Renaissance Now!: The Value of the Renaissance Past in Contemporary Culture

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By , Dutch cartographers had mapped most of the coastline of the continent, which they named New Holland , except the east coast which was charted in by Captain Cook.


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The long-imagined south polar continent was eventually sighted in Throughout the Renaissance it had been known as Terra Australis , or 'Australia' for short. However, after that name was transferred to New Holland in the nineteenth century, the new name of 'Antarctica' was bestowed on the south polar continent. From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school.

The development of printing made distribution of music possible on a wide scale. Demand for music as entertainment and as an activity for educated amateurs increased with the emergence of a bourgeois class. Dissemination of chansons , motets , and masses throughout Europe coincided with the unification of polyphonic practice into the fluid style that culminated in the second half of the sixteenth century in the work of composers such as Palestrina , Lassus , Victoria and William Byrd.

The new ideals of humanism, although more secular in some aspects, developed against a Christian backdrop, especially in the Northern Renaissance. Much, if not most, of the new art was commissioned by or in dedication to the Church. The Renaissance began in times of religious turmoil.

The late Middle Ages was a period of political intrigue surrounding the Papacy , culminating in the Western Schism , in which three men simultaneously claimed to be true Bishop of Rome. Although the papacy eventually emerged supreme in ecclesiastical matters by the Fifth Council of the Lateran , it was dogged by continued accusations of corruption, most famously in the person of Pope Alexander VI , who was accused variously of simony , nepotism and fathering four children most of whom were married off, presumably for the consolidation of power while a cardinal.

Churchmen such as Erasmus and Luther proposed reform to the Church, often based on humanist textual criticism of the New Testament. Humanism and the Renaissance therefore played a direct role in sparking the Reformation, as well as in many other contemporaneous religious debates and conflicts. Pope Paul III came to the papal throne — after the sack of Rome in , with uncertainties prevalent in the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation.

Characteristics of the Renaissance

Nicolaus Copernicus dedicated De revolutionibus orbium coelestium On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres to Paul III, who became the grandfather of Alessandro Farnese cardinal , who had paintings by Titian , Michelangelo , and Raphael , as well as an important collection of drawings, and who commissioned the masterpiece of Giulio Clovio , arguably the last major illuminated manuscript , the Farnese Hours. By the 15th century, writers, artists, and architects in Italy were well aware of the transformations that were taking place and were using phrases such as modi antichi in the antique manner or alle romana et alla antica in the manner of the Romans and the ancients to describe their work.

In the s Petrarch referred to pre-Christian times as antiqua ancient and to the Christian period as nova new. Humanist historians argued that contemporary scholarship restored direct links to the classical period, thus bypassing the Medieval period, which they then named for the first time the "Middle Ages".

Renaissance Now!: The Value of the Renaissance Past in Contemporary Culture

The term first appears in Latin in as media tempestas middle times. It was not just the growing awareness of classical antiquity that drove this development, according to Vasari, but also the growing desire to study and imitate nature. In the 15th century, the Renaissance spread rapidly from its birthplace in Florence to the rest of Italy and soon to the rest of Europe. The invention of the printing press by German printer Johannes Gutenberg allowed the rapid transmission of these new ideas.

As it spread, its ideas diversified and changed, being adapted to local culture. In the 20th century, scholars began to break the Renaissance into regional and national movements. The word "Renaissance" is borrowed from the French language, where it means "re-birth". It was first used in the eighteenth century and was later popularized by French historian Jules Michelet — in his work, Histoire de France History of France. A factor that promoted the spread of secularism was the inability of the Church to offer assistance against the Black Death. Francis I imported Italian art and artists, including Leonardo da Vinci , and built ornate palaces at great expense.

Though she became famous and infamous for her role in France's religious wars, she made a direct contribution in bringing arts, sciences and music including the origins of ballet to the French court from her native Florence. In the second half of the 15th century, the Renaissance spirit spread to Germany and the Low Countries , where the development of the printing press ca. In the early Protestant areas of the country humanism became closely linked to the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation, and the art and writing of the German Renaissance frequently reflected this dispute.

