The Springtime of the Renaissance

The Springtime of the Renaissance

Palazzo Strozzi is performing this season a new first rank exhibition: The Springtime of the Renaissance: the “miracle” of the Renaissance in Florence analysed through masterpieces of sculpture.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the art in Florence – frescoes, paintings, sculpture, altarpieces, you name it, abound in Michelangelo’s hometown – and no self-respecting art lover would miss a visit to the birthplace of the Renaissance art movement!

Our favorite stops include the Galleria dell’Accademia (Academy Gallery) home to Michelangelo’s David (arguably the world’s best-known sculpture) the Duomo, where you need to look up to see its marvelous dome: and, of course, the Uffizi Gallery, the first modern museum in all of Europe and modern-day showcase for paintings by Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo.

To better appreciate the wonders of Renaissance sculpture, we must start to look beyond Michelangelo's David. Michelangelo had very important predecessors, whose outstanding works set the scene for the classical revival in Sculpture.

Palazzo Strozzi is performing this season a new first rank exhibition: The Springtime of the Renaissance: the “miracle” of the Renaissance in Florence analysed through masterpieces of sculpture: the art that it first interpreted and promoted – giving us even more reason to rank Florence among the best cities for art lovers.

This exhibition proposes to illustrate, in theme based sections, the origin of what is still known today as the ‘rebirth’, the Renaissance in Florence, doing so principally through sculpture. Thus, arranged around the city’s absolute symbol – Brunelleschi’s Cupola for the Cathedral – the exhibition offers a retrospective of sculpture that was also to have a crucial impact on the development of other figurative arts.

The exhibition opens with a striking panorama that reveals the rediscovery of antiquity, illustrated by some of the finest examples of the first ‘rebirth’ between the 13th and the 14th centuries, with works by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Giotto, Arnolfo and Tino da Camaino.

The beginning of the New Age coincided with the new century; its greatest expressive heights that correspond with the founding of the early Renaissance are represented by the two reliefs of the Sacrifice of Isaac for the doors of the Baptistery.

It is here we must introduce the goldsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti and his bronze panel. One thing we can say about his panel is that is it sublimely beautiful - and deliberately designed to be so. The sensual contrapposto is here again employed.

Subsequently, Donatello, Nanni di Banco, Michelozzo carried out masterpieces of public monumental sculpture for all the great construction sites in the city and there were the first and finest examples of a new, creative style of art. This statuary was to exercise a profound influence on the painting of the greatest artists of the time, among them Masaccio, Piero della Francesca and Filippo Lippi.

The search for ‘rational’ space together with Brunelleschi’s invention of perspective, were in fact to find their most advanced formulations in sculpture. From the 1420’s, the new rules for sculpture developed by the great masters and illustrated by several masterpieces multiplied thanks to the enormous number of reliefs created for private devotion which permitted a widespread distribution of a taste for this new beauty in all the social stratas. An incredible range of sculptural styles and subjects were therefore concentrated around the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, the city’s greatest symbol, represented in the exhibition by the original wooden model, and were decisive for the evolution of other figurative arts, in direct comparison with the previous classical examples: from the tombs of the humanists and their sarcophagi derivations, to the rebirth of the equestrian monument and the sculpted portrait.

In the last section, the sculpted bust, which saw its genesis in the marble busts by Mino da Fiesole and Antonio Rossellino in the mid-century, led to the transition from the Florentine libertas, represented by public commissions, to private patronage, which already bore the signs of the new domination of the Medici.