Programme Jan – Jun 2024


Italy, and more specifically Florence, has been widely perceived as the true cradle of Renaissance art since Giorgio Vasari wrote his highly influential Lives of the Artists in the 16th century. This linked the idea of renaissance, or rebirth, to the revival of Roman humanism and Greek philosophy that was taking place at the time, and which manifested itself particularly in the visual arts. At roughly the same time Northern Europe was also experiencing an artistic boom. Whilst this too has been termed a renaissance, it nonetheless had different causes, priorities and styles. Extensive travel at the time resulted in a rich cross-fertilisation of techniques and styles across Europe, blurring distinctions between the two regions. The aim of this programme is to explore both northern and southern Renaissance art in general terms, how each developed and was influenced by the other, as well as looking in greater detail at specific areas of specialisation such as sculpture, tapestries and altarpieces and examining the various influences behind each.

Wednesday, 17 January, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Renaissance in Italy – An Introduction Illustrated seminar by Jo Walton
The period of the Renaissance – roughly, the 15th and early 16th centuries – was one of the most exciting and challenging in the study of art, architecture and design. With new ideas about life and art, often drawn from the heritage of ancient Rome, beginning to broaden the subject matter available to artists, innovative materials and techniques helped them to achieve remarkable new effects. Examining the physical remains of the ancient world brought classical forms to architecture and sculpture, which, reflected in the paintings of the period, spread ideas about how space and the human body could be depicted. Along with a fascination for more realistic and psychologically acute portraits came the gradual development of more secular subjects – portraits, tales of myth and history – as well as a delight in landscape and in realistic details in the backgrounds of other images. These developments did not happen overnight, but through a long process of discovery and rediscovery, culminating in a moment when artists, patrons, scholars and thinkers were all exploring the classical past to learn new ways to describe and depict the exciting potential of the colourful, larger-than-life present.

Wednesday, 31 January, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Splendours of Federico da Montefeltro’s Court at Urbino Illustrated seminar by Dr Michael Douglas-Scott
Studies of the Italian Renaissance can tend to focus on the famous centres of Florence, Venice and Rome. Without denying their undoubted importance, there are numerous other centres of excellence which can often be overlooked. For example, some of the 3 most sophisticated courts in Europe were concentrated in a few small towns in north-eastern Italy such as Ferrara, Mantua, Rimini and Urbino. Each was dominated by a ruling dynasty and from these families emerged some of the most magnificent patrons of the Italian Renaissance. These regional courts, with their hunger for novelty, love of magnificence and thirst for recognition, engaged major figures in the visual arts, music, literature and humanist learning. They gave patronage to such major players as Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian. Further, they played an important role in the development and also the dissemination of Renaissance ideas, both within Italy and the wider European culture. This seminar will firstly give a brief overview of the major courts of this area, then examine that of Federico da Montefeltro at Urbino in more detail. It will explore how he managed to attract such major players, his motivations for spending so much on the arts and his competitiveness – with other courts of the region as well as with the richer and more powerful states.

Wednesday, 21 February, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Northern Renaissance and its Wider Influences Illustrated seminar by Dr Lydia Hansell
This lecture will examine and unpack the assumptions made about the Northern Renaissance through the lens of Italian critics and writers, notably Vasari. The first part will establish the ways in which the Northern Renaissance conformed less to Italianate criteria and, therefore, the reasons for taking the art of Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden and Hans Memling on their own terms. The work of these artists can then be appreciated as a series of case studies to demonstrate the wide ranging impact and influence they had on their Italian counterparts. Art and objects produced in the Burgundian Netherlands – for over 100 years the dominant force in Europe in terms of its artistic output – began to give way to Italy, particularly Florence, Rome and Venice. The lecture will close to consider Michelangelo’s Madonna which was sent to Bruges in 1506 by a Flemish merchant, Alexandre Mouscron. This object represents a turning point and a stylistic direction in which both northern and southern artists followed in the next century. However, it also represents the impact of northern art throughout Europe in the preceding century.

Wednesday, 13 March, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Importance of the Altarpiece in Art North of the Alps, 1400-1500 Illustrated seminar by Hendrika Foster
The introduction of a choir in 1144 in St. Denis, the Romanesque cathedral in Paris, marks the opening of the Gothic architectural period. The word cathedral is derived from the Greek kathedra, meaning seat, which came to mean the seat of the bishop close to the high altar. Sculpture was a part of the theological agenda for decoration, and a type of polyptych with panels of relief carving emerged in the form of a central altarpiece. Radiating chapels along the side aisles permitted financial contributions from local wealthy citizens and formed a method of personal aggrandizement as each one had an altar, where a priest could celebrate the Mass and some form of family attribution. The painted altarpiece would be less expensive and increased in popularity after the papal Declaration of Transubstantiation (Real Presence) in 1215 which made it a liturgical object sanctified by ecclesiastical law. The lecture will include altarpieces by Robert Campin working in Tournai, Jan van Eyck in Ghent, Hans Memling in Bruges, Rogier van der Weyden in Brussels and Geertgen tot Sint Jans in Haarlem. Finally comes the Portinari altarpiece painted by Hugo van der Goes in Ghent and displayed in Sant’Egidio in Florence by 1478.

