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Making it

Nicholas Penny

5 November 1992
The Sculpture of Jacopo Sansovino 
by Bruce Boucher.
Yale, 304 pp., £95, November 1991, 0 300 04759 2
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Giambattista and Lorenzo Bregno: Venetian Sculpture in the High Renaissance 
by Anne Markham Schulz.
Cambridge, 564 pp., £85, November 1991, 0 521 38406 0
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...  nor were the two separated from each other. In Florence especially, they were very close. Reliefs of stucco, terracotta and papier mâché were often coloured by painters. Donatello and Ghiberti, the leading Florentine sculptors of the early 15th century, began to pursue pictorial effects – effects of linear and aerial perspective which were also novel in painting. Yet these were not ...

At the Royal Academy

Nicholas Penny: The Renaissance Nude

23 May 2019
... reasonable to claim that the Medici sculpture garden in which the young Michelangelo received instruction was a sort of mini-academy for this purpose, and perhaps, before that, the studio of Lorenzo Ghiberti (an inventory of whose collection has recently been discovered and published in Burlington Magazine). In the 15th century the best known antique nude sculpture was the bronze statue of a boy pulling ...

The Ashtray

Nicholas Penny

4 June 1981
The Study and Criticism of Italian Sculpture 
by John Pope-Hennessy.
Princeton, 270 pp., £25.10, March 1981, 0 691 03967 4
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... not only queues to see the big shows but pops into the permanent collection in the lunch-hour – you can expect them to have visited Florence at an impressionable age and to have fallen in love with Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, the Pazzi Chapel, the Botticellis in the Uffizi, Donatello’s David and Desiderio’s St John in the Bargello, the frescoes by Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel and those by ...
21 November 1985
Patterns of Intention 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 148 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 300 03465 2
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The Enigma of Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Martin Ryle and Kate Soper.
Verso, 164 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 86091 116 0
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... but these new standards had already been conspicuous in paintings by Alberti’s fellow Florentine Masaccio (oddly described by Baxandall as ‘obscure’) and in relief sculpture by Donatello and Ghiberti. So what we have here is criticism devising a language appropriate for what artists had already achieved. It is more likely that the artists’ methods and priorities were shaped by their training in ...
10 November 1994
Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy 1300-1600 
by Richard Goldthwaite.
Johns Hopkins, 266 pp., £25, July 1993, 0 8018 4612 9
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... artist in the attempt to produce the best possible work for a discerning patron or public. New technology or cheaper materials or lower prices were immaterial in the contest between Brunelleschi and Ghiberti or Raphael and Sebastiano. Moreover, a very important factor which Goldthwaite never mentions limited the scope for innovation. In the very period he concentrates on, canons of excellence such as had ...

Giorgio Mio

Nicholas Penny

16 November 1995
Giorgio Vasari: Art and History 
by Patricia Lee Rubin.
Yale, 449 pp., £35, April 1995, 0 300 04909 9
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... in the city’s artistic life) had kept such records that Vasari was able to cite this document about Michelangelo. Long before, in 1529, Vasari had spent a couple of months in the house of Vittorio Ghiberti and while there he bought some drawings attributed to Vittorio’s great-grandfather, Lorenzo Ghiberti (who had created the marvellous bronze doors of the city’s baptistery), and to other even ...
11 February 1993
Jacopo della Quercia 
by James Beck.
Columbia, 598 pp., $109.50, February 1992, 0 231 07200 7
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Michelangelo and the Creation of the Sistine Chapel 
by Robin Richmond.
Barrie and Jenkins, 160 pp., £18.99, April 1992, 0 7126 5290 6
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Rembrandt. The Master and his Workshop: Paintings 
by Christopher Brown, Jan Kelch and Pieter van Thiel.
Yale, 396 pp., £35, September 1991, 0 300 05149 2
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Michelangelo’s Drawings: The Science of Attribution 
by Alexander Perrig.
Yale, 299 pp., £35, June 1991, 0 300 03948 4
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Michelangelo and his Drawings 
by Michael Hirst.
Yale, 128 pp., £14.95, August 1990, 0 300 04391 0
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The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation 
by James Saslow.
Yale, 559 pp., £22.50, April 1991, 0 300 04960 9
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... Jacopo della Quercia was one of the great sculptors of the early 15th century, comparable in stature with his contemporaries Donatello and Ghiberti, but his work is less consistent, and more difficult to discuss in the stylistic terms usually associated with Renaissance art. There are three famous works by Jacopo: the tomb of Ilaria del Caretto ...

