Identifications (Chapter 12-The Renaissance)
The French word for rebirth, this was a period with indistinct boundaries between 1350 and 1550 CE. This was a period in which secularism, emphasis on man’s ability, and socioeconomic change flourished, although religious sentiment maintained a presence. Interest in the Classical (Graeco-Roman) world increased as Europe recovered from the Black Death and the other calamities which befell the fourteenth century. The Renaissance originated in Italy, but soon spread to the rest of Europe. Importance: The Renaissance was, in some ways, a continuation of the Middle Ages’ societal mechanisms, but it can be differentiated by the belief in humans’ abilities and potential as well as a series of artistic and intellectual accomplishments achieved during this period. Social philosophy also saw a revolution during this era.
A Swiss historian and art critic who wrote The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, which was published in 1860. He portrayed Italy during this time as a place where the culture of antiquity was restored, individual potential was encouraged, and secularism set the region apart from the rest of Europe. The latter two were somewhat exaggerated and the religious aspect was underplayed. Importance: Burkhardt set a basis for what modern scholars interpret as the Renaissance in Italy and later on, the rest of Europe.
A fifteenth-century Florentine humanist and architect. He held a high regard for human dignity, worth, and potential. He also wrote the treatise On the Family. He wrote about the social ideal of the universal person, capable of achieving in many different facets of life. The treatise also addressed families, which suffered from a lack of male heir, allowing the family name to die out, a common problem in Renaissance Italy. Importance: He helped formulate and explain the idea of a universal person and his work provides some context for the issues that plagued Renaissance families.
A commercial/military alliance formed of Northern Europe’s coastal towns that existed as early as the thirteenth century. It exceeded 80 cities by 1500 and monopolized the Northern European trade in timber, fish, grains, metals, honey, and wines. The southern city of Flanders was a crucial meeting place for Hanseatic and Venetian merchants. In the fifteenth century, Bruges began to decline and took with it the Hanseatic League. Importance: The Hanseatic League was an important step in Europe’s economic recovery from the decay left by the fourteenth century.
A family that brought Florence back to its primacy in banking. Originally involved in the cloth industry, the Medici family expanded into banking, business, and real estate. It was, in the fifteenth century, the greatest European bank, due to its many branches in Italy, Spain, France, England, and central Europe. It maintained its control in the cloth industry, and added alum mining to its interests. The House of Medici also served as the bankers for the papacy. This gave the Medici further influence and affluence. At the close of the fifteenth century, the Medici bank declined due to poor leadership and loans. The French eventually ousted the Medici from Florence and seized its property. Importance: The Medici enhanced the prestige of Florence and served the papacy.
This book served as a manual for European aristocrats. In it, he detailed the basic attributes of the ideal courtier: fundamental endowments, participation in military exercise, and a life adorned with the arts. Courtiers should have excellent conduct and grace in showing their accomplishments, while maintaining a modest nature. Castiglione also explained the aim of a courtier: to serve his ruler honestly and effectively. Importance: The book set a standard for court life and brought the ideal of a universal person into eminence as a key quality of the exemplary courtier.
The leader of a mercenary band. Condottieri sold their services to the highest bidder, which were sometimes city-states of Italy. Some foreigners that went to Italy during ceasefires in the Hundred Years’ War became mercenaries and condottieri. Importance: Condottieri helped city-states gain power.
A leading condottieri in 1447. He seized the duchy of Milan after the final Visconti ruler died by turning on his Milanese employers and taking over the city. Importance: He, like the Visconti, was extremely successful in his taxation and generated immense revenues for his regime. He also exemplifies the idea of a condottieri turned ruler.
A member of the house of Medici who took control of the Florentine oligarchy, which itself was surreptitiously controlling the Florentine republic. Cosimo de’Medici did this in 1434. The family maintained a façade of republicanism, but controlled the government through extravagant sponsorship and cultivation of strong relationships with political allies. Importance: Cosimo de’Medici essentially took over Florence, although he continued pretenses of a republic. He and his grandson controlled Florence while it was the center of the Renaissance in Italy.
States in central Italy. Technically, these states were under the control of the papacy, but due to the split of the church (in Rome and Avignon), single cities and territories like Urbino, Bologna, and Ferrara became independent of the papacy. Importance: Popes of the fifteenth century later tried to reestablish control of these dissenting states in another struggle.
