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Art and Culture - Module 07 - Renaissance (Early)

Seventh module for GNED 1201 (Aesthetic Experience and Ideas). This one covers the beginnings of the cultural movement known as the Renaissance. It focuses on the three key figures of the early Renaissance: Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Masaccio.

This course 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 Art History and Culture course. Some of the content overlaps with my other Gen Ed course.

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Art and Culture - Module 07 - Renaissance (Early)

  2. 2. So how do we get from this ...
  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 p and enduring upheaval and transformation in culture, politics, art, and society throughout Europe between the years 1400 and 1600. The word describes both: • a period in history, and • a more general ideal of cultural renewal.
  8. 8. While renaissance ultimately becomes a European-wide phenomenon, it is initially (or even mainly) something that happens mainly in Italy.
  9. 9. For about 300 years (1200-1525), Italy was the center of trade and commerce in Europe and thus relatively rich. Atlantic exploration (1500-1700) would eventually shift trade and wealth to Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, and England.
  10. 10. Much of the story of the early Renaissance is a story about Florence. Florence becomes a wealthy city initially because it produces very high-quality woolen cloth. Eventually, they also develop the first banks (in order to help maintain and grow the cloth industry).
  11. 11. The Renaissance develops in Florence for several interconnected reasons: 1. Strong urban life. 2. Development of humanism. 3. Development of republican political life.
  12. 12. Urban life in Italy as a whole had remained strong, even during the medieval dark ages, and many secular values had been sustained along with a memory of the Roman Empire.
  13. 13. The Renaissance develops in Florence for several interconnected reasons: 1. Strong urban life. 2. Development of humanism. 3. Development of republican political life.
  14. 14. Renaissance humanism was a reaction against medieval scholastic education, and which emphasized practical, rhetorical, literary, historical, and scientific studies of Greek and Roman teachings.
  15. 15. It also endeavored to revive the cultural (esp. the literary) legacy and moral philosophy of classical antiquity … a legacy that was beginning to be rediscovered.
  16. 16. Early important Florentine humanists include Petrarch (1304-1374) and Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406).
  17. 17. By the late 1300s, humanist education was wide-spread amongst the Florentine elite. In fact literacy rates in Florence were maybe as high as 30% of the population, a percentage that dwarfed any other city in Europe.
  18. 18. The Renaissance develops in Florence for several interconnected reasons: 1. Strong urban life. 2. Development of humanism. 3. Development of republican political life.
  19. 19. In the 13th century (1200-1299), Florence was torn by conflict between the textile merchants, their textile workers, and the traditional aristocrats whose status was based on the ownership of agricultural land and serfs.
  20. 20. The aristocratic ruling elites of 13th century Florence were similar to other medieval elites in Europe: ideologically united by knightly norms of violence and social superiority.
  21. 21. Towers of San Gimignano 13th century Florence (like other Italian cities of the time) was dominated by the towers of these aristocratic families who engaged in constant inter-family feuds and vendettas (think of the Montague and Capulet feud in Romeo and Juliet).
  22. 22. Eventually, by 1293, the merchants and the guild members were able to take control over Florence. They abolished serfdom (thus eliminated the nobles source of power and wealth). The noble families were also expelled from the city and their towers were torn down. The Florentine Republic begins.
  23. 23. In the Republic, nobles are barred from political office. It also provided for frequent changes of office to ensure that no group or individual could get control of the state. The top office was a body of nine Priors (who were elected for a mere two months). These priors were elected by magistrates who were elected by citizens (i.e., any property owning guild member).
  24. 24. With a balance between its leading merchant families, Florence was now ruled by its guilds, which were associations of master craftsmen and tradesmen (which were like a blend of corporation, government, and community association).
  25. 25. This guild republic was the creation of the broad middle ranks of the city (the popolo): regional merchants, notaries, manufacturers of cloth, shop keepers, builders, artisans, etc
  26. 26. As a result of the constitution of 1293, Florentines developed a keen interest in their politics and became a community of civil servants available for public life.
