…It then occurred to Luca della Robia that clay can be manipulated with ease and little trouble, and that the only thing required was to discover a means whereby work produced in this material could be preserved a long time. By dint of many experiments he discovered a method of protecting it from the injury of time, for he found that he could render such works practically imperishable, by covering the clay with a glaze made of tin, litharge, antimony and other materials, baked in the fire in a specially constructed furnace. For this method, of which he was the inventor, he won loud praises, and all succeeding ages are under an obligation to him… The MET Bliss Madonna by Luca della Robbia is one such fine example of his skillful use of clay and a tin glaze! https://www.artist-biography.info/artist/luca_della_robbia/ Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, first published in 1550 and dedicated to Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici
Luca della Robbia (1399/1400–1482) was an Italian sculptor and ceramist renowned for his contributions to the Renaissance artistic movement. Born in Florence, he hailed from a family of artists and began his career as a sculptor. However, Luca is best known for perfecting the technique of glazed terracotta sculpture, a medium he elevated to new heights. His innovative use of vibrant polychrome glazes brought a lifelike quality to his works, distinguishing him from his contemporaries. His artistry, marked by a harmonious blend of classical influences and innovative techniques, left an enduring legacy and influenced later generations of artists.
The artist was an innovator. Before him, sculptors primarily worked with marble or bronze, and clay was mostly used for preparatory models rather than finished works of art. Luca’s innovation was to take terracotta, a material that had been traditionally associated with architectural decoration, and elevate it to the status of a refined artistic medium. His breakthrough was the development of a tin glaze that, when applied to terracotta, created a smooth, lustrous surface. This glazing technique not only added a layer of protection to the sculptures but also allowed for the application of vibrant and enduring polychrome colors. This marked a departure from the monochromatic nature of traditional terracotta works.
Luca’s creations, ranging from religious reliefs to freestanding sculptures, were characterized by a newfound vibrancy and a lifelike quality. This innovation made his sculptures more accessible to a broader audience and contributed to the democratization of art during the Renaissance. He even began a practice of reproducing his clay sculptures in casts, which members of his family and large workshop continued into the sixteenth century. His influence extended beyond his family workshop, inspiring other artists to explore the potential of terracotta and glazing techniques, thus contributing to the dynamic and transformative period of artistic flourishing in Renaissance Florence. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/204722
The artwork of the day is the Bliss Madonna by Luca della Robbia in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
A classic masterpiece by Luca della Robbia, the Bliss Madonna captivates the viewer’s attention with its serene beauty and religious devotion. In front of a niche defined by gilded ribs against a lively turquoise backdrop, the Virgin Mary is depicted tenderly cradling the infant Jesus, who stands at the niche’s edge, leans towards her, and equally tenderly embraces her. The intimate connection is palpable as Christ reaches around her neck, and their heads gently touch, revealing blue-gray eyes that engage the viewer. The composition’s frame is adorned with an intricate floral design, and the upper corners proudly bear the Bartorelli and Baldi coats of arms, symbolizing a probable union between these prominent Florentine families.
Luca della Robbia’s terracotta sculptures of the Madonna with the Child, like the MET’s Bliss Madonna, represent a high point of Renaissance sculpture, showcasing the artist’s innovative approach to the medium. The application of polychrome glazes, like the turquoise in the discussed artifact, allowed him to achieve a luminous, almost ethereal quality in his artworks. The delicate expressions on the faces of the Madonna and Child, coupled with the intricacies of drapery and the overall harmonious composition, reflect della Robbia’s deep understanding of both classical ideals and the spiritual essence he sought to convey. These amazing, glazed terracotta sculptures became iconic representations of religious devotion during the Renaissance and contributed to the broader artistic movement’s exploration of new materials and techniques.
For a PowerPoint depicting 10 Masterpieces by Luca della Robbia, please… Check HERE!
