Springtime of the Renaissance

This has turned into an extravagantly fruitful year for lovers of Italian art in its golden age, if we stretch that age over nearly four hundred years from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. New York has seen the Piero della Francesca exhibition at the Frick Collection about which Walter Kaiser has written here, while in Italy there have been two Tiepolo shows in Udine, Titian at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, and then the riveting and lovely “Springtime of the Renaissance,” which was first seen in Florence at the Strozzi Palace as “La Primavera del Rinascimento” and has now moved to Paris and the Louvre as “Le Printemps de la Renaissance.”

Following what has been something of a Strozzi feature, after the fascinating “Money and Beauty: Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities” eighteen months ago, “Springtime” is gently didactic. It demonstrates the deep Classical roots of early Renaissance art, as Roman statuary came to light and stimulated the fifteenth-century flowering of sculpture at the hands of Della Robbia, Donatello, Ghiberti, and others.

All of these were as much artisans as artists, and astonishingly polymathic, drawing, painting, working in bronze, carving marble, or designing buildings as Brunelleschi did with the dome of the Duomo and so much else in Florence. A section called “Sculpture in Paint” shows what few of us apart from experts had perhaps realized, the degree to which painters like Uccello, Filippo Lippi, and Piero della Francesa were influenced by sculpture. At the same time there was a demand for bas-reliefs which could be used for private devotion, in stucco or marble or the new glazed terracotta associated with Della Robbia.

The climax of this wonderful show is a room full of representations of the Madonna and Child, including the haunting but unlucky marble Pazzi Madonna by Donatello, which was shattered when porters dropped it in Berlin many years ago (it was painstakingly repaired, although the cracks are still visible close up). The room is a reminder of how that image, originally much influenced by Byzantine icons, became so centrally important in Western art.

Altogether this wonderful exhibition is a credit to its curators, Beatrice Paolozzi Strozzi, director of the Bargello Museum in Florence, and Marc Bormand, chief curator of sculpture at the Louvre, where it has just opened and continues until January 6.

For more information, please visit louvre.fr.

Category: Exhibition
The Louvre
Musée du Louvre,
Paris, IdF