Beacon Lights of History : Renaissance and Reformation, Volume VI (Illustrated)

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  1. Beacon Lights of History, Vol 6: Renaissance and Reformation
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Things Sicilian, such as information concerning the principal cities, monuments and scenery. Part III. The Elenco. A table of the Sicilian Railways and the coaches running in connection with them. The binding and text block are firm. Text and illustrations are clear and crisp through mild age toning. The folding map shows well, with a small tear and age toning.

He was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors, including W. Auden, C. Lewis, J. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit, and Madeleine L'Engle. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later", said Lewis, "I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.

Chesterton cited "The Princess and the Goblin" as a book that had "made a difference to my whole existence". The original dust jacket is intact. Both the dust jacket and the book are illustrated by Maurice Sendak, whose original signature appears on the front flyleaf. He became widely known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, first published in Born to Jewish-Polish parents, his childhood was affected by the death of many of his family members during the Holocaust.

These volumes contain the Constitution of the State of New York with Amendments, and laws pertaining to such topics as impeachments, infectious diseases, murder, naturalization, mad persons, maiming, posthumous children, toll bridges, aqueducts, horse racing, school money, and more. Volume I has a detached front board. The important point to be made is that the medieval and Renaissance period was not parochial and neither were its artists. Any notion of the humble medieval artist oblivious to anything beyond his own immediate environment must be dispelled.

Artists and patrons were well aware of artistic developments in other countries. Artists travelled both within and between countries and on occasion even between continents. Such mobility was facilitated by the network of European courts, which were instrumental in the rapid spread of Italian Renaissance art. Europe-wide frameworks of philosophical and theological thought, reaching back to antiquity and governing religious art, applied — albeit with regional variations — throughout Europe, just as challenges in the form of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations rapidly became pan-European phenomena.

Medieval art and Renaissance art present a challenge to this definition. Literary statements of what constituted the arts during the medieval period are rare, particularly in northern Europe, but proliferate in the Renaissance.

Beacon Lights of History, Vol 6: Renaissance and Reformation

They deliver the odd surprise. In , the Netherlandish writer Jean Lemaire de Belges wrote a poem for his patron Margaret of Austria, sister of the ruler of the Netherlands, in which he listed prominent artists of the day. In addition to painters, he mentions book illuminators, a printmaker, tapestry designers and goldsmiths Stechow, [], pp.

According to Vasari, several other Italian Renaissance artists are supposed to have trained initially as goldsmiths, including the sculptors Ghiberti — and Verrocchio —88 , and the painters Botticelli c. All of this calls into question the subsequent academic division between the so-called arts of design and crafts, and not least the relegation of goldsmiths to the realm of craft.

Before at least, art did not signify painting or sculpture to be scrutinised in a gallery, but an aspect of the persuasive power and cultural identity of church, ruler, city, institution or individual. In this sense, art might be considered alongside ceremonies, for example, as strategies conveying social meaning or magnificence, or alongside coins and ceramics as aspects of identity.

Equally, visual culture serves as an eloquent indicator of gender. If art is defined, as it was in later centuries, solely as an aesthetic entity prompting scrutiny for its own sake alone, then the purposefulness of the varied forms of art produced during the medieval and Renaissance period might appear to lie outside this definition. Yet objects were made that invited the most attentive scrutiny for their ingenuity in design while at the same time fulfilling a variety of functions.

Purposefulness is also predicated on skills of looking and interpreting. For example, the wealthy lavished money on rich artefacts or dynastic portraits in part because they were an aspect of the social exclusiveness that a representative number of their entourage could notice and grasp. In reiterating the convention that religious art was particularly useful for those unable to read, medieval thinkers seem to have assumed that ordinary people too were capable of thoughtful looking.

This suggests that attentive and intelligent scrutiny was a cultural skill that might, to a degree at least, be taken for granted by both patrons and artists during the medieval and Renaissance periods. Works of art might not have hung in galleries, but it seems that medieval and Renaissance audiences knew how to look at them. It is also the case that some objects, particularly those made by ancient Greek and Roman artists, were indeed treated as objects for aesthetic admiration during the fifteenth century. Among these were the highly prized antique cameos owned by the Medici family in Florence Richardson et al.

