The Getty Center
Date: Sunday, August 16, 2015
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Location: Museum Lecture Hall
Admission: Free; advance ticket recommended. Call (310) 440-7300 or use the "Get Tickets" button below.

 
In 16th-century Florence artists struggled with the place the workshop occupied in their artistic identity. Though art-making with the collaboration of assistants remained the norm, among elite artists the concept of the workshop became problematic, so much that Vasari in his Lives of the Artists uses the term "ordinary painters" to refer to "painters who keep a workshop." Instead of the artist contracting to take on apprentices, the new ideal was to hire assistants ad hoc for each commission, or to have them paid by the patron. Part of the stigma of the workshop was tied to its associations with artisan trades; the overhead involved in maintaining a permanent shop had been offset by its availability to take on humble tasks, which ambitious younger artists scorned. The workshop also tied the artist to a single location, while many cinquecento artists relied on the ability to move freely between cities in response to patronage.

The waning of the workshop as the dominant model meant that a once widely available place for the training of boys was now scarcer, a shortage on which certain enterprising artists capitalized and which subsequently helped lead to the creation of the first state-sponsored academies of art. A remarkable number of the 16th-century artists who did maintain a traditional workshop, such as Andrea del Sarto, Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, or Baccio Bandinelli, had one thing in common: they were married; unmarried artists were far less likely to keep a traditional shop. One can make an argument that artists' wives, as administrators and managers, played a hitherto unrecognized role in the history of art by keeping alive the earlier model of the Renaissance artist's workshop.

Louis Waldman is professor of art history and director of the museum studies program at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a specialist in the painting and sculpture of 15th- and 16th-century Tuscany.

Waldman is author of Baccio Bandinelli and Art at the Medici Court and editor or co-editor of numerous books, including Italy and Hungary: Humanism and Art in the Early Renaissance and Colors Between Two Worlds: The Florentine Codex of Bernardino de Sahagún.


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