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Paul Davies and David Hemsoll

(b Genoa, Feb 14, 1404; d Rome, April 1472).

Italian architect, sculptor, painter, theorist and writer. The arts of painting, sculpture and architecture were, for Alberti, only three of an exceptionally broad range of interests, for he made his mark in fields as diverse as family ethics, philology and cryptography. It is for his contribution to the visual arts, however, that he is chiefly remembered. Alberti single-handedly established a theoretical foundation for the whole of Renaissance art with three revolutionary treatises, on painting, sculpture and architecture, which were the first works of their kind since Classical antiquity. Moreover, as a practitioner of the arts, he was no less innovative. In sculpture he seems to have been instrumental in popularizing, if not inventing, the portrait medal, but it was in architecture that he found his métier. Building on the achievements of his immediate predecessors, Filippo Brunelleschi and Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, he reinterpreted anew the architecture of antiquity and introduced compositional formulae that have remained central to classical design ever since....



Gauvin Bailey and Jillian Lanthier

Term used to describe one of the first genuinely global styles of art and architecture in the Western canon, extending from its birthplace in Bologna and Rome to places as far-flung as France, Sweden, Russia, Latin America, colonial Asia (Goa, Macao), and Africa (Mozambique, Angola), even manifesting itself in hybrid forms in non-European cultures such as Qing China (the Yuanming yuan pleasure gardens of the Qianlong Emperor) or Ottoman Turkey (in a style often called Türk Barok). The Baroque also embraced a very wide variety of art forms, from the more traditional art historical media of painting, sculpture, and architecture to public spectacles, fireworks, gardens, and objects of everyday use, often combining multiple media into a single object or space in a way that blurred traditional disciplinary boundaries. More so than the Renaissance and Mannerist stylistic movements which preceded it, Baroque was a style of the people as well as one of élites, and scholars are only recently beginning to explore the rich material culture of the Baroque, from chapbooks (Italy) and votive paintings (central Europe and Latin America) to farm furniture (Sweden) and portable oratories (Brazil). Although its precise chronological boundaries will probably always be a matter of dispute, the Baroque era roughly covers the period from the 1580s to the early 18th century when, in places such as France and Portugal, the ...


Richard Brilliant

The word decadence has been used in the Western world to mark an evident decline in society, culture and art from some perceived ‘higher’ or better state of being or form. The German historian Oswald Spengler (1880–1936) explained decadence phenomenologically as the final stage of a historical cycle, when the pursuit of material comfort exhausts the creative forces of society; Freud found a prime source of human suffering in ‘the disposition to decay of our bodies’, and others have put forward the concept of decadence to oppose the idea of continuous progress in civilization. The term also indicates the wilful rejection of contemporary social and artistic norms by rebellious individuals or groups seeking to bring attention to themselves or to their causes. Such rejection can be retrogressive; the Arts and Crafts Movement sought to reverse the apparent decline in the arts caused by the Industrial Revolution by going back to the ‘purer’ work of the individual artisan. Decadence can, however, have a positive connotation, pointing to the breakup of an old society or style out of which something new emerges, or to the rejection of a society in order to regenerate it with fresh spiritual values and creative vigour. In its typical application to society, literature and the fine arts, decadence is usually pejorative, implying a negative moral judgement. Such usage marks the hostile response to change, to uncertainty, to the loss of ideals and ultimately to death. This article examines three notable and distinct patterns in art culture that exemplify this emotional response to decay....


Monique Riccardi-Cubitt

French term derived from the Italian grottesco, describing a type of European ornament composed of small, loosely connected motifs, including scrollwork, architectural elements, whimsical human figures and fantastic beasts, often organized vertically around a central axis.

Grotesque ornament was inspired by the archaeological discovery at the end of the 15th century, of the ancient Roman interiors of the Domus Aurea of Nero in Rome, and by subsequent finds of other palaces, tombs and villas in and around Rome and Naples. The interior walls and ceilings of these underground rooms, known as grotte, were painted in a light and playful manner previously unknown to those familiar only with the formal grammar of Classical ornament derived from more accessible antique ruins. A ceiling in such a room might be covered with an interlocking arrangement of compartments containing mythological or allegorical scenes depicted as trompe l’oeil cameos, or it might be subdivided into areas dominated by a single such compartment with the remaining space filled with a variety of motifs, symmetrically organized but otherwise unrelated either by scale or subject-matter. ...


Michael Podro

(b Hannover, March 30, 1892; d Princeton, NJ, March 14, 1968).

German art historian, active in the USA. He wrote primarily on late medieval and Renaissance art in northern Europe and Italy, mostly, but by no means exclusively, on painting.

