Roman Renaissance

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The Renaissance in Rome was a season that goes from the late 15th to the mid-16th centuries, when the Papal city was the most important place of artistic production of the entire continent with masters who left an indelible mark on Western figurative art, such as Michelangelo and Raphael.

Historical background[edit]

The fourteenth century, with the absence of the popes during the Avignon Papacy, was a century of neglect and misery for the city of Rome, which dropped to its lowest level of population. With the return of the papacy to Rome repeatedly postponed because of the bad conditions of the city and the lack of control and security, it was first necessary to strengthen the political and doctrinal aspects of the pontiff. When in 1377 Gregory XI was in fact returned to Rome, he also found a city in anarchy because of the struggles between the nobility and the popular faction, and in which his power was now more formal than real. There followed four decades of instability, characterized by the local power struggle between the commune and the papacy, and internationally by the great Western Schism, at the end of which was elected Pope, by mutual agreement between the parties, Martin V of the Colonna family. He managed to bring order to the city, laying the foundations of its rebirth.[1]

Martin V (1417–1431)[edit]

The head of a princess attributed in a cycle of San Giovanni in Laterano of Pisanello e Gentile, Museo di palazzo Venezia, Rome.

Martin V, in the Apostolic reinsediatosi in 1420, was the first pope who could care for a revitalization of the city in terms monumental and artistic. In 1423 was called a jubilee to celebrate the rebirth of the town. His plan was to restore that luster to the city that also had a clear political purpose: to recover the glory of Imperial Rome he also proclaimed his successor and direct heir.[2] martin IV

The first sites to be open about essentially the two poles of the Lateran (with frescoes – now lost – in the Basilica di San Giovanni where between 1425 and 1430 employees Gentile da Fabriano and Pisanello) and Vatican, where he was transferred to the papal residence, beginning the transformation of the area beyond the Tiber from a suburban area[2] enormous project.

Meanwhile, the city had begun to be a magnet for artists wishing to study and compare with the classical tradition of its ruins. The earliest reports of a journey made by foreign artists to try and study the forms and techniques of ancient Rome is that of 1402 when you went to the Florentines Brunelleschi and Donatello, who returned several times to find inspiration for what was the Renaissance art.[3]

Pisanello and his assistants also frequently takes its inspiration from ancient remains, but their approach was essentially cataloging, interested in acquiring the most varied repertoire of models to be exploited later in different combinations and compositions, without an interest in understanding the essence of ancient art.[4]

The pope, who had stayed in Florence, called to participate in its program Florentine artists such as Masaccio and Masolino, although the contribution of the first innovation was panned by premature death.[5] In 1443–1445 Leon Battista Alberti wrote the Descriptio urbis Romae, where he proposed a system for a geometric arrangement of the city centered on the Capitol.

In any case one can not yet speak of a "Roman school" because the actions of artists, almost exclusively foreigners, were still largely tied to their cultural matrix, without specific contact information or addresses common.[2]

Eugene IV (1431–1447)[edit]

Filarete, the base of the porta di San Pietro

Eugenius IV was, like his predecessor, a cultured and refined man, who traveled widely, knowing the new art of Florence and other cities and calling famous artists to decorate Rome. The Council of Basel had sanctioned the defeat of the thesis conciliarists and reaffirmed a monarchical structure of the papacy. Appendix A Florence had also been repaired, though in very short-lived, the age-schism of the East. In this context, it could continue its work to rebuild in the Roman basilicas. In the early forties was called the humanist Filaret, which ended in 1445 The bronze doors of St. Peter, where there is an early antiquarian taste linked to the capital and the its vestiges.[6]

Shortly after they arrived in town Beato Angelico, which began a series of lost frescoes in St. Peter and French Jean Fouquet, which testifies to its presence of the nascent interest in Italy Flemish painting and Nordic generally.[7] Although the duration of the pontificate of Eugene IV did not allow to fully implement his plans, that Rome began to become fruitful meeting ground between artists of different schools, which soon would spread in a common style, and for the first time, defined as "Roman ".[8]

Nicholas V (1447–1455)[edit]

It was with Nicholas V that the transformations of his predecessors took a sporadic features organic, paving the way for ambitious subsequent developmentns. The plan for the city focused primarily on five key:[8]

The intent was to obtain a citadel of religion on the Vatican Hill, outside the city that had its focal point in the Capitol Hill. The project's arim was to exalt the power of the Church, clearly demonstrating the continuity between the Imperial and Christian Rome.[8]

Due to the brevity of the pontificate of Pope Nicholas V, the ambitious project could not be completed; however, it made converge in the city artists of different schools (especially the Tuscan and Lombard ones), who shared an interest in the antiquity and the charm of the classic ruins, which will eventually result in a certain homogeneity of their work.[8]

The presence of Leon Battista Alberti, although not directly related to actual construction sites (to which proved highly critical), it was important to reaffirm the value of the heritage of ancient Rome and its connection with the papacy. In 1452 he dedicated to Nicholas V the TreatyDe re aedificatoria, where he theorized the foundation for reuse of the lesson of the ancients, updated with a complete renovation, including elements derived from the medieval tradition.[8]

