Italian Painting 5

The influence of the newly discovered classic marbles upon painting was not so great as is usually supposed. The painters studied them, but did not imitate them. Occasionally in such men as Botticelli and Mantegna we see a following of sculpturesque example—a taking of details and even of whole figures—but the general effect of the antique marbles was to impress the painters with the idea that nature was at the bottom of it all They turned to the earth not only to study form and feature, but to learn perspective, light, shadow, color in short, the technical features of art. True, religion was the chief subject, but nature and the antique were used to give it setting. All the fifteenth-century painting shows nature study, force, character, sincerity ; but it does not show elegance, grace, or the full complement of color. The Early Renaissance was the promise of great things ; the High Renaissance was the fulfilment.
FLORENTINE SCHOOL: The Florentines were draughtsmen more than colorists. The chief medium was fresco on the walls of buildings, and architectural necessities often dictated the form of compositions. Distemper in easel pictures was likewise used, and oil-painting, though known, was not extensively employed until the last quarter of the century. In technical knowledge and intellectual grasp Florence was at this time the leader and drew to her many
artists from neighboring schools. Masaccio (1401 ?-1428 ?) was the first great nature student of the Early Renaissance, though his master, Masolino (1383-1447), had given proof positive of severe nature study in bits of modelling, in drapery, and in portrait heads. Masaccio, however, seems the first to have gone into it thoroughly and to have grasped nature as a whole. His mastery of form, his plastic composition, his free, broad folds of drapery, and his knowledge of light and perspective, all placed him in the front rank of fifteenth-century painters. Though an exact student he was not a literalist. He had a large artistic


sense, a breadth of view, and a comprehension of nature as a mass that Michael Angelo and Raphael did not disdain to follow. He was not a pietist, and there was no great religious feeling in his work. Dignified truthful appearance was his creed, and in this he was possibly influenced by Donatello the sculptor.
He came early in the century and died early, but his contemporaries did not continue the advance from where he carried it. There was wavering all along the line. Some from lack of genius could not equal him, others took up nature with indecision, and others clung fondly to the gold-embossed ornaments and gilded halos of the past. Paolo Uccello (1397 ?-1475) Andrea Castagno (1390-1457), Benozzo Gozzoli (1420?-1497 ?), Baldovinetti (1427-1499), Antonio del Pollajuolo (1426-1498), Cosimo Rosselli (14391507), can hardly be looked upon as improvements upon the young leader. The first real successor of Masaccio was his contemporary, and possibly his pupil, the monk Fra Filippo Lippi (14o6-1469). He was a master of color and light-and-shade for his time, though in composition and command of line he did not reach up to Masaccio. He was among the first of the painters to take the individual faces of those about him as models for his sacred characters, and clothe them in contemporary costume. Piety is not very pronounced in any of his works, though he is not without imagination and feeling, and there is in his women a charm of sweetness. His tendency was to materialize the sacred characters.
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