After Italy, Hungary was the first European country where the Renaissance appeared. The relationship between Hungarian and Italian Gothic styles was a second reason—exaggerated breakthrough of walls is avoided, preferring clean and light structures. The new Italian trend combined with existing national traditions to create a particular local Renaissance art.

Acceptance of Renaissance art was furthered by the continuous arrival of humanist thought in the country. Many young Hungarians studying at Italian universities came closer to the Florentine humanist center, so a direct connection with Florence evolved. The growing number of Italian traders moving to Hungary, specially to Buda , helped this process. King Matthias Corvinus r. After the marriage in of King Matthias to Beatrice of Naples , Buda became one of the most important artistic centres of the Renaissance north of the Alps.

Matthias Corvinus's library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana , was Europe's greatest collections of secular books: historical chronicles, philosophic and scientific works in the 15th century. His library was second only in size to the Vatican Library.

However, the Vatican Library mainly contained Bibles and religious materials. In , Bartolomeo della Fonte of Florence wrote that Lorenzo de' Medici founded his own Greek-Latin library encouraged by the example of the Hungarian king. Culture in the Netherlands at the end of the 15th century was influenced by the Italian Renaissance through trade via Bruges , which made Flanders wealthy. Its nobles commissioned artists who became known across Europe. In art, Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting ranged from the strange work of Hieronymus Bosch [93] to the everyday life depictions of Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

While Renaissance ideas were moving north from Italy, there was a simultaneous southward spread of some areas of innovation, particularly in music. At the end of the 16th century Italy again became a center of musical innovation, with the development of the polychoral style of the Venetian School , which spread northward into Germany around The paintings of the Italian Renaissance differed from those of the Northern Renaissance.

Italian Renaissance artists were among the first to paint secular scenes, breaking away from the purely religious art of medieval painters. Later, the works of Pieter Bruegel influenced artists to paint scenes of daily life rather than religious or classical themes. It was also during the Northern Renaissance that Flemish brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck perfected the oil painting technique, which enabled artists to produce strong colors on a hard surface that could survive for centuries.

This movement had started in Italy with the decisive influence of Dante Alighieri on the development of vernacular languages; in fact the focus on writing in Italian has neglected a major source of Florentine ideas expressed in Latin.


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An early Italian humanist who came to Poland in the midth century was Filippo Buonaccorsi. Ruled by the Jagiellon dynasty , the Kingdom of Poland from known as the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth actively participated in the broad European Renaissance. The multi-national Polish state experienced a substantial period of cultural growth thanks in part to a century without major wars — aside from conflicts in the sparsely populated eastern and southern borderlands. The Reformation spread peacefully throughout the country giving rise to the Polish Brethren , while living conditions improved, cities grew, and exports of agricultural products enriched the population, especially the nobility szlachta who gained dominance in the new political system of Golden Liberty.

The Polish Renaissance architecture has three periods of development. The greatest monument of this style in the territory of the former Duchy of Pomerania is the Ducal Castle in Szczecin. Although Italian Renaissance had a modest impact in Portuguese arts, Portugal was influential in broadening the European worldview, [99] stimulating humanist inquiry.

Renaissance arrived through the influence of wealthy Italian and Flemish merchants who invested in the profitable commerce overseas. In architecture, the huge profits of the spice trade financed a sumptuous composite style in the first decades of the 16th century, the Manueline , incorporating maritime elements. Renaissance trends from Italy and Central Europe influenced Russia in many ways.

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Their influence was rather limited, however, due to the large distances between Russia and the main European cultural centers and the strong adherence of Russians to their Orthodox traditions and Byzantine legacy. Prince Ivan III introduced Renaissance architecture to Russia by inviting a number of architects from Italy , who brought new construction techniques and some Renaissance style elements with them, while in general following the traditional designs of Russian architecture.

