Fine Art Collector | Spring 2018

© 1991, Photo Scala, Florence - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali.

The impact of Humanism is best demonstrated by the commissions of artworks made by the Medici, a wealthy banking family, who were de facto leaders of the Florentine Republic during the second half of the fifteenth century and parts of the sixteenth century. In 1459 the artist Benozzo Gozzoli (c.1421-97) was commissioned by Piero de Medici to decorate the walls of the chapel in the family palace. Produced to affirm both the power and piety of the Medici, Gozzoli’s frescos, which are highlighted by gold leaf, feature portraits of over thirty members of the Medici family and their close circle of associates in the company of the three Magi. Roughly twenty years later, the Primavera of c. 1480 (Fig. 3) by Alessandro Botticelli (1445-1510) is devoid of Christian imagery. Instead, inspired by Alberti’s writings on observing nature and a

rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy.

humanist interest in Greek and Roman culture, Botticelli’s painting can be said to present a scene of classical gods and goddesses from mythology set in a naturalistic-looking Florentine orchard during springtime.

Interpreting Humanist ideas in relation to art

production, Leon Battista Alberti encouraged artists to pay attention to scientific perspective, nature and the classical traditions of ancient Greece and Rome. Arguing that pictorial proportion and arrangement demanded harmony, Alberti was largely responsible for the advent of perspective and the division of two-dimensional artworks into three sections of fore, middle and background, thereby suggesting receding distance. Additionally, following Alberti’s thoughts, artists were also encouraged to use historical subjects, such as biblical stories or classical myths, above other less important subjects such as a landscape.


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