The father, more than anyone, must labor with hands and feet, with every nerve, with zeal and wisdom, for he must attempt to make his children moral and upright. That they may serve the advantage of the family—moral character being no less precious in a young man than wealth—and be an ornament and credit to their family, their country, and themselves… It is generally thought better for a country, if I am not mistaken, to have virtuous and upright citizens rather than many rich and powerful ones. And surely children whose character is poor must be a terrible sorrow to any father who is not insensible and utterly foolish… writes Leon Battista Alberti and I think of Lo Scheggia’s Reclining Youth!
Giovanni di Ser Giovanni Guidi, known as Lo Scheggia, was an Italian Renaissance artist. He was born in 1406 in San Giovanni Valdarno, Italy, and was the brother of the famous artist Masaccio (Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai). Lo Scheggia is primarily known for his work as a painter, but he also engaged in the decoration of domestic furnishings, such as wedding chests, birth trays, spalliera panels, strongboxes, and headrests. http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/loscheggia.htm
The artist received his nickname “Lo Scheggia,” which means “the splinter” in Italian, due to his slender build, but also probably because of his specialization as a painter of wooden artifacts. A decisive influence on Giovanni’s training, what probably set him on the path to his artistic career as a decorator of furnishings, was his grandfather Mone, who was a cassaio, that is a craftsman who specialized in the construction of chests. He was also influenced by his brother, Masaccio’s, innovative approach to perspective, anatomy, and realism, which were revolutionary during the early Renaissance. Lo Scheggia worked along with his brother, on Masaccio’s workshop, with whom he lived in Via de’ Servi along with their mother. http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/loscheggia.htm
Although not as celebrated as his brother, and his career not as extensively documented as some of his contemporaries, Lo Scheggia made important contributions to the art scene of his time. He worked on various projects alongside other renowned artists of the Renaissance. His masterpiece, painted around 1449, is considered to be the Birth Tray for Lorenzo il Magnifico portraying the Triumph of Fame.
I find equally interesting his painting of a Reclining Youth created to decorate the Inner lid of a Wedding Chest or Cassone in Italian. A Renaissance Cassone was a large and ornate piece of furniture made on the occasion of an important wedding and contained the bride’s trousseau. As described by Gorgio Vasari, Italian Cassoni were created for… citizens of those times (16th century) who used to have in their apartments great wooden chests in the form of a sarcophagus, with the covers shaped in various fashions…and besides the stories that were wrought on the front and on the ends, they used to have the arms, or rather, insignia, of their houses painted on the corners, and sometimes elsewhere. And the stories that were wrought on the front were for the most part fables taken from Ovid and from other poets, or rather stories related by the Greek and Latin historians, and likewise chases, jousts, tales of love, and other similar subjects.https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O132970/cassone-unknown/
In 1400, a competition was announced for a bronze double door at the Baptistery in Florence. While such contests were no rarity, this one is considered a classic of its kind. A jury of 34 declared the winner to be Lorenzo Ghiberti, whose composition was regarded as better balanced, not to mention its using around seven kilograms less of the valuable material. Hardly any history of Renaissance art fails to mention this event as a founding moment. The Brunelleschi vs. Ghiberti competition is the best introduction, in my humble opinion, to 15th-century Italian Renaissance Art. https://idole-rivalen.khm.at/en/
From the life of Filippo Brunelleschi… in the year 1401, now that sculpture had risen to so great a height, it was determined to reconstruct the two bronze doors of the Church and Baptistery of San Giovanni, since, from the death of Andrea Pisano to that day, they had not had any masters capable of executing them. This intention being, therefore, communicated to those sculptors who were then in Tuscany, they were sent for, and each man was given a provision and the space of a year to make one scene; and among those called upon were Filippo and Donato, each of them being required to make one scene by himself, in competition with Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jacopo della Fonte [Jacopo della Quercia], Simone da Colle, Francesco di Valdambrina, and Niccolo d’ Arezzo. These scenes, being finished in the same year and being brought together for comparison, were all most beautiful and different one from the other; one was well designed and badly wrought, as was that of Donato; another was very well designed and diligently wrought, but the composition of the scene, with the gradual diminution of the figures, was not good, as was the case with that of Jacopo della Quercia; a third was poor in invention and in the figures, which was the manner wherein Francesco di Valdambrina had executed his; and the worst of all were those of Niccolo d’ Arezzo and Simone da Colle. The best was that of Lorenzo di Cione Ghiberti, which had design, diligence, invention, art, and the figures very well wrought. Nor was that of Filippo much inferior, wherein he had represented Abraham sacrificing Isaac; and in that scene a slave who is drawing a thorn from his foot, while he is awaiting Abraham and the ass is browsing, deserves no little praise.
