Published on February 5, 2008
The Italian Renaissance: The Italian Renaissance A Socio-Economic Movement A Political Movement An Intellectual Movement An Artistic Movement Italian City-States: Italian City-States Cultural and Intellectual movements start in the Italian city-states in the 14th-16th centuries Movements in art, science, and humanistic studies Major Italian cities Romagna (Papal States) Firenze (Florence) Venezia (Venice) Napoli (Kingdom of Naples) Milano (Duchy of Milan) On the Boot: On the Boot The Renaissance was an age of transition Gave up aspects of the medieval, renewed interest in the classical, and developed modern concepts of their own Began in Italy in the 14th century and spread north and west The transition was easiest in Italy where much of the transition had already been made (banking, capitalism, city-states, etc) Also remnants of ancient Rome were everywhere Feudal lords that owned land beyond city walls played a less important role than those north City life brought an unprecedented interest in art which brought public recognition to artists Social Classes: Social Classes The old 3 tiered system was disappearing A new nobility was growing out of the intense commercialization Italian wealth (i.e. land ownership) was redistributed from the nobility to a non-aristocratic commercial class Most Italian nobles borrowed money for nonproductive purposes and often defaulted on their loans In With The New: In With The New New Class System Old nobility and merchant class Emergent capitalists and bankers Less wealthy merchants Tradesmen Peasants (25-30%) Domestic servants (very few in number) The Case of Firenze: The Case of Firenze Center of Tuscany- long standing center of Italian culture A republic- ruled by a senate (Venezia was similar while the others were monarchies) Early and most significant writers include Dante, Boccaccio, and Machiavelli Powerful families decided to flaunt their growing wealth by patronizing the arts and sciences The Medici: The Medici By the 14th, Firenze was only nominally a republic At around the turn of the 15th Cosimo de’ Medici, the wealthiest Florentine, took over the city He patronized the arts extensively Created the Academy Responsible for reviving neo-Platonism Cosimo was succeeded by his sickly son Piero who died 5 years later His son Lorenzo, il Magnifico, succeeded him Continued to support the arts Faced with many difficulties (Not as shrewd as his father) Makes Enemies with a powerful friar- Savonarola See details of this dispute A Quote from Lorenzo: A Quote from Lorenzo Whoever wants to be happy, let him be so: about tomorrow there's no knowing. —Lorenzo The Magnificent Humanism: Humanism In a very general sense, Humanism can be seen as the motivating spirit behind the period of history referred to as the Italian Renaissance However to understand what this means, it becomes important to discuss the essence of humanism. Humanism, as a zeitgeist, is more than a mere school of thought or a liberal arts curriculum. Humanism is the quest for individuality on both a personal level, and a social one. It was a pedagogy based on the study of Greco-Roman works It did not subordinate the classics to the Christian tradition; it studied them for their own sake The Humanist Legacy: The Humanist Legacy Literacy in the classical Greek and Latin allowed ancient text to be reinterpreted. Italian merchants regained control of the Mediterranean oriental texts, especially those of the Greek Gnostics and mystery religions, became more readily available. Capitalistic enterprises created an economic atmosphere that provided artists and scholars with the patronage they needed to translate the works, use them as inspiration, and disseminate them among their peers. Individuality and human worth, in light of the new interpretations of ancient metaphysics drove the Renaissance man to reformulate his relationship to the cosmos Opened up an eternal conversation, settled once by Augustine, who aligned the Neo-Platonism of his day with Christianity. It was settled again by Aquinas, who reconciled Christianity with Aristotelian logic. Raffaele depicts the discussion in his famous School of Athens Renaissance Art: Renaissance Art Art is the greatest expression of the Renaissance ideals New techniques combined with humanist outlook Classical models for art and architecture Nudes Heroism of humanity Maintained religious art but focus shifted from heaven to humanity Paintings also had a metaphysical side to them reflecting Plato’s theory of Forms Sandro “Botticelli” Filipepi: Sandro “Botticelli” Filipepi According to Harold Acton, “Among Painters Botticelli stood closest to Lorenzo: he reveals the taste and sentiment of the period more vividly than those whose visions he interpreted” (Acton 1952 130). Botticelli got his start with pictures with religious themes, “but in this [1480s] period, perhaps under the influence of Lorenzo’s circle, he turned more to pagan subjects, usually from classical mythology, and favoring the nude” (Durant 1953 137). Later in his life, his paintings are said to have returned to their original religious sentiment. “The two most frequently debated topics considering the art and life of Sandro Botticelli and about his relationships with the two dominant political figures of his time: Lorenzo de’Medici called il Magnifico, and Fra Girolamo Savonarola. Birth of Venus: Birth of Venus The antithesis to medieval art. According to Janson’s art history, in the middle ages “classical form had become divorced from classical subject matter. Artists could only draw upon the ancient repertory of poses, gestures, expressions, etc., by changing the identity of their sources: philosophers became apostles, Orpheus turn into Adam, Hercules into Sampson” (Janson 1982 411). Botticelli’s Neo-Platonism: Botticelli’s Neo-Platonism Botticelli’s work coincided with Ficino’s thought, which “was the very opposite of the orderly system of medieval scholasticism. He believed that the life of the universe, including that of man, was linked to god by a spiritual circuit continuously ascending and descending, so that all revelation, whether from Bible, Plato, or classical myths, were one” (Janson 1982 412). “Beauty draws the soul to God, and God is the source of beauty and as the most beautiful of all things, the final end of contemplation” (Gorringe 1999). In this respect, the image itself is a mere representation of an