Earlier written evidence that works of art were recognised as offering visual delight quite apart from function and meaning is sparse but there is a little. In a treatise written sometime between and his death in , Lucas, Bishop of Tuy in Spain, reiterated the medieval convention that the purpose of religious art in churches was both to convey doctrine and to inspire imitation.

He also recognised a third category, however, that some art in churches was there simply for adornment:. The profusion and variety of ornament in some medieval church architecture or in illuminated manuscripts suggests his was not an isolated view, for all that it was seldom articulated Schapiro, His statement is a valuable indication that even within the church, art might serve the purposes of simple enjoyment. It seems implausible that visual delight did not also form a key motive for lay patrons to commission art for their own private use.

The fact that a work of art had a function did not mean that artistic quality was a matter of indifference. Those scrutinising the masterpieces must have had a clear idea of the criteria of quality they were hoping for, even if these criteria were never set down in writing. The careful selection of artists even from far-flung locations, and the preference for one practitioner above another, shows that patrons too were quite capable of discriminating on the basis of artistic prowess.

Abbot Suger c. The effectiveness of a work of art depended to a great extent on peculiarly artistic factors. This much is implied by the Libri Carolini written at the court of the Emperor Charlemagne as early as c. A work of art during the medieval and Renaissance period was expected to be of high quality as well as purposeful.

Froissart encountered him in Bourges in France at the court of Jean, Duc de Berry — , where he worked from to At slightly under life-size, it would almost certainly have been commissioned rather than sent for speculative sale. Italy was certainly not short of skilled local sculptors in the later part of the fourteenth century.

This statue is very likely to have been perceived as distinctively different from Venetian sculpture. To go to the trouble and expense of transporting it from northern Europe represents a deliberate choice on the part of the commissioner, whether an individual, group or institution, that requires explanation. It remains uncertain whether his Venetian patron desired a Beauneveu-style statue for the reflected prestige value of the French court or of Beauneveu himself, as sculptor at no less than three different courts, or for its artistic qualities first and foremost see Nuttall, The possibilities are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

It is worth stating, however, that for a high-status, courtly work of art this is not an extravagantly expensive sculpture, despite its size.

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The statue is made out of ordinary stone, not a particularly rare or valuable material, though the pigments used to paint it and the formidable transport costs would have added greatly to the price. It is unlikely to have impressed for its intrinsic material value, however. The renowned art historian Michael Baxandall — identified a crucial change in values around the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Increasingly, he argued, patrons were impressed not by material ostentation of precious materials such as gold and expensive pigments, but by the prowess of the artist Baxandall, , Chapter 1. This is a key and much cited point that deserves closer discussion. There is no doubt that artistic skill had always been valued, demonstrated in the virtuoso character of works of art associated with courts and the prestige of artists such as Beauneveu cited above, and in the careful selection of outstanding artists to work on expensive, high-status projects such as great churches.

Artistic skill per se was not really the issue at stake; it was the cultural importance of expensive materials, the status of painting and the status of artists. Even taking into account expensive pigments, the use of gold and painstaking labour, painting was a relatively low-cost option compared with the work of goldsmiths or embroiderers, for example. While prices were linked to the cost of materials, it was affordable by a much wider range of clients, and hence could not offer the social elite the exclusive cultural cachet they sought.

It was when artistic skill became a commodity to be appropriated by the elite that painting attained parity with the arts more traditionally associated with the very wealthy. It circulated in the following year in Italian, but this first edition appears to have been directed at the patron class as it was in Latin, with which the ordinary artist was unlikely to be familiar. They think it gives majesty. Here Alberti confronts the mentality that looked to precious materials for ostentation, and suggests that prestige lies in the prowess of the artist alone.

Painting had a long history in Italy, in northern Europe and in the Greek world, but this jostling for primacy is very much a fifteenth-century phenomenon. The eventual success of the arguments should not blind us to the fact that painting was one art among many before this date. Its importance, however, was increasing. One example will suffice to illustrate the point. The legendary Medici family were self-styled rulers of Florence but not of noble, let alone royal, extraction, and hence the imperative of material ostentation was perhaps less powerful than it might have been, say, for a northern European king, and even inadvisable where the degree of magnificence was widely expected to correspond to social class.

