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Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy An introduction to 15th century Italian painting and the social history behind it, arguing that the two are interlinked and that the conditions of the time helped fashion distinctive elements in the painter's style. Serving as both an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian painting and as a text on how to interpret soci Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy An introduction to 15th century Italian painting and the social history behind it, arguing that the two are interlinked and that the conditions of the time helped fashion distinctive elements in the painter's style. Serving as both an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian painting and as a text on how to interpret social history from the style of pictures in a given historical period, this new edition to Baxandall's pre-eminent scholarly volume examines early Renaissance painting, and explains how the style of painting in any society reflects the visual skills and habits that evolve out of daily life. Renaissance painting, for example, mirrors the experience of such activities as preaching, dancing, and gauging barrels. The volume includes discussions of a wide variety of painters, including Filippo Lippi, Fra Angelico, Stefano di Giovanni, Sandro Botticelli, Masaccio, Luca Signorelli, Boccaccio, and countless others. Baxandall also defines and illustrates sixteen concepts used by a contemporary critic of painting, thereby assembling the basic equipment needed to explore fifteenth-century art.


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Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy An introduction to 15th century Italian painting and the social history behind it, arguing that the two are interlinked and that the conditions of the time helped fashion distinctive elements in the painter's style. Serving as both an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian painting and as a text on how to interpret soci Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy An introduction to 15th century Italian painting and the social history behind it, arguing that the two are interlinked and that the conditions of the time helped fashion distinctive elements in the painter's style. Serving as both an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian painting and as a text on how to interpret social history from the style of pictures in a given historical period, this new edition to Baxandall's pre-eminent scholarly volume examines early Renaissance painting, and explains how the style of painting in any society reflects the visual skills and habits that evolve out of daily life. Renaissance painting, for example, mirrors the experience of such activities as preaching, dancing, and gauging barrels. The volume includes discussions of a wide variety of painters, including Filippo Lippi, Fra Angelico, Stefano di Giovanni, Sandro Botticelli, Masaccio, Luca Signorelli, Boccaccio, and countless others. Baxandall also defines and illustrates sixteen concepts used by a contemporary critic of painting, thereby assembling the basic equipment needed to explore fifteenth-century art.

