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Cover Slide
Chapter 13
Society in the
Age of the
• After reading and studying this chapter:
– You should be able to discuss the meanings of the term
– Be able to explain the economic context for the Renaissance,
the new status of the artist in Renaissance Italy, and the
meanings of the terms humanism, secularism, and
individualism as applied by scholars to the Renaissance.
– Be able to explain how the Italian Renaissance affected
politics, the economy, and society.
– Finally, be able to elaborate on the evolution of medieval
kingdoms into early modern nation-states, and the spread of
Renaissance humanism northward.
Why Did the Renaissance Begin in
•The Renaissance was marked by a new interest in the
culture of ancient Rome. Italy had been the center of the
Roman empire.
•The cities of Italy had survived the Middle Ages and
grown into prosperous centers of trade and
•A wealthy merchant class in the Italian city-states
stressed education and individual achievement and spent
lavishly on the arts.
•Florence produced an amazing number of gifted poets,
artists, architects, scholars, and scientists.
The Evolution of the Italian
• Economic Growth as the Basis of the
– Venice, Genoa, and Milan grew rich on
commerce between 1050 and 1300.
– Florence, where the Renaissance
originated, was an important banking
center by the fourteenth century.
Bank scene, Florence
This detail from a fresco painting by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini (14th-15th c), The Story of Saint
Matthew, depicts bankers in Florence. Originally a "bank" was just a counter; if covered with a
carpet, like this Ottoman geometric rug with a kufic border, it became a bank of distinction.
Moneychangers who sat behind the counter became "bankers," exchanging different currencies
and holding deposits for merchants and business people. (Scala/Art Resource, NY)
Painted cover for account book
This painted cover for a fifteenth-century
government account book from Siena,
Italy, shows symbols of death--arrows, a
scythe, and a horse--to carry the angel of
death from place to place. (Bildarchiv
Preussischer Kulturbesitz)
Brunelleschi, Dome of
Filipo Brunelleschi, the foremost
architect of the early Renaissance,
lost the competition for the
commission for the north door of
the Baptistery to Ghiberti. In 1417
he bested Ghiberti, and won the
commission to build a dome for
the Florentine Cathedral. Between
1420 and 1436 he built a drum, a
vertical supporting wall, on the
existing 138-foot-diameter
octagonal cross of the cathedral.
He then assembled the dome on
the drum, essentially creating an
eight-sided Gothic vault.
(Scala/Art Resource, NY)
Journey of the Magi
Few Renaissance paintings better illustrate art in the service of the princely court than this painting by
Benozzo Gozzoli (1420-1497), The Magi on their way to Bethlehem with Lorenzo the Magnificent, which
was commissioned by Piero de'Medici to adorn his palace chapel. Everything in this fresco--the large crowd,
the feathers and diamonds adorning many of the personages, the black servant in front--serves to flaunt the
power and wealth of the House of Medici. The artist has discreetly placed himself in the crowd; the name
Benozzo is embroidered on his cap. (Scala/Art Resource, NY)
The Evolution of the Italian
• Communes and Republics
– In northern Italy the larger cities won independence
from local nobles and became self-governing
communes of free men in the twelfth century.
– Local nobles moved into the cities and married into
wealthy merchant families.
– This new class set up property requirements for
– The excluded, the popolo, rebelled and in some cities
set up republics.
– By 1300 the republics had collapsed, and despots or
oligarchies governed most Italian cities.
Map: The Italian City-States, ca. 1494
The Italian City-States, ca. 1494
In the fifteenth century, the Italian city-states represented great wealth and cultural sophistication. The political divisions of
the peninsula invited foreign intervention. (Copyright (c) Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.)
Copyright ©Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
The Evolution of the Italian
• Balance of Power among the Italian City-States
– City patriotism and constant competition for power
among cities prevented political centralization on the
Italian peninsula.
– As cities strove to maintain the balance of power
among themselves, they invented the apparatus of
modern diplomacy.
– In 1494 the city of Milan invited intervention by the
French King Charles VIII.
– Italy became a battleground as France, Spain, and the
Holy Roman Emperor vied for dominance.
– In 1527 the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
sacked Rome.
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
Built during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries as a fortress of defense
against both popular uprisings and foreign attacks, the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence,
housed the podesta, the city's highest magistrate, and all the offices of the
government. (Art Resource, NY)
Intellectual Hallmarks of the
• Individualism
– Renaissance writers stressed individual
personality, greatness, and
achievement, in contrast to the
medieval ideal of Christian humility.
•At the heart of the Italian Renaissance was an
intellectual movement known as humanism.
