International gothic art in Italy (1200s-1300s)

The Gothic style of art in medieval Italy

The Gothic era marked pretty much the only time Italians imported a style from elsewhere in an otherwise unbroken 1800-year run—from the Romans the late baroque—of being at the forefront of Western art.

The Gothic was perhaps at its most advanced in sculpture.

Nicola Pisano probably immigrated from southern Puglia to work in Pisa, where he crowned that city’s great Romanesque building project with a Gothic finale in 1260. He created for the Baptistery a great pulpit, the panels of which were carved in high relief with a new kind of figurative emotion displayed in the sway of the figures, and a degree of activeness in their positioning and apparent movement.

Nicola Pisano was inspired by some of the classical works he found in Pisa, and by the time he carved the panels on his second pulpit in Siena along with his son Giovanni Pisano, the figures were moving into a radically new sort of interaction, with an active, squirming multitude of bodies and pronounced stylized curves to add a graceful rhythm and emotion to the characters. Giovanni would go on to carve two more pulpits (in Pistoia and back to Pisa for the Duomo) and numerous individual large statues for niches on the facade of Siena’s Duomo, on which he was working as an architect, furthering his father’s innovations in dipictive storytelling.

Andrea Pisano (no relation) picked the thread up in Florence when he cast in 1330 the first set of bronze baptistery doors in the now-established Gothic style.

Byzantine tradition kept its hold over painting for quite a while, and the Gothic didn’t really come to the fore in Italian painting until the tail end of the 13th century. When it did, the humanist philosophy was starting to catch on. Humanism was reviving academic interest in the classical world, its philosophy, and its architecture, and its was encouraging a closer examination and contemplation of the natural world and everyday life[md]as opposed to the medieval habit of chaining all intellectual pursuits to theology and religious pondering. 

True, in the 1280’s Florentine master painter Cimabue was beginning to infuse his religious art with more human pathos than Byzantine custom had ever seen, and his Sienese compatriot (some say student) Duccio began adapting a narrative naturalism to his decorative, Byzantine style (see “The Sienese School”). But when the Gothic finally did catch up to painting, it did so with a vengeance and almost overvaulted the Gothic mind set to land squarely in the Renaissance. When the Gothic entered the realm of painting, its avatar was Giotto.

Where to find International gothic art in Italy

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"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
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The Battistero (Photo by Kiste11)
Baptistery
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

A massive drum-like Romanesque base with a Pisano-designed Gothic skullcap of a roof

 
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"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi 3rd floor 1st corridor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
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Room XII (17th century) (Photo by Petar Milošević)

The Vatican Museum's Pinacoteca is the best painting gallery in all of Rome

 
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St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria (1504–07) by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini in Room 8 (Photo by SunOfErat)

Milan's Brera is one of the top painting galleries in Northern Italy, with works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Mantegna, Bellini, and Piero della Francesca

 
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The museum recreates the placements of the original frescoes (Photo by Joanbanjo)
Museo delle Sinopie
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

A Pisa museum housing the amazing, full-sized medieval preparatory sketches for the lost Camposanto frescoes

 
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A detail of the 14C frescoes in the apse (Photo by Laurom)
Free

A Romanesque masterpiece with great 14C frescoes

 
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The central cemetery of the Campsanto, filled with dirt from the Holy Land (Photo by Luca Aless)
Il Camposanto
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

The famous ruined frescoes and ancient sculptures inside Pisa's holy burial ground

 
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Detail of the facade (Photo by JoJan)
Free

A statue-studded facade and tapestry-lined cathederal—plus a digression on ancient local hero Pliny the Elder

 
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The Giovanni Pisano room (Photo by Sailko)
CLOSED: Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

CURENTLY CLOSED. The museum of artifacts and original sculpture from the Duomo group in Pisa

 
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The statue-filled upper hall (Photo Public Domain)
The Bargello
Florence: Centro Storico

A flock of Donatellos and other great works in this sculpture gallery annex of the Uffizi

 

The International Gothic style in Italy

 
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The Basilica of Santa Croce on Piazza Santa Croce (Photo by Augusto Mia Battaglia)
Santa Croce
Florence: Santa Croce

Santa Croce church is the Westminster Abbey of Florence: The tombs of Renaissance giants Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, and Rossini (plus some great Giotto frescoes—and a renowned leather school)

 
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The museum (Photo by Dominik Matus)
Museo Diocesano
Milan: Ticinese

The best works from small church museums and treasuries across Milan and Lombardy

 
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Mosaic ceiling inside the Battistero di San Giovanni (Photo by Ricardo André Frantz)
The Baptistery
Florence: Centro Storico

Florence's Battistero di San Giovanni and Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise

 
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A room of small statues and reliefs (Photo by Vassia Atanassova - Spiritia)
Museo del Duomo
Milan: Duomo

A small museum devoted to sculptures, stained glass, artworks, and other treasures from the cathedral

 
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transport
Free
Gravedona
Northern Lake Como

A northern Lake Como town with a pair of nice Medieval churches

 
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The cloisters (Photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST)
Santa Chiara
Naples: Centro Storico

The most beautiful cloisters in Naples

 
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A 17C riverside fortress filled with Renaissance and baroque Old Maters—and a striking Palladian theater

 
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The room of painted crosses (Photo by Luca Aless)
Museo di San Matteo
Pisa: Along the Arno

A treasury of Gothic and early Renaissance paintings by the Arno

 
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Museo dell’Opera
Around Siena's Duomo

The cathedral museum is filled with works by Donatello and Duccio and comes with a stunning panorama of Siena

 
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Greve
Florentine Chianti

This market town with a lovely piazza is the unofficial capital of the Chianti

 
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Collegiata
San Gimignano

Spectacular early Renaissance frescoes wallpaper the main church of San Gimignano

 
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One of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in northern Italy

 
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transport
Free

A massive cathedral with one of the great fresco cycles of the Renaissance and a facade of stunning Gothic carvings

More about Duomo of Orvieto

 
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Arche Scaligeri
Città Antica di Verona

The most impressive Gothic tombs in Italy

 
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Perugia's lovely main square is anchored by a spectacular Gothic fountain

 
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The medieval town hall of Siena contains some of the greatest secular art in Italy

 
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The Duomo
Around Siena's Duomo

Siena’s striped cathedral is a rich treasure house of Tuscan art.