30 review for Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    THE RULE OF THREE This book has as its origins a series of lectures that Michael Baxandall (1933 – 2008) gave at the University of London during the 70s. That may explain that its three chapters do not seem, in a first reading, to follow a unified and continuous line of argument. And yet they do. And they also link in with Baxandall’s proposals in his slightly earlier Giotto and the Orators: Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial Composition. At the core of his THE RULE OF THREE This book has as its origins a series of lectures that Michael Baxandall (1933 – 2008) gave at the University of London during the 70s. That may explain that its three chapters do not seem, in a first reading, to follow a unified and continuous line of argument. And yet they do. And they also link in with Baxandall’s proposals in his slightly earlier Giotto and the Orators: Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial Composition. At the core of his writings there is a solid thought: the ‘look’ or ‘style’ of any particular painting is the product of its times – social, economic, and cultural. In spite of the simplicity of this idea, Baxandall carved a break through. This little book changed the mind of many art historians and not just those of Renaissance specialists. With a Marxist tint he posits the painting as a fossil of cultural life that testifies, amongst other things, that it was the result of a commercial agreement. For this transaction to take place in a particular way many other social, political and economic aspects were involved. Baxandall’s aim is to elucidate some of those aspects in the production of paintings in the Italian peninsula during the 15C, and how these paintings were understood at the time. In Conditions of Trade, the first chapter or lecture, Baxandall examines signed agreements between patrons and craftsmen and traces how during that century there was a move away from valuing the materials employed towards assessing the skill or artistry (‘arte’) of the craftsman. The mercantile value of the painting was becoming less material and approaching the ineffable. In this process, this perceived immateriality was also the quality that helped the craftsmen, gradually, to fashion their own persona as artists. In his second and longest chapter, The Period Eye, he explores how the paintings were lived or experienced. Quoting Boccaccio (a painting... can deceive the eyes of the beholder, making itself be taken for what it is not)--, Baxandall examines the notion of representation and proceeds to dislodge the schemes that the 15C viewer would have had in his mind when contemplating paintings. But for us these paintings are not enough and Baxandall resorts to an ample use, as complementary fossils, of various kinds of texts: contracts, letters, accounts, textbooks, treatises, and sermons. Language is the other medium that could reveal the thinking process when looking at paintings, even if words also have to be interpreted. In his Giotto and Orators Baxandall found that the language that the Renaissance man had available when speaking of art was not only scant but also based on the classical tradition of rhetoric – i.e.: borrowed from the language on language. Pliny’s Natural History: A Selection, was the main vehicle of transmission from one usage to the other. In the search for the Eye of the Period, we find a society in which individuals lived off merchandising, were Christians, and followed specific patterns of convivial behaviour. The degree of presence of these three cultural elements varied from individual to individual, but all had the three. A noble could be less agile with his mathematics, but he was a believer of Christ and displayed a highly polished level of politeness. A friar would have a sound theological knowledge, but had also been instructed in arithmetic and understood the meaning of gestures to be used in the pulpit. A merchant was a master in double-entry accounting, but was aware of God’s dislike of usury and realized the commercial value of good social manners. Along the religious axis of this age paintings were endowed with a function: they had to instruct. To do so effectively, they had to be able to move the believer and serve her or him as an aid for remembering their dogma. The painter was the “professional visualizer” of holy stories and had to think of ways to engage his viewers, to help them empathize with the scenes. Texts recommended how the images could help in meditation, proposing tricks such as imagining the sacred scenes taking place in one’s city and including one’s acquaintances amongst the participating people. This implied that paintings could not become too particular and conflict with the inner minds of the beholders. Some stock scenes were also taken as generic examples of specific virtues. The way they rendered the story had to exemplify that quality. The Visitation was an enactment of Benignity; Maternity scenes staged Laudability; and the Nativity was a complex setting in which Poverty, Humility and Joy were personated. Some themes, such as the Annunciation, were conceived as part of a complex narrative or “Angelic Colloquy” in which any of its various stages could be discerned: Merit (Meritatio), Disquiet (Conturbatio), Reflection (Cogitatio), Inquiry (Interrogatio), Submission (Humiliatio). Fra Angelico's as Humiliatio. Botticelli's as Conturbatio. For social manners, or the second cultural axis, Baxandall has found several kinds of relevant texts, and in particular the books on dance can make our understanding swing: they taught how movement matched mood and could therefore represent the state of the mind. Bodies embodied the soul. Leonardo also wrote recommendations for painters advising them to study the gestures or body language of orators and dumb men. And an extraordinary achievement is found in Masaccio’s Expulsion. Adam is all Shame and Grief has the name of Eve. Some gestures have been lost to us making the interpretation of several paintings almost impossible for us. But Baxandall has decoded others by referring to a maiden’s handbook (Decor puellarum). For example the palm of a hand slightly raised with the fingers spread out in a timid fan is found very often as a sign of invitation. One such example is the well-known Primavera by Botticelli. The third axis in the cultural texture is the relative importance of Arithmetic in the educational baggage in this period. To be able to calculate, to gauge with the eye, was a fundamental skill in a mercantile society, and this can be measured in the paintings. For this Baxandall turns to the educational system and textbooks. Not for nothing was the secondary school called Abaco and was centred on mathematics. The slant of these schools grew more acute ever since Leonardo Fibonacci (1179-1240) introduced in Europe the Hindu-Arabic system of numeric notation and his Liber Abaci. Even