  27. 27. The ideal of communal power becomes the key part of Florentine self-identity. This can be seen in the nature of the building projects of the early republic.
  28. 28. Santa Maria Novella [1279] Florence Cathedral [1294] Palazzo Vecchio [1299] Santa Croce [1294]
  29. 29. The only tower allowed in the Republic was that of Palazzo Vecchio, the city hall, the center of the Republican government. The castles and towers of the exiled aristocratic families were replaced with public spaces: not only churches but large piazzas where citizens could gather.
  30. 30. Cities ruled by kings or despots minimized public spaces because people coming together was perceived by the rulers as a potential threat, but in Florence, the city was changed to encourage people to come together.
  31. 31. The 15th century Renaissance thus sprouts out of the fertile ground of the 14th century Florentine Republic, a community dominated by a shared set of values, values that emphasized the flourishing of individuals within a context of the communal good and a belief that a better life could be (partially or even completely) achieved here on earth.
  32. 32. This outlook on life and on politics is sometimes referred to as civic humanism: that is, the belief that participatory politics and a public-space oriented city provides the twin environments for human fulfilment.
  33. 33. The renaissance and its focus on civic humanism helped shaped the modern conception of the individual. It is during this time that the cultural invention of the “genius” is initially enacted, and we will find that these geniuses were acting within a system of ideals that were constructed from the civic-oriented nature of Italian life.
  34. 34. I marvel and at used to the same ttiimmee ttoo ggrriieevvee tthhaatt ssoo mmaannyy eexxcceelllleenntt aanndd superior arts and sciences from our most vigorous antique past could seem lacking and wholly lost. … Thus I believed … that Nature had grown old and tired and no longger pproduced either ggeniuses or ggiants which in her more youthful and more glorious days she had produced so marvelously and abundantly. Since then, I have been brought back here to Florence … I have to uunnddeerrssttaanndd tthhaatt … iinn yyoouu, FFiilliippppoo Brunelleschi, aanndd iinn oouurr cclloossee ffrriieenndd Donatello, the sculpture, and in others like Ghiberti … and Massaccio, there is a genius for every praiseworthy thing. Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, 1434
  35. 35. 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 held for the sculptures on the doors of the Baptistery. Each competitor had to provide a panel showing the Old Testament scene of the sacrifice of Isaac (God testing Abraham’s faith).
  36. 36. Like the ancient Greeks, the Florentines of the 15th century seemed to have a love of competition …
  37. 37. A Game of Calcio Storico in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1555
  38. 38. Florence’s four districts each had/have a team with players pulled from prison. It was/is a combination of rugby and MMA.
  39. 39. Field for Calcio Storico in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence
  40. 40. Players parade enroute to Calcio Storico
  41. 41. http://vimeo.com/5257343 The game is played with 27 men on each side, two balls, eight refs, no breaks, no time out and no substitutions over a period of fifty minutes. Ten men on each side are allowed to brawl with anyone on the other team. Ambulances come onto the pitch without stopping the game. First prize? Steaks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ea17DLpqIY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiKOhGpQPD4
  42. 42. Reproduction of original Baptistery doors
  43. 43. Over the previous several hundred years, church doors were one of the most important venues for bronze sculpture.
  44. 44. Western door, St Michael’s Abbey Church of Hildesheim, Hildesheim (Germany), 1010-1033.
  45. 45. Door, Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, Verona (1100s)
  46. 46. Sacrifice of Isaac, Door, Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, Verona (1100s)
  47. 47. The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401 Competition for Florence Baptistery doors Entry by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378- 1455)
  48. 48. Ghiberti evidently influenced by the discovery of Roman sculpture of Body of Centaur
  49. 49. The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401 Competition for Baptistery doors Entry by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377- 1446) Prize jointly awarded. Brunelleschi refused to work with Ghiberti and left Florence with his friend Donatello to travel, study, and live in Rome. Ghiberti spends much of the next 20 years working on the door.