•Humanism was based on the study of
classical culture and focused on worldly
subjects rather than on religious issues.
•Humanists studied the humanities, the
subjects taught in ancient Greece and Rome.
They believed that education should stimulate
Intellectual Hallmarks of the
• Humanism
– The revival of antiquity took the form of interest in
archaeology, recovery of ancient manuscripts, and
study of the Latin classics.
– The study of the classics became known as the “new
learning,” or humanism.
– Humanist scholars studied antiquity not so much to
find God as to know human nature and understand a
different historical context.
– Humanists derided what they viewed as the debased
Latin of the medieval churchmen.
Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543)
became part of a literary circle in Basel,
Switzerland, that included Erasmus,
whose portrait he painted on several
occasions. In this intimate portrait of the
humanist Holbein not only captures the
delicate, yet un-idealized, features of
Erasmus, but also the air of authority
with which the humanist spoke and
wrote. (Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY)
Intellectual Hallmarks of the
• Secular Spirit
– The secular way of thinking focuses on the world as
experienced rather than on the spiritual and/or eternal.
– Renaissance thinkers came to see life as an opportunity
rather than a painful pilgrimage toward God.
– Lorenzo Valla argued that sense pleasures were the
highest good.
– Giovanni Boccaccio wrote about an acquisitive, sensual,
worldly society.
– Renaissance popes expended much money on new
buildings, a new cathedral (St. Peter’s), and on
patronizing artists and men of letters.
Art and the Artist
• Art and Power
– In the early Renaissance, corporate groups such as
guilds sponsored religious art.
– By the late fifteenth century individual princes,
merchants, and bankers sponsored art to glorify
themselves and their families. Their urban palaces
were full of expensive furnishings as well as art.
– Classical themes, individual portraits, and realistic
style characterized Renaissance art.
– Renaissance artists invented perspective and
portrayed the human body in a more natural and
scientific manner than previous artists did.
Three Geniuses of Renaissance Art
Made sketches of nature and of
Dissected corpses to learn how
the human body worked
Masterpieces include Mona
Lisa and The Last Supper
Studied botany, anatomy,
optics, music, architecture, and
Made sketches for flying
machines and undersea boats
Talented sculptor, engineer,
painter, architect, and poet
Sculpted the Pieta and statue
of David
Painted huge mural to
decorate the ceiling of the
Sistine Chapel in Rome
Designed the dome for St.
Peter’s Cathedral in Rome
Studied the works of
Michelangelo and
Paintings blended
Christian and classical
Best known for paintings
of the Madonna, the
biblical mother of Jesus
Michelangelo, David
The concept of genius as divine inspiration is
nowhere exemplified more fully than in the
life and work of Michelangelo Buonarrotti
(1475-1564). And Michelangelo was a
sculptor--more specifically, a carver of
marble statues-to the core. His David is the
earliest monumental statue of the High
Renaissance, and the city fathers eventually
chose to put it in front of the Palazzo
Vecchio, as the civic-patriotic symbol of the
Florentine republic. Michelangelo fashioned
the marble in a new, more natural manner.
David's bare skin contrasts with the rough
leather strap of the slingshot, and his right
leg leans against a realistic tree trunk. He
blends the classical model of a victorious
athlete crowned with a laurel wreath with the
biblical hero as a defender of the faith. David
is a mature young man of consummate
beauty. (Scala/Art Resource, NY)
Art and the Artist
• The Status of the Artist
– Medieval masons were viewed as mechanical
workers/artisans. Renaissance artists were seen as
intellectual workers.
– The princes and merchants who patronized artists
paid them well.
– Artists themselves gloried in their achievements.
During the Renaissance, the concept of artist as
genius was born.
– Renaissance culture was only the culture of a very
wealthy mercantile elite; it did not affect the lives of
the urban middle classes or the poor.
Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa
In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci began his
most famous work--the Mona Lisa. The
subject of the painting is Lisa Gherardini
del Giocondo, the wife of a prominent
Florentine businessman. She is posed
half-length in the seated position, her
posture is relaxed, and her gaze is direct.
The softening of the edges of the
background, effecting a fine haze called
sfumato, creates a sense of intimacy and
psychological drama. (Erich Lessing/Art
Resource, NY)
Anguissola, Portrait of Artist's Three Sisters
Anguissola, Portrait of Artist's Three Sisters
Sofonisba Anguissola (ca. 1535-1625) was the first Italian woman to be widely recognized as an artist during
her lifetime. Because women were not permitted to study anatomy, Sofonisba specialized in portrait
paintings, infusing them with psychological truth about human emotions. In her painting Portrait of the
Artist's Three Sisters with Their Governess, the scene is a suspended moment in time: as the governess looks
on, the oldest sister is poised to make her next move, while the youngest sister smiles mischievously as she
anticipates her other sister's countermove. (Narodowe Museum, Poznan, Poland/The Bridgeman Art Library
Copyright ©Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Social Change
• Education and Political Thought
– Humanist writers were preoccupied with education for
morality and virtue.
– Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier (1528) presented an
image of the ideal man as master of dance, music, the arts,
warfare, mathematics, and so on.
– Daughters of the elite received an education similar to sons and
a few went on to become renowned painters or scholars.
– In The Prince (1513), Niccolo Machiavelli argued that politics
could not follow simple rules of virtue and morality—that it
ought in fact to be studied as a science.
Machiavelli, portrait
In this fifteenth-century
portrait Machiavelli is
dressed as a government
official. After being exiled
from Florence by the
Medici, he wrote to a
friend that each night when
he returned from the fields
he dressed again in his
curial robes and pondered
the behavior of
governments and princes.
(Scala/Art Resource, NY)
Social Change
• The Printed Word
– Around 1455 in the German city of Mainz, Johan
Gutenberg and two other men invented the movable
type printing press.
– Methods of paper production had reached Europe in
the twelfth century from China through the Near
– Printing made government and Church propaganda
much more practical, created an invisible “public” of
readers, and stimulated literacy among laypeople.
French print shop
This colored engraving, after
a miniature of the sixteenth
century, depicts a French
printshop of the time. A
workman operates the
"press," quite literally a
screw device that presses the
paper to the inked type.
Other employees examine
the printed sheets, each of
which holds four pages.
When folded, the sheets
make a book. (Giraudon/Art
Resource, NY)
Broadsheet: "There Is No Greater …"
Broadsheet: "There Is No Greater …"
Ethard Schon's 1523 woodcut, There Is No Greater Treasure Here on Earth Than an
Obedient Wife Who Desires Honor, and other similar broadsheets informed and amused
Europeans of all walks of life. The image of a henpecked husband and his wife would have
been instantly recognizable to most people. Accompanying texts clarified the message.
Broadsheets were cheap and easy to produce and were printed on inexpensive paper.
Almost anyone could afford them. (Gotha Schlossmuseum)
Map: The Spread of Printing
The Spread of Printing
Printing technology moved rapidly along major trade routes to the most populous and prosperous areas of Europe. The
technology was rapidly adopted in peripheral areas as well as in highly literate centers such as the Low Countries, the Rhine
Valley, and northern Italy. (Copyright (c) Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.)
Copyright ©Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Social Change
• Clocks
– City people involved in commerce had a
need to measure time.
– By the early fourteenth century mechanical
clocks were widespread in Europe.
– Mechanical clocks and precise measurement
of time contributed to the development of a
conception of the universe in measurable,
quantitative terms.
Social Change
• Women and Work
– Early modern culture identified women with marriage
and the domestic virtues.
– Women were involved with all economic activity
connected with the care and nurturing of the family, as
well as working outside the home.
– Women during the Renaissance worked in a variety of
businesses—for example, sail-making—and even in a few
isolated cases managed large enterprises.
– Wealthy women were usually excluded from the public
arena and instead managed their households.
Social Change
• Culture and Sexuality
– Women’s status in the realm of love, romance, and sex
declined during the Renaissance.
– Writers such as Castiglione created the “double standard” women were to be faithful in marriage, while men need not be.
– Penalties for rape in Renaissance Italy were very light.
– In spite of statutes against “sodomy,” generally referring to
male homosexuality, Florentine records from the fifteenth
century show a lot of homosexual activity going on, usually
relations between an adult male and a boy.
Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was
one of Caravaggio's followers. Because
of the trauma incurred in her young life
(she was raped as a young girl),
Gentileschi often chose to portray heroic
women, including Esther and Bathsheba,
and this scene, which portrays the
biblical heroine Judith slaying the
Assyrian king. The naturalistic realism
of the female forms contrasts with the
dramatic character of what has just
occurred--the beheading of Holofernes.
The tension of the scene is further
heightened by Gentileschi's skillful use
of tenebrosity, characterized by figures
that emerge from the dark atmosphere of
the painting into a type of spotlight.
(Alinari/Art Resource,NY)
Social Change
• Slavery and Ethnicity
– In medieval and Renaissance Europe many Slavic, Tartar,
Circassian, Greek, and Hungarian slaves were imported.
– Beginning in the fifteenth century the Portuguese brought
many black African slaves into Europe.
– Within Africa the economic motives of rulers and merchants
trumped any cultural/ethnic/racial hostility toward Europeans.
