Art for Salvation: The Friars and their Patronage in Central Italy, c.1230-1450

  • Begins: Tuesday 16 November 2021
    Until: Tuesday 14 December 2021
  • Lettsom House, First Floor, 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB (NB: There is no lift in this building)
  • Lecturer: Dr John Renner

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the cities of central Italy were transformed by the building of ever-larger churches for new religious orders: the mendicant friars. St Dominic died in Bologna in 1221, St Francis in Assisi in 1226. The orders they founded spread rapidly all over Europe, joined soon by others: the Augustinian Hermits, the Carmelites, the Servites – many of them with female branches and lay associations as well. The churches and convents they built required decoration, with altarpieces of unprecedented size and sophistication, and fresco cycles of a hitherto unimagined realism narrating the biblical stories and the lives of contemporary saints in ways designed to convince and to move viewers.

This course explores the art created by and for the friars in their heartland, central Italy, from the foundation of the orders in the thirteenth century to the flowering of the Renaissance in the fifteenth – a period famed for its artistic innovation and creativity. The lectures seek to elucidate the causal links between the beliefs and ambitions of the friars, on the one hand, and the works of some of the greatest names in western art, such as Cimabue, Giotto and Fra Angelico, on the other.


Week 1  Paupers to Patrons: The Coming of the Friars
Week 2  The Friars and their Artists in the Thirteenth Century
Week 3  Friars, Nuns and the Laity: The Uses of Religious Art
Week 4  The Great Mendicant Churches of Tuscany in the Fourteenth Century
Week 5  Into the Renaissance: Art for the Friars in the Early Fifteenth Century


Dr John Renner is a specialist in late-medieval Italian art, with a PhD from The Courtauld. He lectures at The Courtauld, the V&A and elsewhere, while researching and publishing on the art of the mendicant orders. He has given two previous courses for the London Art History Society.

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