A few weeks ago, my art history class visited the Uffizi Gallery. Giogio Vasari created the building in 1560 for Cosimo I. It was built to house the offices, tribunals, and archives of the Florentine state. Cosimo I intended to have a collection of antique coins on the top floor but died before he was able to accomplish this. Bernardo Boutalenti built the Tribune for Cosimo I’s collection. In the 18th century, the Uffizi became a museum when Anna Maria de’ Medici donated the family collection under the condition that it stay in Florence for the world to see.
The two types of painting in Florence that we viewed today are Byzantine and Gothic Painting. Byzantine was around the 13th century and even earlier. Byzantine paintings include tempera panels over a gold background. This tempera includes the use of eggs in order to create the paint. The Byzantine style included strict rules for painters and mosaic artists. The figures in paintings were stylized with very long hands, large staring eyes, and long noses. Cimabue’s Madonna Enthroned created in the 1280s is Byzantine. The long hands of the Virgin Mary depict the style. However, Cimabue attempted to abandon some of the formulas in favor of a more natural style. He used larger eyes on the figures and three-quarter views of figures faces. The tempera was done for the high altar of the Church of Santa Trinita, however is now in the Uffizi.
The other type of painting in Florence that we viewed is Gothic Painting. It emerged in the 14th century and includes tempera for wooden panels and wall frescoes. Two schools emerged from gothic painting: the Florentine and the Sienese. Florentine school emphasized the figures in painting and gave a sculptural type of space as well. The Sienese school had a more aristocratic type of painting emphasizing the architecture surrounding the figures giving an architectural type of space.
One of Cimabue’s students, Giotto, followed him and became the founder of the Florentine school of painting. Giotto also created a Madonna Enthroned in 1310. It decorated the high alter of the church of Ognissanti and was influenced not only by Cimabue but Arnolfo’s sculpture as well. The Virgin Mary looks like an overweight housewife compared to other photos and the figures dominate the painting. This is one of Giotto’s mature works.
Duccio di Buoninsegna was the father of Sienese painting. He also painted Madonna Enthroned, which was originally in the Rucelli Chapel at Santa Maria Novella. The painting shows the gracious forms and linear quality typical of the Sienese School. There is an embossing and three quarter view of the faces. The dark blue robe that looks almost black. This color shows the painting is very expensive.
Simone Martini is another Sienese painter. In his Annunciation, created in 1333 for the side alters of Siena Cathedral. It is also a triptych frame although from the top it looks polyptych. Duccio’s brother-in-law Lippo Memmi painted the saints on either side of the canvas.
The third Sienese painter was Ambrogio Lorenzetti. We viewed his Presentation to the Temple created in 1342. It was created for the Siena Cathedral and brings the Florentine sculptural space and Sienese architectural space into one style. The tiles on the painting bring the attention of the view to a central point in the painting.
The International Style lasted between 1400-1420. Simone Martini visited Avignon, France and introduced Sienese painting to the French. This style fused with Northern Gothic and became much more emotional. Around 1400 all of Europe had a common style labeled the International style.
Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi created in 1423 for Palla Strozzi and his chapel in the Sacristy of Santa Trinita. Gentile was one of the first artists to realize the possibilities of a definite light source. In the Nativity there are two light sources that are clearly depicted. One is night, dark light, and the other is natural, light from the spotlight on baby Jesus. The Flight to Egypt shows the sun going down in the west and as the viewer moves their eyes to the left it becomes dark as night. The Adoration of the Magi includes the three Kings in the distant heading to Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, the midwives are painted along with monkeys and jaguars. There are new figures arriving in this artwork that has never been introduced before.
In the beginnings of early Renaissance Painting, Masaccio introduced chiaroscuro, which is painting the figures through light and dark effects. Masaccio’s Madonna and Child with St. Anne represents chiaroscuro very well.