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Early Italian Renaissance Art: Florentine Vs. Sienese Art

2306 words - 9 pages

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a transformation occurred in Italy with respect to society, economics, politics, and religion. One of the major factors that led to such a change was the shift from a farming culture to a culture of industry dominated by merchants. This led to an urban economy, the expansion of cities, and the alteration of government to accommodate the growing population. In addition, Christian sects such as the Franciscans and the Dominicans began to form, advocating new religious philosophies involving bringing faith to the masses. This combination of reform in the economy and in organized religion brought about an increase in the production of art. The creation of artworks became an esteemed industry, and artists gained more respect in the eyes of Italian citizens. Typically, most of the art that was produced was religious in nature, and was seen as a mechanism for visually representing faith in a more tangible manner. During this dynamic period, artistic styles began to change as well. A transition from medieval, Byzantine art to a more naturalistic, humanistic style occurred in Italy. This included an increase in drama and emotion in art and a revival of Classical forms and ideals, leading to the designation of the period as the "Renaissance," meaning rebirth.Two rival schools of painting, Siena and Florence, rose to the forefront of this transformation during the beginnings of the Renaissance. In his Lives of the Artists, Vasari denotes the main proponents of the movements in Siena and Florence to be Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto di Bondone, respectively. Vasari saw Duccio, called the "Father of the Sienese Renaissance" by many art historians, as an extremely talented artist who deserves much respect and consideration. He credits Duccio with initiating a new period in aesthetics characterized by a combination of the old style with new methods such as modeling with chiaroscuro, a greater degree of naturalism, more vivid colors, and a highly revered method of storytelling. Duccio made use of several Classical and Byzantine conventions, such as a shimmering gold background, but infused into that tradition his own new stylistic techniques. Vasari includes among Duccio's many accomplishments his work in the Duomo of Siena. He especially acclaims Duccio's "Coronation of Our Lady," which was previously located on the altar of the Duomo.Giotto rose to fame as the principle figure of the Florentine tradition, and his technical skill in the field of painting was recognized and praised by his contemporaries. Giotto also incorporated much humanism into his art, even painting a naturalistic landscape and background in many of his works. In comparison with his writings about Duccio, Vasari's excerpts regarding Giotto are substantially greater in length and filled with much more admiration, indicating his ties with the city of Florence. Vasari states that painters owe the same debt to Giotto as they do to nature, both of...

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