I visited the Ufizzi gallery in Florence yesterday with the aim to look at Renaissance art from it’s beginnings, through to the 1500s. I began my study in the first room, and visited all of the galleries. In room 2 I stood infant of Madonna and Child Enthroned, by the three artists who each have a valuable place in the movement from Byzantium to the Renaissance, namely Duccio, Cimabue, and finally Giotto. I’d like to look at Duccio and Cimabue today, and then in a separate post, look at the painting by Giotto, as his work is not in the same school as that of the first two artists.
Duccio and Cimabue were seen by some art historians as the fathers the Renaissance, and by others as the last Byzantine painters. During the years that they were active, the church was keeping a strong hold on it’s principles, and the rules by which it’s followers had to live. The portrayal of people and biblical events in a realistic manner was against the church principles, as idolatry was always a concern. The second commandment reads, “Thou shalt not make for yourself graven images.” Although the church used art to educate people on its doctrines, believing in the divinity of graven images was especially possible in the minds of the less educated masses. So, during the Byzantine period, artists expressed themselves through the emotions of the figure, rather than the expression of realism through true perspective, classical proportions, form being created by the use of light and shadow, and finally the study of color. All of this was mastered by the that the ancient greeks and romans. Here we see flattened, geometrically stylized figures that do not take up the kind of physical space that the figures of the High Renaissance take on the picture plane. They are characterized with flowing line rather than solid three dimensional structure. Linear perspective, and the representation of light and shadow were also at a beginning stage during this period of art history.
During this religious/political climate, many of the literati were delving ever more deeply into the ideas of Humanism, which was an avenue of exploration and experimentation. the teachings of the pagan philosophers, and the scientists of the day, began to replace religion as a direction for studying truth.
Duccio di Buoninsegna