6 – 8 pages
- Alberti and Pliny
This would entail picking out Alberti's references to Pliny. Pliny, a Roman writer, produced a many-volumed work called Natural History that contains a not-too-long section devoted to painting in the ancient world (Book XXXV). A handy edition of Pliny's chapters on art is The Elder Pliny's Chapters on the History of Art (London, 1896). Your task would be to read this section in Pliny and look to see what Alberti uses from it. The endnotes in On Painting will provide you with the references to Pliny.
- The Achievements of the Ancients
Assess the views of Ghiberti and Alberti on the accomplishments of the ancients. Pick out where they mention the antique and examine how they refer to it. What do they admire? Both authors refer to examples of antique sculpture. See what you can find out about these pieces in P. Bober and R. Rubenstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture (Oxford, 1986).
- The Calumny of Apelles: Lucian, Alberti, Botticelli
Alberti refers to Lucian's description of the Calumny of Apelles as an interesting subject for an "historia." Botticelli appears to have followed Alberti's suggestion. Find Lucian's account of the story (it will be in the Loeb Classical Library series in the Main Library), explain its context (who was Lucian and what was he describing?), examine Alberti's interpretation of the same, and finally look to see how Botticelli treats the subject (the most recent monograph on Botticelli is by Ronald Lightbown, in the Art History Library). Does Botticelli follow Alberti's description of the subject or Lucian's? How accurate is he?
- Alberti and the Composition of the "Historia"
Select a painting executed in the second half of the 15th century in Florence which seems to you to exhibit most completely Alberti's suggestions on composition (paragraphs 35-45). Look through Hartt and Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art for examples of paintings. Artists to look for: Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pollaiuolo, Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi.
- Alberti on Light and Colour
Examine Alberti's discussion of light (paragraphs 46-49). Select a painting executed in the second half of the 15th century in Florence which seems to you to follow Alberti's advice. Look through Hartt and Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art for examples of paintings. Artists to look for: Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pollaiuolo, Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi.
- Classical Painters
Alberti names several painters of the ancient world: Zeuxis, Apelles, Polygnotus, Timanthes, Aristides, Euphranor, etc. Use Pliny (Alberti's main source - for Pliny, see above, topic no. 2) to identify these painters more fully. What does Pliny say about these painters? What does Alberti say about them (i.e. what does he pick out of Pliny to illustrate the points he wants to make)?
- Alberti's Perspective System
Examine Alberti's discussion of the construction of intersection in painting (i.e. perspective), with special attention to how one determines "transverse qualities." This would be a good topic for someone who has a geometrical turn of mind and likes to produce diagrams. A step-by-step illustrated approach to perspective construction following Alberti's description, elucidating the concept and noting problems as you progress.
- "Composition is the procedure in painting whereby the parts are composed together in the picture" (Alberti, On Painting).
- "I would have the painter first of all be a good man, well versed in the liberal arts" (Alberti, On Painting).
- "A fifteenth-century painting is the deposit of a social relationship" (Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy).