A connoisseur contains knowledge of a specific artistic period or nation, who typically focuses on a single problem. They know the approximate date, the period and the authenticity of a painting, by having a wide range of knowledge of individual and period styles. He or she will generate a list of an art objects location and the history of its travels. These catalogue entries for a work of art consists of all relevant published information, especially references made to the object near the time of its execution. He or she often has to make extensive travels in order to experience the work of art in person. The purpose being that the connoisseur is able to attribute works of artists and schools, and identifying styles and establishing sources and influences as well as judging their quality and thus their placement in a canon. This also gives a connoisseur the chance to identify the work as a copy, fake, or original. By utilizing evidence of style and documentation as aids, the characteristics of style that are particular to an artist can be identified. Documents concerning the payment are of extreme value for they explain the circumstances of commissioning and execution. In addition, a connoisseur is able to show how an artist’s work has been directly influenced by his or her training as well as from the culture they lived in.
In comparison, cultural history is the combined studies of anthropology and history as well as the popular traditions of that time period. It examines the records and literature, especially those pertaining to social, religious, and cultural aspects of life. In addition, cultural historians evaluate the political atmosphere of a time period and its relation to the arts. Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) founded the study of cultural history, whereas earlier histories have focuses on political and military history. Burckhardt’s best known work is The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), which was the first to show a period of time treated in its entirety with attention to painting, sculpture and architecture.
Raimond van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Paintings, vol. 5
Raimond van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Paintings, vol. 6
Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, 1860.
These two sources were written relatively close to one another in comparison to the time period they were written about. However, Burckhardt was the first of his peers to write a cultural history and since then much has been added to his original thesis about the Renaissance (and it has been challenged that the Renaissance did not start in the 14th century has Burckhardt proposes but rather the 12th century, but that is besides the point. What is important is that Burckhardt changes the revolutionized the way that modern day thinks about history.)
The van Marle text was original language is English, however Burckhardt was originally written in German. However, Burckhardt wanted his writing to be accessible to all that possessed a basic knowledge of and passion for the Italian Renaissance. Thus it can be assumed that his simple language was easily translated into German’s sister language English and that little was lost during translation. Also, this particular book originally translated by S.G.C. Middlemore has been corrected by Ludwig Goldscheider from the first edition, leaving little room for error.
The target audiences for these two texts are different, in that van Marle addresses a specific group of scholars who wish to gain a specific knowledge of central and southern Italian art during the 14th century. Its multivolume work and comprehensive material indicates the audiences the author had in mind. Whereas, Burckhardt audience is the general public who wished to gain an understanding about the Italian Renaissance Society and Culture.
Both of the authors of these works present their material in a simple and direct manner, for their goal is to inform the audience of the material. It is important for these types of work to have a direct tone, for history is mostly straightforward and there is little need for embellishment.
An example from the van Marle text from page 48 describes Triptych, Umbrian School, first half of the 14th century. Pinacoteca, Perugia:
“The third triptych is only a rustic production of the same current. In the central panel the Madonna, seated on an architectural throne holds the Infant Jesus between St. Anna and the Virgin as a child. Lower down we see the Crucifixion and the Prayer on Mount of Olives. Three figures of saints adorn each of the wings. It is a roughly executed work of no importance.
The elements composing the art to which these pictures belong, are obviously based on Giottesque principles. The types, as well as the proportions of the figures resemble those of the great Florentine master and we see them here in a form directly inspired by him and not by one of his disciples. This, consequently, would lead up to date these works form the first half of the 14th century, which seems too early, especially on account of the elaborate form of the throne in one of the pictures, which is characteristic of North Italian painting of a much later date. Nevertheless it is possible that we are here dealing with one of the first examples and I do not think that the works we have just described can be placed any later than 1350.”
An example from the Burckhardt text from page 24:
“Atlanta, the still young and beautiful mother of Grifone…and more than once had repulsed her son with a mother’s curse, now returned with her daughter-in-law in search of the dying man. All stood aside as the two woman approached, each man shrinking from being recognized as the slayer of Grifone…but they were deceived: she herself besought her son to pardon him who had death the fatal blow…the eyes of the crowd followed the two woman reverently as they crossed the square with blood-stained garments. It was Atlanta for whom Raphael afterwards pained the world-famous ‘Deposition,’ with which she laid her won maternal sorrows at the feet of a yet higher and holier suffering.”
Both of these works, although different in their approach are valuable to the study of art history. Each writer demonstrates their full knowledge of their subject. The Burckhardt text or a text similar to Burckhardt gives an art historian a general view of time period and the culture that the artists were influenced by. And a text like van Marle, allows an art historian not only the topographical changes within a particular country but also the changes that took shape over time.