GIOVANNI RUCELLAI'S COMMENTS ON ART AND ARCHITECTURE
Author: Tarr, Roger
Source: Italian Studies, Volume 51, 1996 , pp. 58-95(38)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
O felix hominum genus si vestros animos amor quo caelum regitur regit.
In recent years attention has been paid to the study of relatively minor texts of the fifteenth century which reveal how their authors responded to and described contemporary and near contemporary art and architecture. Of particular interest has been the terminology they use, for this can provide useful insights into the critical tenor of the time. For example, if the terminology to describe the style of individual painters used by the humanist Alamanno Rinuccini in his Preface to Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana, written in 1473 for the court at Urbino is compared with that used around the same time by an agent of the Sforza family in Florence to find a suitable painter for Ludovico in Milan, it is clear that the underlying critical assumptions differ. As would be expected, Rinuccini uses Latin terms familiar to rhetoricians such as ornatus and artificiosus, whereas the Sforza agent relies on vernacular terms to describe style, such as, angelica, virile and dolce. In 1481, the scholar Cristoforo Landino in the Preface to his Italian commentary on Dante's Divine Comedy, adapts Latin terms such as those used by Rinuccini to the vernacular so that they read ornato and artificioso. But he also uses terms which were perhaps more familiar to his Florentine audience such as prompto and divoto to characterize the individual styles of different artists. In its turn this is unlike the general eulogizing tenor of the anonymous writer of the Uomini singhularii in firenze whose critical vocabulary seems to be limited to the single term, maraviglioso. For this reason, it has become a matter of some interest to scholars to discuss variations in linguistic usage to attempt to assess the underlying critical assumptions of the period so as to shed light on how the work of contemporary artists was received and what expectations governed its production. In this article I should like to look at someone not trained as either a critic or a scholar but who nevertheless took an interest in art and architecture to the extent of commissioning works from a leading architect and collecting paintings and other artefacts from prominent artists of his day. From his written legacy it is possible to deduce how new ideas on art and architecture developed and spread around the mid-fifteenth century from the domain of the learned artist and professional scholar to that of the interested and sensitive layman.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1996