Monday, October 28, 2013

The History of Florence in Painting

Abbeville Press
Slipcased, 496 pages
342 full-color illustrations, 4 gatefolds
Published 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7892-1145-3
Not Yet Published
Due in: 11/26/2013

You may be familiar with Abbeville’s series of books exploring the histories of iconic cities, including

The History of Venice in Painting,

The History of Paris in Painting and

The History of Rome in Painting.

The newest book in the series, The History of Florence in Painting, recounts the most important events in the history of Florence as captured by some of the greatest artists in the Western world, the story tellers of their time. Interest in the history of Florence has increased lately, thanks to Dan Brown’s Inferno and the book chronicles the lives of the denizens of Florence. These stories range from luminaries such as Dante and Giotto to the Medici and religious orders like the Poor Clares to inhabitants of the Santo Spirito, or residential zone for employees of the ducal palace.

In the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, Florence served as the primary destination in Italy for merchants and artists from all over Europe and the city flourished as a prototype of the modern state as well as serving as the intellectual and cultural center of Italy. This legacy endured as the city served as the trail head of the Grand Tour, a rite of passage for intellectuals, artists, and nobility as they explored the continent.

Located at the heart of the Italian peninsula, Florence was already a center of commerce and fine craftsmanship by 1252, when it began to mint its own currency, the gold florin, the “dollar of the Middle Ages.” The great wealth amassed by the Medici, the Strozzi, the Pitti, and other merchant and banking families was in some part responsible for the flowering of the arts, literature, philosophy, and science in the period that followed, a phenomenon that even then was recognized as, and called, a renaissance. The legacy of this great epoch, both tangible and spiritual, ensured that Florence would remain a beacon of culture through its succeeding centuries of ducal rule.

And Florence was all along a city of painters, whose works not only record and interpret its history—its sights; the likenesses of its leaders and luminaries; its battles, civic myths, and patron saints—but are also an integral part of that history themselves. In this magnificent volume are assembled a wide variety of artworks, both familiar and rarely seen, that, interwoven with an authoritative text, chronicle the changing fortunes of Florence—from the age of Cimabue and Giotto, through the High Renaissance of Leonardo and Michelangelo, to the Mannerism of Vasari and Bronzino, and even to the era of modern travelers like Sargent and Degas.

The History of Florence in Painting is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. It's a magnificent, absolutely huge book, a coffee table book itself as big as a coffee table. It's a worthy companion to the previous volumes in this series, which present the histories of Venice, Paris, and Rome in painting.


- Antonella Fenech Kroke, Editor, is a historian of Renaissance art, specializing in Giorgio Vasari, and a member of the Centre d’Histoire de l’Art de la Renaissance in Paris.

- Cyril Gerbron, an art historian, teaches at the Sorbonne.

- Stefano Calonaci is a historian of the city of Florence.

- Neville Rowley is currently a visiting professor of art history at the University of Campinas, Brazil.