The art of Giotto and Duccio was once known as primitive, and useful only as a prelude to the Renaissance. However, recent scholarship allows us to study the brilliant artists of Florence and Siena in their own right.
Italian art from the late 13th and 14th centuries was once known as primitive because it was seen largely as a transition from Medieval abstraction to the naturalism of the Renaissance (with a dose of Byzantine influence thrown in for good measure). Despite the Black Death, we now study the brilliant artists of Florence and Siena in their own right.
When Vasari wrote his enormously influential book, Lives of the Artists, in the 16th century, he credited Giotto, the 14th century Florentine artist with beginning "the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years." For Vasari, Giotto was the first artist to leave behind the medieval practice of painting what one knows and believes, for what one sees. This tutorial looks at painting and sculpture in Florence to highlight some of the most influential art of the 14th century.
When we think of the Renaissance, we tend to think of Florence (and Rome). But the city of Siena also deserves our attention. Today, the lovely walled city of Siena is one of the best preserved Medieval cities in Europe and it was chosen by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. In the 14th century, Siena was a wealthy independent nation and often at war with its neighbor, Florence. Some of the most important art of the 14th century was commissioned for Siena’s Cathedral and town hall. Duccio and his students, the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini produced large-scale painting with an intricacy and subtle coloration that is unique in the Renaissance.