Welcome to the
"Spirit of the Renaissance:
A recreation of the Urbino Studiolo Around 1500"
When most art historians use the word “modern” their reference is to a period between the middle of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century. However, when social historians and cultural historians use the word “modern” they have a much larger frame of reference. They usually mean from the Renaissance to the 20th century, in other words, from the time when the ideals of the Middle Ages were replaced by those that most of modern people still live by artistically, socially, economically, and spiritually. When did the Renaissance begin? Literary historians usually say in the 14th century. Art historians usually say in the 15th century.
Italy in the 15th century was a patchwork of independent city-states. Among the most highly developed cultural centers in northern Italy were Florence, Sienna, Venice, Milan, Mantua, and Urbino. Urbino is the city that remains most like it was five centuries ago. The rulers of these centers had to deal with many problems: economic. military, etc. But most of them also were humanists. Inspired by the Greeks and Romans, they wanted the artists they patronized to harmonize Christian ideals with the ideals of the ancients. When the Dukes & Duchesses of these little nations wanted to get away from it all and read quietly or meditate on Platonic harmonies, they often did so in a small chamber called a studiolo. Here were housed their libraries and the finest of their paintings, sculptures, and other objects of "vertu" - objects of exceptional character, which stimulated them to be persons of exceptional character.
Frederico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1422-82), was an exceptional character. In between fighting the wars that kept his people safe, his legendary patronage extended to some of the greatest painters, architects, and philosophers of the age, figures such as Piero, Alberti, and Pacioli. Thanks to a book by Castiglione about life there, the court of Urbino was known throughout Europe as a place that understood the true meaning of artistic, social, and spiritual "vertu". From this world came the profoundly beautiful art and architecture of Raphael and Bramante. We know more about the Urbino studiolo than we do about any other. That special space is our point-of-departure for this exhibition in which we suspend disbelief and pretend we are visiting the Duke’s little treasure chest of art and ideas. The size of our gallery is about the same as that of the original studiolo.
This exhibition is the first in a new series of small teaching exhibitions designed as experiential adjuncts to various Art History and Studio courses. The Satellite Gallery this time is a “display case ”inside of which our students can see not slides but original objects and facsimiles of objects created in Italy and northern Europe between the 14th & 16th centuries. Future exhibitions could be devoted to such themes as Shamanic Objects, Asian Sculpture, the Civil Rights Movement, and Postmodernism.
—Lanier Graham, Director, University Art Gallery, CSUEB