The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Painted Palaces

Painted Palaces

The Rise of Secular Art in Early Renaissance Italy Anne Dunlop
  • Copyright: 2009
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 10
  • Page Count: 340 pages
  • Illustrations: 161 color/41 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03408-9
“Anne Dunlop’s Painted Palaces is a fascinating assessment of the little-known secular wall paintings that ornamented elite palaces in northern Italy from about 1250 to 1450. . . . Perhaps the attention generated by Dunlop’s groundbreaking book will result in professional photographic campaigns so that these painted palaces can take their deserved place in the canon of monuments for teaching and research.”
“Anne Dunlop’s Painted Palaces provides an excellent overview of elite schemes of decoration in domestic interiors during the early Renaissance. For this, we can be very grateful, and the book fills an important lacuna in early Renaissance studies.”
Painted Palaces deserves special praise for the incentives it provides for further research. As one reads, one constantly wants to know more. It should be required reading for any serious student of the Renaissance, not least because it challenges the long-held narrative about the rise of secular art.”

The emergence of the modern Western artwork is sometimes cast as a slow process of secularization, with the devotional charge of images giving way in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to a focus on the beauty and innovation of the artwork itself. Our understanding of art in this pivotal age is badly distorted, focused almost exclusively on religious and civic images. Even many Renaissance specialists believe that little secular painting survives from before the late fifteenth century, and its appearance becomes a further argument for the secularizing of art.

This book asks how history changes when a longer record of secular art is explored. It is the first study, in any language, of the decoration of Italian palaces and homes between 1300 and the mid-Quattrocento, and it argues that early secular painting was crucial to the development of modern ideas of art. Of the cycles discussed, some have been studied and published, but most are essentially unknown. A first aim is to enrich our understanding of the early Renaissance by introducing a whole corpus of secular painting that has been too long overlooked. Yet Painted Palaces is not a study of iconography. In examining the prehistory of painted rooms like Mantegna’s Camera Picta, the larger goal is to rethink the history of early Renaissance art.

Anne Dunlop is Associate Professor of History of Art and Renaissance Studies at Yale University. She is the co-editor of Art and the Augustinian Order in Early Renaissance Italy (2007).


List of Illustrations



1. “Una chasa grande, dipinta”: Palazzo Datini in Prato

2. Art, Artifice, and the Rise of the Vernacular

3. Allegory: Painted Rooms and Permeability

4. “A Certain Inborn Suffering”

5. History, Portraits, and Painting

An Epilogue: Mantegna and Mantua




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