From September 26, 2013 to January 6, 2014 – Le Louvre museum
The Springtime of the Renaissance deals with the genesis of this major artistic and cultural movement, which first arose in Florence in the early years of the 15th century.
Sculpture, an essential aspect of this rebirth, is the central focus of this exhibition. Some 140 works are presented, including several monumental ones, grouped into ten thematic sections. In addition to sculptures, the exhibition also features paintings, drawings, manuscripts, silver and gold pieces and tin-glazed earthenware.
Sculptures by Donatello serve as one of the threads running through the exhibition, which presents several of the greatest masterpieces by this artist, considered by many as the most creative exponent of the Renaissance. However his works do not in any way eclipse the virtuosity of contributions by other illustrious sculptors, including Ghiberti, Michelozzo, Desiderio da Settignano and Mino da Fiesole.
The ten sections of the exhibition form a coherent whole, placing emphasis in some cases on themes and styles, and in others on the social and cultural context serving as the unifying frame joining together the works on display.
The major influence of Greek and Roman antiquity is constantly present throughout all of the sections, showing how important works of antiquity had a key impact on artistic creation during this period. The panoply of rich and varied approaches on view, all intimately linked, help unveil the mysteries behind the flowering of the Florentine Renaissance.
Several of the works have been returned to their former glory after a vast two-year restoration campaign led jointly by the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Louvre, allowing visitors to fully appreciate masterpieces such as Donatello’s imposing gilt bronze statue of Saint Louis of Anjou (also known as Saint Louis of Toulouse, 1425) from the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce.
It was for the city’s major public buildings, including the Duomo, the Campanile, and Orsanmichele, that artists such as Donatello, Ghiberti, Nanni di Banco and Michelozzo would create their finest masterpieces.
These monumental public sculptures eloquently bear witness to the fundamental stylistic transformations at work during the Florentine Renaissance, creating a new artistic language while helping to convey the supreme heights reached by Florentine civilization.
Major themes from classical antiquity, as interpreted in particular by Donatello, were gradually assimilated and transformed to create the new artistic language of the Renaissance.
Sculptors of the Florentine Renaissance also sought to emulate the great equestrian monuments of antiquity, which decorated public places to celebrate military virtue.
The invention of linear perspective by Brunelleschi and the quest for a rational, mathematical ordering of space are explored in the “History in Perspective” section. Without a doubt, the resulting experiments found their most creative expression in sculpture, here juxtaposed with painted works. Brought to great heights first and foremost in Donatello’s basreliefs, this quest notably produced such works as the predella depicting Saint George and the Dragon (Museo Nazionale del Bargello), a supreme Renaissance masterpiece, combining linear and atmospheric perspective to achieve an open, rational and infinite space.
The civic aspect of artistic production in Florence eventually gave way to more prevalent private patronage, which began to play a decisive role with the advent of the wealthy Cosimo de’ Medici, founder of the political dynasty that would rule Florence from 1434 to 1537. This period thus saw the transition from Florentine sovereignty and selfsufficiency, or libertas, symbolized by public commissions, to a private patronage already colored by the burgeoning hegemony of the Medicis. This ostentatious bent would find one of its most forceful expressions in the fashion for private bust portraits, a new genre that arose at mid-century.