for those young men who wanted to become lawyers, a thorough grounding in the art of calculation was paramount for a city of merchants. One of the most fascinating texts is the mathematical handbook for merchants written by none other than the painter Piero della Francesca, De Abaco. Forms in paintings could be easily decomposed in their basic geometric forms—cylinders, cones, and prisms--, by a 15C eye. This would help to ‘remember’ and to engage the viewer. The images of the symmetry-obsessed Piero, can easily become a game of identification of the geometric forms used. Key to the deployment of arithmetic was the Rule of Three, or Golden Rule and known in Florence as the Merchant’s Key. This simple and magic trick of relations was also popularized by Fibonacci (anybody here who likes spirals?), and is found in Leonardo’s writings. This easy-to-use rule is an example of the continuity between the practices of commercial culture and the looking at paintings. With this last theme, Baxandall considers how the three axes met. If some narrative scenes could also be dramatizations of virtues, one could also allegorize mathematical relations and transform them into pious matter suitable for sermons. Harmonies of the spheres had already elevated music, and, as any reader of Dante knows, numbers could be the hidden framework of writings that helped mystical contemplation. In his last chapter, Pictures and Categories, Baxandall picks up again arguments from his Giotto, when trying to find the language of painting. As artistry was replacing gold leaf and lapis lazuli, a language had to develop to refer to this newly valued quality. It also had to help in differentiating individuality and personal styles. For this, Baxandall has found in an unlikely place, in the preface to the 1481 Commentary on Dante, by Cristoforo Landino (1424-1498), a fascinating pictorial guide. Landino was one of the perfect Humanists: Champion of the vernacular Italian, Neo-Platonic philosopher, Scholar at the University in Florence, translator of Pliny’s seminal work mentioned above, and Secretary to the Signoria, In this preface Landino coined a total of sixteen terms that referred to the various qualities identified in the way the paintings by Masaccio; Filippo Lippi; Andrea del Castagno and Fra Angelico were perceived by their contemporaries. Landino elaborated a vocabulary for the Renaissance ‘look’. MASACCIO He was an imitator of nature (imitatore della natura); knew how to render relief or three dimensions with light and shadow (rilievo); was pure (puro) in his forms and did not have recourse to frills; had a personal ease (facilità) when tackling difficult aspects; and was a master of perspective (prospectivo). FRA FILIPPO LIPPI A very different painter to Masaccio, Lippi showed a generous use of ornamentation (ornato and varietà); his compositions (compositione) were therefore admirable, and his use of colour (colorire) memorable. ANDREA DEL CASTAGNO This painter was closer to Masaccio and was an exponent of design (disegnatore), and also a lover of difficulties (amatore della difficultà), as his foreshortenings (scorci) showed. He would also respond promptly to pictorial challenges (prompto). FRA ANGELICO Although his name could be used as the adjective for his paintings, Landino identified a pleasantness (vezzoso) and ‘inspiring to devotion’ (devoto) as the qualities that this friar exhibited in his works. If a certain social fabric wove the ‘look’ of its paintings, these have preserved for us the look of that social fabric. Through these paintings we can glimpse, if not fully see, that past social texture.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Before I started to type I had such a clear idea of what I would say. I was attracted to this book by Kalliope's review. Her review was illustrated, a key condition for discussing a book about art, while mine is not. Reading through Baxandall's book it was clear that it was a literary version of an oral work of art known to many a student: the lecture course. A lecture course, unlike my review, may also be illustrated. In the background of the sentences we might imagine the fiddling with the proje Before I started to type I had such a clear idea of what I would say. I was attracted to this book by Kalliope's review. Her review was illustrated, a key condition for discussing a book about art, while mine is not. Reading through Baxandall's book it was clear that it was a literary version of an oral work of art known to many a student: the lecture course. A lecture course, unlike my review, may also be illustrated. In the background of the sentences we might imagine the fiddling with the projector, a sheathe of ordered transparencies, the darkened lecture theatre. Imagination, as it happens, is the theme of the course, an attempt to recreate how a fifteenth-century person, and let us pretend to a vague precision here: a man, the artist or patron and therefore either more educated (in both the sense of practical, experiential learning and formal schooling) wealthy or both than the average, in northern Italy - and most likely in Florence, might have experienced a fifteenth-century painting. That vague precision constitutes my only (current) criticism (view spoiler)[and one I mean only very mildly (hide spoiler)] . The title promises Italy, but the range of the sources Baxandall has to draw upon suggests to me that the question remains open that other people elsewhere in the peninsula may have had some different ideas. The main focus here is Florence and artists connected with it. Venice and Flanders exist in the consciousness of some of those who then discussed their contemporary art as places were things were done differently, one could find there works with qualities other than one might find in Florence. To my mind the question of how did the fifteenth century man experience the fifteenth century picture is an absolutely valid and powerfully useful one, but then much of my own experience of art is that of the gallery wanderer. My need to confront my subjective approach with another but different subjective view leads me to respond well to this book. The pretence of an objective view that might try to cast the painting of one age in comparison to another suddenly looks false - no one is in competition with their future. Helpfully this book leads me to appreciate that when I don't understand the art of my contemporaries that I am missing the main point - I am neither an artist nor a patron. Finally the focus on the painting as a material object, that one could and did contractually define in terms of both the value of the materials and the value of the labour used in creating the painting (the more ultra-marine and personal input of the master the greater the value) reminds me of why Lisa Jardine's Worldly Goods felt so old fashioned - the basic argument had already been articulated.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Violet wells