They sold fellow Africans into slavery apparently without
– Africans did not identify themselves as “black,” but as
members of more than 600 different tribal and ethnic groups.
– Black slaves were an object of curiosity at European courts.
– The Renaissance concept of people from sub-Saharan Africa
was shaped by Christian symbology of light and darkness 
blacks represented the Devil. Race did not emerge as a concept
until the late seventeenth century.
The Renaissance in the North
• Northern Humanists
– In the late fifteenth century students from northern Europe
studied in Italy and brought the Renaissance home.
– Thomas More (1478–1535) of England argued that reform of
social institutions could reduce or eliminate corruption and
– The Dutchman Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) was an expert
in the Bible and Greek language who believed that all
Christians should read the Bible.
– François Rabelais (1490–1553) ridiculed established
institutions such as the clergy with gross humor in Gargantua.
– Flemish artists came to rival the Italian Renaissance painters.
Writers of the Northern Renaissance
English poet who was the
French humanist who
towering figure of
was a monk, physician,
Renaissance literature
Greek scholar, and
Wrote 37 plays that are
still performed around the
Offered opinions on
religion, education, and
His love of words vastly
other subjects in
enriched the English
Gargantua and
Spanish author who
wrote Don Quixote,
which mocks romantic
notions about
medieval chivalry
Bruegel the Elder, Peasant Wedding
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525-1569) was a master of both landscapes and peasant life. His
successful portrayals of peasant life earned him the nickname "Peasant" Bruegel. Peasant
Wedding demonstrates Bruegel's colorful and affectionate treatment of common folk. The
solid, balanced figures are painted with flat colors, but because they are painted with a minimal
amount of modeling, they cast no shadows. (Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY)
Politics and the State in the
Renaissance (ca 1450–1521)
• Centralization of Power
– Some scholars have viewed Renaissance kingship as a
new form, citing the dependence of the monarch on
urban wealth and the ideology of the “strong king.”
– In France Charles VII (r. 1422–1461) created the first
permanent royal army, set up new taxes on salt and land,
and allowed increased influence in his bureaucracy from
middle-class men. He also asserted his right to appoint
bishops in the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.
– Charles’s son Louis XI (r. 1461–1483) fostered industry
from artisans, taxed it, and used the funds to build up his
army. He brought much new territory under direct
Crown rule.
– In England Edward IV ended the War of the Roses
between rival baronial houses.
Politics and the State in the
Renaissance (ca 1450–1521)
– Henry VII ruled largely without Parliament, using
as his advisers men with lower-level gentry origins.
– Henry’s Court of the Star Chamber tried cases
involving aristocrats and did so with methods
contradicting common law, such as torture.
– Although Spain remained a confederation of
kingdoms until 1700, the wedding of Isabella of
Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon did lead to some
centralization. Ferdinand and Isabella stopped
violence among the nobles, recruited “middle-class”
advisers onto their royal council, and secured the
right to appoint bishops in Spain and in the Spanish
empire in America.
Politics and the State in the
Renaissance (ca 1450–1521)
– Popular anti-Semitism increased in fourteenthcentury Spain. In 1478 Ferdinand and Isabella
invited the Inquisition into Spain to search out and
punish Jewish converts to Christianity who secretly
continued Jewish religious practices.
– To persecute converts, Inquisitors and others
formulated a racial theory - that conversos were
suspect not because of their beliefs, but because of
who they were racially.
– In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews
from Spain.
Statue of Isabella
Backed by a relief of
Santiago, scourge of the
Muslims, this
polychrome statue of
Isabella overlooked the
royal tomb in the royal
chapel of Granada
Cathedral. (Laurie Platt
Winfrey, Inc.)
Map: Spain in 1492
Spain in 1492
The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 represented a dynastic union of two houses, not a
political union of two peoples. Some principalities, such as Leon (part of Castile) and Catalonia (part of Aragon), had their
own cultures, languages, and legal systems. Barcelona, the port city of Catalonia, controlled a commercial empire
throughout the Mediterranean. The culture of Granada was heavily Muslim. (Copyright (c) Houghton Mifflin. All rights
Copyright ©Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Italy as
of ancient
Survival of Italian
through the
Middle Ages
patrons of
the arts
The Renaissance
• Study of classics
• Study of worldly
• Influential Humanist:
Francesco Petrarch
Golden Age
of the Arts
• Learned from classical art
• Use of perspective
• Renowned Artists:
Leonardo, Michelangelo,
Raphael, Sofonisba
• Important Writers:
Castiglione, Machiavelli
• Artists: Durer,
Bruegel, Rubens
• Humanists:
Erasmus, More
• Writers: Rabelais,