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The Italian Renaissance Still Matters: A Compilation of Recent Studies (September 2022): The Arts

By Brian Jeffrey Maxson

The Arts

The Italian Renaissance remains synonymous with the art of people like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarotti, and Donatello, and, accordingly, new and interesting work continues to emerge on them and on dozens of other artistic figures from the period. Francesca Fiorani’s historiographical essay “Leonardo da Vinci Studies,” published in the valuable journal Renaissance Quarterly, considers recent work focused on the artist.1 Christopher Nygren’s important new book Titian’s Icons contextualizes Renaissance painter Titian within the broader, changing contexts of religion, art, and ideas about devotion at the time.

Exhibits devoted to artists, along with their published catalogues, continue to generate interest in and insights into both well- and little-known figures. For instance, the Metropolitan Musuem of Art’s The Medici exhibit and catalogue, curated/edited by Keith Christiansen and Carlo Falciani, displays images of the Medici family, and Donatello: The Renaissance, edited by Francesco Caglioti—the catalogue of an exhibition by the same name at Florence’s Strozzi Palace and curated by Caglioti—brings together many of the artist’s surviving works.

In addition to these new studies dedicated to the most famous Renaissance artists, current scholarship has opened new and exciting areas for better understanding the period’s visual cultures, as scholars have begun revisiting the origins and meaning of Renaissance art. Previously, styles like naturalism and classicism, and places like Florence, Venice, and Rome, have been associated with the Renaissance. Recent studies reveal the existence of an exciting range of styles in many different parts of the Italian peninsula during the period, as Stephen Campbell details in The Endless Periphery. Other studies expand ideas about Renaissance art to include more than just painting, sculpture, and architecture. Scholars have published fascinating studies of maps, such as Mark Rosen’s The Mapping of Power in Renaissance Italy, and of clothing, such as Timothy McCall’s Brilliant Bodies, among many other material remains from the Renaissance world. Other studies, for example Blake Wilson’s Singing to the Lyre in Renaissance Italy and Niall Atkinson’s The Noisy Renaissance, shed new light on the period’s music and sounds, respectively.

1. Fiorani, Francesca. “Leonardo da Vinci Studies: The State of the Field at the 500th Anniversary of the Artist’s Death.” Renaissance Quarterly 75, no. 1 (2022): 185-203.

Works Cited