Artistic Theory in Italy, 1450-1600

By Anthony Blunt | Go to book overview

Chapter VII VASARI

THE political disturbances of the early sixteenth century affected different parts of Italy in different ways. Something has already been said of the chaos produced in Rome by the Sack of 1527. In Florence this episode was the signal for a new outburst of popular feeling. The Medici were driven out, and for a time a popular government ruled the city. But by 1531 the Medici were reinstated, and this time they took care to destroy even those traces of democracy which they had tolerated before 1527. The government of the city became undisguisedly autocratic, and nothing but the name remained of the old republic. During the pontificate of Clement VII and the early years of Paul III the connexion between Florence and Rome was strong, but when the Papacy, about 1545, launched out into the militant phase of the Counter-Reformation the tie grew steadily weaker. For several decades Florence was less affected than most Italian cities by the spirit which inspired reformers of the Caraffa type. Its government remained purely secular, and even the Inquisition was subject there to state control. There was never felt in Florence that bitter spiritual disillusionment which came over Michelangelo in Rome, nor the fighting Christian spirit personified in St. Ignatius.

The art of Florence in the mid-sixteenth century is therefore a pure court art. The constitution of the city was too autocratic for it to produce a Humanist art like that of Rome under Julius II, but it was also too secular to produce the spiritualized painting of Michelangelo in his later years, or of later Roman Mannerism. Florentine Mannerism, as represented in the painting of Vasari or Bronzino, has neither the rationalism of early Quattrocento Florentine painting, nor

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