Joachim Poeschke

Joachim Poeschke

Joachim Poeschke is a professor of art history and the director of the Institute of Fine Art at the University of Münster. He is the author or co-author of several books including Michelangelo and His World: The Sculpture of the Italian Renaissance.

Italian Mosaics

300 - 1300

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A prequel to the extraordinary, highly praised Italian Frescoes series from Abbeville Press, this stunning volume features one thousand years of important Italian mosaics.

Ever since their emergence as a major art form in the Hellenistic era, mosaics have been prized for the glittering radiance of their colors, their permanent, almost eternal nature, and the painstaking craftsmanship required to create them. In late antique and medieval Italy, mosaics were the most important medium for monumental religious art, just as frescoes would be in the Renaissance. In fact, the mosaics that adorn the fourth to sixth-century churches, baptisteries, and mausoleums of Rome, Ravenna, Naples, and Milan are among the first examples of Christian pictorial art on a grand scale. These early works were still indebted to classical conventions, but as the Middle Ages progressed, Italian mosaics came to more clearly reflect a Christian, transcendentalist worldview. Their style usually also displayed a strong Byzantine influence; indeed, in the final flowering of the art in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, many Italian mosaics were actually executed by Byzantine craftsmen.

Italian Mosaics, 300–1300 opens with a concise history of the mosaicist’s art in the millennium under consideration, tying together the strands of style, iconography, technique, and cultural context. The central part of the book examines nineteen celebrated mosaic cycles in detail, including those of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, the Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome, and the Cathedral of Monreale near Palermo. Each cycle is introduced by a descriptive and interpretive essay and then illustrated in its entirety in a series of stunning full- and double-page color photographs, most of which were specially commissioned for this volume.

The first survey of its subject to be published, Italian Mosaics will stand alongside Abbeville’s Italian Frescoes series as an essential addition to the literature on art history.

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Italian Frescoes: The Age of Giotto

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The fourth volume (though earliest chronologially) of the only comprehensive survey in modern times of the surviving Italian frescoes from the end of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and Mannerism, this groundbreaking oeuvre is an achievement in scholarship and publishing of the same magnitude as Abbeville’s Art of Florence and The Art and Spirit of Paris.

Following the success of the previous volumes in this extraordinary series — Italian Frescoes: The Early Renaissance; Italian Frescoes: The Flowering of the Renaissance; and Italian Frescoes: The High Renaissance and MannerismItalian Frescoes: The Age of Giotto presents twenty-two outstanding fresco cycles. Created during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, these cycles set new standards for painting and an innovative vision of man, paving the way for the monumental achievements of the Renaissance. It was at this time that fresco painting was not only commissioned for churches and chapels, but also for such secular places as town halls and royal residences with humanist in addition to religious themes. The fresco cycles featured here include brilliant works by Giotto in Assisi, Padua, and Florence; dramatic paintings by Cimabue, thought to be Giotto’s teacher; Pietro Cavillini in Rome; and the Sienese artists Simone Martini and Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti — all of these works still visible on walls and ceilings of palaces and churches spanning Italy from the Veneto to Rome.

The authors describe and illustrate such celebrated sites as the Church of Saint Francis in Assisi, the Chapel of the Scrovegni in Padua, the Public Palace in Siena, and the papal chapel, the Sancta Sanctorum, in Rome. Each of the twenty-two chapters is concise and authoritative, offering a descriptive and interpretive essay on all aspects of fresco painting, covering the artists and their patrons in the context of their cultural and political history. Each essay concludes with a diagram of the site, followed by a series of full- and double-page color plates showing the entire cycle, many reproduced from new photographs of recently restored frescoes.

No publisher until now has attempted to gather together and document all the important fresco cycles of Italian art from the late thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries. While this volume is the predecessor to the previous books, Italian Frescoes: The Age of Giotto easily stands alone as a masterpiece of art and scholarship which will be welcomed by art historians and art lovers alike. 

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