The scenes, then, being exhibited, Filippo and Donato were not satisfied with any save with that of Lorenzo, and they judged him to be better qualified for that work than themselves and the others who had made the other scenes. And so with good reasons they persuaded the Consuls to allot the work to Lorenzo, showing that thus both the public and the private interest would be best served; and this was indeed the true goodness of friendship, excellence without envy, and a sound judgment in the knowledge of their own selves, whereby they deserved more praise than if they had executed the work to perfection. Happy spirits! who, while they were assisting one another, took delight in praising the labors of others. How unhappy are those of our own day, who, not sated with injuring each other, burst with envy while rending others? The Consuls besought Filippo to undertake the work in company with Lorenzo, but he refused, being minded rather to be first in an art of his own than an equal or a second in that work. Wherefore he presented the scene that he had wrought in bronze to Cosimo de’ Medici, who after a time had it placed on the dossal of the altar in the old Sacristy of San Lorenzo, where it is to be found at present; and that of Donato was placed in the Guild of the Exchange.
From the Life of Lorenzo Ghiberti… He had not been long absent from home when the plague ceased, and the Signoria of Florence and the art of the merchants, seeing that there were a number of excellent artists in sculpture at that time, both foreigners and Florentines, thought that it would be a favourable opportunity to make the other two doors of S. Giovanni, the ancient and principal church of the city, a matter which had frequently been discussed. It was arranged by them that all the masters considered to be the best in Italy should be invited to come to Florence to compete in making bronze panels similar to those which Andrea Pisano had done for the first door. Ghiberti was working at Lesare at the time but although offers of higher wages were promised, he availed nothing, for to Lorenzo it seemed worth a thousand years to return to Florence, and he accordingly set out and reached his home in safety. Many foreigners had already arrived and reported themselves to the consuls of the arts. From among them seven masters in all were selected: three Florentines, and the remainder Tuscans. A provision of money was set apart for them, and it was stipulated that within a year each of them should produce, as an example of his skill, a bronze panel of the same size as those of the first door. It was determined that the scene represented should be the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, which was considered to be a good subject in which the masters could grapple with the difficulties of the art, because it comprises a landscape, figures both nude and draped, and animals, while the figures in the foreground might be made in full relief, those in the middle distance in half-relief, and those in the background in bas-relief. The competitors for this work were: Filippo di ser Brunellesco, Donato and Lorenzo di Bartoluccio, Florentines, and Jacopo dalla Quercia of Siena, Niccolo d’Arezzo his pupil, Francesco di Vandabrina, 1 and Simone da Colie, sumamed “of the bronzes,” who all promised the consuls to have their panels ready at the appointed time.