The daughter of the duke of Ferrara, married to the marquis of Mantua, Francesco Gonzaga. She was educated at the court of Ferrara and highly intelligent. She also possessed great political insight, as her many letters show. Isabella attracted many artists and intellectuals to the court of Mantua. During her husband’s life and after his passing, Isabella displayed keen negotiation skills and was an effective ruler of Mantua. Importance: Isabella was a strong female ruler of the Renaissance and showed political autonomy in her actions, which was rare for the time, but a marginally more common occurrence among the smaller courts of the era.
The Peace of Lodi was a treaty that ended almost fifty years of war and began an era of peace which lasted forty years. The alliance of Milan, Florence, and Naples against the papacy and Venice was created and led to a workable balance of power, the principal that no state should become great at the expense of others. Importance: The Peace of Lodi led both to a temporary era of peace and to a balance of power, which competing European states used later on.
The event in which Charles I’s Spanish army ravaged Rome in 1527. This brought a temporary end to the Italian wars. Importance: The Spanish dominated Italy after this while Italy remained blind to the potential benefits of an Italian alliance.
The Prince is an extremely famous treatise on Western political power, written by Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince primarily addresses the acquisition and expansion of political power as the means to restore and maintain order. Earlier theorists believed that exercises of or power were only justified when it added to the common good of a ruler’s subjects, but Machiavelli contradicted this by saying that power should be exercised for the sake of his state and turn a deaf ear to his conscience, which would only act as a restriction on the proper exercise of power. Importance: Machiavelli endorsed Cesare Borgia and created a new model for justified political activity, one in which morality was not a concern.
Civic humanism is a branch of humanism formed at the beginning of the fifteenth century, as intellectuals turned to the Classical statesman and intellectual Cicero as an example. In civic humanism, scholars of the humanities should serve the state. Leonard Bruni, in his work The New Cicero, exalted Cicero’s role as a civic leader, which contributed to the currency of civic humanism. Importance: The role of an intellectual as a statesman became a Renaissance ideal, and humanists came to the belief that humanist scholars should serve the state.
Petrarch, the father of Italian Renaissance humanism, spent many years in the hospitality of various princes and city governments. He disparaged the Middle Ages, painting it as a dark era of history, ignorant of Classical intellect. He sought ancient Latin manuscripts and emphasized Classical Latin. He, in particular, exalted Cicero as a master of prose and Vergil as that of poetry. Importance: Petrarch created a reawakening of interest in Classical literature. He also made Cicero and Vergil models for emulation by other humanists.
The New Cicero, by Leonard Bruni, praises Cicero’s successful undertaking of writing literature and being a politician simultaneously. It inspired the Renaissance ideal of civic humanism, in which an intellectual should serve his state, because it is the only place in which an individual can grow completely both “intellectually and morally.” Importance: Because of Bruni’s biography, humanists arrived at the belief that they should serve their state, and many humanists served the state as advisors and chancellors.
Lorenzo Valla was a prime example of a civic humanist. He was learned in Latin and Greek, and eventually became the papal secretary. He wrote a treatise on Latin, titled The Elegances of the Latin Language, an effort to purify Latin. He accepted only Latin from the last century of the republic and first century of the empire, as opposed to earlier humanists. Importance: The novel served to create a new standard for Latin and distinguish the different developmental phases of Latin. Valla also served as an example of a conscious civic humanist.
Marsilio Ficino was a leader of the Florentine Platonic Academy, whose patron was Cosimo de’Medici. Cosimo hired Ficino to translate Plato’s dialogues. Ficino spent his entire life translating Plato and explaining the philosophy of Neo-Platonism. Ficino’s Neo-Platonism was based on the idea that humans occupied a middle position in the hierarchy of substances, between plants and God. Humans’ main purpose was to ascend and unite with God, achieving the true end of human existence. Importance: Ficino fused Christianity and secular Platonism into his new system of Neo-Platonism, in which Platonism and Christianity no longer conflicted.
