Thursday, August 28, 2008

Assignment #1

How did the plague affect artistic production in 14th century Italy?

There are numerous ways in which the plague could have affected art and its production during 14th century Italy. The large death tolls caused the economy to undergo extreme inflation. It became increasingly difficult not to mention dangerous to continue trade. This in turn caused the price of goods whether imported or local to skyrocket. In many ways this could have helped the artists who survived the plague. Not only was there less competition but those who had money were more willing to spend large amounts on works of art to continue their image of wealth. They may have needed to do this because the lines were a bit blurred between the rich and the poor because of increased wages due to the lack of working individuals.
On one hand the plague allowed art to stray from religious themes but then again the plague also sparked the commission of religious and more specifically devotional works of art. One such artwork would be the Tabernacle of the Virgin Mary in Florence, Italy. This particular piece took over 10 years to complete and at the cost of some 87,000 gold florin. The arts took on a darker image, and death and dying became a common theme. Skeletons began making appearances in paintings and some of which were portrayed alongside people continuing with their everyday lives. These images portraying both the happy times along with the horrible memories of the dead were being paid for and displayed by churches and monarchs. Sculptures were also taking on more grim themes. Decomposing bodies, worms burrowing in the rotting flesh, and frail skeleton looking bodies’ dresses in torn clothing and rags were being sculpted. This was something unseen before this dark time.

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