Manual The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty

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Competition between the two was almost inevitable. Michelangelo was, however, too brilliant and outspoken for the rivalry to be entirely friendly. Given their sur- roundings, it was a natural subject. Despite being acclaimed as an artist of genius in his own lifetime, Masaccio had died before he could com- plete the frescoes in the chapel. His work had been completed by Filippino Lippi, although how successfully was a matter of personal opinion. Whatever the case, Michelangelo managed to enrage his friend. If his behavior in later years is anything to go by, Michelangelo might simply have laughed.

Whatever the case, Pietro was furious. Clenching his fists, he punched Michelangelo squarely in the face. At once, Pietro saw the magnitude of his mistake: he had no option but to leave Florence. Without any sense of irony intended, he was what we might now call a Renaissance man. The son of a comparatively modest bureaucrat from an obscure little town, he had earned the affection of the most powerful family in Florence because of his artistic skill.

Two hundred years earlier, it would have been unthinkable for any artist to have been honored in such a way.


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In the eyes of most contemporaries, a late-thirteenth- or early-fourteenth-century artist was not a creator but a craftsman. The practitioner of a merely mechanical art, he was largely restricted to the confines of a provincial bottega workshop that was subject to the often draconian regulations of guilds. Although some early Renaissance artists occasionally occupied positions in communal government or came from magnate families, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.

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Most came from fairly humble backgrounds, as can be gauged from how little we know about their parents. What evidence we have seems to confirm this impression. Some artists were from very modest backgrounds and came from families engaged in the lowliest crafts. Giotto di Bondone, for example, was rumored to have been raised as a poor shepherd boy but was most probably the son of a Florentine blacksmith. For others, art—like carpentry—was a family business. From the mid-fourteenth century onward, however, the social world of art and the artist had gradually undergone a series of radical changes.

In step with the growing popularity of classical themes and the naturalistic style, artists were progressively recognized as autonomous creative agents endowed with learning and skill that set them apart from mere mechanics. Similarly, writing in his De origine civitatis Florentiae et eiusdem famosis civibus ca. Although still reliant on the favor of patrons and bound by contractual agreements, painters and sculptors had seen their social position improve dramatically by the mid-fifteenth century.


  1. The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty by Alexander Lee;
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  8. With art coming to be seen as a status symbol, artists themselves attained a higher status. Synopsis About this title A fascinating and counterintuitive portrait of the sordid, hidden world behind the dazzling artwork of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and more Renowned as a period of cultural rebirth and artistic innovation, the Renaissance is cloaked in a unique aura of beauty and brilliance. Product Description : Known as an age of artistic rebirth, the Renaissance is cloaked with an aura of beauty and brilliance. Review : Lee Buy New Learn more about this copy.

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    The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty

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