Wednesday, 27 March, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
Flemish Tapestries of the Renaissance Illustrated seminar by Dr Gillian White
The skill of the tapestry makers of the Low Countries was renowned throughout Europe. For centuries, popes, emperors, kings, dukes and other people of wealth enthusiastically acquired tapestries to adorn their buildings with artworks that represented sophistication, skill and magnificence. Gradually, though, the artistic preferences of the southern Renaissance cut across the late Gothic tastes of the north. Crowded designs filled with flat figures, rich with decorative detail, depicting multiple scenes in one composition, were at odds with the design choices of the Italian High Renaissance, where heroic figures, caught in single dramatic moments, placed within illusionistic settings, were fashionable. The northern workshops adapted to the demands of the new aesthetic and continued to weave desirable tapestries. Central to this process was the commission placed by Pope Leo X with the Brussels workshop of Pieter van Aelst to weave a set of tapestries from Raphael’s designs for the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The resulting textiles were considered a marvel and encouraged a change of style in northern tapestry design, whilst also confirming the supremacy of the northern weavers in the south. Focusing on tapestry, this seminar will explore the exchange of ideas between north and south, looking at differences and developments in style, at the means by which ideas were communicated, and at the working practices of the craftsmen.

Wednesday, 17 April, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
Venice, Byzantium and the Renaissance Illustrated seminar by Jane Angelini
A major theme under discussion in this seminar on Venice, Byzantium and the Renaissance is the unique link between this great Mediterranean maritime power and Byzantium, the Greek world that dominated the medieval centuries. In many ways Byzantium holds the key to the Renaissance, since it was here that the world of Greek culture and learning was not lost in the Dark Ages, but carefully preserved, especially in their pictorial works, despite the new Christian subject matter. This preserved treasure started percolating through to Europe in the Medieval period, thanks in great part to the Serenissima. Venice, through trade and the exchange of ideas as well as goods, had unique links with Constantinople and the Greek world, with a large population of Byzantines living in the city. The cultural flow from Byzantium was a matter of daily routine there. For the Venetians, then, the revivalist movement that swept both northern and southern Europe from the 14th century was more of a continuation than a revolution. The seminar will concentrate, through artists like Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione and Titian, on defining Venice’s unique role during this period and its concept of “Renaissance”. We will discuss the influence of Byzantium in shaping Venetian art as well as that of the Dutch invention of oil painting and the game-changing techniques of the Florentine painters, always remembering that the Venetian painters of the 15th and 16th centuries testify to the idea of accretion not rejection, addition rather than subtraction, continuity rather than revolution.

Wednesday, 8 May, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
Donatello and his Circle Illustrated seminar by Dr Emma Stirrup
This talk will look at the art and influence of the Florentine sculptor Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, known as Donatello. As Giorgio Vasari declared of his work, “there is a marvellous suggestion of life bursting out of the stone” – and Donatello is widely recognised as the greatest sculptor of the early Renaissance. Like many contemporaries, Donatello received his artistic training in a goldsmith’s workshop and began as an assistant to Lorenzo Ghiberti on the Florence Baptistry doors. Throughout his oeuvre, Donatello drew on the ideals of classical sculpture and married them with a new realism and unprecedented understanding of human anatomy. He produced the first free-standing male nude since antiquity, David, 1440-43, and the first bronze equestrian statue, Gattamelata. His career spanned over 50 years – and his innovations in perspective and his revolutionary expressive style, whether a signature shallow modelled relief, rilievo schiacciato, or a dynamic figure, figura serpentinata, that encourages the beholder to move around the form and take in the whole, had enormous impact on his contemporaries. We will also look at Donatello’s collaborators and friends in Florence, Michelozzo, Masaccio and Brunelleschi, and his influence on students and other artists.
Followed by the AGM

Wednesday, 5 June, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
Dürer, the Northern Renaissance Polymath Illustrated seminar by Dr Manya Pagiavla
Discover the art of Albrecht Dürer and his multi-faceted talent. First, we shall study the northern and the Italian elements in the art of Dürer. Unlike other painters of the Northern Renaissance, Dürer incorporated into his art elements of the Italian Renaissance: in particular, the classicising motifs, a testimony of his journeys to Italy. Nonetheless, Dürer’s portraits reject the idealisation of the South/Italy, while his self-portraits foresee the art of Rembrandt. Secondly, and most importantly, we shall explore Dürer’s multi-faceted talent. Dürer adopted the Vitruvian model of the universality of knowledge. Vitruvius was the Ancient Roman source that inspired the Italian Renaissance polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci. Dürer and Leonardo both wrote on proportions. Leonardo drew the infamous Vitruvian Man, while Dürer drew the Vitruvian Woman. Both Leonardo and Dürer produced iconic studies that celebrate the natural world, at a time when the super-natural/religious sphere dominated the artistic establishment. Albrecht Dürer embodies the prototype of the Renaissance polymath in the North: a painter and a printmaker, but also a writer of treatises that elaborate on mathematics, perspective and human proportions.