout the Palazzo Vecchio are portraits, statues and frescoes celebrating the achievements of Cosimo I (1519-1574), the first Grand Duke, Giovanni de’Medici, who became Pope Leo X in 1513, as well as other members of the dynasty. Until Cosimo I’s wife Eleonora of Toledo in 1549 purchased the Pitti Palace for the family’s residence, the Palazzo Vecchio was also the official residence of Florence’s ‘First Family’. We will visit the living quarters of the Duchess and her children, featuring Bronzino’s stunning paintings in the Chapel of Eleonora of Toledo.

Week IV: Tuesday

 Lecture: The “strangeness and fanciful new maniera” of Jacopo Pontormo
It is with the above words that Vasari, in his 1568 edition of Lives of the Artists, attempts to characterise the innovations introduced by the painter Jacopo Pontormo, his older contemporary. Vasari expresses a certain perplexity at why an Italian painter would choose to abandon the graceful, measured high Renaissance style of Leonardo and Raphael in favour of an often troubling new artistic vision. This style, which came to be known as “Mannerism” began in Florence in reaction to the artistic ideals of the high renaissance masters. “Young Turks” such as Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino who had been trained with quintessential high renaissance painter Andrea del Sarto – described by Vasari as a “flawless painter” – rebelled against such an ideal of perfection. Moreover, these artists broke Renaissance rules of perspective, introduced shocking new colour combinations, and rejected slavish fidelity to accurate representation of the natural world in their works, overturning the perfect harmony and balance of the High Renaissance style. Like many of their contemporaries, Pontormo and Rosso were greatly influenced by Michelangelo and drew inspiration especially from his later works. We will explore how Pontormo, in particular, developed totally unconventional forms and styles, sometimes verging on the eccentric, which can be said to have mirrored his introspective, angst-ridden personality.

Recommended Reading;

Vasari. The Life of Rosso Fiorentino

Vasari. The Life of Jacopo Pontormo

Week IV: Wednesday

Visit: Galleria Palatina at Palazzo Pitti
This visit will concentrate on four of the most important painters of the beginning of the 1500s – Raphael, Titian, Andrea del Sarto and Pontormo. Initially we will explore the difference between the Florentine tradition of disegno (drawing) in the paintings of Raphael, concentrating specifically on a number of his portraits, such as those of Agnolo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi, and a number of his madonnas, in particular the Madonna of the Seggiola. We will then compare this with Titian’s paintings and his use of Venetian colorito (colouring) in several of his portraits. Finally we will be able to view Mannerist works of Andrea del Sarto, such as his Saint John the Baptist, and Pontormo’s Adoration of the Magi, to get a complete view of the shift from High Renaissance painting styles to Mannerism.

Recommended Viewing:

David Brenneman, chief curator of the High Museum of Art, discusses one of the Renaissance’s most important portraits, Raphael’s Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione.

Sheila Hale discusses her new biography of Titian, the first since 1877, which explores the innovative style and unorthodox character of the greatest painter of the Venetian Renaissance

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), Portrait of a Man (Man With a Quilted Sleeve), c. 1510-20. Oil on canvas, 32″ x 26 1/8″ (81.2 x 66.3 cm) (The National Gallery, London)

Week IV: Thursday

Lecture: Apotheosis of “la maniera”: Giorgio Vasari, Bronzino, and Alessandro Allori
By the mid-Cinquecento Florentine artists had absorbed the shocking, avant-garde mannerist style pioneered by painters Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. In this talk we will explore this later phase of Mannerism in the work of artists Giorgio Vasari, Agnolo Bronzino, and Alessandro Allori, who incorporated the modern elements of mannerism, interpreting and adapting the artistic principles for their Medici patrons. We will first review the general concepts of Mannerism such as standardization, artificiality, and elaboration, then we will look at the various works of these ‘court’ artists, paying particular attention to their complex compositional tendencies and unique use of colour. Special attention will be given to Medici commissions, such as the Palazzo Vecchio frescoes for Cosimo I and Eleonora of Toledo, the Studiolo of Francesco de’ Medici, and portraits of the Medici, which glorified their dynastic rule. With the publication of Vasari’s first edition of The Lives of the Artists in 1550 and the formation of the Accademia del Disegno in 1563, the place of the artists of Vasari’s generation was firmly established within the pantheon of Renaissance art.

Week IV: Friday

Lecture: The Council of Trent and Sacred Art
The Council of Trent (1545-1563), the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Church, was a highly important and complex historical event that gave birth to the Counter-Reformation, influencing every department of life in southern Europe. Its effect on sacred painting was indirect, through the writings of those who took it upon themselves to interpret the Council’s brief and imprecise pronouncements on religious art. In iconography, many old subjects were banned and new ones were introduced: we look at examples from both categories. Finally, we glance at music and architecture.

Return to Week III