  50. 50. Similarly, Brunellschi was influenced by discovery of Roman sculpture, Boy with Thorn.
  51. 51. The years that Brunelleschi and Donatello spend in Rome studying are cloaked in mystery yet this Roman sojourn was decisive for the entire development of Italian art in the 15th century. “Over the next 13 years, they would move back and forth between Rome and Florence, living like vagrants, digging among the ancient ruins, and learning about the great Roman accomplishments and technology, all the while leaving the locals to believe that they were mere opportunists, looking to find abandoned treasures”
  52. 52. David, by Donatello, c. 1408. Donatello’’s first commission. Still shows gothic influence and approach.
  53. 53. Donatello’s sculptures from 1411-13 for the Orsanmichele in Florence after his trip to Rome reintroduced classical sculptural principles (e.g., contrapposto ).
  54. 54. Saint Mark, by Donatello, c. 1413. Jeremiah by Donatello, c. 1413. The drapery falls naturally and moves with the body.
  55. 55. Contrapposto
  56. 56. Donatello also revived the naturalistic style of Roman portrait sculpture. Vasari in his chapter on Donatello says that as he was carving one of these early sculptures, he began yelling “Speak, Speak to me, dammit.”
  57. 57. David, by Donatello, c. 1455-1460. First free-standing bronze statue since antiquity. Also the first large-scale nude sculpture since antiquity (1000+ years). Created for the Medici to celebrate the Peace of Lodi. To most modern observers, this appears less religious and heroic than homoerotic. The figure curves sensuously, his limbs appear soft and limp, the hilt of the sword is unusually phallic, and the feathers on the dead Goliath’s helmet caress David’s thigh.
  58. 58. One explanation for this narcissistic and erotic androgyny perhaps lies in the early Renaissance humanist philosophy that argued that divine revelation could be approached through the enjoyment of sensuous pleasures. This is related to neo-Platonic thought which allegorically described the transition of the soul to the divine via beauty through the transformation of bodily desire. Some scholars see it more simply as a reflection of Donatello’s homosexuality, a relatively common practice in Florence due to the late age of most marriages due to inheritance laws.
  59. 59. Meanwhile, in 1417, upon his return to Florence, Brunelleschi painted perhaps the most influential painting in the history of art (which unfortunately was destroyed around 1494). In this painting, Brunelleschi painted the Florence Baptistery in true one-point perspective.
  60. 60. Brunelleschi’s perspective demonstration painting
  61. 61. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pla yer_embedded&v=bkNMM8uiMww
  62. 62. Brunelleschi is thus credited for “discovering” mathematical perspective (the method of representing 3D objects on a 2D surface that gives a realistic impression of true position, size, and distance) and its practical application in drawing. Soon after, nearly every artist in Florence and in Italy used geometrical perspective in their paintings. Indeed, until early 20th Century modernism, almost every painting for almost 500 years used his perspective technique.
  63. 63. Donatello, The Feast of Herod, c. 1425.
  64. 64. Masaccio. Holy Trinity, c. 1425. Masaccio died when he was only 26, but using Brunelleschi's innovations, revolutionized painting.
  65. 65. Masaccio, The Tribute Money [1425-8]
  66. 66. Masaccio Brancacci Chapel, Florence 1425-7
  67. 67. Perhaps the best way to appreciate Masaccio’s impact on his 15th century contemporaries is to compare his art to that produced just a few years before by others.
  68. 68. Compare the architectural details, the modeling of the figures,and the naturalism of the expressions in Massacio’s work
  69. 69. Again compare the naturalism of the expressions and the realism of the infant and the architecture in Massacio’s work in comparison to the Bytantine style
  70. 70. Brancacci Chapel
  71. 71. Perhaps the best analogy for the impact that Masaccio had on painting might be by comparing it to the state of video game graphics in 1991 and 1992. And then comparing this to what was released in 1993…
  72. 72. Masaccio was the Myst of the 1420s.