    This book should have had me impatient to revisit all Florence's churches and art galleries with renewed zeal but sadly it didn't quite do that for me. I found it interesting rather than exhilarating. It was perhaps too academic and intellectual for me. However I did appreciate how much mental energy the author brings to his subject and how important a few of his insights are in adding to our knowledge of the social fabric, the sensibility and artistic aims of the Quattrocento. Baxandall wants t This book should have had me impatient to revisit all Florence's churches and art galleries with renewed zeal but sadly it didn't quite do that for me. I found it interesting rather than exhilarating. It was perhaps too academic and intellectual for me. However I did appreciate how much mental energy the author brings to his subject and how important a few of his insights are in adding to our knowledge of the social fabric, the sensibility and artistic aims of the Quattrocento. Baxandall wants to establish a better understanding of the relationship between the artist and his audience in its 15th century social context; to understand what the 15th century eye saw and looked for in art. He wants to magic our own eye back to become the eye of the Quattrocento. He begins by showing us how early Quattrocento works of art were essentially either propaganda posters for the Church or status symbols for their owners. Portraiture in the religious paintings deliberately kept generic as a means of not imparting too much humanity to the otherworldly Biblical characters. You couldn't paint an archangel who looked too much like the local butcher or anyone else you knew in daily life. These paintings had a severe instructive purpose and were not meant to bear too much reality. Private commissions, on the other hand, were evaluated less by their skilful artistry than by the quantity of precious pigments they contained, notably gold and lapis lazuli. We're then shown how these two motivational factors evolve through the century. The inspirations artists drew on to keep their visions recognisable to their audience. We all need to recognise something of the familiar in the art we behold. But the Quattrocento eye was recognising things we no longer do. These include the dances of the period and the system of mathematics most commonly taught. Eventually as the eye widened its scope for inspiration art for art's sake arrives, heralded by life-modelled portraiture and compositional ingenuity. I loved one of his final observations that Piero della Francesca tends to be a gauged kind of painting, Fra Angelico a preached sort of painting and Botticelli a danced sort of painting. But if you want a much more detailed and intelligent and justly celebratory review than I'm capable of writing I suggest you take a look at Kalliope's brilliant analysis! https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  4. 4 out of 5