For this reason, despite their wealth, painting was arguably a medium in keeping with Medici status. The second Figure 5 shows the Sienese leader falling from his horse, and the third Figure 6 shows Florentine troops attacking from the rear. These three huge paintings were of a size and subject matter to warrant display in a public place as a commemoration of a famous victory and stimulus to Florentine patriotism. In fact, paintings of comparable secular subjects had been produced over a century earlier for precisely these motives, so the subject matter in itself does not signify a fundamental innovation.

The painter Simone Martini contributed to a series of wall paintings of Sienese castles in the Siena town hall in the s, apparently as a record of the military might of Siena. The San Romano pictures were designed for private viewing, however. The Medici did not commission these battle scenes, however. They were originally owned by a wealthy Florentine family, the Bartolini Salimbeni. It appears that Lorenzo took advantage of his involvement in the division of the family property in to appropriate the pictures without the consent of at least one of the brothers.

This in itself testifies to the value Lorenzo placed on adding the paintings to the Medici collection. In , Damiano Bartolini Salimbeni brought an unsuccessful court case to get them back see Gordon, , pp. Originally designed to fill the arch-topped walls of a room, the pictures were in effect vandalised by the Medici, who cut them down at the top and built them up at the corners to make three rectangular paintings that could hang side-by-side, rather like tapestries.

Battle scenes were a favourite subject for northern European tapestries, which may well have been too expensive to be within the grasp of the Bartolini Salimbeni family. The Medici could and did afford expensive tapestries imported from the Netherlands, so the fact that Lorenzo coveted these paintings appears symptomatic of the increasing enthusiasm for painting from the fifteenth century onwards. In Italy, at least, the rising prestige of painting was linked to the prestige attached to ancient Greek and Roman culture, evident throughout the medieval period and particularly prominent from the fourteenth century onwards in what has come to be known as the Italian Renaissance.

Alberti drew on a variety of ancient Roman and Greek texts to champion painting and painters, including comments by the ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder 23—79 CE on ancient Greek artists in his Historia naturalis or Natural History 77 CE. Alberti was certainly not the first to do so. Alberti pointed out that ancient philosophers and kings had enjoyed painting, including it as part of the liberal education of their children and even practising it themselves Alberti, [], pp. Such arguments served to vindicate painting in the minds of status-conscious patrons; they also struck a blow for the status of painters.

Traditionally, a division had been drawn between the manual arts or crafts , undertaken to earn a living and depending on practical skill, and the liberal arts pertaining to the leisured classes and studied for their own sake. Self-evidently, the distinction is a false one in that all artists needed to earn a living. To claim that painting was a liberal art narrowed the social gap between artist and patron, however, and put painting on a par with educated activities to do with reading and writing, such as poetry. For this too there were antique antecedents.

Such comparisons were used to assert the parity of status of painting and poetry, something that neither Horace nor Plutarch is likely to have intended. Alberti himself had received a humanist education based on the study of ancient Greek and Roman culture, and he was not alone in pointing out that painting and drawing had been included in an ancient liberal education.

Early fifteenth-century humanist educator Vittorino da Feltre, working at the Gonzaga court in Mantua, employed artists in the programme of liberal education he offered the sons of rulers Warnke, , p. It is no accident that some of the most famous paintings of all time were commissioned by regional Italian rulers well versed in such humanist ideas.

Just as antiquity provided a model for the status of painting, so it provided a model for the relationship between illustrious patron and artist. Pliny described the esteem in which Alexander the Great held the painter Apelles, visiting his studio, allowing him liberties and even passing on to him his mistress Edwards, , p. In , the Italian sculptor Leone Leoni mentions in a letter that the Emperor Charles V visited his studio and spent two to three hours at a time chatting with him Lymberopoulou et al.

The familiar relationship between artist and ruler by this date is symptomatic on the one hand of the degree to which antique role models were taken to heart and on the other the degree to which artists had made the transition from jobbing craftsmen to respected court employees. Famously, in , the renowned Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci — was invited to the French court of Francis I ruled —47 , perhaps not so much for the work that he might produce at what was then an advanced age, as out of admiration and presumably for the prestige that the presence of such a renowned figure might endow on the French court.