They set to work and devoted all their study and diligence, all their strength and knowledge, to surpass each other, keeping what they did close secret, so that they might not light upon the same ideas. Lorenzo alone, who enjoyed the help of Bartoluccio, who made him take great pains and prepare many models before he resolved upon adopting any one of them, continually brought his fellow citizens, and also passing strangers if they understood the trade, to see his work and hear their opinion. By the aid of their criticisms he was enabled to produce a model which was beautifully made and absolutely without a fault. Having shaped his figures and cast the whole in bronze, it proved excellent; and he and his father, Bartoluccio, polished it with such devotion and patience that it was impossible for it to have been better finished. When the time arrived for it to be exhibited in the competition, his panel and those of the other masters were handed over to the art of the merchants to be adjudicated upon. When they came to be examined by the consuls and several other citizens many various opinions were expressed. Numbers of strangers had assembled in Florence, some painters, some sculptors, and some goldsmiths, who were invited by the consuls to come and judge the works in conjunction with others of the same professions who lived in Florence. They numbered thirty-four persons in all, each of them being an adept in his art, and although there were differences of opinion among them, some preferring the style of one and some that of another, yet they were agreed that Filippo di ser Brunellesco and Lorenzo di Bartoluccio had composed and finished a larger number of figures better than Donato had done, although his panel exhibited great powers of design. In that of Jacopo dalla Quercia the figures were good but lacking in delicacy, in spite of the good design and the care bestowed. The work of Francesco di Vandabrina contained good heads and was well finished, but the composition was confused. That of Simone da Colle was a good cast, because he was a founder by profession, but the design was not very good. The production of Niccolo d’Arezzo, showing great skill, was marred by stunted figures and absence of finish. Lorenzo’s alone was perfect in every part, and it may still be seen in the audience chamber of the art of the merchants. The whole scene was well designed and the composition excellent, the figures being slender and graceful, the pose admirable and so beautifully finished that it did not look as if it had been cast and polished, but rather as if it had been created by a breath. Donato and Filippo, when they perceived what diligence Lorenzo had devoted to his work, withdrew to one side and agreed that the work ought to be given to him, for it seemed to them that public and private interests would thus be best served, and as Lorenzo was a young man, not past twenty, he would be able to realize in the production of this work the great promise of his beautiful scene, which; according to their judgment, he had made more excellently than the others: adding that it would be more shameful to dispute his right to preeminence than generous to admit it. Accordingly Lorenzo began on that door opposite the opera of S. Giovanni,’ constructing a large wooden frame for a part of it of the exact size he desired, in the shape of a frame with the ornamentation of heads at the angles about the spaces for containing the scenes and the surrounding friezes. After he had made the mold and dried it with all diligence, he set up a huge furnace, which I remember having seen, and filled the frame with metal. He did this in some premises he had bought opposite S. Maria Nuova, where the hospital of the weavers, known as the Threshing floor, now stands. But realising that all was not going well, he did not lose courage or become distracted, but traced the cause of the disorder and altered his mold with great quickness without anyone knowing it, recasting the world, which came out most successfully. He went on similarly with the rest of the work, casting each scene separately, and then putting them in their appointed places. The division of the scenes was similar to that adopted by Andrea Pisano in the first door designed for him by Giotto.
It is always interesting to go as close as possible to primary sources!
For a PowerPoint on the competition panels, please… Check HERE!
Idols & Rivals, Artists in Competition (September 20, 2022 – January 8, 2023) was an interesting Exhibition in the Kunsthistorischen Museum in Vienna. It showed how in antiquity, the Renaissance, and the Baroque, artists competed with one another and how, in addition, they measured themselves against ancient models. This kind of competition has brought forth some of the best-known works in the history of art. Among the competitors were Brunelleschi and Ghiberti… https://idole-rivalen.khm.at/en/