  73. 73. Brunelleschi’s discovery of perspective and its initial application by Masaccio inspired all subsequent Italian art of the 15th century, and indeed, all art for the next four hundred and fifty years.
  74. 74. Compare Ghiberti … before Brunelleschi with after …
  75. 75. Francesca, The Flagellation of Christ [1460s]
  76. 76. Andrea Mantegna , Ceiling of Spouses Chamber, Milan , c. 1473.
  77. 77. Andrea Mantegna , Dead Christ , c. 1500.
  78. 78. Why? That is, why was perspective so important for the artists of the Renaissance?
  79. 79. It did provide a relatively straight-forward technique for reproducing reality …
  80. 80. Leonardo da Vinci , perspective study for the Adoration of the Magi , c. 1481.
  81. 81. Yet perspective was more than just a form of representation … It was a moral statement about humanity’s relationship to God, to the world, and to each other.
  82. 82. By allowing the artist to accurately calculate a human’s position in a 2D space, it seemed to symbolically represent a belief that humans had a new place in the order of things.
  83. 83. Perspective was a way of saying that the world should be adapted not only to the eyes but to the proportions of the human body. That is, perspective signaled a characteristic belief of the Renaissance: that through ideal aesthetic proportion, humans might be able to reconcile the two parts of human life, namely the intellectual and the physical.
  84. 84. It is interesting that perspective was initially principally used to represent civic spaces.
  85. 85. Examples of painted perspective civic scenes on furniture and in private rooms.
  86. 86. Francesco Di Giorgio Martini. Architectural Perspective, late 15th century;
  87. 87. For the artists (and those that viewed them) of the Renaissance, perspective seemed to have been associated with civic virtue … that somehow humans are able to achieve their true and best nature when they live within harmonious cities that are designed around human nature. Thus perspective is also a statement about politics and society as well …
  88. 88. The name of this work says it all: An Ideal City (mid-15th century).
  89. 89. Perugino, Delivery of the Keys, 1481
  90. 90. It is worth remembering that the Italy of the 15th Century was dominated by its cities, especially the Republic of Florence. In Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, he addresses the question, why did his fellow Florentines create so many artistic breakthroughs during the 15th century? His answer: “Its air is free and thus there is a spirit of criticism everywhere in Florence which does not allow its people to be content with mediocrity …””
  91. 91. Perhaps no other work expressed these Renaissance ideals better than another extremely influential creation of Brunelleschi …
  92. 92. Filippo Brunelleschi, interior Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence, started in 1419.
  93. 93. Filippo Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel, Cloister of Santa Croce, Florence, ca. 1441-1460.
  94. 94. Filippo Brunelleschi, Interior Pazzi Chapel, 1441-1460.
  95. 95. Brunelleschi “invented” a new style generally referred to today as Renaissance Architecture … a style which became exceptional wide-spread.
  96. 96. To understand the innovation in Brunelleschi’s architecture we have to compare it to the dominant architectural style of the day for churches, French Gothic.
  97. 97. Gothic style cathedral 1200-1500s
  98. 98. York Cathedral [1230-1472] (High Gothic Style)
  99. 99. Filippo Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel, Cloister of Santa Croce, Florence, ca. 1441-1460.
  100. 100. Filippo Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel, Cloister of Santa Croce, Florence, ca. 1441-1460.
  101. 101. Filippo Brunelleschi, Pazzi Chapel, Cloister of Santa Croce, Florence, ca. 1441-1460.
  102. 102. Cloister, Gloucester Cathedral [High Gothic]
  103. 103. Cloister, Santa Croce [Brunelleschi]
  104. 104. Regularity, symmetry, and human-sized proportions are characteristic of Brunelleschi's (and later Renaissance) architecture
  105. 105. Filippo Brunelleschi. Interior of Santo Spirito, Florence, planned 1421.
  106. 106. Filippo Brunelleschi. Interior of Santo Spirito, Florence, planned 1421.
