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On Painting (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 2, 1991

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On Painting (Penguin Classics) + Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style (Oxford Paperbacks) + The Lives of the Artists (Oxford World's Classics)
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Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Leon Battista Alberti was the archetype of the Renaissance 'universal man'. Bron in Genoa in 1404, he belonged to one of the wealthy merchant-banker families of Florence, and was sent to boarding school in Padua where he received a classical Latin education. Graduating in canon law from the University of Bologna, he subsequently entered the service of the Church and became a secretary in the Papal Chancery at Rome. Taking holy orders, he returned to Florence in 1434, where his association with Donatello and Brunelleschi led to the book On Painting and his interest in the design of Churches. He died in Rome in 1472. Cecil Grayson was Serena Professor of Italian Studies and Fellow of Magdalen College from 1958 to 1987 and was honoured by numerous Italian academies. The leading authority on Alberti's written work, he was awarded the CBE in 1992. Martin Kemp has been Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford since 1995.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (July 2, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140433317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140433319
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By H. South on November 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
Alberti is one of the more readable of the 'classic' authors on Art, much less prone to gossip than Vasari and less convoluted than Cennini. That said, some of the text on geometry in book one can be a bit difficult to follow. Alberti also loves to name-drop, continually referring to antique painters, but this was expected at the time - the ancients lending authority and historical context. 'On Painting' gives the reader an insight into the tastes and philosophies that inform the arts.

Most interesting to me, as a teacher of drawing, were the insights on the fundamentals of life drawing - such as positioning of the head relative to the feet, and the shifting of values becuase of the limitations of white paper (or paint) being the brightest 'light' available to the artist. the saying 'there is nothing new under the sun' comes often to mind - you will read many of Alberti's observations in any contemporary text.

Much of this may seem irrelevant to the modern painter - for example, his comments on consistency in portrayal of the figure may have been more relevant in an age when lay figures were used and painting took hours, but nonetheless bring up key points for the thoughtful artist to consider, especially for those interested in traditional painting. Use this book in conjunction with a good pictorial survey of art history (or the internet), so that you can readily refer to the pictures he mentions.

For more of my reviews and links on Old Master Drawings, visit [...]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By paedagogue on October 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
as is apparent from the other Amazon reviews. You would not read a medical treatise, or a treatise on physics written 600 years ago, unless you were interested in the crazy-strange ideas entertained by our scientific forebears, and wondered just how we ever got from there to here--but every one of the reviewers here treats this pioneering treatise on the art of painting as if it were a valid (if occasionally heavy-going) alternative to current writings on picture-making!Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Rempel on April 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Originally titled De pictura in Tuscan and published in 1435. This edition is a reprint of an edition published by Phaidon Press in 1972, translated by Cecil Grayson, with an introduction and notes by Martin Kemp. Reprinted with copious bibliographic notes with a revised further reading in 2004. I had this book for a Renaissance Florence history class, along with many other works on art, architecture, politics, commerce, and so forth. Though a short important book, I don't find it all that memorable. While I appreciate it as a seminal book in the historiography of literature, as a book that changed the world, it is not a subject of interest. One needs a comprehension of geometry to understand this book, something I lack. It is not a book I would have picked out myself. He occasionally uses mathematical terms that I don't know, such as Superbipartiens, for example. This book is described by Martin Kemp as embodying the twin aspirations of retrospective emulation and progression innovation (p. 19). It has three sections: rudiments, practice, and ends. Alberti used Classical Roman references in his work to support his arguments, especially Pliny's Natural History. So. like all the Humanists of his time, he relied on Classical writers and artists as models to emulate. The present edition includes comments on the translation by Grayson, as well as two dedications by Alberti. One to Filippo Brunelleschi, the other to Giovan Francesco, Prince of Mantua. Alberti says he divided the work into three parts. Part one is entirely mathematical, showing how art arises from roots with Nature itself. The second part puts art in the hands of artists, distinguishes its parts and explains them all.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R.G.P. on September 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Considering that the text was written 600+ years ago, it is quite interesting when you think about how some of the concepts mentioned now have scientific backing and is accurate to a certain degree. Only downside is that it can be very hard to understand at times especially when Alberti talks about perspective problems. Overall an okay book for most part, but probably not something I would read for fun.
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