Born into a family of artists, Giovanni Bellini frequented, with his brother Gentile, the studio of their father, Jacopo Bellini, a painter of Gothic training who soon mastered the principles of Florentine Renaissance art. The young artist, write the Musée Jacquemart-André experts, Neville Rowley and Pierre Curie, introducing the Exhibition GIOVANNI BELLINI Influences croisées (Paris, from 3 March to 17 July 2023), immersed himself in the art alongside his father, brother and his brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna, whom his sister Nicolosia had just married. Classicism, sculptural forms, and a good command of Mantegna’s perspective had a great influence on the artist… Is Bellini’s Portrait of a Young Man à l’Antique, presented in the exhibition, the Portrait of Andrea Mantegna? https://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/giovanni-bellini
Mantegna’s marriage to Nicolosia Bellini was a positive development for both parties involved. Giorgio Vasari describes the event in his own, matter of fact, way… Andrea, thus left alone in the said chapel (Chapel of S. Cristofano, which is in the Church of the Eremite Friars of S. Agostino in Padua), painted the four Evangelists, which were held very beautiful. By reason of this and other works Andrea began to be watched with great expectation, and with hopes that he would attain to that success to which he actually did attain; wherefore Jacopo Bellini, the Venetian painter, father of Gentile and Giovanni, and rival of Squarcione, contrived to get him to marry his daughter, the sister of Gentile. Hearing this, Squarcione fell into such disdain against Andrea that they were enemies ever afterwards; and in proportion as Squarcione had formerly been ever praising the works of Andrea, so from that day onward did he ever decry them in public.http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/gutenberg/vasarilives3.htm
The marriage of Andrea Mantegna to Nicolosia Bellini was significant in several ways. The marriage, for example, brought Mantegna into contact with the Bellini family, which had a significant influence on the development of Venetian art. Mantegna was already a highly respected artist in his own right, but his marriage to Nicolosia helped to solidify his reputation and establish him as a leading figure in the Italian Renaissance. For the younger brother-in-law, Giovanni Bellini, the marriage led to a cross-pollination of ideas and approaches between the two brothers-in-law. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the two artists had, occasionally, a close working relationship. Mantegna’s influence on Bellini can be seen in his use of perspective, which was a technique that Mantegna had mastered. Furthermore, it is believed that Giovanni Bellini was influenced by Mantegna’s interest in classical antiquity, his Portrait of a Young Man à l’Antique is evidence enough, of the use of color, light, and shadow to create a sense of depth and three-dimensionality.
While in Paris, attending the brilliant Exhibition GIOVANNI BELLINI Influences Croisées, at the Musée Jacquemart-André, I was surprised, most pleasantly, by Bellini’s Portrait of a Young Man à l’Antique. The Exhibition curators present this unusual painting as a possible portrait of Andrea Mantegna. Searching the history and provenance of the painting, I came upon different identification names… Portrait of a young man à l’Antique, Portrait of a Humanist, or Poeta Laureato. Not just so, this is, I believe, a little-known painting with a complicated history of credit. It has been attributed to Antonello da Messina, Alvise Vivarini, and Giovanni Bellini. The depicted young man has been identified as the painter Andrea Mantegna, or the poet Raffaele Zovenzoni. Do I know the true identity of the artist and the represented young man? The answer is No! What I know is that the Portrait I saw was eye-catching, magnetic, bold, and alluring.
The painting depicts a young man dressed in classical clothing, with a serene expression on his face. The background of the painting is a neutral brown color, which helps to emphasize the figure’s features and clothing. What I found striking is the incredible level of detail in the young man’s face, which, painted with great care and with subtle gradations of color, creates a lifelike appearance. Painted in front of a dark background, the young man is depicted wearing an olive-green and brown garment à l’Antique. His rich auburn hair is crowned by a wreath of myrtle, he features a strong chin, a straight nose, and olive-green coloured eyes! Whoever the young man is, I would like to believe this is a liking of Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini’s painting is a beautiful example of Renaissance portraiture, characterized by its attention to detail, lifelike rendering, and incorporation of classical imagery. The painting is a testament to Bellini’s skill as an artist and his contribution to the development of Renaissance art in Venice.