eternal ideal. A Religious Venus: A Religious Venus According to Neo-Platonism, the celestial Venus exists in the mind and it corresponds to an ideal metaphysical form. The Venus that we see is a representation of that form which may be described in a sense as human love. In this sense, the Virgin Mary can be used interchangeably with Venus as a representation of the same ideal. The wind gods on the left look like angels and the Spring can be seen to represent John the Baptist welcoming Christ ashore during his baptism (Janson 1982 412). Fleming adds to the religiosity of Botticelli’s style by commenting that the “composition of his picture is still that of the traditional Christian iconography of the Madonna surrounded by saints and angels” (Fleming 1995 277). Primavera: Primavera In 1478, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici commissioned Botticelli to paint Primavera to adorn his Castello villa. In Primavera, “the inspiration for the subject could have come from reading the Latin poet Ovid's ‘Fasti’,” It is also possible and “more likely to have come from ‘Verses for the Joust’, by the contemporary scholar, Agnolo Poliziano, in which he described a meadow where grasses and plants grew, where winds blew, and where ‘Happy Spring was ever present’” (Uffizi “primavera”). Poliziano’s poem “is full of references to neo-Platonic thought, a philosophy brought to Italy by the Byzantine humanist Giorgio Gemisto (known as Pletone), and which was adhered to by the philosopher Marsilio Ficino, and by Lorenzo the Magnificent himself” (ibid). Body and Soul: Body and Soul The struggle for Lorenzo’s Neo-Platonists was not to replace Christianity with Platonic paganism; it was to blend the Christian with both the Platonic and the Aristotelian. One of the areas that became an obstacle was the concept of resurrection. Plato believed that the soul desired freedom so death was the release of the soul while the body was laid to waste. Christian doctrine teaches a full resurrection of the body and soul. Gorringe argues that Botticelli is accomplishing the task in many respects: “In his [Botticelli’s] greatest paintings, at least, there is what can only be called a sublime vision of the resurrection life that has seen beyond creation groaning in travail” (Gorringe 1999). He states further that, “Above all, in Botticelli's female figures, the soul, which has seen and responded to divine beauty, shines through and illuminates the body in just the way that Ficino argues that it will post resurrection” (ibid). Timelines: Timelines Timeline of Italian Renaissance Art General Timeline of the Italian Renaissance Italian Renaissance Artists: Italian Renaissance Artists Masaccio Donatello Brunelleschi Leonardo da Vinci Michelangelo Buonarroti Titian Tintoretto Bellini Botticelli Caravaggio Ghiberti Giotto Raphael The New Learning: The New Learning Education in the Renaissance The School of Athens: The Intellectual Fresco: The School of Athens: The Intellectual Fresco Details of the Painting Compare to : Compare to Medieval Universities: Medieval Universities Bologna in the 11th started as a center to study Roman Law After students studied the seven liberal arts, they took an oral exam and became a master. They could then continue for a doctorate. Followed the Aristotelian method of education Early on they were only open to the clergy Higher education was in theology, law or medicine Renaissance Humanism: Renaissance Humanism Scholars began to comment on the deteriorating Latin language that was used They went back to the classical texts in order to regain some of the skills in classical Latin Soon an interest in reviving the classical literature, art, and architecture grew. Humanism sought to capture the core human values in the liberal arts It was concerned with freeing the mind from the manipulation of social constructs in order to learn moral principles “The New Learning”: “The New Learning” From classic texts humanists sought to learn what the medieval texts did not address These were a guide to the good life They did not challenge Christian belief; they attacked scholastic methodology (over-philosophizing) They stressed a purer form of Christianity Petrarch believed that education should not consist of learning and knowing but also how to communicate knowledge and use it for the public good Focus was moral philosophy and rhetoric Augustine and human dignity Excellence as the pursuit of life Breaking from the futile questions of the scholastics opened the door for science The Spread of the Renaissance: The Spread of the Renaissance The printing press makes all the difference The Northern culture was different so it absorbed the renaissance in a different way than Italy Intensely Christian, anticlerical, lay movements Their interest in the classics was in classic Christian writings Sought to restore Christianity to its original state Christian humanism Vilified medieval scholastic Christianity Desiderius Erasmus: Desiderius Erasmus Responsible for carrying the renaissance north Educated by the Brethren of the Common Life in the Netherlands Introduced to Italian Humanism in Turin Began to use satire to attack scholasticism, clerical abuses, and to promote his Christology Believed that religion doesn’t come from dogma or clerical power; it came from the bible and stemmed from man’s natural instincts His ideas were overtaken by the drive toward Reformation In France: In France François Rabelais emphasized the goodness in human nature and the right to enjoy the world without fear of God Appreciates secular learning and believes that monastic orders and clerical education stifles human spirit In England: In England Sir Thomas More wrote a utopian treatise called Utopia Called for elimination of private property Took over for Cardinal Wolsey under Henry VIII but resigned when Henry split from Rome Was beheaded for treason in 1535 William Shakespeare expressed renaissance ideals of honor, heroism, and the struggle against fate and fortune Even heroes have tragic flaws Intensely human so that the humanism in them fades Challenge Yourself: Challenge Yourself Answer the following questions in outline form in your notebooks: 1- How is the concept a paradigm shift related to the Study of Western Civilization? 2- What changes made the medieval world more modern? 3- What historical events led to this change? 4- How can the Renaissance be seen as a period of transition?