Hermeticism was revived in the Renaissance when Marsilio Ficino translated Corpus Hermeticum from Greek to Latin. This manuscript contained writings which emphasized occult sciences, while others emphasized theology and philosophy. Some of these writings contained pantheism, that divine bodies were in nature and the heavens as well as Earth. Hermeticism viewed humans as divine create beings that had freely chosen to enter the material world of nature. Through a regeneration/purifying of the soul, humans could regain their creative power and acquire an intimate knowledge of nature and could even employ the forces of nature benevolently. These humans would be true sages, or magi. Importance: this philosophy reconciled Christianity and paganism and yielded, to some, “nuggets of universal truth,” which were pieces of God’s revelation to humanity.
The Oration emphasized human potential and contained common ground between an assortment of philosophers; essentially, what Pico saw as “nuggets of universal truth.” Importance: The piece embraced the potential of man, with the addition of religion and an endorsement of hermeticism.
The liberal studies included history, moral philosophy, rhetoric, grammar/logic, poetry, mathematics, astronomy, and music. Those who followed the path of liberal studies were to become virtuous and wise, with the persuasive skills to convince others to follow the same path. Physical education was also encouraged in liberal studies. Females occasionally joined the schools, but they were not given education in mathematics or rhetoric. Liberal studies trained students to become active in civic life and practice virtue. Importance: European education for the upper classes consisted of liberal studies, classical studies, and Christianity until the twentieth century.
Guicciardini was a historian, considered by some modern scholars to be the greatest historian between the first and eighteenth centuries. His historical works, History of Italy and History of Florence analyze historical events, which is logical, considering Guicciardini’s point of view on history: that writing history teaches lessons. To make some of the more subtle lessons obvious to readers, Guicciardini analyzed political and military history. His books rely on personal examples as well as documentary sources. Importance: Guicciardini’s analytical works mark the beginning of modern analysis of history. He set a precedent relied on even today.
Gutenburg was the inventor of movable metal type. While wooden block type had been developed centuries earlier, movable metal type made printing efficient and useful. Through Gutenburg’s printing press between 8 and 10 million books. While the majority of these books were religious, others were standardized texts for scholars and professionals to consult. Importance: Gutenburg’s press led to the standardization of research, cooperation between scholars, and the efficient spread of ideas. Due to the printing press, the Reformation ideas of religion would not have been able to take such a sturdy and speedy hold in Europe.
Masaccio was a Renaissance artist who sought to imitate nature. He painted several frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. These frescoes used monumental figures, perspective, and a more natural and realistic depiction of figures’ interaction with the surrounding landscape. These frescoes exemplify realism, a new movement in Renaissance art. Importance: Masaccio’s novel style created a new model for later artists to follow.
The grandson of Cosimo de’Medici, Lorenzo de’Medici was a patron of culture and the arts. He, like his grandfather, dominated Florence, and brought artists and scholars such as Sandro Botticelli (famous for the Birth of Venus) into his court. These artists added an ethereal quality to their works, as part of a movement towards the close of the fifteenth century. Lorenzo de’Medici’s son became the pope, Leo X, at the age of thirty-seven. Importance: Lorenzo, as a patron of arts and culture, contributed to the flourishing of the arts during his prominence in Florence. His patronage of the arts bled into his son’s life, leading Leo X to be a stalwart patron and participant of the arts himself.
This painting by Sandro Botticelli reflects several of Botticelli’s key traits. The first is the artist’s interest in Classical mythology, as the figures are all gods or goddesses of Roman myth. The figures are ethereal in appearance, a result of Botticelli’s experimentation and departure from realism that was characteristic of the late fifteenth century. Importance: The Primavera exemplifies invention in artistic technique, a characteristic of the conclusion of the fifteenth century.
David was a statue by Donato di Donatello. Donatello spent a great deal of time scrutinizing and studying statues of the Classical age in Rome. After that, his statues in Florence represented the essence of such statues, such as David. It may have represented Florence’s triumph over Milan in 1428, as Goliath’s head is at David’s feet, and the inscription on the base indicate. Importance: David was the first known full size, freestanding, bronze nude in Europe after the Classical era. It characterizes a revival of Classical art.
Filippo Bruneschelli accompanied Donatello to Rome and studied the classical architecture. Upon his return to Florence, he was hired for the construction of a dome on the unfinished cathedral, the Duomo. Bruneschelli wanted a hemispherical dome, as the Romans had, but was forced to create an upwards dome and reduce the weight by building a thin double shell around a structure of ribs. The most crucial ribs are on the exterior of the dome. Importance: the dome required and led to the innovation of new building techniques and machinery.