Finally, after centuries of isolated beginnings and endings, rediscoveries and losses, Venetian workers in the mid-15th century commenced a tradition of enameling on glass vessels that would become widely disseminated in other European glassworking cultures—and continue to be practiced, without interruption, to the present day. A new BLOG POST on The Enameled Murano Beaker at Musée Jacquemart-André is my lead to investigating the art of glass enameling in the Venetian lagoon. https://www.cmog.org/article/enameled-glass-vessels-1425-bce-1800-decorating-process
I know little about Enameled Glass, but the Murano beaker I saw at Musée Jacquemart-André got me interested in investigating its type further. The internet site of the Museum, unfortunately, provided no information on the enameled beaker in its collection. The Corning Museum of Glass, however, provided valuable information on Enameled Glass in general. Based on the information I read, let me answer some questions starting with What, and How https://home.cmog.org/
What is Enameled Glass? Enameled glass is a type of glass that has been decorated with a layer, or more, of colored or opaque vitreous enamel. For a most useful and detailed description of how an Enameled Glass piece is created, you can read a 15th-century manuscript in the Library of San Salvatore in Bologna. It was brought to scholarly attention in 1982 by Hugh Tait… the text says: To paint glass, that is to say, cups or any other works in glass with smalti or any colour you please, take the smalti you wish to use, and let them be soft and fusible, and pound them upon marble or porphyry in the same way that the goldsmiths do. Then wash the powder and apply it upon your glass as you please and let the colour dry thoroughly; then put the glass upon the rim of the chamber in which glasses are cooled, on the side from which the glasses are taken out cold, and gradually introduce it into the chamber towards the fire which comes out of the furnace and take care you do not push too fast lest the heat should split it, and when you see that it is thoroughly heated, take it up with the pontello and fix it to the pontello and put it in the mouth of the furnace, heating it and introducing it gradually. When you see the smalti shine and that they have flowed well, take the glass out and put it in the chamber to cool, and it is done… All About Glass | Corning Museum of Glass (cmog.org)
How did Enameled Glass develop, chronologically up to and including the 16th century, in Murano, Italy? A. 1291 AD: The furnaces of all glassmakers in Venice were relocated to the island of Murano due to the risk of fires. This was the start of the concentration of the Venetian glassmaking industry in Murano. B. 14th century: During this period, Venetian glassmakers began to gain renown for their high-quality and innovative creations. The art of enameling glass, known in Venice since the Middle Ages, was probably inspired by Byzantine models. C. 15th and 16th centuries: The peak of the art of enameled glass in Murano was achieved. Artists such as Angelo Barovier and the workshop of the “Seguso” family introduced a refined style of painting on glass with enamels, creating objects of extraordinary beauty. During this time, Venetian Enameled Glass, often decorated with scenes from contemporary life or mythology, was sought after by the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in Europe.
According to Ferucci, Barovier Mentasti, and Tonini… The Annunciation was a subject of Venetian enameled decoration on glass since the early seventies of the 15th century, at least. A list, for example, dated March 31, 1474, of glass beakers by Giovanni da Lodi, enameller active in Murano, includes a beaker with the Annunciation (uno cieto a nuntiata). The 200-2001 excavations conducted in the Monastery of Santa Chiara in Padua revealed four enameled Glass beakers with an Annunciation scene dating towards the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century.
The four Padua beakers with the Annunciation show the Virgin announced and the archangel Gabriel, each inside a simple roundel of white or yellow colour. The only difference is that in one of the beakers, a plush yellow and white laurel wreath is added around the white roundel. According to the authors, this embellished beaker is similar to the Annunciation blue beaker kept in the Musée Jacquemart André in Paris. Édouard André, (1833-1894), the authors add, and Nélie Jacquemart (1841-1912), his wife, collected Italian art and decorative art, showing a particular interest also in Venetian art, like the blue glass beaker. The only difference, according to my humble opinion, is that the green/terracotta red wreath of the Musée Jacquemart André is thinner and less luxurious looking, yet perfectly fitting and complementing the composition’s colour scheme.
The next information comes from the article of Françoise Barbe and Erwin Baumgartner. The authors stress the importance of the archaeological discovery in the convent of Santa Chiara in Padua. They also stress the stylistic similarities between the two glass beakers (in Padua and in Paris). However, when a glass analysis was performed for each glass beaker, the results showed differences in their composition. Thus, Barbe and Baumgartner presented three questions: 1. Was the Paris glass beaker in the façon de Venise, produced during the Renaissance period, but in a different location than Venice? Was it a copy made during a later chronological period to complete, for example, an antique-style series? Or was it a fake? The authors believe that there is no decisive answer to any one of the three questions and further investigation is in demand.
