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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,621 ratings  ·  47 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
Paperback, Oxford Paperbacks, 192 pages
Published July 28th 1988 by Oxford University Press (first published 1972)
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Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, re-reads, 2014

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
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. A lecture course, unlike my review, may also be illustrated. In the background of the sentences we might imagine the fiddling with the
Violet wells
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This book should have had me impatient to revisit all Florence's churches and art galleries with renewed zeal but sadly it didn't quite do that for me. I found it interesting rather than exhilarating. It was perhaps too academic and intellectual for me. However I did appreciate how much mental energy the author brings to his subject and how important a few of his insights are in adding to our knowledge of the social fabric, the sensibility and artistic aims of the Quattrocento.
Baxandall wants
Jan 13, 2013 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
Michael Finocchiaro
Painting and Experience is a fascinating book about Renaissance art where Baxandall attempts to get us into the mind of the artists and their patrons during this particularly effervescent period of art history. It is written in an accessible style and has a nice translation at the end of the qualities that were most important for artists of this period. I really enjoyed this book as it brought me a few new insights into some of my favorite artists.
Jul 14, 2008 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 ...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 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students of art history
Recommended to Jez by: professor
Shelves: art, own
a must-read for an art history student, regardless of their area of focus.
Oct 06, 2013 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. ...more
Nov 19, 2009 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."
K Marie
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-books
A very interesting and helpful book, particularly for it's explanation and categorization of images of the Annunciation in Renaissance artwork.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book completely changed the way I Will experience visual art, it taught me a lot about 15th century Italy and it made me smile. Here are a couple of quotes to give you a feel for why. "The first fifteenth century was a period of bespoke painting, however, and this book is about the customer's participation in it." (P.3). " expectation that the picture should tell a story in a clear way for the simple and an eye-catching way for the forgetful, and with full use of all the emotional ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was very drawn to the subject matter of this book and ordered it online. When it arrived, flipping through the pages this book published in the 80s looked quite dry. However, I was very wrong. This little book takes you through social and education norms of the fifteeth century that would have shaped a viweres perception of a painting such as wanting to show off wealth via expensive pigments, wanting to show off taste by being able to judge skill, how mathematics of proportion, ratios and ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
A scholarly work throughout. The reader needs to be diligent and carefully read the entire book but the rewards are there to be grasped. You'll be better able to decipher both the content of 15th century Renaissance art and begin to understand the intent of individual artists who left us their wonderful masterworks.
Lovett Salander
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's an art's book, that is not hard technical, but broad view, it mixes academic data of the paintings and technique with how's related to everyday life in Reinassance.
That makes an interesting book if you like art even if you are not a person with lot of knowledge of the theme.
Plus it's short book.
Amy Jane
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Probably the best book on 15th century art, Baxandall is an authority on his subject. He writes clearly and without pretension on what can be a difficult theme. With relevant references to quattrocento texts we are given a true perspective on the artists and the audiences on the meaning of art. One criticism: not enough colour plates.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
My lecturer mentioned this in three consecutive lectures, which had to be a good endorsement. It was definitely worth reading (it's a relatively easy read, short and well-written) and I'm sure I'll return to it over the next few years of studying.
Michael McNamara
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, detailed study of how the style of pictures reflect social history of a specific historical history. The way early Renaissance painting evolved mirrors the development of various social institutions.
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
My lecturer mentioned this in three consecutive lectures, which had to be a good endorsement. It was definitely worth reading (it's a relatively easy read, short and well-written) and I'm sure I'll return to it over the next few years of studying.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just read one chapter, which I had to for my History of Art classes. Even though it was in French I could understand Baxandall's ideas behind what was written (In some other oeuvres it is really complicated and hard to follow an art historian's way of thinking). To me Baxandalls were really clear. I read the chapter about the contracts, which were made to assure a painter's good work, he had to use a certain kind of material, precise in the contract, otherwise he would not be payed or worse ...more
Jul 06, 2014 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 ...more
Apr 11, 2011 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.
Aug 26, 2011 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.
Jul 24, 2012 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.
Jun 05, 2007 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.
Jun 28, 2013 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.
J C Landwer
Jun 18, 2013 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."
Yeah, I can't believe I read this either.
Gerard Brown
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Time to re-read this for a class and I am loving it...more thorough review later...
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book excellent for prose
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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.