Arts And Craftsmen

At the time of Renaissance no sharp line was drawn between arts and craftsmen. The builder who built the house also provided for its furnishings, the sculptor began his career as a stone-mason or goldsmith, and famous artists have even painted furniture l). Nevertheless there were specialists2) in intarsia-making and wood-carving of great renown, and more especially artist-painters of chests3). But the influence of famous artists on the build and decoration of the furniture is beyond question.

]) Vide Schubring, pp. 76 ff. and numerous passages in Vasari (collected by Schubring, p. 90). Vasari mentions furniture of Baccio d'Agnolo having been painted for Pier Francesco Borgherini in Florence by Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo and other famous artists.

  1. A complete list is contained in Finocchetti and other works.
  2. Vide Schubring, pp. 430 and ff. who has published a workshop book kept by two chest painters who between the years 1446 and 1463 painted between 170—200 chests.

This is true especially of Giuliano da Maianol) and Michelangelo. It was exactly this latter many-sided artist whose wish it was to be only a sculptor, who gave so much impulse to the art of furniture-making. He designed the book-shelves and chairs in Lorenzo da Medici's library (fig. 153), the austere profiles of many chests calling up reminiscences of strong metal coffers may be traced to his influence and probably the fantastic masks (figs. 110, 214, 135 etc.) which played so great a role during the XVIth century, as also other figural motives, owe their origin to him2). The Uffizi Gallery

*) See Schottmüller, Amtliche Berichte aus der Kgl. Kunstsammlung XXXIX (Berlin 1918), pp. 80 ff.

2) Vide: Thode, Michelangelo, Kritische Untersuchungen über seine Werke, Vol. II (Berlin 1908), for the library pp. 118 and 135, for the candelabra in the Medici Chapel p. Ill, and regarding those objects of furniture wrongly attributed to him p. 513. For the frame of the round picture of the Holy Family see: E. Bock, p. 78 (fig. 489).

in Florence, the British Museum in London, and other art collections contain numerous designs for furniture by his contemporaries and successors (figs. 29,30), famous artists having more especially made designs for chests with figural reliefs (figs. 125—132, 134—138, 139)»).

The enormous importance of such close connection between artists and craftsmen and their joint work is above all question. The artist intimate with the work

of the craftsman understood and appreciated the value of good work and designed objects corresponding to thé material out of which they were to be formed, while the craftsman received new impulse from the artist which led him to perform his utmost. In this way expression was immediately given to the new ideas, there was no going back from them; and the culture of the home during the Renaissance acquired that harmony corresponding to the intrinsic grandeur of this great age.

29. Design for a Coffer, after 1550 Pen Drawing

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

29. Design for a Coffer, after 1550 Pen Drawing

Uffizi Gallery, Florence gorgons1), while the head pieces and the consoles are decorated with rich festoons, armorial bearings, putti and fabulous animals (fig. 491, 494—498).

For large frames2) of a determined renaissance style architectonic constructions were naturally favored, the horizontals being shaped like socles and cornices; the verticals like pilasters. At first articulation and decoration were not achieved alone by carvings, for painting also had its part in this; up to circa 1500 a predella picture was inserted into the frame at the base. It is in harmony with the spirit of "classic art", which, essentially restricts coloured representations to the picture proper; to bring this into prominence by a forcible profiled carved frame, this indeed being its true office. Large frames, it is true, were chiefly in use for altar pictures; for in private houses large pictures were very rare 3).

Such architecturally built frames were also made on a smaller scale, and used for reliefs, paintings and mirrors (figs. 492/3). Besides these, the now common frames with like mouldings on all sides came into vogue for pictures of a small or medium size (fig. 506 and seq.); for their ornamentation the whole richness of motives developed by Italian cabinet-makers in the XV and XVI centuries were employed. The larger round frames imitating the festoons of fruit which the della Robbia family had made popular in their works, became a speciality. At a later period they were covered with rich bas-reliefs of a more ornamental character, rhythmi

') These sometimes serve as handles to a shutter to be drawn across the mirror as a safeguard, similar to those used to protect pictures during the renaissance.

  1. Vide: E. Bock, Florentinische und Venezianische Bilder-rahmen aus der Zeit der Gotik und Renaissance (Munich 1902), and Guggenheim: Le Cornici Italiane (Milan 1897).
  2. Vide: Schubring pp. 9—11.

cally divided off by projecting heads or knobsFinally the so-called Sansovino frames (fig. 513/4) which in picturesque alternation combine cartouches with different kinds of architectorial forms and fanciful decorations,

28. Painted Wooden Box, Gilded and Ornamented with Stucco, XVth Century

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

28. Painted Wooden Box, Gilded and Ornamented with Stucco, XVth Century

Victoria and Albert Museum, London were a transition to the flamboyant language of forms of the baroque period. Towards the end of the renaissance these became very popular, not only in Venice, which was their birth-place, but throughout Italy. The urirestfulness and intricacy of the pictorial composition and the high degree of the plastic illusion obtained, demanded, as a counterpoise, a ponderous or strongly rhythmical delimitation.

1) Sometimes they were inserted in carved wood ceilings. Vide: Geymuller and Stegmann quoted above, Vol. VII 1, Plate 6.

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