MONASTIC ART IN LORENZO MONACO'S FLORENCE: Painting and Patronage in Santa maria degli Angeli, 1300-1415

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Locked inside the walls of a severely cloistered monastery, monks from the Camaldolese house of Santa Maria degli Angeli had access to some of the most innovative paintings produced in Florence between 1350 and 1425. Leading painters of the day, like Nardo di Cione and Lorenzo Monaco, filled manuscripts and decorated altars with richly ornamented pictures that related directly to liturgical passages recited – and theological positions embraced – by members of the institution. In a city marked by wealthy and sophisticated ecclesiastical communities, the one at Santa Maria degli Angeli had few peers.

Dependent on the benefices of a powerful network of patronage, the monks in Santa Mara degli Angeli counted among their staunchest allies families associated with the most important political alliances in Florence, and by 1378 the monastery was considered by many to be closely linked to the city’s most potent families. Monks executed a variety of tasks and obligations which took place throughout the year. Among these was a lengthy and solemn procession, held on specific feast days, that took the community to every altar and altarpiece in the monastic complex. The route they took and the images they saw caused each participant to see his collection of images in sequence, and thus encouraged him to consider the altarpieces in his environment both individually and collectively. The culmination of this procession came to be the extraordinary high altarpiece produced by Lorenzo Monaco in 1413, the Coronation of the Virgin, which summarized both the entire program of monastic imagery in Santa Maria degli Angeli and the importance of individual patronage in Europe’s most progressive and potent city-state. This work examines and explains the appearance, function, and uses of painting in one of the day’s most important cultural centers.

Because of the size of the book and the large number of photographs, this book is priced at $399.95.


“Dr. George Bent’s new book addresses the pictorial culture within the Camaldolese monastery Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence, from its founding in the late thirteen century, through the early fifteenth century. Santa Maria degli Angeli is well-known to Medieval and Renaissance art historians as an important center of illuminated manuscript production and the monastic home of the accomplished painter Lorenzo Monaco ... This book promises to generate productive debate about the degree of institution control over lay patronage initiatives in urban monastic houses during the later-Middle Ages and Renaissance ... This work presents one of the most thorough-going and informed discussions of the relationship between visual imagery and the liturgy in this period, and this will certainly be of interest to art historians ...” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor Megan Holmes, University of Michigan

“Long under-appreciated because it no longer exists, the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli is ably excavated and explicated in this book as a major religious institution and a vital center of patrician patronage and cultural production in late medieval Florence ... Embracing and complementing the pioneering work of Marvin Eisenberg on the Camaldolese painter Lorenzo Monaco, this book affects a further Renaissance of a lost master locality that was far from peripheral and insignificant to Florentine experience on the eve of the Renaissance itself ... This study will certainly find a healthy readership among students in and beyond Florentine studies.” – Professor Roger Crum, University of Dayton

“This book is a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of late medieval, early Renaissance art history. Dr. Bent’s vivid and carefully detailed description of the interaction of ritual life and art in one of the central monasteries of early modern Florence highlights not only the intertwining of politics and art during this period, but also the central role that visual imagery played in the religious life of the population ... The focus on one monastery, which stood at the center of the political upheaval of the late fourteenth century, acts like a case study for this little understood period. Dr. Bent’s command of documentary sources combined with his confident storytelling style makes the book a pleasure to read.” – Professor Felicity Ratté, Marlboro College, Vermont

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface by Megan Holmes
1. Camaldolese Culture in the Late Middle Ages
2. The Founding of Santa Maria degli Angeli, 1295-1348
3. Renovation and Rejuvenation, 1348-1378
4. Deconstruction, Reconstruction, and the Albizzi Faction, 1378-1413
5. Manuscripts, Miniatures, and their Makers
6. Pictures and Processions in Santa Maria degli Angeli
7. Altarpieces, Miniatures, and Liturgy: The Function of Images
8. Altarpieces, Miniatures, and Memory
9. Lorenzo Monaco’s Coronation of the Virgin
10. The End of an Era

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