3-D Painting OR 2-D Sculpture?

The magnificent exhibition, “Springtime of the Renaissance”, at Palazzo Strozzi, which is open until August, emphasises the very close relationship between sculpture and painting in early renaissance Florence. Painting becomes planar representation of sculpture and sculpture becomes three-dimensional representation of painting.

These two artistic disciplines join together in those marvellous terracotta painted statues with which some of the greats – Donatello, Brunelleschi and Della Robbia – all began their creative career before launching into their separate excellences as sculptor, architect and ceramicist.

The devotional terracotta Madonne, conversely, become two-dimensional by virtue of their skilful modelling. Could it be that the development of perspective and depth in paintings was a direct result of transferring from canvas to marble block and back again in one and the same artist?

For example, Andrea Del Castagno’s detached frescoes of famous people are so sculptural as to almost con the eye with their 3D-like solidity.

There are many wonderful pieces in this exhibition, some from America, London and the Louvre, some recomposed or put together especially for the event. I especially loved the Agostino di Duccio bas-reliefs for their elegance and almost Buddhist-like serenity.

The panels representing the sacrifice of Isaac by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi (whose effort was not used for the doors of Florence’s baptistry) I found intreaging in their quite different approaches. Guess which one is Brunelleschi’s:

There are lots of other beautiful things to see here: due to the Strozzi’s no-photography policy I have taken these images from the web.

There is nothing worse than going to an exhibition and not being able to view at close quarters or linger over favourite items because of an uncontrolled mass of the public also wishing to do the same. I have long given up yearning for Royal Academy exhibitions precisely for this reason. Why pay inflated admission ticket prices just to see the back of people’s heads?

I have been going to the Palazzo Strozzi exhibitions for several years now and have never had the R.A. kind of experience. The staff is courteous, the density of visitors is acceptable (indeed, when we were there we had the place practically all to ourselves) and one can truly appreciate what one sees in one’s time.

Like all exhibitions at the Palazzo, this one is excellently documented and alongside the narrative there are quotes relating to various thinkers’ views about sculpture.

There is an on-line catalogue at


which could be read to get some background on what you are going to see.

There is a tactile section for the visually-impaired, children’s activities and a decent bookshop – in brief, the exhibition is another example from the Strozzi staff of how things should be done and, unfortunately, too often are not in Italy’s cornucopia of cultural events.

I’m definately looking forwards to the forthcoming exhibitions at the palazzo Strozzi which will deal with such diverse areas as the Russian avant-garde and the Italian mannerists.


One thought on “3-D Painting OR 2-D Sculpture?

  1. Pingback: Divine Beauty in Florence | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

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