  107. 107. Typical gothic style
  108. 108. Interior of San Lorenzo
  109. 109. Interior of Santo Spirito
  110. 110. Notice the human-sized proportions of Brunelleschi's architecture
  111. 111. For me, Brunelleschi's masterpiece is the San Spirito Church (1444-1487).
  112. 112. Exterior of San Spirito Church.
  113. 113. Interior of San Spirito Church.
  114. 114. Brunelleschi's architecture of symmetry and proportion was enthusiastically adopted by other architects …
  115. 115. Façade of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence By Leon Battista Alberti in 1470
  116. 116. Comparison to façade of Amiens Cathedral
  117. 117. Façade of Santa Maria Novella
  118. 118. Florence Cathedral (Duomo) [1296-1426] Dome [1420-6] by Brunelleschi
  119. 119. In 1367, Florence held a competition for designing the dome. The winning entry called for a dome with a diameter of 173 feet, significantly larger than any dome in existence, as well as higher than any existing vault. They didn’t know how to build it; they put their faith in future progress, that an architect in the future would figure out how to build it.
  120. 120. Pantheon, Rome built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian around 126 CE.
  121. 121. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.
  122. 122. Pantheon [126 CE] Hagia Sophia [ 537 CE] Gothic cathedrals Duomo Rome g p ] Constantiople [1200-1400 CE] Florence
  123. 123. In 1418, the city held another competition, this time for a solution to building the dome. One of the key constraints was that the winning entry was not to use wooden centering, the standard practice for building arches and domes since the Romans. Because of the height and size of the Dome, using wooden centering would have completely deforested Tuscany.
  124. 124. Brunelleschi was evidently a difficult man to work with. He was very secretive and refused to show his plans, worried that someone else would steal them.
  125. 125. One story is that at a meeting of the selection committee that was demanding to see detailed plans and drawings for his proposed solution, Brunelleschi said that the man who could stand an egg on its end without it tipping over should have the job. One by one the competitors tried but failed. Brunelleschi’s solution?
  126. 126. The other architects complained saying that they could have done that also. “Yes,” said Brunelleschi, “and you would also be able to build the dome if you had access to my plans.”
  127. 127. Another complication are the downward and outward compression pressures of a dome. In the Roman Pantheon, the pressure is absorbed by incredibly thick concrete walls and a progressively thinner dome. In Gothic style churches, those pressures are absorbed by flying buttresses.
  128. 128. Brunelleschi’s solution was to make the dome hollow, and use vertical and horizontal ribs made out of iron and concrete to contain the stresses. The horizontal ribs acts like a belt containing the outward pressures. The outside bricks are in a herringbone pattern and ““stapled”” with iron, thus eliminating the need for wooden centering.
  129. 129. He also designed the two key engineering inventions of the Renaissance: the hoist and the crane. He also invented the first paddle-wheel boat (for shipping stone).
  130. 130. The architects of the great Gothic cathedrals were by and large unknown. Brunelleschi changed society’s esteem of architecture and the architect. With Brunelleschi, we see the word “genius” applied to a living individual for the first time since antiquity.
  131. 131. In Brunelleschi’s amazing brilliance (invention of perspective, invention of Renaissance architecture, solving the Dome, and his engineering inventions), the writers of the later Renaissance had their ““proof”” that contemporary humans could be as great, and indeed greater, than those of classical antiquity.
  132. 132. Brunelleschi also “invented” the personality pattern that many subsequent creative artists would try to emulate: moody, unsociable, under-appreciated, suspicious of others, poor hygiene, unconcerned with personal riches, convinced of his own brilliance, creating to achieve future glory, etc.
  133. 133. For the writers and artists of the Renaissance, Brunelleschi and the other greats that were to follow him, provided an argument that maybe humans are only a fingertip’s width away from divinity … An idea that is very far away indeed from the Medieval worldview.
  134. 134. The next generation of Renaissance artists built upon the innovations of Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Masaccio, and were self-consciously aware of themselves as Artists, as “special” people who were different than others and who had a special “role” to play in the advancement of human culture.