How was the production of art affected by the plague that devastated much of Italy in the 14th century? Starting with the most obvious; when there is a dramatic decline in population, there are fewer artists, fewer patrons and as a result, less production. Italy was particularly hard-hit by the plague and lost between 50 and 60% of their population.
Concerning the themes that were popular during this period; there is a tendency in grave times for people to seek comfort in the places where comfort was found in the past. Because of this, people turned to the church and religious themes were popular. Also, as is often noted, “art reflects life” and because of this themes of death can be reflected in the art of this time.
You can also view people’s behavior during the plague in terms of a “hierarchy of needs.” To use Maslow’s model; when family and friends are dying and your very existence is in jeopardy; your concerns are rooted in the lower level of safety and security needs. To reach the upper level of self-actualization or the level where true creativity is said to exist, one must satisfy the lower levels. In a climate where no one’s safety is secure, it is reasonable to conclude that creativity would be adversely affected. Even so, there was great art produced during the time of the plague and while there may be a “tendency” for Maslow’s model to be true, there seems to be enough notable exceptions to question the universality of his theory.