Let’s talk about developments in art in the Italian peninsula from about 1300 maybe to 1400. This is really critical for the future trajectory path of Western art in general.

Italy stands in a very interesting place geographically. It’s between the influence of the really wealthy and powerful, less so by this time, but still quite powerful byzantine empire to the east. The emerging monarchies of France and Spain are to the northwest. We are also seeing at this point in time the renewed interest in the architecture of the Roman empire. We see this for instance in the kingdom of Sicilly with Frederick the second. Around the middle or so of the 13th century.

In many ways, Italy is right at the crossroads of the newly emerging culture and politics and economy of Western Europe.

When we look at the map of Italy, which we’re really seeing in the video, you can see a variety of different political entities present. The most important for our purposes in terms of the study of art are the Republics. These relatively small city states, Florence is probably the biggest of them, and we might argue for Venice, especially as it begins to expand itself on the mainland. The republics are primarily commercial centers. They’ve made their money especially in finance and trade, and to a certain degree, manufacturing as in Florence. So, we see again, most important right there in the sort of Northern area here–Republic of Florence and the Republic of Venice.

We can see for instance in the piece at 5:43 by Nicola Pisano from about 1260. This is from a baptistry pulpit in Pisa so this is sort of extra outside, at the edge of a building. A really quite striking scene. A combination of the anunciation nativity where a very Roman-looking Virgin Mary reclining here is with the infant Jesus. Very influenced by Roman sculpture with the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she’s going to have Jesus as a child.