Besides aesthetics, art history involves much detective work, as well as a keen knowledge of history itself. All of those elements are present in the "Private Life of a Masterpiece" DVD series. I watched the exceptionally rich collection devoted to Italian Renaissance painters and can't wait to view the other three. As one of the commentators remarks, "it was an age when image making was almost a magical process." It was also an age when artists' study and application of perspective (particularly by Leonardo, Uccello, and della Francesca) made viewers feel that they were personally immersed in a scene. All of these large paintings portray the figures within them near life size.
The ownership and original placement of two of the masterworks profiled—Sandro Botticelli's La Primavera (above) and Paolo Uccello's The Battle of San Romano—were discovered in Florentine archives relatively recently. Both were wedding gifts and were hung in bridal chambers. (The marriages were arranged in both instances, as was the norm.)
Paolo Uccello created his depiction of a decisive battle between Florence and Milan as three panels, showing the events of one day. Commissioned for a vaulted room, the panels originally had arched tops, so that the sky over the mountains would have completed the scene. Lorenzo de Medici cut them off, however, to make them fit into the space where he wanted to put them. In 1743, the panels were bequeathed to the city of Florence, but only the middle one (above) was displayed in the Uffizi. The outer two ended up in the hands of art dealers and eventually made their way to the Louvre and the National Gallery in London, respectively.
I wondered to myself about the un-warlike headgear, but apparently the general was going for the element of surprise and didn't wait to put on his helmet. Below, a detail of the London panel and a completion by Leo Stevenson of the left panel as it might have looked originally.