Do you see (m)any similarities from the art world in the Renaissance period with the contemporary market?
Not really. Most art during the renaissance was intended to communicate a particular idea, and not, as so much of the art market seems to be today, about a financial investment. If anything, the investment was in the afterlife. Whatever money was spent on creating these beautiful masterpieces, the intention very often was to please, or appease, a God who was very present in the belief of the owners of the art, and we can be all too cynical about this in the 21st Century.
If one accepts the idea of a Western art cannon (of which the Renaissance period plays a large role), do you think contemporary art will at some point become part of this rhetoric or do you think (in a vein similar to Arthur Danto) that this narrative has come to an end?
Whatever some theorists say, people will always want to put things into boxes, to classify them, and to decide what is good and what isn’t. Historians will always create narratives to explain the progress of events, of cultures, and of their visual records. Inevitably, therefore, art will also be moulded into different ‘cannons’, although what is seen as being important will always change with the constantly changing tastes of the times.
If you had to pick one artist from the Renaissance period to have dinner with, who would it be?
Donatello. I find his development, and later abandonment, of Renaissance ideals fascinating to the point of incredulity. What was going on in his mind when he abandon notions of proportion, form and idealisation in his late works, and how did he come up with the characterisation of some of his most famous figures, such as the bronze David, the interpretation of which, in all honesty, remains one of the unresolved secrets of the Renaissance. I’m not entirely sure his table manners would be that good though.
Dr. Richard Stemp studied Natural Sciences and History of Art at the University of Cambridge and has a Ph.D in Italian Renaissance sculpture. He works as a lecturer for the National Gallery, Tate, and Buckingham Palace, as well as on site in museums and churches across Italy for Art History Abroad. He has written and presented the TV series Art in the National Gallery and Tate Modern for Channel 4, and makes regular contributions to other programmes. He is also the author of The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals.