Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Florence 2012 Journal: Florence and the Renaissance

Florence and the Renaissance

Throughout the Renaissance there was a large sense of civic pride in Florence; not surprising considering that from the early Renaissance right through to the 16th century the biggest names of the era came from the Tuscan city itself. Here I will discuss two of the most notable perspective techniques that marked the beginnings of the Renaissance that were introduced by the Florentine Donatello (1386 – 1466) and Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378 – 1455).

From very early on in the early Renaissance, the Florentine Donatello was already keeping perspective. The sophistication wasn’t quite of the same level of what came nearly 200 years later however; he did use linear perspective. Linear perspective is where the size and position of objects or figures are relative in that they will recede into the background as the lines of perspective draw in closer together running diagonally and meet at the ‘horizon’ of the painting.
For example, Donatello’s relief of the Feast of Herrod clearly shows linear perspective. However, this is a relief that also uses the technique of Pictorial perspective alongside the linear perspective. This means, while the relief shows the arches and figures getting progressively smaller the further away they are, they also get flatter. You would notice that the foreground of the relief, if you were to touch it, would protrude more than right at the background, where it is almost completely flat. This creates an illusion of space and the term used for a flattened (or smashed) relief is ‘Schiacciato’.

Another technique that was an innovation for the Florentines of the Renaissance was one point perspective. This in contrast to linear perspective made a certain point in an image the perspective and instead of the lines of perspective converging at the horizon, they would converge at a specific point. The one point perspective would usually have Jesus or the saints as the point of perspective to exemplify their overwhelming importance. This technique grew as the Renaissance went on. For example, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s ‘Doors of Paradise’ (‘Paradiso’ meaning the area between the front of the cathedral and Baptistery) show that one of the earliest panels (approx 1324) ‘Isaac & his sons’ had trouble with grasping the one point perspective - whereas the later panels achieve it perfectly (1340’s).

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