Artibus et Historiae no. 12 (VI)

1985, ISSN 0391-9064

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CHRISTIANE L. JOOST-GAUGIER - Poggio and Visual Tradition: Uomini Famosi in Classical Literary Description

The subject of this study concerns the question of what visual examples Renaissance humanists, such as Poggio, had in mind in recommending and designing cycles of paragons of heroic virtue for contemporary patrons. Because the humanists were conscious that the notion of uomini famosi, which they regarded as an antique one, had virtually died out in medieval times, and because no antique artistic precedent is known to have survived, the search of Poggio and his contemporaries for antique example was limited to literary mention. Study of citations by Greek and Roman authors whose works were known at least in fragmentary form to Renaissance humanists reveals that Poggio and his contemporaries were correct in holding up the example of the ancients. Indeed it would appear that the practice is a far more ancient and extensive one than Poggio had imagined. The artistic tradition of rewarding merit through public art is one which appears to have been known in Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman cultures and to have been expressed in programs in sculpture, painting, tapestry and the minor arts.

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