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It is not easy to talk about the history of the arts in the Marches following the usual path of continuity. Many different artistic forms existed at the same time in this eclectic territory. However, if a common element is to be found, it lies in the influence of Eastern countries, which have always been linked to the Marches through trade and which have also disseminated the Christian culture.  

The Middle Ages were marked by a great architectural fervor, promoted above all by the growing religious orders. Painting grew at the same pace, as a natural completion for sober stone structures, and it acquired its style in all its variations; whether it imitated the Byzantine, the Lombard of the Umbro-Tuscan styles.

The Giotto school spread from the northern part of the region, which originated directly from the Franciscan impulse of the late 13th century. The first paintings on tablet date back to that period and were spread through the whole region. Slowly, as new and prestigious cultural centres emerged, a real school of the Marches was born. 

Painters from the Marches were appreciated only outside their native region, at the major Italian and European courts, whereas many famous Italian painters lived in the Marches. Examples include Taddeo and Federico Zuccari, who worked in Rome, or Gentile da Fabriano, who disseminated an international gothic style and paradoxically left his native town without a single work of his. 

Another example is the great painter Raffaello, known worldwide as a superb painter but seldom remembered as an artist born in the Marches.

In mid 15th century, the stimulating Montefeltro courts (real cradles for arts) competed to host the most famous artists of that time, such as Laurana, Di Giorgio Martini, Bramante and excellent painters such as Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Botticelli, Giovanni Santi (Raffaello’s father) and Melozzo da Forlì. Urbino’s Duke, Federico of Montefeltro, entrusted Laurana with the task of building a Palace which would become the symbol of the artistic fervor of the Renaissance in Italy.

After the Montefeltro family came to an end, the Renaissance culture of the region witnessed the dissemination of the choreographic influence from the Veneto region (Vivarini, Crivelli, etc.), an example is Lorenzo Lotto who decorated the Loreto Basilica.

The arts in the Marches were characterized - both in the 17th and 18th centuries - by the readiness to absorb and elaborate on pictorial styles coming from other territories. Such trend is evident from the works by Orazio Gentileschi, a painter who was influenced by Caravaggio and the artists of Rome. At the end of the 19th century he confirmed his talent with the Art Nouveau.

It would be nice to believe that artists from the Marches decided to go to other places just because they wanted to bring the splendour of the Marches elsewhere.

© 2001 Liberation Ventures Ltd.

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