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Introduction to Western Humanities - 7a - Early Renaissance


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Seventh lecture for GNED 1202 (Texts and Ideas). It is a required general education course for all first-year students at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada. My version of the course is structured as a kind of Intro to Western Civilization style course.

The Renaissance lecture has been divided into three parts. This is the first.

Published in: Education, Spiritual
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Introduction to Western Humanities - 7a - Early Renaissance

  2. 2. So how do we get fromthis ...
  3. 3. Guido do Graziano [1400]
  4. 4. To this ...
  5. 5. Michelangelo, Sistine chapel [circa 1500]
  6. 6. In 100 years?
  7. 7. The term Renaissance refers to a profound and enduring upheaval andtransformation in culture, politics, art, and society throughout Europe betweenthe years 1400 and 1600. The word describes both: • a period in history and • a more general ideal of cultural renewal.
  8. 8. I used to marvel and at the same time to grieve that so many excellent andsuperior arts and sciences from our most vigorous antique past could seemlacking and wholly lost. … Thus I believed … that Nature had grown old andtired and no longer produced either geniuses or giants which in her moreyouthful and more glorious days she had produced so marvelously andabundantly.Since then, I have been brought back here to Florence … I have tounderstand that … in you, Filippo Brunelleschi, and in our close friendDonatello, the sculpture, and in others like Ghiberti … and Massaccio, thereis a genius for every praiseworthy thing. Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, 1434
  9. 9. For about 150 years (1375-1525), Italy was the center of trade and commercein Europe and thus relatively rich. Florence was the banking centre and itscurrency (the florin) was the currency of international trade.Later Atlantic exploration (1500-1700) shifted trade and wealth to Portugal,Spain, France, Holland, and England.
  10. 10. Baptistery, Florence.In 1400 a return of the plague killed about 1/5 of the population. Also,for most of the year, the city was under siege by the armies of Milan.In 1401 in celebration of the victory over Milan a competition was heldfor the sculptures on the doors of the Baptistery. Each competitor had toprovide a panel showing the Old Testament scene of the sacrifice of Isaac(God testing Abraham’s faith).
  11. 11. Like the ancient Greeks, theFlorentines of the 15th centuryseemed to have a love ofcompetition …
  12. 12. A Game of Calcio Storico in the Piazza SantaMaria Novella, Florence, 1555
  13. 13. Florence’s four districts eachhad/have a team with playerspulled from prison. It was/is acombination of rugby andMMA.
  14. 14. game is played with 27 men on each side, twoballs, eight refs, no breaks, no time out and nosubstitutions over a period of fifty minutes. Ten menon each side are allowed to brawl with anyone onthe other team. Ambulances come onto the pitchwithout stopping the game. First prize? Steaks.
  15. 15. The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401 -Competition for Baptistery doors:entry by Filippo Brunelleschi
  16. 16. The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401 -Competition for Baptistery doors:entry by Lorenzo GhibertiPrize jointly awarded. Brunelleschirefused to work with Ghiberti andleft Florence with his friendDonatello to travel, study, and livein Rome. (He stays for 13 years).
  17. 17. Saint Mark,by Donatello,c. 1413.Jeremiahby Donatello,c. 1413.
  18. 18. Contrapposto
  19. 19. Donatello also revived the naturalistic style ofRoman portrait sculpture.Vasari in his chapter on Donatello says that as hewas carving one of these early sculptures, he beganyelling “Speak, Speak to me, dammit.”
  20. 20. David, by Donatello, c. 1430-1440.First large-scale nude sculpture sinceantiquity (1000+ years).
  21. 21. In 1417, upon his return to Florence, Brunelleschipainted perhaps the most influential painting in thehistory of art (which unfortunately was destroyed around1494).In this painting, Brunelleschi painted the FlorenceBaptistery in true perspective.
  22. 22. Brunelleschi’s perspective demonstration painting
  23. 23.
  24. 24. Brunelleschi is thus credited for “discovering”mathematical perspective (the method of representing3D objects on a 2D surface that gives a realisticimpression of true position, size, and distance) and itspractical application in drawing.Soon after, nearly every artist in Florence and in Italy usedgeometrical perspective in their paintings. Indeed, until20th Century modernism, almost every painting for almost500 years used his perspective technique.
  25. 25. Donatello,The Feast of Herod,c. 1425.
  26. 26. Masaccio. Holy Trinity, c. 1425.Masaccio died when he was only26, but using Brunelleschisinnovations, revolutionizedpainting.
  27. 27. Masaccio, The Tribute Money [1425-8]
  28. 28. Perhaps the best way to appreciate Masaccio’s impact onhis 15th century contemporaries is to compare his art tothat produced just a few years before by others.
  29. 29. Compare the architectural details, themodeling of the figures, the naturalism of theexpressions in Massacio’s work
  30. 30. Again notice the naturalism of theexpressions, the realism of the infant, inMassacio’s work
  31. 31. BrancacciChapel
  32. 32. Perhaps the best analogy, for theimpact that Masaccio had on paintingmight be by examining the state ofvideo game graphics in 1991 and 1992.And then comparing this to what wasreleased in 1993…
  33. 33. Masaccio was the Myst of the 1420s.
  34. 34. Brunelleschi’s discovery of perspective and its initialapplication by Masaccio inspired all subsequentItalian painting of the 15th century.
  35. 35. Francesca, The Flagellation of Christ [1460s]
  36. 36. Perspective became a code or shorthand for theideal of perfection during this time …
  37. 37. Perugino, Delivery of the Keys, 1481
  38. 38. (top) Francesco Di Giorgio Martini. Architectural Perspective, late 15th century; (bottom) An Ideal City, mid-15th century.
  39. 39. Filippo Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel, Cloisterof Santa Croce, Florence, ca. 1441-1460.
  40. 40. To understand the innovation in Brunelleschi’sarchitecture we have to compare it to the dominantarchitectural style of the day for churches, French Gothic.
  41. 41. gothic style cathedral 1200-1500s
  42. 42. York Cathedral [1230-1472] (High Gothic Style)
  43. 43. Filippo Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel, Cloisterof Santa Croce, Florence, ca. 1441-1460.
  44. 44. Cloister, Gloucester Cathedral [High Gothic]
  45. 45. Cloister, Santa Croce [Brunelleschi]
  46. 46. Filippo Brunelleschi. Interior of Santo Spirito,Florence, planned 1421.
  47. 47. Filippo Brunelleschi. Interior of Santo Spirito,Florence, planned 1421.
  48. 48. Typical gothic style
  49. 49. Interior of Santo Spirito
  50. 50. Florence Cathedral (Duomo) [1296-1426]Dome [1420-6] by Brunelleschi
  51. 51. In 1367, city held competition for dome. The winningentry called for a dome with a diameter of 173 feet,larger than any dome in existence, has well as higherthan any existing vault. They didn’t know how to buildit; they put their faith in future progress, that anarchitect in the future would figure how to build it.
  52. 52. Pantheon, Rome built during the reign of EmperorHadrian around 126 CE.
  53. 53. Almost two thousand years after it wasbuilt, the Pantheons dome is still theworlds largest unreinforced concretedome.
  54. 54. Pantheon [126 CE] Hagia Sophia [537 CE] Gothic cathedrals DuomoRome Constantiople [1200-1400 CE] Florence
  55. 55. In 1418, the city held another competition, this time for asolution to building the dome. One of the key constraintswas that the winning entry was not to use woodencentering, the standard practice for building arches anddomes since the Romans.Because of the height and size of the Dome, usingwooden centering would have completely deforested theland around Florence.
  56. 56. Another complication are the downward and outwardcompression pressures of a dome.In Pantheon, the pressure was absorbed by incrediblythick concrete walls and a progressively thinner dome.In Gothic style, those pressures are absorbed by flyingbuttresses.
  57. 57. Brunelleschi’s solution was to make the dome hollow, anduse vertical and horizontal ribs made out of iron andconcrete to contain the stresses.The horizontal ribs acts like a belt containing the outwardpressures.The outside bricks are in a herringbone pattern and“stapled” with iron, thus eliminating the need for woodencentering.
  58. 58. He also designed the two key engineeringinventions of the Renaissance: the hoistand the crane.He also invented the first paddle-wheelboat (for shipping stone).
  59. 59. The architects of the great Gothic cathedrals wereunknown. Brunelleschi changed society’s esteem ofarchitecture and the architect.With Brunelleschi, we see the word “genius” applied to aliving individual for the first time since antiquity.
  60. 60. In Brunelleschi’s amazing brilliance (invention ofperspective, invention of Renaissance architecture,solving the Dome, and his engineering inventions), thewriters of the Renaissance had their proof thatcontemporary man was as great, and indeed greater thanthose of classical antiquity.He also “invented” the personality pattern that manysubsequent creative artists would try to emulate: moody,unsociable, suspicious of others, poor hygiene,unconcerned with personal riches, convinced of his ownbrilliance, creating to achieve future glory, etc.
  61. 61. For the writers and artists of the Renaissance,Brunelleschi and the other greats that were to followhim, provided an argument that maybe humans areonly a fingertip’s width away from divinity … An ideathat is very far away indeed from the Medievalworldview.