Devotion by Design (catalogue)

SCOTT NETHERSOLE, Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500, catalogue exhibition, London,   6 July – 2 October 2011, London 2011 (National Gallery Company), 128 pages, 50 colour illustrations, £ 19,99.

A beautifully illustrated introduction to painted altarpieces, Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500 shows how these works were once part of decorative, integrated schemes, highlighting reconstructions and showing regional variations.

The catalogue focuses on Italian altarpieces from the second half of the thirteenth century to the very end of the fifteenth century. Although their display on the main floor of the National Gallery surveys their stylistic development, they are often viewed as gallery paintings, while many examples of fine quality and importance are rarely seen, residing in the lower galleries.

Devotion by Design examines the original functions and locations of altarpieces, as well as their formal and typological development, and draws on the wealth of scholarship undertaken in this field over the past thirty years.

Director’s foreword (p. 7)
Introduction (pp. 8-9)
Altarpieces in context (pp. 11-15)
Defining function (pp. 17-35): The Altar and its furnishings; Liturgy and the altarpiece; Beyond the Eucharist; Is it an altarpiece?
Italian altarpieces: Structure and type (pp. 37-55): The polyptych; The ‘pala’; Representational hierarchies; Construction; Structure and Composition: The Polyptychs of Borgo San Sepolcro
The commission as a social contract (pp. 75-91): Rival concerns; Balanced interests; A corporate enterprise
Dislocation, dismembering and dismantling (pp. 93-118): Alteration, Fragmentation and sale; Re-assembly; Relics
Notes (pp. 120-121)
Bibliography (pp. 122-123)
Glossary (p. 125)
List of works (pp. 126-127)
Acknowledgements (p. 128)
Photographic credits (p. 128).

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