At the opening of Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, Michael Baxandall famously declared: ‘A fifteenth-century painting is the deposit of a social relationship’.1 In this paper I use the textual and visual material associated with a Prato lawyer, Giuliano di Francesco Guizzelmi (1446–1518), to argue that this is much too passive a conception of the role of images in this period. Fully integrated in the practices of daily life and mobilised in strategies of social interaction, fifteenth-century images were, rather, constitutive of social relationships: they were part of the way in which those relationships were built.

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Giuliano Guizzelmi was a prolific writer of pious texts, producing books of miracles for all of his home town's shrines. He is also a notably well-documented individual. Among his written remains is a record ‘of those things which happen...

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