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Finding fame: painting and the making of careers in Renaissance Italy

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Most of the papers in this collection consider issues concerning the design and function of objects; they address their intended sites, the requirements of their owners and the import they held for their users. The objects made by artists and artisans were also nexus points in their careers: objects stood as much for their makers as for their owners. They constituted connections between artists and their clients, and they often acted as agents for the creation of new objects. This paper looks at the design and function of works of art from the point of view of the profession. Specifically, it considers the role key commissions played in the creation of reputations and the launch of stellar careers. Looking at the very early careers of Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Perugino, the paper investigates connections among clients and the paths individuals took to hiring the painters, examines the response the painters made to their early commissions, and looks at the associations and reputations these painters built up in the years before they were hired to paint the walls of the Sistine chapel in 1481. It considers the role of Cosimo Rosselli, the fourth member of the Sistine team, in identifying and defining fame, and proposes a new way of considering the route Florentine painters took to painting the chapel newly built by Sixtus IV. The paper aims to demonstrate the significance of works for the trajectory of their makers’ professional lives and to suggest how certain works, in specific contexts, attracted clients and drew new works into being.
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Keywords: Botticelli; Ghirlandaio; Perugino; Sistine chapel; connections; reputation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sussex

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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