Vacillating between the majesty of the Greco-Byzantine heritage and the modernity forecasted by Giotto, Early Italian painting summarises the first steps that led to the Renaissance.
Trying out new media, those first artists left frescoes for removable panels. If the sacred faces shock us novices, this distance was more than wanted during this era and in order to emphasise the divinity of the characters; it highlighted their divinity and comforted the sanctified with a background covered with gold leaves. The elegance of the line and the colour choice was combined to reinforce the symbolic choices. The half-confessed ultimate goal of the early Italian artists was to make the invisible... visible.
In this magnificent book, the author emphasises the importance that the rivalry between the Siennese and Florentine schools played for the evolution of art history. And the reader, in the course of these forgotten masterworks, will discover how, little by little, the sacred became incarnate and more human... opening a discrete but definitive door through the use of anthropomorphism, as was cherished by the Renaissance.
Sir Joseph Archer Crowe was an English consular official and art critic, whose volumes of The History of Painting in Italy, co-written with the Italian critic Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle (1819-1897), stand at the beginning of disciplined, modern art-history writing in English. With Cavalcaselle (an Italian writer and art critic), he produced several historical works on art of classic importance, notably Early Flemish Painters (London,1857) and A New History of Painting in Italy from the Second to the Sixteenth Century (London, 1864-1871, 5 vols.).
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