In the late 14th Century, the Renaissance began to emerge in Italy. Renaissance came with vast developments in thought and art that led to the transformation of the Italian culture and resulted in the realignment of the course of Western civilization. The Renaissance renewed classical learning in a style that separated with the medieval outlook (Hunt 1343). The Renaissance humanists were not anti-Christian, but these individuals embraced the possibilities of this life rather than looking at the future.
Furthermore, Renaissance humanists did not focus on renouncing earthly aspirations for a contemplation of God but cultivated self-excellence, sought recognition of their success in their doings, and ventured into the exploration of their personalities. These acts of individualism were expressed through the deep understanding of the classics, as was for the case of the deep thinkers of the Twelfth-Century Awakening; Renaissance scholars treasured and embraced classical learning. Moreover, these scholars focused deeply on the classical texts and appreciated them for their benefits. The Renaissance humanists had so much belief in the classical teachings, and they thought these lessons would give the, an insight about life, civic duty, and graceful expression (Hunt 1348). Nevertheless, these thinkers, unlike their medieval forebears, did not carry these teachings as timeless wisdom but analyzed them critically in their historical context.
In Italy, the renaissance unfolded in the time of political fragmentation. Apart from the forty years of relative peace that was experienced, the peninsula was significantly divided by warfare among the states of Italy, and from 1494 to 1559, between France and Spain. In the early fifteenth century, humanism begun in Florence and became the principle channel of classical revival. The influential family of Medici, Coluccio and Leonardo expressed the studia humanitatis as an educational program aimed at and having the foundation of the study of the Greek and Roman Authors of the classical period. The civic humanisms goal was to educate aristotactic men for public affairs and representation (Hunt 1352). These humanists believed in the glorification of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio as distinguished forebears, since both men stressed on the study of classical languages, grammar, religion, moral philosophy, poetry, and history. Men and women were allowed to take these studies; however, there was a limitation since only men were allowed to take up rhetoric, mathematics, and science.
In as much as humanism was itself not a philosophy, it prompted conspicuous works of history, philosophy, and social thought. Under the instructions of Byzantine scholars, many humanists had an exceptional understanding of Greek and explored Platonism and Aristotle in the original undertaking (Hunt 1358). Guided by the Greek philosophy, humanists including Ficino, Pico Della Mirandola, and Poppanazzi came up with increasingly secular ideas on the human soul, the power of reason, and ethics. These humanists often referred to the ancient historians for political direction and moral guidance, cultivating a significant historical awareness that they applied in their historical writings. Florentine secular humanism suffered a short but violent Christian reaction that was led by Savonarola. Scrutinizing history and politics, Machiavelli came up with a secular theory of the state in which rulers maintained civil order through cold policies (Hunt 1374). This political sphere addressed the realities of sixteenth-century politics, as Castigliones social ideal did. Castiglione put the humanist ideal of a well-rounded individuality at the service of princely rule.
Renaissance art split with the medieval past by insisting on the human form and the natural world. Vasari and Alberti led to this break by developing principles of mathematical perspective and redefining Renaissance as a distinct age, period of medieval decay and a cultural rebirth. During the early Renaissance, architects, sculptors, and painters all came up with the human figure that was the focal point of their work. Masaccio and Brunelleschi all used the principles of linear perspective in their respective arts while Donatello realistically modeled the shapes of their figures. Other painters including Botticelli experimented with a whole range of techniques, like color, the sculptural precision of line and Flemish-influenced realism (Hunt 1390).
High Renaissance artists took over after their precursors innovations and used them in a style that was demonstrated by simplicity, classical balance, and harmony. Leonardo da Vinci championed the new style in developing circular motion, painting, and pyramidal design to arrange figures both harmoniously and realistically. Michelangelo came up with a new range of emotional and physical tension into sculpture, and as painter of Sistine Chapel, skillfully used the proportions of figures to fit the alignment of space while giving them monumental definition and weight. He was also successful as a poet and an architect. Raphael brought pyramidal design to its highest refinement in Madonna-and-Child paintings and impressive schools of Athens. Color in the Venetian style was revolutionized by the introduction of oil paints (Hunt 1408). The style of modeling was developed by Titian on his figures using color rather than the line; he also used tone to create individualized portraits. Tintoretto aimed towards mannerism with his earthly light and unusual perspective lines.
As a result of the sixteenth-century disturbance in politics and religion, mannerism broke high reconnaissance harmony and balance. Painters among them Parmagianino cultivated distorted human proportions, discord, and instability, and employed eccentric colors. Sofonsiba acquired significant fame as a skillful painter of psychologically insightful portraits, and Vasari very known for his artistic paintings and as an architect (Hunt 1448).
During this time of Renaissance, music did not experience significant transformation. Italian composers came up with secular and sacred music in medieval polyphonic styles. Nevertheless, intermezzi was composed in the sixteenth century, and it was described as interludes during plays and emerged as a distinct form that was geared towards opera (Hunt 1380). Significant steps were made in the opera and involved experiments with music that would both promote and compliment the recitation of texts.
In conclusion, there was a drift between Renaissance art and medieval world view. By referring to secular reasoning and earthly human achievement, Renaissance thinkers introduced the modern image still familiar to us today. By viewing history as an evolution from bloom to decay to rebirth, these thinkers developed the idea of progress that continues to realign our notions of history today.
Hunt, Lynn, et al. "The making of the West." The American Historical Review105.5 (2000).Panofsky, Erwin. "Renaissance and renascences in western art." (1961).
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