Images and Identity in Fifteenth-Century Florence


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Patricia Lee Rubin


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An exploration of ways of looking in Renaissance Florence, where works of art were part of a complex process of social exchange

Renaissance Florence, of endless fascination for the beauty of its art and architecture, is no less intriguing for its dynamic political, economic, and social life. In this book Patricia Lee Rubin crosses the boundaries of all these areas to arrive at an original and comprehensive view of the place of images in Florentine society. The author asks an array of questions: Why were works of art made? Who were the artists who made them, and who commissioned them? How did they look, and how were they looked at? She demonstrates that the answers to such questions illuminate the contexts in which works of art were created, and how they were valued and viewed. Rubin seeks out the meeting places of meaning in churches, in palaces, in piazzas—places of exchange where identities were taken on and transformed, often with the mediation of images. She concentrates on questions of vision and visuality, on “seeing and being seen.” With a blend of exceptional illustrations; close analyses of sacred and secular paintings by artists including Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, Filippino Lippi, and Botticelli; and wide-ranging bibliographic essays, the book shines new light on fifteenth-century Florence, a special place that made beauty one of its defining features.

Patricia Lee Rubin is professor, deputy director, and head of the Research Forum, Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She is co-author (with Alison Wright) of Renaissance Florence: The Art of the 1470s and author of Giorgio Vasari: Art and History, both published by Yale University Press.

"A study of social and cultural hierarchies might, in prospect, seem ardous, but in Rubin's prose it is fast-moving; and the judicious choice of illustrations...keeps it alive."  - Nicholas Cranfield, Church Times

"Rubin describes her stimulating book as examining the social dynamics of the visual. Indeed, this estimable art historian has produced an ambitious work that demonstrates interdisciplinarity at its most rigorously applied by exploring the visual arts through a broad cultural prism. . . . The erudite and serious text is rich with ideas and should interest specialist and generalist alike. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"The breadth of the research extends beyond the usual material for art historians, which makes the book a useful reference tool for scholars in many disciplines. . . . The carefully chosen illustrations are a feast for the eyes and the soul. . . . Rubin's thoughtful use of images . . . repeatedly reminds the reader what the book is about: magnificently crafted, profound images and the audience for whom they were made."—Sara Nair James, Renaissance Quarterly

"Besides the impressive wealth of information contained in Rubin's book, the text is very readable. . . . It is a wonderful starting place for anyone researching Florence, particularly undergraduate and graduate students, and it is written lucidly and eruditely. . . . Rubin should be commended for her work because she truly makes fifteenth-century Florence come alive."—Lauren Grace Kilroy, Comitatus

"Rubin covers an extraordinary amount of complex material, and her detailed analyses of works of art are both sensitive and insightful; copious illustrations give readers ample opportunity to follow her arguments. . . . Images and Identity is packed with ideas and information that should provide considerable inspiration for future work."—Jane C. Long, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Images and Identity is an important contribution to the historiography of Renaissance Florence. Most impressive is the clarity and precision with which the author describes her objectives, her methodology, and her conclusions. The bibliographical notes testify to the range of her reading, and the hundreds of superb illustrations provide the visual background to her analysis." —Gene Brucker, The Historian
ISBN: 9780300123425
Publication Date: August 6, 2007
256 pages, 7 1/2 x 10
110 b/w + 50 color illus.
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Perspectives on the Male Body and Renaissance Art

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