The High Renaissance was the final stage of Renaissance art, between 1480 and 1520. The High Renaissance’s distinguishing characteristic is the growing prominence of Rome as a cultural center of the Italian Renaissance. Along with this geographic shift, there was an idea shift, in trying to create an idealism out of nature. Importance: The High Renaissance left a legacy of artistic masterpieces and a new model for art to follow.
Leonardo da Vinci, as fifteenth-century artists did, studied everything. He even dissected humans to understand how their bodies and nature worked. But Leonardo went beyond realism; he initiated a movement to idealize nature. He also used movement and gestures to indicate personalities of the figures he painted. Importance: da Vinci began a movement to idealize nature and put profound characteristics within simple movement and gestures in his paintings.
Raphael became a painter in his youth, being hailed as one of the best painters in Italy at the tender age of twenty-five. He, like da Vinci, aimed to idealize reality, creating a standard for beauty, the madonna, that surpassed nature. Raphael painted frescoes in the Vatican Palace and reveals Classical influence. Importance: Raphael created the madonna and added momentum to the High Renaissance movement of surpassing nature by idealizing it.
Michelangelo was an accomplished artist in painting, architecture, and sculpture. He worked on many projects, due to his tremendous enthusiasm and passion. Neo-Platonism can be seen in several of his projects, most significantly in his painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which took him four years. The figures in the painting are idealized and perfectly proportioned. The idyllic quality of the figures represent divine beauty, and the approach of man to divinity. Importance: Michelangelo furthered High Renaissance idealism and attempted to represent divinity and classical ideals of perfection rather than ultra-realism, which had characterized the earlier part of the Renaissance.
Michelangelo’s David was a statue commissioned by the government of Florence in 1501. It took three years to build. Michelangelo claimed that the statue resided in the stone and that he had simply removed the excess to unveil it. David was carved from a colossal piece of marble. The figure is fourteen-feet high, making it the largest Italian sculpture since Rome. Importance: David is a proud announcement of the human’s body’s beauty and the splendor of humanity itself.
Donato Bramante was a High Renaissance architect. He designed a small temple, the Tempietto on the site of St. Peter’s crucifixion. Doric (Greek) columns surround the dome-covered sanctuary. These features encompass High Renaissance ideals of architecture. The Tempietto impressed Pope Julius II so much that he hired Bramante to design a basilica for Rome. This basilica later became St. Peter’s Basilica. Importance: The Tempietto that Bramante designed stands as a testament to the ideals of both Classical antiquity and the High Renaissance.
Giorgo Vasari was a painter and biographer who wrote a series of short biographies about the great artists of Italy, for example, Leonardo da Vinci. Importance: Vasari helped create a new perspective on artists: that they were not artisans to be hired, but geniuses whose art was divine. It allowed them to take a much higher socioeconomic status.
While the Italian Renaissance practiced portraying humans and frescoes, northern artists were given smaller spaces in which to work their craft, leading to a tremendous focus on details. Northern Renaissance artists did not consider perspective or proportion in their pieces, but rather their own observations of the world around them and tremendous detail. They also centered many of their pieces on religious figures or scenery. Importance: The Renaissance of the North and its effects on art depict what was more important and what ideals were of greater value: religion and detail.
Jan van Eyck was a painter of the Northern Renaissance. He was one of the first to use oil paints, which suddenly made a large range of colors, fine details, and a sense of depth possible. Every detail of his paintings was carefully constructed, but his paintings did not quite adhere to the laws of perspective. Importance: Van Eyck’s use of oil paints and fine detail set a precedent for other painters of the Northern Renaissance.
A northern artist from the end of the fifteenth century, Dürer was heavily impacted by his study of Italian paintings. He took from his study the theories of perspective and proportion and later wrote treatises on both. Dürer blended the characteristic detail of the north with the idealism of Italy to create more harmonious works. Importance: Dürer, like some of his fellow northern artists, traveled to Italy, where Italian art influenced him to create a harmonious blend of detail and realistic portrayal.