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In the Bolognese architect Aristotele Fioravanti came to rebuild the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin , which had been damaged in an earthquake. Fioravanti was given the 12th-century Vladimir Cathedral as a model, and he produced a design combining traditional Russian style with a Renaissance sense of spaciousness, proportion and symmetry. In Ivan III commissioned the building of the royal residence, Terem Palace , within the Kremlin, with Aloisio da Milano as the architect of the first three floors.

He and other Italian architects also contributed to the construction of the Kremlin walls and towers. The small banquet hall of the Russian Tsars , called the Palace of Facets because of its facetted upper story, is the work of two Italians, Marco Ruffo and Pietro Solario , and shows a more Italian style. He may have been the Venetian sculptor, Alevisio Lamberti da Montagne. He built 12 churches for Ivan III, including the Cathedral of the Archangel , a building remarkable for the successful blending of Russian tradition, Orthodox requirements and Renaissance style.

It is believed that the Cathedral of the Metropolitan Peter in Vysokopetrovsky Monastery , another work of Aleviz Novyi, later served as an inspiration for the so-called octagon-on-tetragon architectural form in the Moscow Baroque of the late 17th century. Between the early 16th and the late 17th centuries, an original tradition of stone tented roof architecture developed in Russia. It was quite unique and different from the contemporary Renaissance architecture elsewhere in Europe, though some research terms the style 'Russian Gothic' and compares it with the European Gothic architecture of the earlier period.

The Italians, with their advanced technology, may have influenced the invention of the stone tented roof the wooden tents were known in Russia and Europe long before. According to one hypothesis, an Italian architect called Petrok Maly may have been an author of the Ascension Church in Kolomenskoye , one of the earliest and most prominent tented roof churches. By the 17th century the influence of Renaissance painting resulted in Russian icons becoming slightly more realistic, while still following most of the old icon painting canons , as seen in the works of Bogdan Saltanov , Simon Ushakov , Gury Nikitin , Karp Zolotaryov and other Russian artists of the era.

In the mid 16th-century Russians adopted printing from Central Europe, with Ivan Fyodorov being the first known Russian printer. In the 17th century printing became widespread, and woodcuts became especially popular. That led to the development of a special form of folk art known as lubok printing, which persisted in Russia well into the 19th century. A number of technologies from the European Renaissance period were adopted by Russia rather early and subsequently perfected to become a part of a strong domestic tradition.

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Italian Renaissance

Mostly these were military technologies, such as cannon casting adopted by at least the 15th century. The Tsar Cannon , which is the world's largest bombard by caliber , is a masterpiece of Russian cannon making. It was cast in by Andrey Chokhov and is notable for its rich, decorative relief. Another technology, that according to one hypothesis originally was brought from Europe by the Italians , resulted in the development of vodka , the national beverage of Russia. As early as Genoese ambassadors brought the first aqua vitae "water of life" to Moscow and presented it to Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy.

The Genoese likely developed this beverage with the help of the alchemists of Provence , who used an Arab -invented distillation apparatus to convert grape must into alcohol.

A Guide to Renaissance Humanism

A Moscovite monk called Isidore used this technology to produce the first original Russian vodka c. The Renaissance arrived in the Iberian peninsula through the Mediterranean possessions of the Aragonese Crown and the city of Valencia. In the Kingdom of Castile , the early Renaissance was heavily influenced by the Italian humanism, starting with writers and poets such as the Marquis of Santillana , who introduced the new Italian poetry to Spain in the early 15th century.

Miguel de Cervantes 's masterpiece Don Quixote is credited as the first Western novel. The Italian artist and critic Giorgio Vasari — first used the term rinascita in his book The Lives of the Artists published In the book Vasari attempted to define what he described as a break with the barbarities of gothic art : the arts he held had fallen into decay with the collapse of the Roman Empire and only the Tuscan artists, beginning with Cimabue — and Giotto — began to reverse this decline in the arts.

Vasari saw ancient art as central to the rebirth of Italian art.