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Painting in central Italy

Video transcript

Niccolo tolentino the Florentine commander rises up on his charger he wears no helmet this is a painting about the Florentine victory over the Sienese that was part of a broader conflict with the city of Lucca and of course the Italian city-states were always at war with one another and this painting of the Battle of San Romano is actually one of three panels of this subject that were meant as a set one of the others as an effete see and the other is in the Louvre in Paris and they're large paintings so you really feel as if the battle is in front of you so imagine the three together and they were all together in the Medici Palace these paintings were a favorite of Lorenzo de Medici who actually had them forcibly removed from the home of the family that had commissioned them in Florence and brought to the Medici Palace which you could do if you were Enzo de Medici basically the ruler of Florence it is the scene of a battle but the painting to me is it's about two competing elements of painting in Florence in the first half of the 15th century Paolo Uccello the artist was a very much product of international gothic of this late strain of Gothic style that really emphasized pattern and the decorative on the other hand he also lived in Florence when Brunelleschi lived there and had developed linear perspective this radically modern approach to representing space in painting and so you have a painting it is about another kind of conflict I think that's exactly right the conflict between the idea of surface decoration and the ability to render deep space so you have many many decorative elements here that are in line with that International Gothic style from the pattern on the commander's fabulous turban the gold decorations that we see on the bridles and the saddles of the horses or even the decorative curving of the armor at the same time we have a mathematical illusion of space created with linear perspective being applied in the oddest way with the orthogonals created by the Lance's that have fallen to the ground so on the one hand all that decorative metalwork for instance in the bridles really pushes up against the surface of the painting and denies depth on the other hand you have exactly the opposite thing happening with all the debris of the battle that's fallen below the horses look at the way those fragments of Lance's for instance create almost a kind of chess board and that conflicts also with the background where we see vegetation we create a flat tapestry like pattern behind them that also denies an illusion into space look at the specific information that the artist has given us look at the bridle gear or even the straps at the back of the armor one of my favorite areas is if you look in the background and look at some of the smaller figures that play against that monochromatic field you can see archers with crossbows who are reloading their weapons by pulling on them at their feet so these two tendencies that we see in Florentine painting of the decorative and the scientific come together in cellos battle of San Romano you