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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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Exhibition Catalogues Athens 2003 Athens, National Gallery – Alexandros Soutzos Museum, In the Light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance and Greece, catalogue edited by M. Gregory, 22 December 2003–31 March 2004. See especially section VIII: ‘Artistic Life in Mantua and its Dif fusion: Bronze Statuettes and Plaquettes, Padua and Venice’. BFAC 1912 London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Catalogue of a Collection of Italian Sculpture and other Plastic Art of the Renaissance, introduc- tion by E.R.D. Maclagan, 1912. Berlin 1996 Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett, Die italienis- chen Zeichnungen des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts im Berliner Kupferstichkabinett, catalogue by H.-T. Schulze Altcappenberg, 21 October 1995–21 January 1996. Bologna 1988 Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna e l’Umanesimo 1490–1510, 6 March –24 April 1988. Bruges 1951 Bruges, Musèe Communal, Fiamminghi e Italia, Chefs d’oeuvre de maitres anciens Italiens et Flamands du XVe au XVIIIe siècle, catalogue by P. Fierens, July–August 1951. Budapest 1990 Budapest, National Széchényi Library, Biblioteca Corviniana 1490– 1990, 6 April – 6 October 1990. Budapest 2008 Budapest History Museum, Mathias Corvinus, the King: tradition and renewal in the Hungarian Royal Court, 1458–1490, edited by P. Farbaky, E. Spekner, K. Szende and A. Végh, translated by A. Campbell, 19 March 2008–30 June 2008. Conegliano 2010 Conegliano, Palazzo Sarcinelli, Cima da Congeliano: Poeta del Paesaggio, edited by Giovanni Villa, with contributions by Giovanni Villa, Eugenio Battisti et al., 2 February–20 June 2010. Ecouen 2006 Ecouen, Musée National de la Renaissance, Images en Relief: La...

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