Saturday, August 30, 2008

Assignment #1: How did the plague affect artistic production in 14th century Italy?

Orcagna’s tabernacle was a memorial to the Black Death, which killed off a large proportion of Italy in the late 1340s leaving death tolls as high as 50-60 percent of the population in large cities (Gardner’s Art Through the Ages page 420-421). The affects the plague had on artistic production in the 14th century resulted in numerous religious artworks. Death had been a significant theme in art prior to the plague and became dominant in the years to follow. Due to the very morbid feeling during this era, the art turned dark with representations of death. Wealthy families were regular customers for many Italian artist. Artists responded with detail familiar in the lives of their customers. Artists during this era based their work on their surrounding environment which resulted in an artistic movement advocating realistic description. Artists introduced a new naturalism and a more direct appeal to human emotion. Fresco’s captured the horrors of death and forced viewers to confront the certainty that faces us all. Humanism was depicted in many of the paintings by showing angels struggling with demons for people’s souls. The portrayal of human forms with correct proportions and realistic clothing and facial expressions was an improvement in many artworks. Artists tried to give paintings a more three-dimensional quality. The Italian population was very religious, and that is why most of the paintings have a religious theme to them particularly related to the Catholic Church. Artists were often influenced by the Bible in choosing their subject matter.

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