    AC

    Despite the fact that this is an utterly brilliant and original -- and, indeed, an important -- book, I can understand why some have given it 4, or even a mere 3-stars.... there is something intangible... or unattainable... in Baxandall's analysis... as if he were trying to weave a tapestry...out of cotton candy... it dissolves at the touch... or perhaps it is that the evidence, as I suggested in my update, does not *fully* or conclusively complete or 'clinch' the questions asked... Yet those que Despite the fact that this is an utterly brilliant and original -- and, indeed, an important -- book, I can understand why some have given it 4, or even a mere 3-stars.... there is something intangible... or unattainable... in Baxandall's analysis... as if he were trying to weave a tapestry...out of cotton candy... it dissolves at the touch... or perhaps it is that the evidence, as I suggested in my update, does not *fully* or conclusively complete or 'clinch' the questions asked... Yet those questions themselves are so startlingly original and apt, and so precisely formulated... that this book reallly should be read by anyone who is interested, not just in Renaissance art, but in cultural history as such -- in the formation of Western man, in fact... It is misleading, as I've said, to argue that Baxandall's is an attempt at the 'social history' of art, as is often done. That is not at all what he is up to. Rather, he is trying to put in focus the mentalité of the Quattrocentro by showing how patterns of vision, and habits of vision, were formed... and expressed... and he does this, in large part, by showing how a purely formalist analysis (and that should be stressed) can be developed by comparing the categories by which the Renaissance itself conceived its art to the categories used in Renaissance literary (i.e., verbal) analysis -- much of which goes back to the time of Quintillian. So, the concluding section (for example) shows how the apparently vague and (at first sight) completely subjective terms which Cristoforo Landino and Leon Battista Alberti applied in their analyses of painters such as Masaccio and Fra Angelico - terms like 'puro', 'facilita', 'gratioso', 'ornato', 'colorire' (tone) and 'disegno' (line), 'prompto', 'vezzoso' (blithe), and even 'devoto' -- along with more precise and familiar terms, such as the 'imitatore della nature', 'rilievo', 'prospectivo', 'varieta', 'compositione', 'scorci' (foreshortening) -- ALL have precise and formalizable meanings that can be paralleled (and accounted for) by the formal categories used in 15th cen. sermons and rhetoric. At any rate - this very short and suggestive book is, imo, a *must* (though not always an easy) read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Painting and Experience is a fascinating book about Renaissance art where Baxandall attempts to get us into the mind of the artists and their patrons during this particularly effervescent period of art history. It is written in an accessible style and has a nice translation at the end of the qualities that were most important for artists of this period. I really enjoyed this book as it brought me a few new insights into some of my favorite artists.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Manda

    This is honestly one of the best books I have read on the subject of Renaissance Art, and should be considered a primer by anyone who is delving into the topic. It's a short and relatively digestible read, with a numbering system dividing all of the major points. Baxendall's methodology is an interesting mix of archival dependance and social history. The book is framed around a quotation describing several Italian artists during the Renaissance; in the beginning he presents the problem of correc This is honestly one of the best books I have read on the subject of Renaissance Art, and should be considered a primer by anyone who is delving into the topic. It's a short and relatively digestible read, with a numbering system dividing all of the major points. Baxendall's methodology is an interesting mix of archival dependance and social history. The book is framed around a quotation describing several Italian artists during the Renaissance; in the beginning he presents the problem of correctly interpreting why these artists were respected. After laying a firm ground of how painting (and by extension, religion) was received and understood by the layperson, he explains the particular meaning of each of the adjectives used to describe the artists at the beginning. For anyone interested in understanding the Italian Renaissance, this book is an essential.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Really fun book -- I kept cracking up at some of the primary material, and Baxandall's deadpan critism of Renaissance culture -- eg., on the various ways to calculate volume: "It is a special intellectual world." Also invaluable for deconstructing the semiotics of Renaissance imagery and iconography, for situating the type and content of art created in its proper cultural milieu, and the commoditisation of art as a cultural exchange in the fifteenth century and beyond. Really fun book -- I kept cracking up at some of the primary material, and Baxandall's deadpan critism of Renaissance culture -- eg., on the various ways to calculate volume: "It is a special intellectual world." Also invaluable for deconstructing the semiotics of Renaissance imagery and iconography, for situating the type and content of art created in its proper cultural milieu, and the commoditisation of art as a cultural exchange in the fifteenth century and beyond.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jez

    a must-read for an art history student, regardless of their area of focus.

