Giotto to Dürer

Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery

Jill Dunkerton

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This beautiful book provides a survey of European painting in northern and southern Europe between 1260 and 1510. It is based largely on the collection of early Renaissance paintings in the National Gallery in London, one of the finest and most comprehensive collections in the world.


In an extensive introduction the authors explain the background of religious belief and devotional practice for which many of the paintings were created and the secular requirements and ambitions that influenced them. They discuss the social context in which art was created and then displayed in the street, the palace, or the church, and they consider the role of the patron and the dealer. They describe the artist’s workshop, consider the role of apprentices and assistants, discuss the influence of guilds and courts, and explore the reasons why new subjects and techniques were introduced and earlier traditions survived. They then supply the first full modern account of the materials and techniques of the early Renaissance artist, drawing on recent research to explain the preparation of panels, the application of gold leaf, and the use of tempera and oil paint.


The book also features a detailed examination of some seventy of the finest and best known paintings in the Gallery, including masterpieces by Duccio, Van Eyck, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Bouts, Bellini, Memling, Raphael, and Leonardo. The book is a stimulating and authoritative guide to the paintings in the Gallery—for those who can observe them in person and for those who must view them through the printed page.


Publication of this book coincides with the reopening of the Sainsbury Wing designed by Robert Venturi, in which the Early Renaissance Collection will be newly exhibited.

"Giotto to Dürer . . . is in fact several books rolled into one. It is a history of Renaissance painting as reflected in the collections of a single museum, a guide to selected works in that collection and a look at the way paintings were made and how they functioned between the middle of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth. What makes this book so good is the quantity and quality of information provided. It stands as a good one-volume history of its subject, something not every museum publication of this kind can claim."—Eric Gibson, The Washington Times

"The crying need has been for an exhibition catalogue dedicated not to a traveling show but to a permanent collection, and few such books exist. Standing head and shoulders above that crowd of a few is Giotto to Dürer, published to coincide with the opening of the recently completed Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London. Beautifully installed in sympathetic and comfortable new spaces, London's unrivaled, nearly encyclopedic collection of Italian and northern European Renaissance paintings is now intellectually as well as physically more accessible than ever before, and more than ever before available to a nontraveling public (Giotto to Dürer includes an astonishing 320 color plates) as well. Giotto to Dürer is neither a straightforward guide book nor a conventional history of Renaissance painting, but an introduction to many of the things one needs to understand in order more fully to appreciate the art of the Renaissance, a culture alien to our own in many ways. . . . [The] most original, most interesting, most useful and most readable art book of the year. Let us hope it becomes a model for other museums to follow."—Laurence B. Kanter, New York Times Book Review

"From the National Gallery, we are presented with one of the most extensive collections of early Renaissance paintings ranging from 1260 to 1510. Seventy of the finest examples of art from Giotto, Dürer, Bellini, Raphael, and others are lavishly reproduced with excellent comments from specialists. The authors describe the time, how Guilds were formed, the type of painting tools used, frames, equipment and what techniques the artists used. This book will be avidly sought by historians, collectors, art appraisers and artists for their library collection."—Morse Press-News

"This is an exemplary book and, considering today's prices, a real bargain. The text is lucid, up to date, and informative. Much of the information in the section, `The Making of Paintings,' is hard to find anywhere else. . . . Useful for anyone at any level of study."—Choice

"Fascinating and informative . . . the book is a must for any Renaissance aficionado looking for an examination of works from this remarkable period."—Country Inns Bed and Breakfast

"Splendid in every way, Giotto to Dürer is beautifully produced, richly informative, with many color and black and white reproductions uniformly excellent in quality. Historical, technical, biographical, stylistic and much other information is conveyed with rare grace, intelligence and skill. This is a work that no reference or personal library concerned with European art of the fourteenth, fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries can do without, essential reading for any student of painting between 1300 and 1520. It can be put on a 'must buy' list as well as 'must read' list because it is so reasonably priced."—Colin Eisler, Renaissance Quarterly

"This is a splendid commentary. . . . The quality of the illustrations is ravishing."—Keith Brace, Birmingham Post

Received honorable mention in the category of Excellence in Book Design and Production in the 1991 Association of American Publishers’ Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing Awards
ISBN: 9780300050707
Publication Date: September 25, 1991
Co-publisher: Published by Yale Univeristy Press in association with the National Gallery, London
408 pages, x
200 duotones + 320 color illus.
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