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19 | 01 The Early Renaissance
Transcript of 19 | 01 The Early Renaissance
Embodying the humanism belief there was a sculpture, Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, known as Donatello, which turns its attention directly to the classical past. His David (Fig. 19-2) was, in fact, the first life-size nude sculpture since antiquity. He is posed in perfectly classical contrapposto.
The Renaissance is perhaps most of all, the era of the individual.
At the left, St. Peter extracts the coin from the fish's mouth, and, at the right, he pays the required tribute money to the tax collector.
Just when the Gothic era ended and the Renaissance began is by no means certain.
In Europe, toward the end of the thirteenth century, a new kind of art began to appear, at first in the south, and somewhat later in the north.
By the beginning of the fifteenth century, this new era, marked by a revival of interest in arts and sciences that had been lost since antiquity, was firmly established. We have come to call this revival the Renaissance, meaning "rebirth."
Renaissance, meaning "rebirth.
The Gothic era has been called a long overture to the Renaissance, and we can see, perhaps, in the sculptures at Reims Cathedral (see Fig. 18-21), which date from the first half of the thirteenth century, the beginnings of the spirit that would develop into the Renaissance sensibility.
These figures are no longer archetypal and formulaic representations; they are almost real people, displaying real emotions. This tendency toward increasingly naturalistic representation in many ways defines Gothic art, but it is even more pronounced in Renaissance art. If the figures in the Reims portal seem about to step off their columns, Renaissance figures actually do so.
By the time of the Limbourg Brothers' early-fifteenth-century manuscript illumination for Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (Fig. 19-1), human beings are represented, for the first time since classical antiquity, as casting actual shadows upon the ground. The architecture is also rendered with some measure of perspectival accuracy. The scene is full of realistic detail, and the potential of landscape to render a sense of actual space is fully realized.
Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
Petrarch believed that the birth of Christ had ushered in an "age of faith," which had blinded the world to learning and thus condemned it to darkness.
The study of classical languages, literature, history, and philosophy—what we call the "humanities"—could lead to a new, enlightened stage of history.
People should be judged, Petrarch felt, by their actions. It was not God's will that determined who they were and what they were capable of; rather, glory and fame were available to anyone who dared to seize them.
North vs. South
Next to the high drama of Rogier's painting, Piero's seems almost static, but the understated brutality of Christ's flagellation in the back-ground of Piero's painting is equally compelling.
As early as the 1330s, the poet and scholar Petrarch had conceived of a new humanism, a philosophy that emphasized the unique value of each person.
The scholarly method or scholarship is the body of principles and practices used by scholars to make their claims about the world as valid and trustworthy as possible, and to make them known to the scholarly public.
Francesco Petrarca - "Father of Humanism"
was an Italian scholar and poet in Renaissance Italy, and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch's rediscovery of Cicero's letters is often credited for initiating the 14th-century Renaissance. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism".
People should be judged, Petrarch felt, by their actions.
Unique value of each person
was the most important early Renaissance sculptor from Florence. He studied classical sculpture, and used this to develop a fully Renaissance style in sculpture
But the young hero—almost anti-heroic in the youthful fragility of his physique—is also fully self-conscious, his attention turned, in what appears to be full-blown self-adoration, upon himself as an object of physical beauty.
Out of such sentiments Donatello's David was born, as were the archetypal Renaissance geniuses—men like Michelangelo and Leonardo but also Niccolo Machiavelli's wily and pragmatic Prince, for whom the ends justify any means, and the legendary Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in return for youth, knowledge, and magical power.
Writing in 1485, the philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola—Pico, as he is known—addressed himself to every ordinary (male) person: "Thou, constrained by no limits, in accordance with thine own free will shalt ordain for thyself the limits of thy nature. We have set thee at, the world's center ... [and] thou mayst fashion thyself-in whatever shape thou shalt prefer."
Donatello had traveled to Rome in 1402 with his friend Filippo Brunelleschi, the inventor of geometric, linear perspective, a system Brunelleschi probably developed as he studied the ruins of ancient Rome. It was Brunelleschi who accepted a commission to design and build a dome over the crossing of the Florence Cathedral (see Fig. 18-19).
The other great innovator of the day was the painter Masaccio, who died in 1428 at the age of 27, having worked only six years. He was 15 years younger than Donatello and 24 years younger than Brunelleschi and learned from them both, translating Donatello's naturalism and Brunelleschi'` sense of proportion into the art of painting.
The landscape is rendered through atmospheric perspective, and the building on the right is rendered in a one-point perspective scheme, with a vanishing point behind the head of Christ. All ofthese artistic devices are in themselves innovations; together, they constitute one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of art, an extraordinary change in direction from the flat, motionless figures of the Middle Ages toward a fully realistic representation.
In his The "Tribute Money (Fig.19.3), painted around 1427, Christ's disciples, especially St. Peter, wonder whether it is proper to pay taxes to the Roman government when, from their point of view, they owe allegiance to Christ, not Rome.
But Christ counsels them to separate their earthly affairs from spiritual obligations -"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). To that end, Christ tells St. Peter and the other disciples that they will find the coin necessary to pay the imperial tax collector, whose back is to us, in the mouth of a fish.
The figures here are modeled by means of chiaroscuro in a light that falls upon the scene from the right (notice their cast shadows). We sense the physicality of the figures beneath their robes.
Chiaroscuro, in art is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.
In the north of Europe, in Flanders particularly, a flourishing merchant society promoted artistic developments that in many ways rivaled those of Florence. The Italian revival of classical notions of order and measure was, for the most part, ignored in the north. Rather, the northern artists were deeply committed to rendering believable space in the greatest and most realistic detail.
The Merode Altarpiece, executed by Robert Campin (see Fig. 11-14), is almost exactly contemporary with Masaccio's Tribute Money, but in the precision and clarity of its detail—in fact, an explosion of detail—it is radically different in feel. The chief reason for the greater clarity is a question of medium.
Northern painters developed oil paint in the first half of the fourteenth century. With oil paint, painters could achieve dazzling effects of light on the surface of the painting—as opposed to the matte, or nonreflective, surfaces of both fresco and tempera.
These effects recall, on the one hand, the Gothic style's emphasis on the almost magical light of the stained-glass window. In that sense, the effect achieved seems transcendent. But it also lends the depicted objects a sense of material reality, and thus caters to the material desires of the north's rising mercantile class.
If we compare Rogier van der Weyden's Deposition (Fig. 19-4) to Piero della Francesca's The Flagellation of Christ (Fig. 19-5), the differences between the northern (Flemish) and the southern (Italian) sensibilities become evident. Virtually a demonstration of the rules of linear perspective, Piero's scene depicts Pontius Pilate watching as executioners whip Christ. Although it is much more architecturally unified, the painting pays homage to Masaccio's Tribute Money. Emotionally speaking, Rogier's Deposition has almost nothing in common with Piero's Flagellation.
Rogier van der Weyden's Deposition
Piero della Francesca's The Flagellation of Christ
It is as if Piero has controlled the violence of his emotionally charged scene by means of mathematics,..
...while Rogier has emphasized instead the pathos and human feeling that pervade his scene of Christ being lowered from the cross.
While Piero's composition is essentially defined by a square and a rectangle, with figures arranged in an essentially triangular fashion, ...
Rogier's composition is controlled by two parallel, deeply expressive, sweeping curves, one defined by the body of Christ and the other by the swooning figure below him.