Panofsky’s doctoral dissertation (1915) was on the relation of Dürer’s theory of art to that in Renaissance Italy; in 1923 he and Fritz Saxl published a study of Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I. In 1926 he became the first professor of art history at the new university of Hamburg, where he was closely involved with Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), the professor of philosophy, and with Saxl and Aby Warburg at the Bibliothek Warburg. Panofsky’s name is often narrowly associated with the search for the subject-matter of paintings through reference to traditional imagery and literature. However, his writing always involved a much more ambitious and coherent mode of critical interpretation: he sought consistently to place individual works of art in relation to what he took to be an underlying aspect of the human situation, the reciprocity between ‘objectivity’—our receptive relation to the external world—and ‘subjectivity’—the constructive activity of our thought....


Graham Reynolds

(b Penshurst, Kent, Nov 30, 1554; d Zutphen, nr Arnhem, Oct 17, 1586).

English statesman, soldier, poet and writer. He was the son of Sir Henry Sidney, who served three terms as Lord Deputy of Ireland. While still in his teens, Philip Sidney travelled for three years in Europe, witnessing the St Bartholomew’s Eve massacre of Protestants in Paris in 1572 and visiting Germany, Austria and Italy under the guidance of the Huguenot statesman Hubert Languet (1518–81). The medallist Antonio Abondio the younger (?1538–91) made his portrait (untraced); in 1574 he sat in Venice to Paolo Veronese, whom he had chosen in preference to Domenico Tintoretto. This painting was sent to Languet, who thought it made Sidney look too young and too sad; it has since disappeared, and his main surviving portrait, by John de Critz (version, Penshurst Place, Kent), is of lesser note. There is also a well-known portrait (London, N.P.G.) by an unknown artist. On a subsequent journey in ...


Jaynie Anderson

(b Berlin, May 14, 1900; d London, Sept 12, 1971).

German art historian active in Germany, the USA, and England. His work transcends the conventional categories of academic specialization, combining philosophical and aesthetic insight with a sensitive eye and an exceptional range of historical and literary learning. He studied Classics, philosophy, and art history in Berlin, Freiburg, and Vienna, obtaining his DPhil in 1922 in Hamburg under Erwin Panofsky with a thesis on the relation between aesthetic appreciation and historical scholarship. The neo-Kantian influence of Ernst Cassirer in Hamburg was soon superseded by the pragmatism of Charles S. Pierce, which he encountered while teaching philosophy at North Carolina (1925–7). On his return to Hamburg as research assistant at the Bibliothek Warburg, this pragmatism was infused with Aby Warburg’s concept of cultural history, interest in the psychological potency of images, and fascination with significant detail. The close relationship between the two men is documented in Warburg’s diaries. After submitting his anti-Kantian treatise, ...


Janet Southorn

(b Berlin, June 22, 1901; d New York, Oct 11, 1971).

British art historian and writer of German birth. The son of Henry Wittkower and Gertrude Ansbach, he had British citizenship through his British-born father. He studied at the universities of Munich and Berlin, where under the supervision of Adolf Goldschmidt he obtained his doctorate with a dissertation on the 15th-century Veronese artist Domenico Morone. In 1923 he went to Rome, where for the next ten years he worked first as an assistant (1923–7) and then as a research fellow at the Biblioteca Hertziana, for which he began the compilation of bibliographies organized by artist and place. In 1931 he published Die Zeichnungen des Gianlorenzo Bernini, which he wrote in collaboration with Heinrich Brauer. After a brief period as lecturer at the Universität Köln (1933), Wittkower came to London. From 1934 to 1956 he was a member of staff at the Warburg Institute and in 1937 was a founding co-editor of the Institute’s journal. From ...


Michael Podro

(b Winterthur, June 24, 1864; d Zurich, July 19, 1945).

Swiss art historian . Starting as a student of philosophy he turned to art history under the influence of Jakob Burckhardt’s teaching at Basle. However, unlike Burckhardt, he was concerned not with detailed historical inquiry but with discovering general principles for interpreting the visual character of works. What he saw as requiring interpretation was, first, how the subject-matter of painting and sculpture took its particular forms in works of art and how building materials and structures took on meaningful forms in architecture, and, second, the way such modes or formulation changed through history. He wrote almost exclusively on Renaissance and Baroque art.

Wölfflin’s doctoral dissertation (1886) was on the psychological basis of our response to architectural forms. It sets out to account for the way in which what he conceives as literally present, the material of the building, can take on human significance or expressive force, employing a theory of empathy. He expanded on this approach in ...