Decorative Arts: Style and Design from Classical to Contemporary

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A comprehensive guide to the history and development of style and design from to the present day, from No. From priceless Oriental porcelain and Huguenot silver to exquisite Art Deco glass and minimalist contemporary chairs, explore the entire spectrum of decorative pieces including furniture, ceramics, silverware, glass, textiles, sculpture, clocks, and posters through the centuries.

Discover how to identify the key features and motifs, materials and techniques that influenced design and their significance. Uncover the stories behind the key designers and craftsmen, and the movements they represent.

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Over 3, beautiful items reveal the style and beauty of furnishings and objects used to decorate interiors through the centuries. Writers such as Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio looked back to ancient Greece and Rome and sought to revive the languages, values and intellectual traditions of those cultures after the long period of stagnation that had followed the fall of the Roman Empire in the sixth century. The Florentine painter Giotto ? His frescoes were said to have decorated cathedrals at Assisi, Rome, Padua, Florence and Naples, though there has been difficulty attributing such works with certainty.

Renaissance Art

In the later 14th century, the proto-Renaissance was stifled by plague and war, and its influences did not emerge again until the first years of the next century. In , the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti c. The other major artist working during this period was the painter Masaccio , known for his frescoes of the Trinity in the Church of Santa Maria Novella c.

Masaccio painted for less than six years but was highly influential in the early Renaissance for the intellectual nature of his work, as well as its degree of naturalism.

Though the Catholic Church remained a major patron of the arts during the Renaissance—from popes and other prelates to convents, monasteries and other religious organizations—works of art were increasingly commissioned by civil government, courts and wealthy individuals.

Much of the art produced during the early Renaissance was commissioned by the wealthy merchant families of Florence, most notably the Medici family.


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Three great masters— Leonardo da Vinci , Michelangelo and Raphael—dominated the period known as the High Renaissance, which lasted roughly from the early s until the sack of Rome by the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain in Michelangelo Buonarroti drew on the human body for inspiration and created works on a vast scale. He carved the latter by hand from an enormous marble block; the famous statue measures five meters high including its base. Though Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor first and foremost, he achieved greatness as a painter as well, notably with his giant fresco covering the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, completed over four years and depicting various scenes from Genesis.

Raphael Sanzio, the youngest of the three great High Renaissance masters, learned from both da Vinci and Michelangelo. Many works of Renaissance art depicted religious images, including subjects such as the Virgin Mary, or Madonna, and were encountered by contemporary audiences of the period in the context of religious rituals.

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Today, they are viewed as great works of art, but at the time they were seen and used mostly as devotional objects. Many Renaissance works were painted as altarpieces for incorporation into rituals associated with Catholic Mass and donated by patrons who sponsored the Mass itself. Renaissance artists came from all strata of society; they usually studied as apprentices before being admitted to a professional guild and working under the tutelage of an older master.

Far from being starving bohemians, these artists worked on commission and were hired by patrons of the arts because they were steady and reliable. In addition to sacred images, many of these works portrayed domestic themes such as marriage, birth and the everyday life of the family.

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Over the course of the 15th and 16th centuries, the spirit of the Renaissance spread throughout Italy and into France, northern Europe and Spain. Oil painting during the Renaissance can be traced back even further, however, to the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck died , who painted a masterful altarpiece in the cathedral at Ghent c. By the later s, the Mannerist style, with its emphasis on artificiality, had developed in opposition to the idealized naturalism of High Renaissance art, and Mannerism spread from Florence and Rome to become the dominant style in Europe.

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Art Deco - History and Concepts

But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. Toward the end of the 14th century A.


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Generally described as taking place from the 14th century to the 17th century, the Renaissance promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, architect, inventor, and student of all things scientific. Art Nouveau was an art and design movement that grew out of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th Century.