AliaReyna The transition from the Middle Agesto the Renaissance reflects a time of great change in the way of life at thetime. During the Middle Ages life was in constant turmoil and bleak. After theFall of the fall of the Roman Empire Europe suffered a multitude of tragedies,such as the black plague, Viking attacks and looting, and barbarian invasions. Throughoutthese hardships the glimmer of hope that people clung to was the church.
Asdark times began to fade the people found a new hope “homo Faber est quisquefortunae Suae” This phrase is saying that each man is the creator of his ownfuture. This is a juxtaposition to the common ideal in the Roman Catholicreligion “God the Creator” and also exhibits the change in ideology between theMiddle ages and the Renaissance. During the Middle Ages there was asurplus in faith of the Roman Catholic, this was in part because the primaryunifying factor between the people happened to be religion. This allowed theChurch to take more of an authoritative rule over society. Church officialskept records and acted as advisors to the monarchs. They were also the largestowners of land and even collected taxes, which greater added to their power andoverall influence. There was also lessof an emphasis on education during this era, and as a result it lead to amajority of the population being illiterate. Surprisingly the illiteracy of thepopulation, lead way for art to take a rather important role withinsociety.
Where there was such a heavyinfluence on the Church and religion the average person had no way of reading thebible, so paintings and other outlets of art helped get the churches ideasacross through another platform. This is largely why the central topic seenwith in the art at the time revolves around the Roman Catholic Church. Anotherreason for the ideology seen within the art at the time is the use of art as apropaganda tool. Through out time and in all societies you can see that art isone of the most useful forces of getting across ideas between all classes. Gothic and Byzantine art were the maininspirations for medieval architecture. The Byzantine influence can be seen inthe Hagia Sophia, a cathedral commissioned by Emperor Justinian during thesixth century. This Humongous church was built in the city of Constantinopleand became one of the largest cathedrals for years to come. The Cathedral hasLarge Granite columns, marble pillars, and beautiful religious mosaics, andpossibly the most captivating its large dome.
Although the original dome wastoo heavy and inevitably concaved, it was later rebuilt and improved in thelate sixth century. One of the best examplesof gothic influence on architecture at the time is the Notre Dame. The NotreDame was built in Paris, France and initiated by the Bishop of Paris MauriceSully. The Notre Dame is characterized by gorgeous stained glass windows, largeflying buttresses (large arched external supports), and two towers one reaching300 feet tall. The height and grandiose of these buildings were all just asymbol for the Catholic Church. “TheCathedral is an image of the City of God, the Celestial Jerusalem, an image ofParadise, as the liturgy for the consecration of churches affirms.” “The Houseof God must be illuminated by the rays of the sun, resplendent with charitylike Paradise itself, because God is Light, the light who gives beauty toeverything that exists”.
“The stained-glass windows that separate us from thestorms and let the light pour over us are the Doctors.”(Plinio Corrêa deOliveira) These are all but a few quotes that characterize the symbolism seenin the architecture at the time. At the end of the 11th Century therewas a campaign organized by the Western European Christians to reclaim the holyland, in particular Jerusalem, from the Muslims who had conquered it at thetime.
The Crusades had a lot of positive effects on the western world ascommunication and supplies were reignited with the Middle East it lead way fora lot of new technology and ideas in the west. Such as gunpowder, cotton, newspices, silk, and much more. The Crusades also began to use old Roman roadwaysto travel during the crusades and as trade routes as well. During the time ofthe Crusades feudalism also fell. The fall of feudalism gave way to more peoplebecoming merchants because of the recent boom in commerce between the west andMiddle East. As the Merchant business boomed it also allowed for new careeropportunities for prior serfs andpeasants. It created jobs like bookkeepers, money exchangers, managers, and themaking system.
This newfound class mobility allowed the serfs to lead a bettermiddle class life as oppose to being at the bottom of the social pyramid withinthe feudal system. This change andexchange of new ideas and technology due to the crusades and also the MiddleAges as a whole, was the catalyst for the renaissance. The Renaissance was a period inEuropean history also known as the “rebirth” of European culture following theRoman Empire. This “rebirth” began in Italy of course. It began in Italy mostobviously because of their geographic location. Italy being the boot of Europewas surrounded by water, which made it an excellent hub during the expansion oftrade. As Italy began to venture far and wide through trade, so did many otherItalians.
like the artists, philosophers, scientists, and engineers.During theRenaissance, art began to reflect a group of new ideas. It started to portraythe, ideas philosophers were beginning to ponder on again since the time of theRoman Empire. This idea is Humanism. The new ideas behind humanism lead peopleto begin to live their own lives and create their own destiny. This began toshow a new individuality in the land of the arts which created an atmospherefor them to thrive in. As intellect was being exchanged at such a fast rate itfurther fueled a conducive relationship between art and mathematics. The use ofmathematics soon became crucial for these renaissance artisans to perfectlyexecute their masterpieces.
