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Fashion, Devotion and Contemplation

The Status and Functions of Italian Renaissance Plaquettes

Marika Leino

Italian Renaissance ‘plaquettes’ are often stored and displayed as a homogeneous category or genre in museum collections due to their apparently uniform small relief format. This has resulted in a scholarly literature that has concentrated largely on connoisseurship and taken the form of catalogues, thereby both responding to and propagating the myth of this classification. However, what is often forgotten, or buried deep in scattered catalogue entries, is that during the Renaissance this small relief format was regularly mass-produced and employed extensively in a variety of different contexts. Far from being a homogeneous category, plaquettes were originally viewed as many separate types of object, including pieces for personal adornment, liturgical objects, domestic artefacts, and models for architecture and painting. For the Renaissance consumer, the commission of a hat badge with a personal motto, the purchase of an off-the-shelf inkwell or the acquisition of a small relief for his study were separate concerns.
The aim of this book is to redress the balance by examining these reliefs in terms of their use, alongside broader issues regarding the status of such objects within visual, scholarly and artistic culture from the fifteenth century to the early sixteenth.

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Acknowledgements

Extract

I am grateful to a number of people who have helped me at various stages in this project. This book is based on my PhD thesis and, as such, my first thanks go to my supervisor Charles Hope, as well as to Elizabeth McGrath, for taking me on at the Warburg Institute and giving me such good guid- ance. Other members of the Warburg Institute who have given valuable advice in various matters are Charles Burnett, Jenny Boyle, Nathalie Clarke, Ian Jones, Jennifer Montagu, John Perkins and Anita Pollard. This project ultimately had its beginnings in the European Sculpture department at Christie’s where my head of department Donald Johnston not only instilled in me a love of bronzes, but unwittingly gave me the idea for studying Italian plaquettes. Michael Michael from Christie’s Education has been an inspiration and a source of encouragement and advice throughout my art- historical life. I would also like to thank Peta Motture and Jeremy Warren for their constant encouragement. The Henry Moore Foundation supported me with a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Oxford and provided a grant towards the illustration costs. My time at Oxford was made doubly pro- ductive and pleasurable through the friendship and guidance of Geraldine Johnson and other members of the Art History Department (University of Oxford), Catherine Whistler and Tim Wilson (Ashmolean Museum), Christiana Payne (Oxford Brookes University) and Malcolm Vale (St John’s College), all of whom so generously welcomed me to the academic life in the city....

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