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Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,432 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy An introduction to 15th century Italian painting and the social history behind it, arguing that the two are interlinked and that the conditions of the time helped fashion distinctive elements in the painter's style.

Serving as both an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian painting and as a text on how to interpret soci
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 28th 1988 by Oxford University Press (first published 1972)
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Feb 16, 2016 Kalliope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book has as its origins a series of lectures that Michael Baxandall (1933 – 2008) gave at the University of London during the 70s. That may explain that its three chapters do not seem, in a first reading, to follow a unified and continuous line of argument. And yet they do. And they also link in with Baxandall’s proposals in his slightly earlier Giotto and the Orators: Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial Composition. At the core of his w
Before I started to type I had such a clear idea of what I would say.

I was attracted to this book by Kalliope's review. Her review was illustrated, a key condition for discussing a book about art, while mine is not.

Reading through Baxandall's book it was clear that it was a literary version of an oral work of art known to many a student: the lecture course. An lecture course, unlike my review, may also be illustrated. In the background of the sentences we might imagine the fiddling with the proj
Jun 18, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing
Despite the fact that this is an utterly brilliant and original -- and, indeed, an important -- book, I can understand why some have given it 4, or even a mere 3-stars.... there is something intangible... or unattainable... in Baxandall's analysis... as if he were trying to weave a tapestry...out of cotton candy... it dissolves at the touch... or perhaps it is that the evidence, as I suggested in my update, does not *fully* or conclusively complete or 'clinch' the questions asked...

Yet those que
Oct 30, 2013 DoctorM rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Excellent look at the business and painterly vocabulary of art in Quattrocento Italy--- how contracts between painter and patron worked, what the economics of paints and canvas and apprentices were like, and what stock gestures and poses said to an urban Italian audience. Baxandall also analyzes paintings in terms of their geometry, of how a mercantile audience taught geometry and gauging as part of daily life saw perspective, and of what the semiotics of background scenes and objects were. "Pai ...more
Jul 17, 2008 Manda rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-books
This is honestly one of the best books I have read on the subject of Renaissance Art, and should be considered a primer by anyone who is delving into the topic. It's a short and relatively digestible read, with a numbering system dividing all of the major points. Baxendall's methodology is an interesting mix of archival dependance and social history. The book is framed around a quotation describing several Italian artists during the Renaissance; in the beginning he presents the problem of correc ...more
Really fun book -- I kept cracking up at some of the primary material, and Baxandall's deadpan critism of Renaissance culture -- eg., on the various ways to calculate volume: "It is a special intellectual world." Also invaluable for deconstructing the semiotics of Renaissance imagery and iconography, for situating the type and content of art created in its proper cultural milieu, and the commoditisation of art as a cultural exchange in the fifteenth century and beyond.
Feb 22, 2014 Jez rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students of art history
Recommended to Jez by: professor
Shelves: art
a must-read for an art history student, regardless of their area of focus.
Jul 13, 2014 Marie rated it liked it
This book was recommended me by a former classmate who claimed it to contain an exposé on the meaning of wrinkles and other physiognomous traits in Italian painting from the Middle Ages and on through the Renaissance and Baroque eras. As it turns out she must have had some other volume in mind as this book barely touches on physiognomics on a page or two. It did contain quite a few other interesting tidbits, but since I was reading in search of one thing in particular, wrinkles, disappointment a ...more
Molto interessante l'esposizione, altrettanto interessanti i molti temi approfonditi. È un libro raffinato senza essere pretenzioso, molto esplicativo e di agevole lettura. Personalmente ho dovuto leggerlo per un esame universitario, ma che credo rileggerei. La pittura italiana del Quattrocento è analizzata sotto molti punti di vista, tutti sociali: l'esperienza sociale, il vissuto sociale dell'uomo rinascimentale, è per Baxandall lo specchio nel quale la pittura e l'arte si riflettono. Di contr ...more
Apr 11, 2011 Drew rated it really liked it
I read this while studying for my A-levels and remember finding it quite thrilling at the time, especially after taking an Easter break in Florence and experiencing a lot of the art discussed first-hand.
Now, a quarter-century on, I'm again going to Florence for an Easter break. Can anyone recommend a more recent book that offers a more up-to-date perspective on the Florentine renaissance? I'd be interested to see what has happened in the intervening years.
Jean d'Arp
Feb 07, 2009 Jean d'Arp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, essays
Ce livre révèle les liens étroits entre structures économiques et le monde de l'art à l'époque de la Renaissance: L'une des clés à la compréhension et à l'interprétation des oeuvres réside dans la prise en compte de cet aspect économique, de la relation entre mécène et artiste. Un très bel ouvrage, indispensable comme la plupart de la collection Bibliothèque illustrée des histoires aux Editions Gallimard.
Jun 28, 2013 Birdief rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an excellent book. It is a good few years since I read it, but it has stayed with me. An engaging look at not just the art of the Rennaissance, but also the social and economic climate in which it was made. It sparked myimagination and left me wishing all art history books took this kind of approach. A very stimulating introduction to art in this period.
Jul 24, 2012 Justus rated it really liked it
Its only been on my shelves for 15 years, but I finally did get around to reading it. Very interesting way to look at renaissance painting. I wish I read this before visiting Italy.

I appreciate art criticism that looks at the world that surrounds the works, I think a myopic focus on the work or the artists is usually not very interesting.
Aug 26, 2011 Carl rated it it was amazing
One of the best books about the Italian Renaissance. Period. Coming in at only 179 pages, this brilliant book had me rummagaing through art pictures re-looking at a number of old masters in a new light. Couldn't believe what I was now seeing that was so obvious before. If you love the Renaissance, do yourself a favor and read this book.
Jun 05, 2007 Cody rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves the Renaissance
Shelves: visual-art
I don't even like the Renaissance all that much, to be honest, but this is an interesting exploration of some of the underlying themes and ideas of the period. I especially loved the categorization of Annunciation paintings, which initiated a sort of personal obsession with the Annunciation theme in visual art.
J C Landwer
Jun 18, 2013 J C Landwer rated it it was amazing
Michael Baxandall has truly written a text encompassing material for those just learning as well as for those well read in art history. I've found the book a very useful reference in writing and teaching, for what he subtitles, "A primer in the social history of pictorial style."
Nov 19, 2009 Miriam rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, art
Baxandall demonstrates that art style (rather than merely content) is an appropriate and useful material for social history. He argues that "social facts" contribute to the development of "distinctive visual skills and habits."
May 24, 2012 Diana rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-books
Very useful and insightful primer on why Renaissance art looks the way it does. It needs to be read more than once, though, so will have to buy it.
Dan Crews
Feb 03, 2009 Dan Crews rated it it was amazing
Gives a wonderful fertile position on the Renaissance paining. Developing issues of Phenomology and Semiology.
Daniel Burton-Rose
Sep 14, 2011 Daniel Burton-Rose rated it it was amazing
Influential study of the way in which merchant patronage influenced the composition of Renaissance art.
Feb 22, 2012 g marked it as to-read
Shelves: art-history
May 26, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating. One of the most insightful books on any art historical period ever.
Gerard Brown
Jul 02, 2012 Gerard Brown rated it it was amazing
Time to re-read this for a class and I am loving it...more thorough review later...
Jan 08, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Like any devoted Renaissance historian, I don't go anywhere without my Baxandall.
Jul 14, 2008 Irene rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: art lovers
Recommended to Irene by: university teacher
a wonderful insight on renaissace period and art system
Yeah, I can't believe I read this either.
Aug 07, 2010 Erin marked it as abandoned
Maybe I'll finish this someday.
Mary Emily O'Hara
We had a weekend to read this!
old favorite
Congtuhole marked it as to-read
May 23, 2016
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Art historian who developed the theory of period eye. He worked as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London as well as teaching at the Warburg Institute and the University of California.
More about Michael Baxandall...

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