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Describe and Discuss the Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello

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The Renaissance was a period of extraordinary creative and intellectual achievement. It was inspired by the literature, language, culture and art of classical Rome and Greece.

The word ‘Renaissance’ means rebirth in French and is today mostly associated with visual arts.

A new philosophy called humanism became widespread among intellectuals. This new philosophy valued human achievements because man was God’s creation.

The ancient worlds of Greece and Rome were considered the highest point of human intellectual achievement. Beauty was also highly regarded as a way towards God

Printing helped to spread the new ideas from humanist literature as well as translations from classical works about science and astronomy.

The growth of European cities contributed greatly to the spread of learning. The main centres of wealth, education and culture were London, Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna, Venice and Florence.

Paolo Uccello was born in 1397. He was born as Paolo di Dono. He was an Italian painter and a mathematician who was known for his work with perspective in art. His nickname was Uccello, it came from his fondness for painting birds. His father, Dono di Paolo, was a barber-surgeon from Pratovecchio near Arezzo, his mother, Antonia, was a high-born Florentine. `

Uccello entered the workshop of Lorenzo Ghiberti at a young age. Not much is known of his early activity. Between 1425 and 1430 he is said to have been in Venice working as a mosaicist. After his return to Florence he was extremely impressed by the new artistic climate of the city. He began studying the possibilities offered by the new spatial concepts of the Renaissance, and experimented in his compositions with bold, geometrical perspectives.

Giorgio Vasari wrote in his book Lives of the Artists that Uccello was obsessed by his interest in perspective and would stay up all night in his study trying to find the exact vanishing point. He used perspective in order to create a feeling of depth in his paintings. Vasari wrote that when his wife pleaded with him to come to bed, his reply was, ‘Oh what a lovely thing is this perspective.’

His best known works are three paintings representing the same event called the Battle of San Romano, for a long period of time these were wrongly entitled the “Battle of Sant’ Egidio of 1416.” They were commissioned by Lorenzo Medici to commemorate a battle that the Florentines won over the Sienese.

He followed the ideas of Giotto who was first a great storyteller and Uccello was the first painter to master linear perspective. His paintings are colourful and decorative with a lot of attention to details.

Paolo Uccello made three panels for Cosimo de Medici depicting the Battle of San Romano. This was a victory for Florence but was an event of little or no importance. It would have been quickly forgotten

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