 
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The tallest tower in town rises above the frescoed Palazzo Pubblico

 
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Galleria Nazionale
Around Corso Vannucci

Umbria's top painting gallery, with plenty of works by Perugino

 
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Santa Maria della Scala
Around Siena's Duomo

A gorgeously frescoed former hospital and several small churches in one complex

 
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Pinacoteca Nazionale
Terza di Città

Siena's branch of the National Painting Gallery

 
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Candy-colored Gothic frescoes in a forgotten San Gimignano church

 
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San Pietro
Southern Perugia

A Gothic church filled with great art by Perugino and others

 
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The nave (Photo by Vitold Muratov)
Free
Il Duomo
Naples: Centro Storico

The duomo of Naples and Feast of San Gennaro

 
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Apse (Photo by kraen)
Free

The oldest church in Rome preserves some its most glorious medieval mosaics

 
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A detail from Pietro Cavallini's amazing late 13C frescoes, hidden in the nun's cloistered loft (Photo Public Domain)
Free

This Trastevere church looks like nothing much... until you pay the nuns to sneak downstairs to see remnants of ancient Rome, or upstairs to see precious frescoes by medieval master Pietro Cavallini

 
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The facade (Photo by Berthold Werner)
Free
San Paolo Fuori le Mura
Rome: Outside the walls

St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls is one of the four great basilicas of Rome

 
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 (Photo by Mia Battaglia)
Free
Orsanmichele
Florence: Centro Storico

A Gothic granary-turned-church decorated by early Renaissance sculptures

 
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transport
Free
San Domenico
Terza di Camollia

A Gothic church (and Siena landmark) housing the relics of St. Catherine of Siena

 
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Sant’Agostino
San Gimignano

This 13C church at the north end of town is full of good 15C frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli and others

 
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San Michele Arcangelo
Northern Perugia

The oldest church in Umbria

 
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The main facade (Photo by Palickap)
San Domenico Maggiore
Naples: Centro Storico

Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque art masterpieces in a Neapolitan church

 
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This detail from the "Madonna della Misericordia" (1342) by Bernardo Daddi shows the oldest view of the city of Florence (Photo by Sailko)
Museum of Bigallo
Florence: Centro Storico

The Loggia del Bigallo houses a small medieval museum and facade at the main intersection of Florence

 
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"Crucifixion and Last Supper" (1360–65) by Andrea Orcagna (Photo by Sailko)
Fondazione Salvatore Romano
Florence: Oltrarno

Orcagna's "Last Supper" fresco in the old refectory of Santo Spirito

 
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The Della Robbia room, showing by 'St. Romulus and his Martyr Companions' (1515–20) Benedetto Buglioni (Photo by Sailko)
Museo Bandini
Florence: Fiesole

Small museum with some nice Gothic and early Renaissance paintings

 
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A small museum with late Gothic and early Renaissance works

 
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Bardolino
Garda's eastern shore

A Lake Garda town famous for its wine since antiquity

 
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The Piazza Sant'Anastasia with the Basilica di Santa Anastasia (right) and Chiesa di San Giorgetto (left) (Photo by Didier Descouens)
Sant’Anastasia
Città Antica di Verona

A huge gothic church with fine Renaissance works

 
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Pinacoteca
Assisi centro storico

Assisi's painting gallery has some nice Gothic works—though nothing special

 
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The cathedral of Assisi (Photo by Luca Aless)
Duomo
Assisi centro storico

The Romanesque-Gothic cathedral of Assisi and its small museum

 
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 (Photo by Ricardo André Frantz)
Free
Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Rome: Tiber Bend

The sad story of the Santo Bambino at the Capitoline church

 
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A Crucifixion carved by Giovanni Pisano (Photo by Jordiferrer)
Free
San Nicola
Pisa: Along the Arno

A Romanesque-Gothic church with a Giovanni Pisano inside

 
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There is lots of great Gothic carved detail in the facade (Photo by Sailko)
Free
Santa Caterina
Pisa: Eastern Downtown Pisa

A Gothic facade and Pisano carvings

 
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The interior (Photo by Johann H. Addicks)
Free
San Francesco
Pisa: Eastern Downtown Pisa

A barn of a church with Mannerist and Baroque pantings

 
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Santa Maria dei Servi
Terza di San Martino

A Romanesque church with lovely altarpieces

 
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transport
Free
San Francesco
Terza di Camollia

A Gothic church with works by the Lorenzetti Brothers

 
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Pieve di San Leolino
Florentine Chianti

A Romanesque church with some lovely altarpieces

 
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Sala dei Notari
Around Corso Vannucci

A medieval assembly room with a Cavallini fresco

 

The rich patterns, colors, and decorative motifs of the Sienese School of Gothic art in Italy

 

Giotto lays the seeds for the Renaissance

 
Interest

More about Giotto