The Renaissance Portrait - Christiansen, Keith; Weppelmann, Stefan - Yale University Press

Art and Architecture

Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Distributed by Yale University Press 

The Renaissance Portrait

From Donatello to Bellini

  • Edited by Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann; With essays by Patricia Lee Rubin, Beverly Louise Brown, Peter Humfrey, and Rudolf Preimesberger, and contributions by Andrea Bayer, Francesco Caglioti, Eleonara Luciano, and Stephen K. Scher
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 Outstanding Academic Title Award, 2012—Choice

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic 2012 Title for Fine Arts within the Humanities category.

In the words of cultural historian Jacob Burkhardt, fifteenth-century Italy was "the place where the notion of the individual was born." In keeping with that idea, early Renaissance Italy was a key participant in the first great age of portraiture in Europe. As groundbreaking artists strove to evoke the identity or personality of their sitters—from heads of state and church, military commanders, and wealthy patrons to scholars, poets, and artists—they evolved daring new representational strategies that would profoundly influence the course of Western art. More than a mere likeness, the fifteenth-century Italian portrait was an attempt to wrest from the unpredictability of life and the shadow of mortality and image that could be passed down to future generations.

The Renaissance Portrait, which accompanies a landmark exhibition at the Bode-Museum, Berlin, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, provides new research and insight into the early history of portraiture in Italy, examining in detail how its major art centers—Florence, the princely courts, and Venice—saw the rapid development of portraiture as closely linked to Renaissance society and politics, ideas of the individual, and concepts of beauty. Essays by leading scholars provide a thorough introduction to Renaissance portraiture, while individual catalogue entries illustrate and extensively discuss more than 160 magnificent examples of painting, drawing, manuscript illumination, sculpture, and medallic portraiture by such artists as Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, Pisanello, Mantegna, Antonello da Messina, and Giovanni Bellini. With abundant style and visual ingenuity, these masters transformed the plain facts of observation into something beautiful to behold.

Keith Christiansen is John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of European Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Stefan Weppelmann is curator of early Italian and Spanish painting at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin.

Patricia Lee Rubin, Director of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, is an authority on the art of Renaissance Florence and author of the catalogue’s opening essay.


Beverly Brown is a renowned independent scholar of Renaissance and Baroque art contributing an essay on Italian Renaissance court portraiture.


Peter Humfrey is a professor at Saint Andrews University specializing in Renaissance Venice.


Rudolf Preimesberger is a professor of the Freie Universität in Berlin contributing an essay on Renaissance terminology on portraiture.

Andrea Bayer is the Curator of Renaissance Painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York specializing in north Italian painting.


Francesco Caglioti, professor at the University of Naples, is a renowned expert in Renaissance sculpture.


Eleanora Luciano, Curator of Sculpture at the National Gallery, Washington, contributed substantially on the topic of Renaissance medals.


Bode Museum, Berlin

The Metropolitan Museum of Art