Sunday, 10 February 2013

Class and Style in Florence.

Wether Masaccio’s fresh rational style can be linked with specific class groups in early quattrocento Florence, as argued by Antal is moot.[1] Certainly a comparison between Masaccio’s Adoration of the Magi (Pisan altarpiece, 1426-7) and the same subject by Gentile da Fabriano (comm. By Palla Strozzi, c. 1370- 1427) along stylistic lines suggests different tastes. It would be tempting to see the paring down of figures and objects to the essentials in the Masaccio implying a more modest, even “puritanical” clientele. As Antal observed, only one of the kings is dressed in the finery of Florentine youth; whilst the other two, one of whom is the patron, the notary Giuliano di Colino, wear the more sub-fusc dress code of wealthy burghers. Antal is on firmer ground with his claim that Gentile’s Adoration is a social tapestry with “self-illustrations of the rich, and as such are especially well adapted to serve as a reflection of the ideology of the ruling class.”[2]  Gentile, a well-travelled artist moved in aristocratic circles, and according to Antal, absorbed the “knightly culture of France” which was enthusiastically welcomed amongst the Florentine upper- middle class.  It was at this juncture that Gentile, in Florence from 1422-5- painted the Adoration for Palla Strozzi, father-in-law of Felice Brancacci who commissioned the Carmine frescoes from Masaccio.   The luxury is more French than Florentine; it reflects the influence of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry than the jeunesse dorée (gilded youth) of Florence. 

Masaccio, Adoration of the Magi, 1426, Tempera on poplar, 21 x 61 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

 Gentile di Fabriano Adoration of the Magi, Tempera on wood, 300 x 282 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

[1] Antal, Florentine Painting and its Social Background, 310-11.
[2] Ibid.

No comments:

Post a Comment