Italian Renaissance Art: Understanding its Meaning
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Richly illustrated, and featuring detailed descriptions of works by pivotal figures in the Italian Renaissance, this enlightening volume traces the development of art and architecture throughout the Italian peninsula in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

  • A smart, elegant, and jargon-free analysis of the Italian Renaissance – what it was, what it means, and why we should study it
  • Provides a sustained discussion of many great works of Renaissance art that will significantly enhance readers’ understanding of the period
  • Focuses on Renaissance art and architecture as it developed throughout the Italian peninsula, from Venice to Sicily  
  • Situates the Italian Renaissance in the wider context of the history of art
  • Includes detailed interpretation of works by a host of pivotal Renaissance artists, both well and lesser known


Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier is a three-time graduate of Harvard University (AB, AM, PhD) and an internationally known art historian.  She has taught and lectured in numerous American universities and chaired departments at the University of New Mexico and Wayne State University.  Professor Joost-Gaugier has written extensively on Italian art and architecture and has authored more than 200 publications, including six books.  Her work has been supported by numerous research grants and published in international journals, exhibition catalogues, and conference proceedings.  In 2005 she was awarded an honorary Phi Beta Kappa for Lifetime Achievement by Harvard University.


List of Illustrations vi

Preface xi

Frontispiece: Map of places mentioned xiii

Introduction: The Italian Renaissance as an Idea Rather Than a Period 1

1 What a Difference a Hundred Years Makes 8

2 How It All Started: Florence and Umbria 31

3 What Happened Next in Florence 68

4 Searching for the Renaissance (1): Siena and Southward to Sicily 92

5 Searching for the Renaissance (2): From Northern Italy Back to Umbria 118

6 The Triumph of the Intellectual Avant-Garde: The High Renaissance 152

7 Some Other Artists of the High Renaissance 184

8 The Swan Song of Renaissance Art 200

9 The Break and the New Avant-Garde: Early Mannerism 209

10 What Was the Italian Renaissance? Conclusions in the Bigger Picture 246

Appendix A: Artists Mentioned 258

Appendix B: Some Suggested Readings 262

Index 267


“Summing Up: Recommended.  Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers/faculty.”  (Choice, 1 November 2013)

“I highly recommend the very important and fascinating book Italian Renaissance Art: Understanding its Meaning by Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier, to any historians, art critics, art history and Renaissance history students and academics, and to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the real meaning and currents that were present in Renaissance Italy. This book will transform how you view the art and the artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Italy, and guide you toward thinking of the Renaissance as an important idea and not as a time period.”  (Money Talks, 13 April 2013)

“Joost-Gaugier's book makes a major contribution to our thinking about Italian Renaissance art.  Her fresh ideas will be useful for students as well as for advanced scholars.”
- Joseph Manca, Rice University

“Superseding earlier textbooks full of oversimplified description, Professor Joost-Gaugier's book teaches students how to read and discuss art.  Its central insight—that the Renaissance was an idea that motivated artists of the time—is supported by the author’s sensitive interpretations.”
- Luba Freedman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“An engaging introduction to the subject, with a welcome emphasis on art’s formal language.  Students will relish Joost-Gaugier’s descriptions of Renaissance paintings that evoke their luscious colors, and her erudite narrative enlivened by a personal perspective.”
- Mary D. Garrard, Professor Emerita, American University