17.1 - Italy, Birthplace Of The Renaissance


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The Italian Renaissance with a focus on new artistic techniques and the influence of the Florentine Medicis.

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17.1 - Italy, Birthplace Of The Renaissance

  1. 1. Italy: Birthplace of the Renaissance
  2. 2. <ul><li>‘ Renaissance’ means rebirth and refers to the period of about 1300-1600 that was a new period of learning and creativity in Europe. </li></ul><ul><li>As some historian critiques note, this doesn’t mean that medieval period was a dark age. There was still culture, learning, and such going on then. At this time, however, there’s a sudden explosion of it and it takes a markedly different form from what was seen during the Middle Ages. </li></ul><ul><li>Other critics argue that this period only introduced change for the upper classes while the lower classes largely led the same miserable existence as they always had. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>When we talk about the Renaissance, it largely began in Italy, especially northern Italy. </li></ul><ul><li>Why there? Good question. </li></ul><ul><li>One big reason was economics. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trade was very important the Italian city-states. Demand for luxury goods increased trade. Increased trade led to more tradesmen becoming wealthy and wanting more luxury goods, and on and on. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It wasn’t uncommon for the merchants to be richer than the local nobles. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Due to the power and wealth of the merchants and guilds, the feudal system broke down here. Feudal lords didn’t run the show here, which helped to secure money and remove laws that inhibited commerce. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><ul><li>The trade-based economy also meant that cities were dominant. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Northern Europe was also embroiled in the Hundred Years War in the early-going. </li></ul>
  5. 5. It was primarily the northern Italian city-states that dominated the Italian Renaissance. The central and southern cities remained backwards. <ul><li>Note that each city-state, as a city-state, was independent of the others. Also, they controlled the surrounding region. </li></ul><ul><li>They would sometimes go to war with each other. </li></ul>
  6. 7. Florence is the city-state in which the Renaissance was most prominent.
  7. 8. <ul><li>While there were several powerful families in Florence, the one that emerged as the leader was the Medici family. </li></ul><ul><li>This is primarily due to the skill of Cosimo de Medici. </li></ul><ul><li>Cosimo was a brilliant political tactician and also a brilliant businessman. </li></ul><ul><li>He amassed a huge fortune and used it to buy political power as well as financing art projects in Florence. </li></ul>
  8. 9. <ul><li>A few years after Cosimo dies, his grandson Lorenzo takes power (Cosimo’s son Piero takes power first, but he was sickly and didn’t live long). </li></ul><ul><li>Lorenzo, of course, comes to be known as Lorenzo the Magnificent </li></ul>
  9. 10. <ul><li>And why was Lorenzo magnificent? </li></ul><ul><li>One big reason is the massive effect he had on Florentine Renaissance. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>He sponsored a great deal of art and literature with the Medici fortune. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A few of the artists who enjoyed his patronage were Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>He also helped to start philosophical academies that reexamined ancient works and philosophies. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 11. <ul><li>Going back to the ancients </li></ul><ul><li>One aspect of the Renaissance was reading these ancient works. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>While some ancient authors, especially Aristotle, were very well known and were used for medieval thought as well as Catholic theology and cosmology, many others had fallen by the wayside. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There were several reasons for this. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>There was the general decline in literacy and learning during the medieval period, but, more importantly, Greek and proper Latin were no longer spoken or read. Therefore, most people couldn’t read the ancient works even if they had them. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 12. <ul><ul><ul><li>Another reason is that many of the works were lost to western Europe. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Once the Renaissance was under way, people started hunting them down. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some were found in monastery libraries where they had gathered dust for centuries. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Many others came via Muslims. They had preserved many works that started finding their way back to Europe due to trading and also because of the Reconquista of Spain. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The influence came not just from the original works, but also from Muslim commentaries on the works. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 13. <ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Still others came from the conquering of Constantinople in 1453. