Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback

Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction Paperback

Part of the Very Short Introductions series

2.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Botticelli, Holbein, Leonardo, Durer, Michelangelo: the names are familiar, as are the works, such as the Last Supper fresco, or the monumental marble statue of David.

But who were these artists, why did they produce such memorable images, and how would their original beholders have viewed these objects?

Was the Renaissance only about great masters and masterpieces, or were "mistresses" also involved, such as women artists and patrons? And what about the 'minor'-pieces that Renaissance men and women would have encountered in homes, churches and civic spaces?

This exciting and stimulating volume will answer such questions by considering both famous and lesser-known artists, patrons and works of art within the cultural and historical context of Renaissance Europe. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly.

Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176 pages, numerous halftones
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Renaissance art
  • ISBN: 9780192803542



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This is an essay in viewing Renaissance art in terms of how its original users would evaluate it. It is particularly good on how art was used in Renaissance society, when it was not lodged in museums or regarded as sacrosanct. The author is very good at using examples to develop her ideas. The reproductions are inadequate, as usual in this series. Most can be found in full color on the internet however with a little googling or wikiing. This is a good sensible book but the Very Short Introduction format does not lend itself to such a wide topic.

Review by

This is the seventh Oxford Very Short Introduction that I've read, and the first to disappoint me. It's not that I disagree with much that Johnson has to say, it's that the now-orthodox challenges to supposed orthodoxy seem so obvious as to be downright banal. E.g. on Raphael's Sistine Madonna: "It is only by setting [the angels in the painting] into their original context and trying to see them through the 'period eye' of their original beholders that the non-, or better, extra-aesthetic aspects of the composition become apparent." Well, who can disagree with that? But are the extra-aesthetic aspects that she cites really that interesting? The angels "bridge the gap between this world and the next" (pretty sure I knew that already), and the "bearded figure" is "St Sixtus, patron saint of Pope Sixtus IV, the deceased uncle of the then pope, Julius II, the man probably responsible for commissioning this work for the high altar of a convent" (how fascinating?). It seems to me that the "extra-aesthetic" context brought to bear in most of this book is most definitely "extra"—really only fascinating for people already super-invested in the aesthetic worth of the objects. So Johnson, it seems to me, fails to argue successfully what is, after all, a very conventional viewpoint now—she should be able to make this seemingly-trivial case, but for me she fails. To be fair I think she's hobbled in her quick studies of famous works by the low-res black & white representations of the artists she's discussing, and this book would probably seem much more interesting if read side-by-side with colour reproductions that do the paintings some justice. If you plan to read this, have web access at the ready—as I was on trains and planes in Italy while reading, I didn't have that benefit.