The advancement of artistic status is often associated with princely employment, for example by Martin Warnke in his seminal study of the court artist Warnke, , pp. Given the example of Leonardo da Vinci, this appears to make sense. Maintained on a salary, a court artist was no longer a jobbing craftsman constantly on the lookout for work. Potentially, at least, he had access to projects demanding inventiveness and conferring honour, and time to lavish on his art and on study. Equally, however, court artists might be required to undertake mundane and routine work which they could not very well refuse.

Court salaries were also often in arrears or not paid at all. In the same letter in which Leone Leoni described Charles V chatting with him for two to three hours at a time, he complains of his poverty, while carefully qualifying the complaint by claiming he serves the emperor for honour and cares for studying not moneymaking. The lot of the court artist might appear to fulfil aspirations for artistic status, but it certainly had its drawbacks. The pattern of artistic employment in the medieval period and the Renaissance varied.

Traditionally, craftsmen working on great churches would be employed in workshops on site, albeit often for some length of time; during the course of their career, such craftsmen might move several times from one project to another. Many other artists moved around in search of new opportunities of employment, even to the extent of accompanying a crusade. Artists working for European courts might travel extensively as well, not just within a country but from country to country and court to court: Michael Sittow c.

El Greco — moved between three different countries before finding employment not at the royal court in Spain but in the city of Toledo. Botticelli c. On the other hand, Jan van Eyck c.

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Simone Martini epitomises this range. It remains uncertain whether he travelled to Naples to paint the Saint Louis altarpiece for Robert of Anjou sometime around , or whether the commission was placed remotely, and the panel painted in Siena and exported to Naples. For much of his career, before moving to Avignon in the s to work at the papal court, he had an urban workshop in his native Siena, and received commissions from both civic and ecclesiastical authorities.

The professional benefits of a permanent workshop are reasonably clear in terms of the supply of artistic materials, the employment of long-term assistants and establishing a client base. Whether the advantage lay in urban employment within a guild structure or with employment at a princely court is less clear-cut. While upholding the importance of court employment, Warnke maintains the corollary that the guild structure was stifling to artistic freedom Warnke, , p. Like the role of court artist, this bears closer scrutiny, however. Although there were a few exceptions, notably the imperial free city of Nuremberg, most cities associated with craft industries established guilds sometime during the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries.

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A guild served three main functions: promoting the social welfare of its members, maintaining the quality of its products and protecting its members from competition. This usually meant defining quite carefully the materials and tools that a guild member was allowed to use to prevent activities that infringed the privileges of other guilds and for which they had not been trained, for example a carpenter producing wood sculpture.

It is the protection from competition that art historians have seen as eliminating artistic freedom, but it is worth pausing to wonder whether this view owes more to modern free-market economics than to the realities of fifteenth-century craft practices. In practice, it meant that indigenous craftsmen enjoyed preferential membership rates, but in many artistic centres foreign craftsmen were clearly also welcomed so long as their work reflected favourably on the reputation of the guild.

The higher dues a foreigner had to pay were arguably a way of ensuring this: in order to pay the dues he or more rarely she needed already to have attained a level of success, suggesting a degree of skill that otherwise could not be verified given that the craftsman had trained elsewhere. The protectionism of the Venice guild of stonemasons, which included sculptors, was clearly directed at controlling the influx of itinerant craftsmen and imported works of art for sale; masons wishing to settle and work permanently in the city might do so much more easily Connell, , Chapter 6.

It would be a mistake to accept uncritically the notion that one form of training and practice was inherently more advantageous to artists than another, just as it would be wrong to adopt the idea of artistic progress postulated by Vasari in his Lives.

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Instead, we have here sought to indicate the range and richness of visual culture in medieval Christendom and of some of the artistic developments associated with the Renaissance. We now consider the key developments in the history of western art between c. The most important idea for this purpose is the concept of art itself, which came to be defined in the way that we still broadly understand it today over the course of the centuries explored here.

This concept rests on a distinction between art, on the one hand, and craft, on the other. It assumes that a work of art is to be appreciated and valued for its own sake, whereas other types of artefact serve a social function.

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A significant step in this direction was made by a group of painters and sculptors who in set up an Accademia del Disegno Academy of Design in Florence in order to distinguish themselves from craftsmen organised in guilds. After , academies of art were founded in cities throughout Europe, including Paris and London Most offered training in architecture as well as in painting and sculpture. Other arts, such as landscape gardening, were sometimes included in this category.

