Paintings for Florentine Palaces
During the course of the 15th century, the range of subjects for the paintings displayed in the palaces of rich Florentine merchants and bankers dramatically expanded. Profile portraits, familiar in Italy, were gradually supplemented with full-face portraits that imitated examples from the Netherlands. Sandro Botticelli’s Young Man, for example, faces the viewer directly, and is strikingly lit to give the sense that he is really present.
Other panel paintings, with stories taken from classical mythology and history or from medieval fable, were set into pieces of furniture, such as beds or special chests. Spalliera (shoulder-height) paintings were often fixed into the wooden panelling that lined a room. These highly decorative paintings were generally commissioned for furniture in bedchambers, when a son was getting married. They might therefore represent subjects or characters particularly associated with love and marriage: erotic pictures such as Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, or images intended to instruct the new bride.