The use of mathematics revived the artful precisionseen one before in the Ancient Roman Empire, a precision both proportion andnaturalism. As the society grew it allowed for the ideas behind art to grow.The commissioners of the art at the time were affluent families like theMedici’s who too wanted to illustrate the ne philosophical ideas beingtransferred throughout the world at the time. Most of these affluent familiesvalued the arts and saw them as a tangible example of the society’s growth.These families wanted art to portray the best of people, and sought to capturethe beauty and mystery of the world they lived in. The Renaissance is seen as aninteresting time because it was a time where people began to reflect on thepast and learn from it.
A great example of this is The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore orbetter known to some as Il Duomo. Il Duomo was started by Arnolfo Di Cambio. Heworked on the Cathedral up until 1302. After his time working on the Cathedralit was left and waiting to be crowned with a dome.
No architect seemed up tothe task except for Fillipo Brunolleschi. Brunelleschi had spent just about 2decades in Rome studying the architecture of the ancient greats. He took aparticular interest in the Pantheon. He thought that it may have been possiblethat the Ancient Romans had been able to construct the dome without usingcomplex scaffolding.
Brunolleschi brings his findings back to Florence to takeon the construction feat of Il Duomo. He proposes an absurd idea at the time tonot utilize buttresses which is seen in previous churches during the middleages to support domes. He also decides to design 2 domes one to be viewed fromthe inside and the second, the larger of the two to protect the structure fromthe rain. The Dome was built to represent just how great the Italian city ofFlorence was and their prosperity, “Gonfio e Magnifico” translated to Swollenand Magnificent. To properly execute this architectural project he invented theOx horse, which allows the direction to go from up and down without having to movethe direction of the oxen. He also designs another new hoist called theCostello which was used to move weights horizontally. Using precise calculations Brunelleschidiscovered the missing piece to perfectly executing the dome without itconcaving on top of itself. His solution was an innovative brick layingtechnique used in Ancient Rome to what maybe decoratively or functionally butwe do not know.
The point of this brick laying technique was to disperse theweight of the dome, instead of all the weight just going down the “herringbone”pattern allowed for the weight to be displaced out and down. To prevent theopposite problem that could occur, which is the bricks breaking out the sides,he included 5 chains inside to act a invisible buttressing. After thecompletion of Il Duomo executed by Brunoleschi and his brilliance, Florencebecame a capital for innovations in the world of design and construction. Thisarchitectural example is a physical depiction of the middle ages andrenaissance all in one building.
The dome would not have been able to beexecuted successfully if it were not for brunelleschi’s scrutiny of AncientRoman Architecture. This revival of Ancient roman culture and techniques willnot only be seen here but throughout the entirety of the renaissance. What once was lost now is found. The de Medici’s were the rulers of Florence during the 15thcentury and later became the ruling house running from the 16th and17th century. The family made some of the greatest contributions tothe Italian renaissance.
This is because of their patronage of the arts andtheir policies that favored peace and political stability. Originally thefamily profited through the wool trade, and then further began to diversifytheir assets into new businesses. Although the financial support of the Mediciwas quite useful for the arts, the political stability that they created inFlorence at the time was arguably even more supportive. By creating thisatmosphere it gave artists the ability to grow and expand their subject matterrather than the middle ages where the ideas pictured with in the art was mainlyreligious ideology. Florence was an enviorment rather separated from RomanCatholic Church, which negated there to be any conflict between the arts andthe church.
With this being said subject matter focused on the Human body, emotion,space and dimension. The progress and development of the ancient art forms andpractices, lead to the evolution of the arts and allowed them to see newheights. “One of the most famous masterpieces of NorthernRenaissance art, the Portinari Altarpiece, by Hugo van der Goes (c. 1476; Uffizi, Florence), was commissioned bytheir agent, Tommaso Portinari. Instead of being painted with the customarytempera of the period, the work is painted with translucent oil glazes thatproduce brilliant jewel-like colour and a glossy surface.” This rebirth in theNorth is what some call the “cradle” of the renaissance, which leads way toHigh Renaissance art. The HighRenaissance Is lead by three master minds Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo andRaphael.
