Florence: the Birth of Renaissance


This text is an interesting examination of the city of Florence at the birth of the Renaissance.   These chapters unearth the circumstances and, more interestingly, the motivation behind many of the most famous works of art of the fifteenth century.   While it is common to study the form and mythical or religious significance of a sculpture or painting, it is less common to analyze the Florentine political organizations that commissioned such work as part of a public relations campaign that stemmed from a desire to outdo rival factions (36).   This is a unique approach to the study of early Renaissance art.
In the early 1400s Florence had all of the seeds of a revolution of thought ready.   Divisions among religious forces made it possible for more open minded political leadership to take root, "Florence was one of many Italian cities that had taken advantage of the power struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy, to achieve independent status under aristocratic rule in 1183” (12).   This autonomy from the overbearing, centralized form of governing previously provided by the church in Medieval times made way for the beginnings of democracy.   Florence was on the brink of true democracy at the time.   A growth in economic activities in post-plague Florence gave rise to an era of wealth.   The city became a center for international trade.   Examples of wealth were readily visible, "the city was famous for fine cloths, velvets, damasks, and brocades enriched with gold threads" (12).   One of the earliest double portraits, Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement, ca. 1440–44, is a Florentine painting of the period portraying an exquisitely dressed young woman in a dressed lined with furs and trimmed with gold.   In the midst of these riches, it seems, many were intent on displaying their wealth in a visual form.
Detailed records of the daily events of the city give an accurate picture of the political organization of the time.   Guilds formed of...