Quarrelling

Mary-Kay Wilmers

29 October 1987
Tears before Bedtime 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12326 7
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In the Pink 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Bloomsbury, 164 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0050 9
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... Street with an Axminster carpet and green velvet curtains. A grand tour of Europe soon followed: A suite at the George V. Champagne luncheons at Fouquet’s ... Holland. Belgium. Italy. Gelati. Ghiberti. The Ethiopian crisis. In Bologna, tomatoes were thrown at the chauffeur seated at the wheel of the Alvis. In Rimini, the hotel was full of Italian beauties dining with German officers à la Stroheim ...

Look me in the eye

James Hall: Self-portraiture

25 January 2001
The Artist's Body 
edited by Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones.
Phaidon, 304 pp., £39.95, July 2000, 0 7148 3502 1
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Five Hundred Self-Portraits 
edited by Julian Bell.
Phaidon, 528 pp., £19.95, November 2000, 0 7148 3959 0
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Renaissance Self-Portraiture 
by Joanna Woods-Marsden.
Yale, 285 pp., £45, October 1998, 0 300 07596 0
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... the 16th and the 19th centuries is mysterious. The 15th century, as Woods-Marsden demonstrates, offers numerous examples of innovative and prominently placed sculpted images, such as the two busts by Ghiberti on the doors of the Baptistery in Florence; the self-portrait medals made by Alberti, Filarete and Bramante; and Mantegna’s funerary bust. Yet when Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici started to collect ...
18 March 1982
Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man 
by Martin Kemp.
Dent, 384 pp., £14.95, August 1981, 0 460 04354 4
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... preoccupations of a practising craftsman. He was certainly not the first Florentine artist to concern himself with science and technology. Such interests were shared, for example, by Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, as well as by the Sienese Francesco di Giorgio, and they would have been fostered by his teacher Verrocchio, whose output embraced both painting and sculpture in addition to more ephemeral products ...

The First Universal Man

Jules Lubbock: The Invention of Painting

31 October 2002
Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance 
by Anthony Grafton.
Allen Lane, 432 pp., £9.99, January 2002, 0 14 029169 5
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The Discovery of Pictorial Composition: Theories of Visual Order in Painting, 1400-1800 
by Thomas Puttfarken.
Yale, 332 pp., £30, June 2000, 0 300 08156 1
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... and enigmatic art of Giotto, whose mosaic of the Navicella in old St Peter’s is the only modern image he describes, and on his knowledge of the work of his ingenious contemporaries Donatello, Ghiberti and Masaccio, he transmitted the idea to Leonardo and Raphael and it has remained central to our conception of visual art. The innovative idea that art was restless, exploratory and experimental made ...

What if it breaks?

Anthony Grafton: Renovating Rome

25 November 2019
Engineering the Eternal City: Infrastructure, Topography and the Culture of Knowledge in Late 16th-Century Rome 
by Pamela Long.
Chicago, 369 pp., £34, November 2018, 978 0 226 59128 5
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... Vergine take shape. Together, they tell a new story. The papal city became the home of a distinctive, interdisciplinary culture of knowledge. From the early 15th century, artists like Donatello and Ghiberti and scholars like Leon Battista Alberti abandoned their studies and ateliers to explore the city’s ruins, Christian as well as ancient. Printing gave their successors a way to preserve parts of ...

Botticelli and the Built-in Bed

Anthony Grafton: The Italian Renaissance

2 April 1998
Behind the Picture: Art and Evidence in Italian Renaissance 
by Martin Kemp.
Yale, 304 pp., £25, November 1997, 0 300 07195 7
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... astonishment at the feats of art and architecture he saw on his arrival in Florence in the 1430s: Brunelleschi’s dome, towering over the entire city, the paintings of Masaccio, the sculptures of Ghiberti, Donatello and Luca della Robbia. These works, Alberti explained, in words carefully adapted from the younger Pliny, had caused a revolution in his thinking, teaching him that Nature was not ...

Looking at the Ceiling

T.J. Clark: A Savonarolan Bonfire

22 September 2005
The Mirror of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Renaissance Art 
by Malcolm Bull.
Allen Lane, 465 pp., £30, April 2005, 9780713992007
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... main concern. ‘Mythologies are rarely to be found in positions where the viewer is likely to benefit from one-point perspective.’ The great new explorers of spatial illusionism – Masaccio, Ghiberti, Piero and the rest – were religious artists almost exclusively. Of course they were: the overwhelming majority of larger-scale painting commissions were for churches, family chapels ...

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