Architecture was occasionally excluded on the grounds that it was useful as well as beautiful, but the fine arts were usually defined in terms broad enough to encompass it. I am simplifying here by focusing on function. Such functions continued to play an important role after , especially in the seventeenth century, when academies were rare outside Italy and many artists still belonged to guilds.

The so-called Counter Reformation gave a great boost to Roman Catholic patronage of the arts, as the church sought to renew itself in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation. The commitment to spreading the faith that this organisation embodied helped to shape art not just in Europe but in every part of the world reached by the Catholic Missions, notably Asia and the Americas, throughout the period explored here Figure 7. Even in Catholic countries, however, the religious uses of art slowly declined relative to secular ones. As in the Renaissance, artists served the needs of rulers by surrounding them with an aura of splendour and glory.

The consolidation of power in the hands of a fairly small number of European monarchs meant that their need for ideological justification was all the greater and so too were the resources they had at their disposal for the purpose.


Every aspect of its design glorified the king, not least by celebrating the military exploits that made France the dominant power in Europe during his reign Figure 9. Artists continued to be employed by royal and princely courts for the purpose of painting dynastic portraits, producing designs for tapestries and similar tasks into the nineteenth century. Such art is bourgeois in so far as it owed its existence to the growing importance of trade and industry in Europe since the late medieval period, which gave rise to an increasingly large and influential middle class.

Exemplary in this respect is seventeenth-century Dutch painting, the distinctive features and sheer profusion of which were both made possible by a large population of relatively affluent city-dwellers. In other countries, the commercialisation of society and the urban development that went with it tended to take place more slowly. Britain, however, rapidly caught up with the Netherlands; by , London was being transformed into a modern city characterised by novel uses of space as well as by new building types. Here too, artists produced images that were affordable and appealing to a middle-class audience; notable in this respect was William Hogarth — , who began his career working in the comparatively cheap medium of engraving.

Even his famous set of paintings Marriage A-la-Mode , which satirises the manners and morals of fashionable society, was primarily intended as a model for prints to be made after them Figure What this meant in practice is best demonstrated by the case of easel painting, which had become the dominant pictorial form by Unlike an altarpiece or a fresco, this kind of picture has no fixed place; instead, its frame serves to separate it from its surroundings, allowing it to be hung in almost any setting. In taking the form of a commodity, easel painting accords with the commercial priorities of bourgeois society, even though what appears within the frame may be far removed from these priorities an open landscape, for example: see Figure Autonomous art does not promote Christian beliefs and practices, as religious art traditionally did, but rather is treated by art lovers as itself the source of a special kind of experience, a rarefied or even spiritual pleasure.

What this boils down to is that art increasingly functioned during this period as a cult in its own right, one in which the artist of genius replaces God the creator as the source of meaning and value. This exalted conception of art consolidated the separation between the artist and the craftsman, which had motivated the foundation of the Florentine Academy some two centuries earlier. Nevertheless, throughout the period from to , artists, and of course architects, continued to carry out a wide range of social functions.

They might design a trade card to advertise a shop Figure 13 , for example, or a tomb to commemorate the dead. On the one hand, it was an amateur pastime pursued by both men and women Figure On the other hand, professional draughtsmen produced visual records for commercial, military and scientific purposes Bermingham, Among the various approaches that have been applied to the study of art produced between c.

Art historians who employ this type of approach view the period in terms of a succession of styles: from the Baroque in the seventeenth century, by way of the Rococo in the first half of the eighteenth and Neo-classicism towards the end of the century, to Romanticism in the early nineteenth century. Popular surveys and textbooks continue to be published with titles such as Baroque and Rococo or Neoclassicism , but many scholars have become reluctant to use such labels to sum up the art of a whole epoch.

In preparing the new edition of Dr. It were manifestly impossible to cover in any single volume—except in the dry, cyclopaedic style of chronicling multitudinous facts, so different from the vivid, personal method of Dr. Lord—all the growths of the wonderful period just closed. Finck, the musical critic of the New York Evening Post , and author of various works on music, travel, etc. William A. William Hayes Ward, D.