Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 8

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 8

According to Iamhigher, Pietro Cavallini from Rome achieved heroic grace and objective beauty with the relief due to a refined chiaroscuro, with a broad and dignified gesture, with the composition no longer merely frontal. Cimabue, Florentine, more daring, more dramatic, impressed the human passion more deeply: the  Crucifixion that he painted in Assisi looks like a struggle of giants, carried by a wind of despair. And he was intolerant of any linear scheme: his face of St. Francis has broken lines and planes, no longer obedient to a tradition, pervaded by impressionism. Even when in his Madonnas he is in search of grace, the monumental and the heroic prevail. Younger, Duccio di Buoninsegna from Siena is closer to Byzantine art, less popular, more refined, and possesses all the charms of color. Inspired by the sky, the images of him arise like lilies, delicate, harmonious, created with the ingenuity of a child, even when they are enveloped in all the riches of the East. With the contrast of tones he manages to create very solid volumes in the images; yet their grace is so great that it makes them appear ghosts.

Beyond the individual personalities, one feels in the painting of the late thirteenth century a greatness, a detachment from the earth, a language that seems of God, an accent of the absolute, for which the concept of the sublime becomes necessary. So that when Giotto appears immediately after, we feel that he is more ours, richer in artistic possibilities, more varied, but, at the same time, that the first greatness has disappeared, like a lost paradise. No more radiant lights, but few colors, sober richness more chiaroscuro, more relief, more form; one sees less, and since everything is limited, precise, solid, one understands more. No longer shy, aware of its central function in the world, the human figure attracts all the artist’s attention, finds a new architecture in itself, builds the scene itself. His poetry is no longer that of a liturgical hymn: is Dante’s poetry. As in Dante, the ideal power of the past is preserved in Giotto, while the doors are opened in search of reality. He is a conscious integrator of idealism and realism: his idealism allows him to feel reality with an immediacy that is not found later; and his realism allows him to bring God to earth, and to make him walk among men, instead of confining him to the top of the apses, as he used to before. Its shape is not only plastic, but also all accentuated by constructive lines; its color is new, bold, intense, but it has value above all as a way of accentuating the shape. Of his pupils, the only one who has carried out the tendencies of the master to free himself from formal limits is Maso, who paints by hints with surprising magic.

In Siena, while Giotto was making such an upheaval, people continued to dream. We abandoned ourselves to color, to wavy lines, to objective graces, to the magnificence of the oriental courts. But the color became more lively than before, the wavy lines more varied and moving, the more human graces, the more probable magnificences; and if, as in Petrarch, Simone Martini’s Lauras are in paradise, in that paradise one is softly reclining, and to get there one has not traveled the harsh path of Giotto.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti starts from the Sienese tradition of refined color, beautiful lines, a youthful feminine image, and reaches a new plastic power and a suggestion of luministic color agreement. Even in his dramatic compositions, the sense of objective beauty is so full that it becomes a calming catharsis. More impulsive, Pietro Lorenzetti possesses the qualities of his brother Ambrogio, except for the height of the dream, and reaches an intensity of dramatic expression, unknown to all, except Giovanni Pisano. The relationship between painting and feeling was then so immediate that even Simone Martini’s idyllic line could become an exceptional instrument of drama, under Barna’s brush. Then the world gets smaller. The Sienese continue to dream through colors that have become bright by habit, within lines more and more beautiful in their undulation, but sometimes calligraphic. The Rimini people, who were the first, outside of Tuscany, to feel Giotto’s art, try to infuse Byzantine warmth into Giotto’s schemes. The Modenese, the Bolognese, the Milanese, the Padovani always find new and ingenious agreements between the Florentine and Sienese traditions. The Venetians, more loyal to the Byzantine tradition, attempted a solution of the relationship between the Byzantine and the Gothic tastes, without Sienese influence, and yet in a way somewhat parallel to that of Siena. In Florence, Andrea Orcagna and, following Florence, in Pisa, Antonio Veneziano and Francesco Traini are interested in reality with that unscrupulousness that is Boccaccio’s. Divinity has already disappeared from their psychological content, and nevertheless remains in the ideal of form,

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the miniature flourished, which in Bologna boasted the work of Oderisi da Gubbio and Franco Bolognese; the wood carving with the Sienese statues of the Annunciation, and the ivory one with Giovanni Pisano and the Embriaci in Venice. In the goldsmith’s art, Siena, mother of elegance, counts Ugolino di Vieri, famous author of the corporal of Orvieto; Pistoia remembers Leonardo di ser Giovanni, who had a capital part in the altar robbed of the statuettes by Vanni Fucci in the “sacristy of beautiful furnishings”, and then began the dossal of San Giovanni in Florence. In the art of iron, Siena gave admirable essays, among others those of Conte di Lello in the gates or grates of Orvieto. In the enamels, Venice imitated the Byzantines, especially in the Pala d’oro, and Assisi applied them to the stained glass windows of San Francesco, laughing like flowery meadows, and he glazed the terracotta heads on a blue background, within a row of rhombuses, in the gallery of the lower church, near the Circles monument. The silk drapes were woven, in imitation of those of the East, in the Palermo workshops set up by Ruggiero II.

The bronze was fused in the seals, of which a large collection of matrices is in Rome, in the Palazzo di Venezia, and the gold in the coins, of which the Augustals of Frederick II were examples, worthy of ancient times, and, at the end of the fourteenth century, the half shield of the Carraresi Francesco I and Francesco Novello, who in Padua, the first seat of Humanism, renewed the Roman imperial coins of Commodus and Septimius Severus.

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts 8

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