In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Art in Renaissance Florence

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Medici 15th-Century Patronage
  • Medici 16th-Century Patronage
  • Art in the Domestic Setting
  • Miscellaneous (Iconography and Typology)

Renaissance and Reformation Art in Renaissance Florence
Sarah Blake McHam, Stephen Mack
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 November 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0171


Florence was a crucial locus for developments in Italian art throughout the peninsula in the period between 1300 and 1600, and so this article will concern itself with art created in the city rather than by Florentine artists working outside of Florence. To a considerable degree, the pervasive influence of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists (1550, 1568) affected all later historiography, which followed the patriotic Florentine in his claims that everything of importance throughout the Renaissance originated in the city and spread from there elsewhere. That myth was challenged only in the latter part of the 20th century. Nevertheless, no matter how Vasari exaggerated Florence’s importance, the city was a major center. It was wealthy particularly from the wool trade and through dominance in banking throughout Europe, and the city’s humanists early advised private and corporate patrons about the advantages to their reputations and to that of the city of commissioning art and architecture. Although in the 14th century, Florence was governed as a guild republic, and the major guilds commissioned most of the major works of art, by 1434, Cosimo de’ Medici rose to power, and thereafter except for brief intervals (1494–1512; 1527–1530), the Medici family controlled the city. In the mid-16th century, the family consolidated its power and ruled over all of Tuscany as grand dukes, and changed the nature of commissions to those flattering its rule.

General Overviews

Andres, et al. 1988 provides an extensively illustrated history of Florentine art from the period. Crum and Paoletti 2006 considers art within its social context over the three-century span. Ames-Lewis 2012 and Nethersole 2019 provide histories of Renaissance art intended for undergraduate readership that incorporates new approaches of scholarly inquiry; the former discusses the entire period in question, the latter focused on the quattrocento.

  • Ames-Lewis, Francis, ed. Florence. Artistic Centers of the Italian Renaissance. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    Provides a concise history of Florentine art from 1300 to 1600 in the form of nine chapters divided chronologically, written by leading scholars in the field. Contributors highlight approaches to Renaissance art developed recently, contextualize the art in its social and political context, and consider a broad range of visual art including tapestry, cassone panels, deschi da parto, and manuscript illumination. Organized chronologically. Intended for undergraduate readership.

  • Andres, Glen M., John M. Hunisak, and A. Richard Turner. The Art of Florence. 2 vols. New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.

    Lavishly illustrated pictorial history of the city of Florence and its architecture, painting, and sculpture in two mammoth volumes illustrated with seven hundred plates, most in color. Covers briefly Florentine medieval art but focuses on Florence from 1200 to 1600. With glossary and brief bibliography.

  • Crum, Roger J., and John T. Paoletti, eds. Renaissance Florence: A Social History. Cambridge, MA, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    A series of essays by nineteen experts in the field covers the social history of Florence from the 14th through 16th century through looking at the city’s art and architecture as lived expressions of its identities existing and changing through time and space. Explores a wide variety of themes from material culture to architecture, urban design, and gendered spaces, as well as the city’s grand public monuments. Eighty-four black-and-white illustrations.

  • Nethersole, Scott. Art of Renaissance Florence. London: Laurence King, 2019.

    Provides an overview of Florentine art focused on the period from c. 1400 to c. 1510 in chapters organized thematically rather than chronologically. Discussions of historiography, guild structures, patronage, linear perspective, the influence of Antiquity, modes of viewing, and materiality are often designed to identify and question traditional academic approaches to this period, while highlighting areas of recent scholarly interest.

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