  9. 4 out of 5

    DoctorM

    Excellent look at the business and painterly vocabulary of art in Quattrocento Italy--- how contracts between painter and patron worked, what the economics of paints and canvas and apprentices were like, and what stock gestures and poses said to an urban Italian audience. Baxandall also analyzes paintings in terms of their geometry, of how a mercantile audience taught geometry and gauging as part of daily life saw perspective, and of what the semiotics of background scenes and objects were. "Pai Excellent look at the business and painterly vocabulary of art in Quattrocento Italy--- how contracts between painter and patron worked, what the economics of paints and canvas and apprentices were like, and what stock gestures and poses said to an urban Italian audience. Baxandall also analyzes paintings in terms of their geometry, of how a mercantile audience taught geometry and gauging as part of daily life saw perspective, and of what the semiotics of background scenes and objects were. "Painting and Experience" brings the best of neo-Marxist analysis to art--- looking at material culture as a base for ideas, looking at the concrete objects behind aesthetics. Well-written, clear, with good examples...although the colour plates in my (yes, inexpensive paperbound) edition are of dubious quality... Very much worth reading for anyone looking at the history of art or at how to do history through material culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    Baxandall demonstrates that art style (rather than merely content) is an appropriate and useful material for social history. He argues that "social facts" contribute to the development of "distinctive visual skills and habits." Baxandall demonstrates that art style (rather than merely content) is an appropriate and useful material for social history. He argues that "social facts" contribute to the development of "distinctive visual skills and habits."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Like any devoted Renaissance historian, I don't go anywhere without my Baxandall. Like any devoted Renaissance historian, I don't go anywhere without my Baxandall.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kiely

    A very interesting and helpful book, particularly for it's explanation and categorization of images of the Annunciation in Renaissance artwork. A very interesting and helpful book, particularly for it's explanation and categorization of images of the Annunciation in Renaissance artwork.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This book completely changed the way I Will experience visual art, it taught me a lot about 15th century Italy and it made me smile. Here are a couple of quotes to give you a feel for why. "The first fifteenth century was a period of bespoke painting, however, and this book is about the customer's participation in it." (P.3). "..an expectation that the picture should tell a story in a clear way for the simple and an eye-catching way for the forgetful, and with full use of all the emotional resou This book completely changed the way I Will experience visual art, it taught me a lot about 15th century Italy and it made me smile. Here are a couple of quotes to give you a feel for why. "The first fifteenth century was a period of bespoke painting, however, and this book is about the customer's participation in it." (P.3). "..an expectation that the picture should tell a story in a clear way for the simple and an eye-catching way for the forgetful, and with full use of all the emotional resources of the sense of sight." (P.41). "He compliments the beholder's interior vision.... The best painting s often express their culture not just directly but complimentary, because it is by complimenting it that they are best designed to serve public need: the public does not need what it has already got." (P. 47, 48). The "polite, business-like and religious systems of discrimination" are all explained succinctly in chapter two and then with humor "it may be infected that the Quattrocento man invoked by the last chapter is just a church-going business man with a taste for dancing." (P.109). Finally, at the conclusion of his analysis of the Italian fifteenth century society through analysis of paintings (as important as written records): The Eye is called the first of all the gates Through which Intellect may learn and taste. The Ear is second, with the attentive Word That and and nourishes the Mind. (Feo Belcari, 1449) Although I found Baxandall's words very nourishing indeed.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Uriah Marc Todoroff

    Great textbook on the social history method of art history. In my Art History Methods class, "Social History of Art" was presented as the "Marxist" way of doing art history, and it's good, but essentially apolitical. I remain hopeful that there is a way to do a strictly formal analysis in some way that is communist. A large part of me--the part of me that wants to contribute to building communism by doing art criticism--feels as though achieving "right consciousness" is (at least) an important p Great textbook on the social history method of art history. In my Art History Methods class, "Social History of Art" was presented as the "Marxist" way of doing art history, and it's good, but essentially apolitical. I remain hopeful that there is a way to do a strictly formal analysis in some way that is communist. A large part of me--the part of me that wants to contribute to building communism by doing art criticism--feels as though achieving "right consciousness" is (at least) an important part of building revolution; but I also understand that this is a limited, perhaps armchair perspective that doesn't replace organizing, blah blah. Anyway, this text was quite educational, very adeptly demonstrating the method while also imparting quite a lot of knowledge about the society and culture of the Quattrocento. After reading two very classic methodological textbooks that focus on the Renaissance (along with Principles of Art History), I feel an urge to move backwards in time and read something about Byzantium.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tutankhamun18