Palazzo Venezia, the courtyard of the Palazzetto

A paradigmatic example of the style that developed in that period in architecture is Palazzo Venezia, started in 1455 by incorporating existing buildings. In a courtyard of the annexed Palazzetto (whose author is known) are taken from Roman elements combined but without philological rigor, focusing functionality rigid adherence to the model. It incorporates the model of the viridarium and is inspired by the Colosseum in the architectural orders overlapped and in cornice with ornament in brackets. The width of the arches, however, is reduced and simplified so they will not look too impressive compared to the spaces they enclose. In the building itself (built from 1466), there was a more faithful revival of ancient models, which shows a gradual understanding deeper: for example, the hall was once a lacunar in concrete (taken from Pantheon or the Basilica of Maxentius) or in the loggia of the courtyard, with overlapping orders and semi leaning on the pillars as in the Colosseum or in the Theatre of Marcellus.[8]

The renewal of the Constantinian basilica of St. Peter was assigned to Bernardo Rossellino and provided for the continuation of the body by covering it with five aisles longitudinal cross vaults on pillars that were to incorporate the old columns, while the apse was rebuilt with the expansion of the transept, the addition of a choir, which was the logical continuation of the nave and a domed room at the intersection of the transept and choir. This configuration may affect in some way on the next plan by Bramante for a total overhaul of the building, which have retained what is already built.[9] Work began around 1450, but with the death of the pope had no further development, and were nearly stagnant during the next papacy until Julius II who decided for a complete reconstruction.[10]

The papal commission exerts an amalgam even stronger in painting, where the traditional models did not include binding. The renewal of the Apostolic Palace was a first step in the decoration of the private chapel of the pope, the Niccoline Chapel, which worked Fra Angelico and aid, including Benozzo Gozzoli. The decoration included stories of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen, which were interpreted by Angelico in a style rich in details, erudite and wide variety of reasons, where his "Christian humanism" touches an expressive of its vertices. The scenes are set in majestic architecture, born from the suggestions of ancient Rome and early Christian times, but not linked to citations slavish, perhaps mindful of the projects that then circulated in the papal court for the restoration of St. Peter. The figures are solid, calm and solemn gestures, the tone was generally more stately of the usual brevity meditative artist.[11]

In view of the Jubilee of 1450 were undertaken numerous jobs and revenue that ensured the celebrations in the city allowed him to draw a large number of artists including much verse together. The pope does not affect the consistency of style, in fact called to work for him Vivarini, Bartolomeo di Tommaso, Benedict Bonfigli, Andrea del Castagno, Piero della Francesca, a Luke said "German", perhaps Rogier van der Weyden, etc.. This wealth of ideas prepared the ground for the synthesis towards the end of the century, led to the creation of a language properly "Roman".[11]

Sixtus IV (1471–1484)[edit]

Pope Sixtus IV created the Vatican Library and entrusted it to major Humanist. Melozzo da Forlì, named Papal painter, frescoed one of the emblems of the Roman humanist culture of the time, Pope Sixtus IV Appoints Platina as Prefect of the Vatican Library (1477), in which the pope is portrayed among his relatives in an opulent classical architecture. A few years later, under Giuliano della Rovere, Melozzo painted the apse of the Basilica dei Santi Apostoli with Ascension of the Apostles between Playing Angels, considered the first example fully aware of view "from down to top".

Around 1480 the Sistine Chapel was built: it was originally to be decorated by artists from Umbria and Marche. Through Lorenzo de' Medici of Florence's intercession, the commission of the wall decoration was instead entrusted to the best Florentine artists of the time (Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and others), showing a first example of political use of the work of artists such as cultural ambassadors of their supremacy. The boxes are characterized by a broad monumental, with many quotations from classical architecture (triumphal arches, buildings with a central plan), and the calm pace and secure the scene.[2]

The Sistine Chapel, now the seat of the most important ceremonies of the papacy, looked, well before the intervention of Michelangelo, point of reference for Renaissance art, setting milestones for the character developments of the late fifteenth.[2]

Alexander VI (1492–1503)[edit]

The last part of this century was dominated by the figure of Pope Alexander VI, from the Spanish family Borgia. The artist of this era was Bernardino Pinturicchio, the author of the frescoes' in the Borgia Apartment in the Vatican palace.[2]


  1. ^ Ludovico Gatto, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Rome, Newton & Compton, 1999. ISBN 88-8289-273-5
  2. ^ a b c d e f Zuffi, cit., P.. 200.
  3. ^ Elena Capretti, Brunelleschi, Giunti Editore, Florence 2003, p. 22–23. ISBN 88-09-03315-9
  4. ^ De Vecchi-Cerchiari, cit., p. 13.
  5. ^ John T. Spike, Masaccio, illustrated books Rizzoli, Milano 2002 ISBN 88-7423-007-9
  6. ^ De Vecchi-Cerchiari, cit., p. 64.
  7. ^ De Vecchi-Cerchiari, cit., p. 67.
  8. ^ a b c d e f De Vecchi-Cerchiari, cit., p. 76.
  9. ^ Christof Thoenes,San Pietro, and fortune of a model in the 16th century Barnabiti studies, n. 19, 2002.
  10. ^ Gianfranco Spagnesi, Rome: the Basilica of St. Peter, the village and the city, 2003, pp. 53–54.
  11. ^ a b De Vecchi-Cerchiari, cit., p. 77.