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216 × 138 mm
264 pages
70 illustrations, 55 in colour
15 May 2017
Renaissance Lives

Michelangelo and the Viewer in His Time Bernadine Barnes

Today Michelangelo’s painting and sculpture is seen most often in museums, while his archi­tectural designs have been left incomplete or modified by others so that some are barely recognizable. But his art was made to be viewed in churches, homes and political settings, by people who brought their own needs and expectations to his work. Paintings and sculptures were rarely seen in isolation; instead they were seen as part of rituals and ceremonies. Viewers of Michelangelo’s time would experience the work under specific lighting conditions and from particular positions. They would move through spaces and past sculpture, and they might make comparisons to other objects nearby.

In this engaging book, Bernadine Barnes brings together new research to show how Michelangelo’s art was seen in its own time. The original setting is reconstructed for works that have been moved, modified or left incomplete. Michelangelo’s consideration of his audience changed throughout his career: sometimes he produced work for conventional religious settings, and at other times he was given unprecedented freedom by open-minded patrons. This book brings the viewer back into the development of Michelangelo’s work, and gives emphasis to the differences between viewers in specific settings.

Michelangelo lived in a time when the development of prints and published art criticism changed the nature of the viewing public in ways that foreshadow our own media culture. This book encourages today’s viewers to take a fresh look at Michelangelo’s work.

‘Barnes presents a lucid, readable, and jargon-free account of Michelangelo’s art with a particular emphasis on understanding it in light of his viewers. The book provides a concise, reliable history of Michelangelo’s major works and the Renaissance context in which it was produced. Well illustrated, with many color plates, it is a welcome addition to the Michelangelo literature and students will be well served by this up-to-date and reasoned approach.’ – Victor Coonin, The James F. Ruffin Professor of Art History, Rhodes College

‘How did individuals and society at large respond to Michelangelo’s art? This is the central question explored in Bernadine Barnes’ refreshingly original examination of Michelangelo’s life, works, and varied audiences. Barnes leaves aside the heroic but fictionalized story of Michelangelo the lone genius to focus on the private individuals and viewing public who were highly attentive to how the artist’s creations were seen and displayed, praised and criticized.’ -- William E. Wallace, Washington University in St. Louis

‘This important book builds upon Barnes’ earlier research to integrate the Renaissance viewer more fully into study of Michelangelo’s art works. Compiling evidence from multiple sources – including contracts, prints, contemporary accounts, iconography, technical studies, and site analysis – it offers a lucid reconstruction of the material conditions of artistic creation and reception. This approach, which also understands audiences to occupy variously ideal, real, pious, intimate, fixed and shifting viewpoints, situates Michelangelo’s enduring achievements more securely in time and space.’ – Kim Butler Wingfield, American University

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Bernadine Barnes is Professor of Renaissance Art History at Wake Forest University, North Carolina. Her previous publications include Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: The Renaissance Response (1998) and Michelangelo in Print (2010).