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The Byzantine scholars escaped Constantinople to Italy and brought with them not just the ancient works, but also the ability to read them, which they taught to others. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Another factor that helps focus people on the ancients was observing all the ancient Roman stuff around them. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Much of it had fallen into disrepair and some had even been used as quarries. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>This focus on the classics led to humanism. </li></ul><ul><li>Humanism focused on what humans could do. It was in opposition to the divinely based thought of the day. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It also advocated reason and the evidence of senses over traditional Christian introspective values. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Along with this was the clarion call, ad fontes , which meant ‘to the sources.’ The humanists believed in going directly to the primary sources instead of just looking at what people said. This contributed to the drive to get those original works. </li></ul><ul><li>It concentrated on the traditional liberal arts: rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, ethics, poetry, and history. </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>Focus on the good things in life </li></ul><ul><li>Breaking with Christianity that focused on self-denial, the humanists liked the finer things: entertainment, art, good food, good company, etc. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This was partially due to the effect of the Black Death. Life was seeming too short not to enjoy it if you could. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This quasi-hedonist focus, along with the revival of classicism, also led to a revival of homosexuality. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Florence was well-known for widespread same-sex relationships. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 16. <ul><li>When it came to art, it had to be funded and that was done by patrons – typically local wealthy merchant families such as the Medici. </li></ul><ul><li>They would sponsor art for themselves and for the city. They liked having portraits of them done, among other things. </li></ul>To be a universal man (or Renaissance man), like Lorenzo here, you strove to become expert in the liberal arts as well as learn to sing, dance, and write poetry.
  16. 17. Swoon, ladies. Swoon.
  17. 18. <ul><li>New art </li></ul><ul><li>The Renaissance saw a flourishing of new artistic techniques. </li></ul><ul><li>Medieval art tended to be very flat and nearly always had religious overtones. </li></ul>
  18. 19. <ul><li>The art that started developing in the Renaissance, however, was different. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The biggest innovation was the use of perspective. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When you look at a scene, parallel lines seem to get closer to each other the farther in the distance they go until they meet at a vanishing point. Think of standing on a railroad track and looking down them. </li></ul></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><ul><li>Renaissance artists started exploiting this optical illusion in their art. The advantage of it is that you created the illusion of a three dimensional image on a flat, two dimensional surface. </li></ul></ul>
  20. 22. <ul><ul><li>Interestingly, perspective can also be used as to create false perspective, such as here. </li></ul></ul>
  21. 23. <ul><ul><li>Or in M.C. Escher’s works (though he wasn’t Renaissance). </li></ul></ul>
  22. 25. You also start to see the use of light and shade (chiaroscuro) and blurring outlines so it seems that tones imperceptibly meld in to each other (thereby creating volume: this is sfumato).
  23. 26. Carvaggio’s Crucifixion of St. Peter . An example of Chiaroscuro.
  24. 29. Close-up of Mona Lisa’s face. Notice the sfumato blurring, especially around the eyes, and how it creates a 3D illusion.
  25. 30. <ul><li>You also see a renewed interest in some classical forms in sculpture that are at the same time using realism. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Examples are Donatello’s bronze David and Michelangelo’s marble David . </li></ul></ul>
  26. 32. <ul><ul><li>Even Lorenzo got into it: </li></ul></ul>
  27. 33. <ul><li>There’s also a greater plasticity and animation to the characters in the paintings. They feel like they’re in mid-movement and not just in some stone-like pose. </li></ul>
  28. 36. <ul><li>Architecture changed during the Renaissance too. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It was more symmetrical and centrally planned than Gothic architecture was. </li></ul></ul>
  29. 39. <ul><ul><li>The dome of the basilica reaches 448 ft. The Statue of Liberty, from the ground to the tip of the torch, is 305 ft. </li></ul></ul>
  30. 41. <ul><li>There’s also the Sistine Chapel. Not much to look at from the outside: </li></ul>
  31. 42. <ul><li>But inside… </li></ul>
  32. 52. <ul><li>Renaissance Literature </li></ul><ul><li>Previously, writing was done in Latin. Advantage: it was the scholarly language that scholars knew even when their respective local languages were different. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Disadvantage: the commoners didn’t know it. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So, authors started writing in the vernacular of their regions. This allowed literature to have a more popular bent. It also stagnated Latin. </li></ul>