A page of Pisanello’s sketchbook in the Louvre Museum presents the mounted figure of the Byzantine Emperor Ioannis VIII Palaiologos and the short descriptive passage reads… The hat of the Emperor should be white on top and red underneath, the profile red all round. The doublet is green damask and the mantle on top crimson. A black beard on a pale face, hair and eyebrows alike. The eyes between grey and green, and the stooped shoulders of a small person. The boots of pale yellow leather; the sheath of the bow brown and grained, and also that of the quiver and of the scimitar. On the 5th of March, while in Paris, I visited the Hôtel de la Marine, and I came Face to Face with Emperor Ioannis VIII Palaiologos. Pisanello’s famous Medallion of the penultimate Byzantine Emperor was among the selected artifacts presented at the Exhibition Ca’ d’Oro, Masterpieces of the Renaissance in Venice (November 30, 2022 – May 7, 2023). I was touched… Some Preparatory Drawings for Pisanello’s Medallion of John VIII Palaeologus, by Michael Vickers, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Sep. 1978), pp. 417-424 (8 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/3049816?read-now=1&seq=8#page_scan_tab_contents
Pisanello’s Medallion and two pages with preparatory drawings and comments, by Pisanello as well, one in the Louvre, the other in the Art Institute of Chicago, are vital in reconstructing the features and the physique of the Emperor. The Medallion I saw in Paris, like the rest of the exhibited artworks, loans from the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti at the Ca’ D’Oro, Venice, was an opportunity to read and refresh my knowledge of Ioannis VIII Palaionogos… his ‘works and days.’https://www.thealthanicollection.com/hdlm/ca-doro-masterpieces-of-the-renaissance-in-venice
Ioannis VIII Palaiologos (or John VIII Palaiologos) was a Byzantine Emperor who ruled from 1425 to 1448. He was born on December 18, 1392, as the oldest son of Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragaš. He was an intellectual, well-educated, and a patron of arts and learning. He was fluent in several languages, including Greek, Latin, and some Turkish. His reign was marked by a series of desperate attempts to save the Byzantine Empire from its rapid decline, particularly due to the increasing pressure from the Ottoman Empire.
In an effort to save his empire, he sought the aid of the West by advocating for a union of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. This led him to attend the Council of Ferrara/Florence (1438-1439), where he personally negotiated with Western leaders and agreed to a theological compromise that would allow for the churches to reunite. However, this decision was met with strong opposition from many within the Byzantine Empire, particularly the clergy and the people who saw the reunion as a betrayal of their Orthodox faith. Ultimately, the church union failed to secure the military and financial assistance Ioannis had hoped for, and the empire’s decline, continued, with a loss of territory and influence. Ioannis VIII Palaiologos died on October 31, 1448. Five years later, the Byzantine Empire ceased to exist. It was the 29th of May, 1453.
The Medallion of John VIII Palaiologos is a bronze portrait medal created by the renowned Italian artist Pisanello in 1438. This medallion, an outstanding example of Renaissance art, is considered one of the earliest examples of portrait medals in the history of art and stands as a testament to the diplomatic, cultural, and artistic exchanges that occurred during this tumultuous period in history. The medal is not only significant for its portrayal of the Byzantine Emperor but also for its role in the development of the art of medal-making in Europe.
Looking at Pisanello’s portrait of the Emperor, I wonder how John VIII Palaiologos felt during his trip to Italy. I am sure he hoped that by engaging in negotiations and pushing for the reunification of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, he could secure much-needed assistance from Western Europe. At the same time, he was also likely to have felt anxiety and pressure. The theological differences between the two churches were deeply rooted, and reaching a compromise would be a delicate and complex process. Furthermore, the Byzantine Emperor had to navigate diplomatic and protocol arrangements that were probably, at times, difficult and offensive, to put it politely.
Pisanello keeps his distance from the political intrigues and nuances. On the obverse side, the Emperor is depicted, in profile, dignified, imposing, and elegantly groomed. The artist displays individualized facial features, such as his well-groomed beard, high forehead, and strong nose. These details suggest an attempt to capture the likeness of the Emperor, rather than relying on stylized or idealized forms that were common in earlier periods. The clothing and adornments the Emperor wears, like his characteristic hat, reflect the luxurious aspects of Byzantine culture and provide a sense of authenticity to his portrayal. Around the perimeter of the obverse side, an inscription, in Greek, identifies the Emperor by name and title.
