Art and Violence in Early Renaissance Florence Scott Nethersole

Publication date:
16 Jun 2018
Yale University Press
320 pages: 267 x 216mm
233 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:

This study is the first to examine the relationship between art and violence in 15th-century Florence, exposing the underbelly of a period more often celebrated for enlightened and progressive ideas. Renaissance Florentines were constantly subjected to the sight of violence, whether in carefully staged rituals of execution or images of the suffering inflicted on Christ. There was nothing new in this culture of pain, unlike the aesthetic of violence that developed towards the end of the 15th century. It emerged in the work of artists such as Piero di Cosimo, Bertoldo di Giovanni, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, and the young Michelangelo. Inspired by the art of antiquity, they painted, engraved, and sculpted images of deadly battles, ultimately normalizing representations of brutal violence. Drawing on work in social and literary history, as well as art history, Scott Nethersole sheds light on the relationship between these Renaissance images, violence, and ideas of artistic invention and authorship.

Scott Nethersole is senior lecturer in Italian Renaissance art, 1400–1500, at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

“This erudite, sophisticated book is far more than a series of case studies. The power of the argument comes from its elegant structure and the way Nethersole moves cumulatively from studying images that are related to actual violence to those where the violent representation is a manifestation of the skill of the maker”—Caroline Campbell, The Art Newspaper

“Nethersole writes well about many individual works, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio's Massacre of the innocents (1486-90; S. Maria Novella, Florence) and Piero di Cosimo's Battle of the lapiths and centaurs (c.1500-15; National Gallery, London).”—Charles Dempsey, The Burlington Magazine

Listed on Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles List for 2019