The period of the high renaissance only lasts for about 35 yearsbut creates an everlasting impact on the world. Although the High renaissance is brief some ofthe most exceptional works of art and techniques were created during the highrenaissance. The art of the high renaissance is further characterized by theidea of humanism. During the time the printing press which was invented by JohnGutenberg. The printing press allowed for an easier way for the spread of ideasalso known as cultural diffusion.
The printing press also allowed for theartist of the times to begin to sell prints of their work. This allowed art tobecome more global. Some very new ideas such as the Michelangelo’s idea of”Neo-Platonism” which says God put the sculpture within the rock and the artistmust uncover it. Leonardo’sThe Last Supper was worked on between the times of 1495-1498, the painting wason the mediums of oil and tempera on plaster.
The use of oil and tempera was anew technique that Leonardo had founded. The painting depicts just as it istitled The Last Supper. Da Vinci masterfully plants the vanishing aboveChrist’s to further solidify his role of significance. The painting capturesthe moment that Jesus tells the apostles that Judas has betrayed them. Leonardoportrays the psychological reaction of the apostles. In this painting he isallowing society to weigh the difference between a good and bad person. The depth Leonardo was able to create throughhis beautiful symmetry allows the viewer to feel that he/she is now inside ofthe painting. AS if the viewer is joining the apostles at the dinner table aswell as reacting psychologically to Jesus’s news of Judas betrayal.
This isjust one of the many noted pieces done by Leonardo da Vinci. Many of his piecesevoke a deeper psychological meaning not always made clear which creates ahunger for his art because in viewing it the viewer is able to do somephilosophical work amongst themselves. The statue of David was a master sculpture done byMichelangelo. David is seen in contrapposto a pose profound in classical artwhere one leg supports the full weight of the body while the other sits foward.David is visualized in a tense state seeming to be deep in thought before hisbattle with Goliath. David also carries a slingshot over his shoulder that isalmost invisible this is to show the battle was not won by David’s strength orforce but rather by David’s intellectual power and astute. The statuetranslates David’s self confidence and deep concentration which are all idealtraits of the “renaissance man”.
But David is more than just man David is thesymbol of perfection. David is seen naked to show his status of divinity,wealth, and knowledge. Another High Renaissance masterpiece is Raphael’s “Schoolof Athens”. The painting portrayed an imaginary scene that depicted a meetingbetween great philosophers. Some of which included the faces of Leonardo,Michelangelo and even himself.
Pope Julius II commissioned the piece, wellactually Raphael was commissioned to paint several rooms within the Vatican andthis happened to be one of them. Monumental shapes, rich colors as well asidealic faces characterize the piece. The subject matter of the piece iscaptured through a tromp L’oeil arch, and through the arch you see a picture ofAristotle reaching his hand out to signify the importance of gatheringknowledge from the material world. The vanishing point is found between the twogreat philosophers Aristotle and Plato most likely because they contributed themost to the philosophical world. In the painting you also see the Raphael feelsthat artists are on the same level as these great thinkers having beenportrayed within the same room. These are just a few masterpieces during the short periodof the High Renaissance and show the immersive intellectual diversity theseartists had and were able to depict in their masterpieces.
The late Renaissance is defined by the sack of Rome in 1527.This caused for artists to disperse throughout Italy, France and Spaim beganwith the sack of Rome in 1527. Artists had to scramble to relocatethroughout Italy, France, and Spain.
This introduced Mannerism. Duringthe Mannerism time period Paintings were inaccurately proportioned and ratherdramatic. The figures often had “elongated limbs emotion and bizarre themesthat combined Classism, Christianity, and mythology.” (Esaak, Shelley).
Art began to change as the economic means ofthe Renaissance began to lessen. Although the Dark Ages are oftenignored because of the lack of intellectual power at the time, the prosperityof hardships and suffering the people of Europe lived through only furtheraided them in the rebirth of the Renaissance. The strength of the RomanCatholic Church Campaigning the Crusades opened the door to the great period ofthe Renaissance and they also became a great outlet for the Artists to thrive.The prosperity of the Church and the unintentional effects they had to spreadwealth to Merchants like the Medici’s, gave artists the ability to create andfor ultimately a society to grow.
The funds that were put into intellect duringthe Renaissance should be one of an example. Their appreciation from their pastand evolving it to even greater lengths should be used today. Society shouldtake notes from the past and use history as a prime example to better theworld. Bibliography “Cathedral inFlorence.” Il Grande Museo del Duomo. Accessed January 2018.
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