    I was very drawn to the subject matter of this book and ordered it online. When it arrived, flipping through the pages this book published in the 80s looked quite dry. However, I was very wrong. This little book takes you through social and education norms of the fifteeth century that would have shaped a viweres perception of a painting such as wanting to show off wealth via expensive pigments, wanting to show off taste by being able to judge skill, how mathematics of proportion, ratios and conv I was very drawn to the subject matter of this book and ordered it online. When it arrived, flipping through the pages this book published in the 80s looked quite dry. However, I was very wrong. This little book takes you through social and education norms of the fifteeth century that would have shaped a viweres perception of a painting such as wanting to show off wealth via expensive pigments, wanting to show off taste by being able to judge skill, how mathematics of proportion, ratios and conversion was used much more frequently than today and allusions to such principles in art would have greatly pleased viewers and how when special attention is paid to meaning f hand gestures in the figures more can be revealed about the painting. Really great little book!!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    othryswhisper

    I don’t know what to make of this book. On one hand there where chapters that I really liked and that captivated me, but then there where some parts that could not have been more boring for me. I forced myself into reading them and I desperately tried to like this book ... Not very successful, maybe it was the way the book is written ? In general it is a great source of Information for people who want to learn more about painting in the renaissance. I must admit it’s very academically written with w I don’t know what to make of this book. On one hand there where chapters that I really liked and that captivated me, but then there where some parts that could not have been more boring for me. I forced myself into reading them and I desperately tried to like this book ... Not very successful, maybe it was the way the book is written ? In general it is a great source of Information for people who want to learn more about painting in the renaissance. I must admit it’s very academically written with which I normally have no problem except in this case. It could be due to the fact that the text where originally lectures for art students. Maybe it’s more a book you pick up sometimes and not read in one run.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lovett Salander

    It's an art's book, that is not hard technical, but broad view, it mixes academic data of the paintings and technique with how's related to everyday life in Reinassance. That makes an interesting book if you like art even if you are not a person with lot of knowledge of the theme. Plus it's short book. It's an art's book, that is not hard technical, but broad view, it mixes academic data of the paintings and technique with how's related to everyday life in Reinassance. That makes an interesting book if you like art even if you are not a person with lot of knowledge of the theme. Plus it's short book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy Jane

    Probably the best book on 15th century art, Baxandall is an authority on his subject. He writes clearly and without pretension on what can be a difficult theme. With relevant references to quattrocento texts we are given a true perspective on the artists and the audiences on the meaning of art. One criticism: not enough colour plates.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Johns

    A scholarly work throughout. The reader needs to be diligent and carefully read the entire book but the rewards are there to be grasped. You'll be better able to decipher both the content of 15th century Renaissance art and begin to understand the intent of individual artists who left us their wonderful masterworks. A scholarly work throughout. The reader needs to be diligent and carefully read the entire book but the rewards are there to be grasped. You'll be better able to decipher both the content of 15th century Renaissance art and begin to understand the intent of individual artists who left us their wonderful masterworks.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Samuels

    A useful source for getting into the headspace of contemporary artists/patrons/viewers. The author employs an intensive psychological approach to analyze various facets of artwork. Unfortunately, the specificity of observation fails to yield an overarching conclusion. More of a "specialty" book than a layman's tool for research. A useful source for getting into the headspace of contemporary artists/patrons/viewers. The author employs an intensive psychological approach to analyze various facets of artwork. Unfortunately, the specificity of observation fails to yield an overarching conclusion. More of a "specialty" book than a layman's tool for research.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael McNamara

