Article

Art in Italy

Sigrid Danielson and Evan Gatti

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online August 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0120
Art in Italy

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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Defining the category of medieval Italy is a challenging prospect, and establishing whether there was a consistent or even an evolving art exclusive to medieval Italy remains a contentious question. There is greater consensus that the geography of modern Italy comprises regions that enjoyed shifting moments of significance during the medieval era, and that this significance was celebrated and fostered by artistic expression. For the purposes of this essay, medieval Italy initiates at the end of the Late Antique period in the early 6th century, and concludes with the Early Renaissance at the start of the 15th century. When possible, publications completed after 1985 have been stressed, with an eye toward works that address earlier scholarship. This ensures the inclusion of recent work but also provides access to a varied bibliography. The entry is divided chronologically into early, central, and later periods. These chronological divisions represent the separate character of scholarship on the various movements within medieval Italian art, many of which take place in parallel with discussions of European historical and stylistic subcategories such as Carolingian, Ottonian, Romanesque, and, to some extent, Gothic. These general subperiods are further divided by media: architecture, mosaics, wall and panel painting, and sculpture and the luxury arts, including manuscripts and metalwork. Studies emphasizing the local contexts for arts production, such as the emergence of the commune and civic identity, are balanced with those related to pan-European concerns such as the Gregorian Reform, pilgrimage, and the mendicant traditions. The regionalist bent of scholarship within these chronological subperiods recognizes the shifting and often coexisting regional centers in which power and creative production went hand in hand. Even among these geographical regions, there were shifting influences that defined artistic production. For example, as a city of emperors and popes—who were both allies and enemies—Rome incorporated diverse spheres of influence. Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Venice are frequently characterized as looking outward as local traditions were integrated with influences from the Angevin, Byzantine, or the Islamic Mediterranean. What emerges is not a neat, linear narrative from the early medieval period to the Renaissance. Instead, this essay encourages recognition of the diverse cultures of the Italian peninsula and the unique ways in which they imagined and interpreted their pasts, Italian and otherwise, within the complexity of their present.

Article.  19980 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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