Passions & Places

15th Century Painting

Fifteenth Century Painting

Marche was once an important and flourishing area for the nurture and diffusion of international artistic trends. Gentile da Fabriano, born in this county (1370-1427), was a representative of this manner. He was an untiring traveller and was open to the Northern culture.

It would be difficult to determine what influenced most the Fabrianese artist’s style. The only thing certain is that after a stay in Venice (1408) he seemed to have assimilated much from the culture of the Po Valley. 

As for other influxes we can just suppose they could be Umbrian or from Marche, or Senese or Lombard ones. Marche is the home land of other artists whose styles can be equally described as ‘international’. 

The Salimbeni brothers, Lorenzo (San Severino c.1374)and Iacopo (1427) are among them. Their manner seemed to be so autonomous from the one of Gentile da Fabriano and their technique so close to the one of the northern artists that it is possible to assume that in the Marche of the epoch, the Northern culture was deeply appreciated. Camerino, a city of Marche, was dominated by the Varano family. 

There a brilliant local school flourished in the second half of the 15th century. The main artist of this trend was Girolamo di Giovanni. He was at first deeply influenced by the Paduan Art but he then converted his manner to the still geometry and the radiant splendour typical of Piero della Francesca.

Also Giovanni Boccati came from Camerino. His majestic and monumental style was abandoned to represent in a courtly and inspired style ‘La salita al Calvario’ (The ascent to the Calvary).

An anonymous painter conventionally addressed as ‘Master of the Barberini panels’ after a long wandering in Marche came to Urbino. He was author of two panels reflecting the very complex figurative culture of the artist. These pieces of art where first in Urbino, but were then taken to Rome and have ended up in the USA. An other eminent artist of Marche, maybe the greatest one at the court of the Duke of Montefeltro is Giovanni Santi, also known for being the father of Raffaello. He was active in Urbino and also at the court of the Counts Oliva in Montefiorentino.

The artistic historiography puts under the name of ‘Scuola Marchigiana del Quattrocento’ (School of the fifteenth century in Marche) a lot of minor local trends, each rich of different artists, and with marked individual characteristics and style. Fabriano, Camerino, Urbino, Recanati and many other centres had a limited artistic production in the fifteenth century. They often interchanged experiences, and influenced each other in such a complex way to render almost impossible determining to what extent and in what spell of time. 

This is how F.Zeri describe the artistic panorama of Marche and its production. When the Pope Alexander VI and his son Cesare Borgia deprived the small states and seigniories of their legitimacy the cultural and artistic development experienced a drastic stop. So the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth saw the end of the local figurative production. All the works of art from that moment forth were either imported or made by visiting artists.
Among them there are painters from Venice (Lorenzo Lotto, Antonio da Solario), from Tuscany (Signorelli), and from Umbria (Eusebio da San Giorgio, Bernardino di Mariotto).

The art of the fifteenth century in Marche is empty of any interacting between local artists and foreign ones. Thus is explained why at the time clients when commissioning a work of art were moved not by quality valuation but by the necessity of being content with what was at hand.

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