Book Series Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History

Music in the Art of Renaissance Italy, 1420–1540

Tim Shephard, Sanna Raninen, Serenella Sessini, Laura Stefanescu

  • Pages: iv + 408 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:227 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2020

  • ISBN: 978-1-912554-02-7
  • Hardback
  • Available

The first detailed survey of the representation of music in the art of Renaissance Italy, opening up new vistas within the social and culture history of Italian music and art in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.



"The fruit of a sustained and cutting-edge interdisciplinary collaboration among musicologists and art historians, this book reopens unresolved issues regarding the relationship between music and the visual arts, from both sides. The authors astute analysis and ability to connect a vast array of materials and concepts."
Giovanni Zanovello, Indiana University

"This richly detailed, wide-ranging book provides a valuable and evocative account of the relationships between musical and visual cultures in Renaissance Italy."
Flora Dennis, University of Sussex

“Sono questi gli effetti di un approccio autenticamente multidisciplinare, rinforzato dalla lettura di un’ampia varietà di fonti e di studi aggiornati, e che speriamo possa contraddistinguere le future ricerche degli autori del volume.” (Claudio Passera, in Drammaturgia, 2021)

« Rehaussé de 230 illustrations, le précieux ouvrage publié en anglais par Harvey Miller Publishers, maison d’édition reconnue pour la qualité de ses livres d’art, a été rédigé par une équipe interdisciplinaire, sous la direction de Tim Shephard, qui met en lumière la richesse des interactions variées entre les arts de l’ouïe et des yeux. Le texte approfondit les thèmes traités en se basant aussi bien sur les écrits théoriques renaissants que sur l’iconographie, et en élargissant l’analyse aux situations sociales et intellectuelles de l’époque. » (Laurent Mettraux, in Schweizer Musikzeitung, 23/11/2020)

“It should be stated at the very outset: this is an immensely valuable monograph, with all the makings of an unavoidable reference book for further generations of researchers. (Ennio STIPČEVIĆ, in Music in Art, 2022, p. 349)

“Music in the Art of Renaissance Italy stands apart by integrating an extensive roster of images from more than a century of Italian art, and identifying meaningful trends across these. As such, it is an invaluable reference work and helpful companion for the study of music in the art of this period.” (Barbara Swanson, in Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme, 45/2, 2022, p. 352)


The authors formed the team for the three-year project 'Music in the Art of Renaissance Italy, c.1420-1540' at the University of Sheffield, funded by The Leverhulme Trust. Tim Shephard is Senior Lecturer in Musicology at the University of Sheffield and a specialist in music, art and identity at the Italian Renaissance courts. Sanna Raninen is a musicologist interested in the visual and material culture of music in Renaissance Europe. Serenella Sessini is an art historian specialising in Italian domestic art. Laura Stefanescu is an art historian working on Italian Renaissance art from the perspective of sensory perception and religious experience.



Visual representations of music were ubiquitous in Renaissance Italy. Church interiors were enlivened by altarpieces representing biblical and heavenly musicians, placed in conjunction with the ritual song of the liturgy. The interior spaces of palaces and private houses, in which musical recreations were routine, were adorned with paintings depicting musical characters and myths of the ancient world, and with scenes of contemporary festivity in which music played a central role. Musical luminaries and dilettantes commissioned portraits symbolising their personal and social investment in musical expertise and skill. Such visual representations of music both reflected and sustained a musical culture. The strategies adopted by visual artists when depicting music in any guise betray period understandings of music shared by artists and their clients. At the same time, Renaissance Italians experienced music within a visual environment that prompted them to think about music in particular ways. This book offers the first detailed survey of the representation of music in the art of Renaissance Italy, and in the process opens up new vistas within the social and cultural history of Italian Renaissance music and art.



0. Introduction
1. Convergence
1.1 Sister Arts?
1.2 Corporeal and Spiritual Senses
1.3 Perspectiva, Harmony, and Beauty
1.4 Istoria, Ethics, and Imitation
1.5 Leonardo and the Paragone
2. Divine Harmonies
2.1 Angels as Musicians
2.2 Heaven on Earth
2.3 Returning to Heaven
2.4 Angels in the Home
2.5 David and Christ
3. Classicisms
3.1 Music Among the Liberal Arts
3.2 Apollo and the Muses
3.3 Orpheus the Orator
3.4 Marsyas and Midas
3.5 Bacchus and the Art of Noise
4. People
4.1 In the Garden of Venus
4.2 Harmonious Marriage
4.3 Singing Shepherds
4.4 Musica Triumphans
4.5 Portraits
4.6 Ensembles