Dissertation on Renaissance
The term "Renaissance" derives from the Latin world “rinascere”, which means rebirth and revival. It was first implied in the 19th century to describe intellectual and artistic revival, inspired by a renewed interest to Ancient Classical art and culture. Italy became the motherland of Renaissance, which began in the early 14th century and reached its peak in the early 16th century. By this time, it had spread to France, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and other European countries. This period was marked by the dynamic changes in all spheres of life, which followed strict and ascetic period of the Middle ages with its religious domination and censorship of the Church. Middle Ages is the time, which is often called an obscure and dark time in history when all the sciences were limited by the needs of the church and art and culture were neglected and defined as “dirty” sinful and filled with evil temptations.
Renaissance with its new ideas in art, astronomy, science, literature, mathematics, philosophy, religion, and politics became a breath of fresh air for the society suppressed by the religious dogmas and rules. Not satisfied with the existing state of events, Italian Humanists of the Renaissance period turned back to the culture of Ancient Greece and Rome. This ancient culture with its cult of human beauty, naturalness and thirst for life became a source of inspiration for the progressive intellectuals. It is absolutely natural that it was Italy, who became the centre Renaissance as it was the cradle of ancient Rome civilization. Greek and Rome gods were ‘restored’ in their right and put back on the top of the secret mountain of Olympus. Ascetic and strict lifestyle was replaced by the splendor and luxury, which were so popular in the ancient times. Ancient Greek and Rome authors were reread and interpreted in a new way, ancient plots became very popular among the contemporary authors, sculptors and architectures turned to Greek and Roman forms and patters. Theology, which controlled all the spheres of life, was pressed by the renewed and transformed Plato’s teaching which got the name of Neo-Platonism and became very popular during the period of Renaissance.
Since the accent from the religious life was displaced to the life temporal the Church ceased to be the only dominant power in art and culture. During the 15th century, artists gained support of not only churchmen but also of private collectors. These gave a new push for the development of new subjects in literature, painting and sculpture. Private collectors created the demand for pictures of secular subjects in addition to religious themes demanded by Church. Now painters depicted legendary heroes, ancient goods and mythological episodes often derived from literary sources. Noble and wealthy citizens wanted to be glorified and this has created the great development of the portrait painting. Piero della Francesca, Mantegna, and Botticelli were among the most prosperous portraitists of those times. Medici had the leading role among the Florence patrons and the have created a circle of intellectuals and artists around them. Medici gave a shelter to large group of poets, philosophers and artists. Botticelli and Michelangelo were profoundly influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy developed in the Medici circle. Passionate patrons of the arts, literature, and learning, Medici led to Florence’s becoming the richest repository of European culture. The paintings of Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi known all over the world under the name of Botticelli fully reflect the ideas of the early Renaissance.
He was the principle painter of the Medici family. Both of his most fundamental works Primavera and The Birth of Venus were created in the palace of Medici. The Birth of Venus is one of the greatest masterpieces, which combines classical ideas and Christian values. As mentioned above, Botticelli was the follower of Neoplationism teaching. Beauty and divine love of God were basic notions of this teaching and these fundamental ideas are fully reflected in The Birth of Venus. The picture depicts the classic Greek mythological goddess of Love – Venus. But the picture has another layer of expression. Venus depicted by Botticelli represents Virgin Maria at the same time. It is a unique combination of the theme of divine love of God presented by the spiritual part of the Venus and natural beauty of the human body expressed through the classical theme of Venus as an ancient goddess. Renaissance discharges the beauty of human body and takes away the stain of depravity from it. The Birth of Venus fully reflects these new ideas and depicts the beauty of human body. Nudeness was regarded by Botticelli like something natural and even more, it was a symbol, symbol of “naked truth” which had nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. “In the name of beauty, he felt free to tamper with space and perspective and to mistrust form as a sheer representation of nature.” (Baxandall, Michael. Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, p 22). Realistic depiction of space, which can be found on the most of Botticelli’s pictures became common for Renaissance art.
But not only genre of painting was transformed by the fresh wind of Renaissance. Other spheres of art were also changed and sculpture wasn’t an exception. Actually, sculpture was the first of the fine arts to display Renaissance traits. Michelangelo Buonarroti, another prominent figure of Italian Renaissance known for his wonderful paintings and frescos was not only a painter, but also a sculptor.
His sculpture David is recognized as a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture and one of the best sculptures, produced by him. The sculpture portrays David – the Biblical character. It’s a marble statue about 5 meters tall built with the help of disegno - a special discipline of sculpture based on the detailed study of proportions and specialties of human body. When working on the statue, Michelangelo has mentioned that the figure already exists inside of the stone as a divine creation of God and all he had to do was just to chop out the extra parts to help it appear. David is naked. He is portrayed at the moment when he decided to engage Goliath. Michelangelo has a created an impressive combination where he has depicted the Biblical character in the classical style peculiar for ancient Greece and Rome. It’s a unique combination of the Biblical plot and antique technique. Michelangelo proved that human body can be the object of admiration and that religion can be combined with other aspects of human life. Michelangelo believed that God and beauty could not be separated and that beauty was the only language God could talk to us.
Architecture was another sphere of art, influenced and changed by Renaissance. I would like to set Santa Maria del Fiore as a bright example of Renaissance architecture. And thought this cathedral was built during several centuries and had impregnations of different styles, Renaissance is still the dominating one and Santa Maria del Fiore was and will be an immortal example of Italian Renaissance architecture. And thought it was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294 when Gothic was the dominating style in architecture it was not alike with the architecture patters of that time and was drawn towards the style of Italian early Renaissance and became its excellent example when completed by the branch of talented architects, such as Giotto, Francesco Talenti, Alberto Arnoldi, Giovanni d’Ambrogio, Giovanni di Lapo Ghini, Neri di Fioravante after the death of di Cambio.
Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the brightest architects of the Italian Renaissance has constructed the first ‘octagonal’ dome in history for Santa Maria del Fiore. It was a unique construction of the largest dome built without a wooden frame. The idea was borrowed from the Roman Pantheon, a circular dome, built without support structures. Later these domes became a calling card of the Renaissance architecture. Marble floor, lantern on the tope of the cupola and luxurious decorations complete this splendid composition.
Renaissance has changes the world culture and way of thinking and Italy was in the heart of this changes. During this period of rebirth and seeking for the new values, Italy became the cultural center of Europe and gave to the world more talented people than all the countries taken together. Such outstanding artists as Leonardo da Vince, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Donatello, Antonio Pollaiuolo, Castagno, Petrarch and Boccaccio and many others lived in created their masterpieces in Italy. These names have changes the face of European culture and made the entire world know about Italian Renaissance.
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