    A beautiful, detailed study of how the style of pictures reflect social history of a specific historical history. The way early Renaissance painting evolved mirrors the development of various social institutions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    My lecturer mentioned this in three consecutive lectures, which had to be a good endorsement. It was definitely worth reading (it's a relatively easy read, short and well-written) and I'm sure I'll return to it over the next few years of studying. My lecturer mentioned this in three consecutive lectures, which had to be a good endorsement. It was definitely worth reading (it's a relatively easy read, short and well-written) and I'm sure I'll return to it over the next few years of studying.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    My lecturer mentioned this in three consecutive lectures, which had to be a good endorsement. It was definitely worth reading (it's a relatively easy read, short and well-written) and I'm sure I'll return to it over the next few years of studying. My lecturer mentioned this in three consecutive lectures, which had to be a good endorsement. It was definitely worth reading (it's a relatively easy read, short and well-written) and I'm sure I'll return to it over the next few years of studying.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I just read one chapter, which I had to for my History of Art classes. Even though it was in French I could understand Baxandall's ideas behind what was written (In some other oeuvres it is really complicated and hard to follow an art historian's way of thinking). To me Baxandalls were really clear. I read the chapter about the contracts, which were made to assure a painter's good work, he had to use a certain kind of material, precise in the contract, otherwise he would not be payed or worse im I just read one chapter, which I had to for my History of Art classes. Even though it was in French I could understand Baxandall's ideas behind what was written (In some other oeuvres it is really complicated and hard to follow an art historian's way of thinking). To me Baxandalls were really clear. I read the chapter about the contracts, which were made to assure a painter's good work, he had to use a certain kind of material, precise in the contract, otherwise he would not be payed or worse imprisoned. But it was prove too for the painter on how much he got payed and he could reset the contract if his expanses were higher. This chapter alone brought me closer to the artists, because of their handwritten letters featured to underline a certain saying. I imagine the whole book to be written in the same manner. I will for sure buy it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    This book was recommended me by a former classmate who claimed it to contain an exposé on the meaning of wrinkles and other physiognomous traits in Italian painting from the Middle Ages and on through the Renaissance and Baroque eras. As it turns out she must have had some other volume in mind as this book barely touches on physiognomics on a page or two. It did contain quite a few other interesting tidbits, but since I was reading in search of one thing in particular, wrinkles, disappointment a This book was recommended me by a former classmate who claimed it to contain an exposé on the meaning of wrinkles and other physiognomous traits in Italian painting from the Middle Ages and on through the Renaissance and Baroque eras. As it turns out she must have had some other volume in mind as this book barely touches on physiognomics on a page or two. It did contain quite a few other interesting tidbits, but since I was reading in search of one thing in particular, wrinkles, disappointment at not finding them may have occluded my appreciation of those other points.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    I read this while studying for my A-levels and remember finding it quite thrilling at the time, especially after taking an Easter break in Florence and experiencing a lot of the art discussed first-hand. Now, a quarter-century on, I'm again going to Florence for an Easter break. Can anyone recommend a more recent book that offers a more up-to-date perspective on the Florentine renaissance? I'd be interested to see what has happened in the intervening years. I read this while studying for my A-levels and remember finding it quite thrilling at the time, especially after taking an Easter break in Florence and experiencing a lot of the art discussed first-hand. Now, a quarter-century on, I'm again going to Florence for an Easter break. Can anyone recommend a more recent book that offers a more up-to-date perspective on the Florentine renaissance? I'd be interested to see what has happened in the intervening years.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    I don't even like the Renaissance all that much, to be honest, but this is an interesting exploration of some of the underlying themes and ideas of the period. I especially loved the categorization of Annunciation paintings, which initiated a sort of personal obsession with the Annunciation theme in visual art. I don't even like the Renaissance all that much, to be honest, but this is an interesting exploration of some of the underlying themes and ideas of the period. I especially loved the categorization of Annunciation paintings, which initiated a sort of personal obsession with the Annunciation theme in visual art.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    One of the best books about the Italian Renaissance. Period. Coming in at only 179 pages, this brilliant book had me rummagaing through art pictures re-looking at a number of old masters in a new light. Couldn't believe what I was now seeing that was so obvious before. If you love the Renaissance, do yourself a favor and read this book. One of the best books about the Italian Renaissance. Period. Coming in at only 179 pages, this brilliant book had me rummagaing through art pictures re-looking at a number of old masters in a new light. Couldn't believe what I was now seeing that was so obvious before. If you love the Renaissance, do yourself a favor and read this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Justus

    Its only been on my shelves for 15 years, but I finally did get around to reading it. Very interesting way to look at renaissance painting. I wish I read this before visiting Italy. I appreciate art criticism that looks at the world that surrounds the works, I think a myopic focus on the work or the artists is usually not very interesting.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Birdief

    I thought this was an excellent book. It is a good few years since I read it, but it has stayed with me. An engaging look at not just the art of the Rennaissance, but also the social and economic climate in which it was made. It sparked myimagination and left me wishing all art history books took this kind of approach. A very stimulating introduction to art in this period.

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