Augustinian Art and Meditation in Renaissance Florence

The Choir Altarpieces of Santo Spirito 1480–1510


In Augustinian Art and Meditation in Renaissance Florence, Antonia Fondaras reunites the fifteenth-century altarpieces painted by Botticelli, Piero di Cosimo, Filippino Lippi, and other masters for the choir of the Augustinian church of Santo Spirito in Florence. Departing from a conventional focus on artist and patron, the author illuminates the engagement of the Augustinian Hermit friars with the composition and iconography of these pictures, and discusses how they were used to fashion the choir into a space suited to the friars’ institutional and spiritual ideals.
Fondaras includes a close reading of the choir’s most compelling and original altarpieces, which were grounded in the writings of Augustine and provided a focal point for the friars’ sophisticated meditative practices.

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Antonia Fondaras, Ph.D. (2011), University of Maryland, is an independent scholar. She has previously published the article, “Our Mother the Holy Wisdom of God: Nursing in Botticelli’s Bardi Altarpiece” (Storia dell’Arte, 2005).
List of Illustrations

Introduction: The Fifteenth-Century Altarpiece Decoration of the Santo Spirito Choir

part 1: The Influence of the Friars

1 Saint Augustine, the Augustinian Hermits, and the Convent of Santo Spirito
 1 Saint Augustine: the Ascent to Wisdom and the Journey of Love
 2 The Order of the Augustinian Hermits
 3 Augustinian Art
 4 The Convent of Santo Spirito

2 The Santo Spirito Choir and the Presence of the Friars
 1 Building the New Church
 2 Encountering the Architecture
 3 Furnishing the Church
 4 Creating Augustinian Space
 5 The Choir as Marian Space
 6 The Choir Chapels: Itineraries of Augustinian Influence

3 The Santo Spirito Format: Fashioning Sacred Space
 1 The Santo Spirito Format: Spatial Continuity and Figural Presence
 2 Shared Space
 3 Heaven and the Choir
 4 The Santo Spirito Format, Simplicity, and Devotional Viewing
 5 Ornament and the Perfected Space

part 2: Art and Meditation in the Santo Spirito Choir

4 Discursive Meditation and Botticelli’s Bardi Altarpiece
 1 Meditation and the Choir Altarpieces
 2 The Bardi Altarpiece

5 Hope and the Virtues: Piero di Cosimo’s The Visitation with Saints Nicholas of Bari and Anthony Abbot
 1 The Commission and the Painting
 2 Saints Nicholas of Bari and Anthony Abbot
 3 The Landscape
 4 The Inscription
 5 The Reconciliation of the Virtues
 6 The Reconciliation of the Testaments and the Covenant of Grace

6 Caritas and Family: Filippino Lippi’s Nerli Altarpiece
 1 The Patron and the Painting
 2 The Geography of the Nerli Altarpiece: Separate and Conjoined Spaces
 3 Painting Charity
 4 Augustinian Charity: the Judgment of Love
 5 Marriage and Charity
 6 Charity and the Nerli Marriage

7 Faith and the Mirror of God: Agnolo del Mazziere’s The Holy Trinity with Saints Mary Magdalen and Catherine of Alexandria
 1 The Altarpiece
 2 The Trinity as Throne of Grace
 3 The Saints in Contemplation
 4 Saint Augustine and the Trinity
 5 The Throne of Grace as the Visionary
 6 The Landscape: “The Things That Are Made”
 7 Contemplation and the Visio Dei

Conclusion: The Santo Spirito Altarpiece
Anyone interested in Florentine Quattrocento art, devotional art in the Renaissance, the artistic influence of the religious orders, the order of the Augustinian Hermits, and the influence of Augustine’s thought. Keywords: art history, Florence, Renaissance, Santo Spirito, Botticelli, Piero di Cosimo, Filippino Lippi, Augustinian Hermits, Augustine, church, convent, studium, friar, devotion, ornament, sacra conversazione, iconography, City of God, Virgin, wisdom, Visitation, meditation, contemplation, Trinity.
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