Art is often a reaction, an observance, or an attempt to understand the political or cultural climate of the time. During the Bubonic plague, also known as The Black Death, Italy lost nearly half of the population to this deadly disease. This, in large part, was due to the fact that Italy had larger port cities where people were living in a “rub elbows” situation and where imports from China were being unloaded along with the infected varmints that yielded the plague’s success. Death proliferated, leaving the survivors searching for meaning, searching for salvation.
The need for religious comfort increased greatly in the face of adversity. The number of pious artworks commissioned increased, along with the construction of hospitals. Also, theoretical and scholarly concepts became more varied as an Italian argot in literature became more accessible to commoners and aristocrats alike. This rise in literacy, as well as new, more humanistic understandings shifted Italian artwork into a revival of classical values; values in which heroes and heroines are compensated with notoriety. The artworks were focused on saints and other religious figures from the scriptures. The figures have a flatness to them and are highly symbolic. The depth of field was often shallow, and gold adornments were used quite a bit.
However, during the latter part of the 14th century, artworks began to show a maturation of design elements such as interest naturalism, pictorial sturdiness, and increased depth of field.