A5 Format PDF, ideal for tablets and Kindle
171 pages, 73 illustrations and maps
ISBN 0-9541633-4-6Price: €24.95
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Art isn’t just about pretty pictures...
Hidden within the symbolism and geometry of three of the most famous paintings of the Italian Renaissance, lies a story of war, murder and political intrigue. San Romano, The Art of War is a detective story about the three great battle paintings by the Florentine artist Paolo Uccello, now divided between three of the greatest art galleries in the world: the National Gallery in London, the Paris Louvre, and the Uffizi in Florence.
At dawn on the 1st of June 1432, two armies clashed in the Arno valley, close to the small town of San Romano. Some would have us believe that this was a mere skirmish, and even that the two forces somehow met purely by accident, but the truth is that this battle, a full-scale affair involving a total of around 14,000 infantry and cavalry, was the result of a carefully-planned pursuit by a master strategist and tactician, Niccolò da Tolentino, professional mercenary, and Captain General of the Florentine forces. It ended in a decisive victory for the Florentines, and for centuries it has been thought that this battle was the subject of the three ‘San Romano’ panels, and that they were commissioned by Cosimo il vecchio de’ Medici.
This book takes the reader into the world of the condottieri, the mercenary captains who fought the wars of the Italian states, and follows Tolentino and his private army on the days leading up to the battle, and right onto the battlefield itself on that fateful day. It enters a Florence that was creating an artistic revolution 600 years ago, even as it was fighting for its very existence against the ‘Old Enemy’ Milan, and all the while was split by internal power struggles that were also expressed in art. This was the birth of the Florentine Renaissance.
San Romano, the Art of War examines the influences that informed the development of Uccello’s style, and how he used geometry and perspective to allow viewers to ‘read’ the panels. It looks at the thriving arms industry that supplied the condottieri with their armour and weapons, and the realism with which Uccello depicted not only the warriors themselves, but also their combat techniques, as laid out in military manuals, and shown in grisly detail. This attention to detail shows us that far from being some sort of stylised chivalric fantasy, these panels are brutally accurate depictions of Renaissance warfare, as waged by professionals.
The book goes on explain why documentary evidence recently uncovered in the archives of Florence tells us who actually commissioned the panels, and even changes their names. Finally, it identifies a mystery figure in the London panel, who turns out to be the unsung hero of the Battle of San Romano.
It is packed with colour illustrations of Florentine art, and readers will be able to follow in the footsteps of the characters within the pages, from the choking dust and noise of the battlefield, via the streets of Florence where the artists worked side-by-side with the armourers, to the great palazzi of their wealthy patrons: this is the art of war, in every sense.
The San Romano campaign and condottieri; the potentially lethal political struggle in Florence.
Paolo Uccello and his world; his use of geometry and perspective; the creation of the ‘San Romano’ panels.
The Italian arms industry; the detailed depiction of arms, armour and battle in the paintings.
The layers of heraldry and symbolism in the paintings; who actually commissioned them; the identity of the mystery warrior.
Appendix: The Armies