The reverse side of Pisanello’s Medallion, ‘signed’ by the artist in Latin and Greek, shows something entirely different. The Emperor, identified by his characteristic hat, is depicted astride his famous Eastern European horse, groomed for hunting. He is probably presented in the area of his residence, a convent outside Ferrara, where he indulged in his passion for the chase during the autumn of 1438. Was the Emperor depicted enjoying ‘personal time’ of relaxation, away from tension and stress? I wish he did…
For a PowerPoint inspired by Face to Face with Emperor Ioannis VIII Palaiologos, please… Check HERE!
For Face to Face with Emperor Ioannis VIII Palaiologos and Pisanello’s Medallion, please Check…
…Donatello was so admirable in knowledge, in judgment, and in the practice of his art that he may be said to have been the first to illustrate the art of sculpture among the moderns; and he deserves the more commendation because in his time few antiquities had been uncovered. He was one of those who aroused in Cosimo de’ Medici the desire to bring antiquities into Florence. He was most liberal and courteous, and kinder to his friends than himself; nor did he care for money, keeping it in a basket hanging from the ceiling, where his workmen and friends could help themselves without saying anything to him. When he got old, therefore, and could not work, he was supported by Cosimo and his friends. Cosimo dying, recommended him to Piero his son, who, to carry out his father’s wishes, gave him… enough… Giorgio Vasari writes back in 16th century Florence, to pass the rest of his life as friend and servant of the Medici without trouble or care. Please allow me to present Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna of c. 1420, as an introduction to Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition, currently at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Musei del Bargello in Florence, Italy (March 19-July31). http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/donatello/ and https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/en/archivio/exhibitions/donatello/
Celebrated as one of the greatest Renaissance artists, Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna, depicts both mother and child with their faces turned towards one another and away from viewers, says Francesco Caglioti, curator of the Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition. Their foreheads are touching, and they share a profoundly intimate moment which every mother has experienced, he continues. It is a profoundly intimate, emotional, and thus, a powerful work of art, proving Donatello to be an exceptionally talented artist in translating nature into art. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence
The Pazzi Madonna in the Berlin Staatlichen Museum is believed to originate from the Palazzo Pazzi in Florence, where according to a 1677 Florentine Guide Book, the sculpture could be seen in the Palazzo Garden. Although this identification is challenged, it is worth reading the Renaissance text… In the house of Francesco Pazzi there is a beautiful marble Madonna in low relief by Donatello; the Christ Child, seated upon a cushion, is supported by the Virgin’s right hand, while he, with his raised left hand, holds the veil that hangs from her head. It is charming in every part, the draperies are most beautiful, and the Virgin’s tenderness toward her son is expressed with great art and is such, that in the following succession, Alessandro, the father of Francesco, bought it for 500 scudi according to the valuation that was made. http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&lang=en
Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna is greatly admired for its Renaissance “modernity.” The artist revived, for example, Antiquity by using and “playing” with monochrome, off-white coloured marble for his bas-relief, diverging from the popular tradition of using color in sculpture. He employed linear perspective to present spatial perception, a novel, introduced in 1415, “invention” by Filippo Brunelleschi. He used strong foreshortening to accentuate the best point of vision for the viewer. He created a tender, yet emotionally powerful, very “humanized” composition. The Pazzi Madonna is a Donatello masterpiece that still inspires and enchants viewers today.
Today, Francesco Caglioti, curator of the Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition believes that Donatello is a colossal artist, more important than Giotto, Raphael or Caravaggio because those three revolutionized the traditions of their time. Donatello broke with tradition completely, taking inspiration from the art of antiquity and the Middle Ages and mixing all those elements with his own vision to create an entirely new language for art. Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition is currently on view in Florence (March 19-July31), will be presented in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie (September2-January 8 2023), and in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2023. This is a historic Exhibition hosting over 130 works from the world’s leading museums and collections set out to reconstruct the astonishing career of one of the most important and influential masters of Italian art of any age. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence
For a new PowerPoint on Donatello’s Masterpieces, please… Click HERE!