More light shed on art of the Renaissance

Over the past couple of years, the National Gallery has hosted a number of ambitious exhibitions that, like many before them, have helped bring to the Greek public some of the greatest masterpieces of Western art. «In the Light of Apollo: The Italian Renaissance and Greece,» which opened at the close of 2003, was one of the highlights in the museum’s exhibition program, an occasion to marvel at works by such Renaissance artists as Ghiberti, Donatello, Botticelli, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Veronese, Tintoretto, Luca della Robia, Mantegna, Ghirlandaio, Giulio Romano and Pollaiolo. Jointly curated by the director of the National Gallery, Marina Lambraki-Plaka, and her counterpart at the Fondazione Longhi, Mina Gregori, the exhibition examined the Renaissance tradition of humanism and the period’s revival of the classical past. The exhibition tackled one of the greatest themes in the history of Western civilization and was an occasion to bring together specialized researchers in the field. The two-volume, fully illustrated catalog which – after a year’s delay due to lack of funding – has just been published and is available in Greek offers much more than a documentation of an exhibition. It includes original, in-depth and detailed research on diverse aspects of Renaissance art. It also helps shed new light on the relationship between the Italian Renaissance and the classical past. Marina Lambraki-Plaka explores ancient sources in Alberti’s treatise «On Pittura» and analyzes the Renaissance studiolos, while Mina Gregori’s introductory essay maps out the emerging interest in antiquity in the late 13th century as manifested in literature, philosophy and art. The first essays explore early Renaissance discoveries of the Greek ancient past. Some of the subjects examined include travels to Greece during the period of humanism, early Renaissance portraits depicting Greek philosophers and the ancient models on which Renaissance painters were based. Part of the book is structured according to the regions that developed into artistic strongholds. Florentine art and the way that the turn to antiquity was expressed in the art of the Tuscan region is given extensive consideration. Art in Northern Italy – in Padua, Venice, Lombardy, Ferrara and Mantua – is treated separately. Other scholars consider the role of the Medicis as patrons of art in its various manifestations. Essays range from very specialized themes to broader issues. An invaluable compilation of research material on the relationship between the Renaissance and the Greek classical past, the exhibition’s catalog broadens existing knowledge on a seminal subject in the history of Western art. The two-volume, 1,200-page catalog is sold at 90 euros.