Renaissance madrigals were poems set to music. These poems were typically twelve line poems written in the vernacular that focused on emotional or erotic love. By the mid sixteenth century, madrigals were usually written for five or six voices and the music would try to portray the literal meaning of the text. By this time, madrigals had spread to England as well, and can still be found with the fa-la-la refrain found in the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls” Importance: Madrigals served to bring music out of the service of the church, and become secular, a key characteristic of the Renaissance.
When monarchies attempted to reestablish their control during the second half of the fifteenth century, some states, especially the western ones (England, France, and Spain), succeeded. The results were the Renaissance states, or “new monarchies.” These monarchies consisted of monarchs who had managed to retake the power of the church and nobility, increase their own powers of taxation, and create more effective bureaucracies. Importance: These actions created effective and unified states under strong central monarchs.
Louis XI, the son of Charles VII, is considered responsible for the foundation that gave France strong monarchical power. Louis XI created a steady income and took over the duchy of Burgundy when its duke, Charles the Bold was killed. Louis quickly took Anjou, Maine, Bar, and Provence as well. Henry VII, who was also the first of the Tudors, worked to take power back from the rebels and establish a strong monarchy. He also established a bench court which permitted torture to obtain viable confessions. This court helped the curb the irresponsible actions of the English nobility. He also ended the practice of nobles having private armies, which stopped the inter-noble wars. He also drew from the usual sources of money and avoided wars via diplomacy. He also avoided overtaxing the gentry and middle class, winning him favor with these parties. Importance: Both Louis XI and Henry VII created prosperity for their respective monarchies. Each also enhanced the prestige of their governments and employed fiscal and political perspicacity.
Ferdinand and Isabella married without combining their kingdoms but strengthened royal control over the governments, especially in Isabella’s kingdom of Castile. In the royal council, middle class lawyers replaced the aristocracy. These lawyers further enhanced the power of the monarchy on the belief that the monarchy possessed the power of the state. Ferdinand and Isabella replaced their feudal levies with a trained standing army, with an especially strong infantry. Ferdinand and Isabella also extended their power into the Catholic Church by selecting the most important church officials of Spain. Secularism and morality were restored as well, due to Isabella’s chief minister. Ferdinand and Isabella also mandated religious conformity, to the faith of Catholicism, and forced Jews and Muslims to convert. Rumors of reversion among those who were previously Jewish or Muslim led to the Spanish Inquisition, and then the expulsion of Jew from Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella also attacked the Muslims by taking the kingdom of Granada, where Muslims were forced to convert to Christianity or be expelled from Isabella’s kingdom of Castile. Importance: Due to the degree that Catholicism was required in Spain, being Spanish automatically meant being Catholic. The result of this was that Spain was strongly opposed to the Reformation as it meant a departure from the state-mandated orthodoxy that unified Spain.
The Inquisition quashed the religious minorities of Muslims and Jews. Ferdinand and Isabella requested that the pope introduce the Inquisition to Spain in 1478. Under the strong power of the royals, the Inquisition worked efficiently to ensure strict adherence to orthodoxy. Ferdinand and Isabella then expelled all Jews, and after taking Granada, all Muslims. Importance: Spain was left religiously very uniform and unified as a result of the state’s policies.
The Habsburgs were a family that held the throne of Holy Roman Emperor. The family had slowly taken possession of many properties along the Danube River, which was known as Austria. The Habsburgs were thus one of the wealthiest landholders in the Holy Roman Empire. Their success is due to many dynastic marriages. Due to Emperor Frederick III’s son Maximilian’s marriage to Mary, the daughter of Duke Charles the Bold, the Habsburgs gained pieces of France, Luxembourg and a large piece of the Low Countries. Maximilian, while unsuccessful in his attempts to centralize his administration, did arrange a very suitable marriage for his son Philip. Philip married the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand. When several sudden deaths occurred, Philip was left the heir to the Habsburg, Burgundian, and Spanish thrones. Importance: Due to the Habsburg’s large landholdings and Philip’s position as heir to three lines, the Holy Roman Empire took an important role in European affairs.
Ivan III created a new Russian state: the principality of Moscow, and annexed other Russian principalities. Following this, he took advantage of discord among Mongols to become independent of their rule. Importance: Ivan III’s actions led to the independence of Russia from Mongolian rule.
The Ottomans decimated Constantinople in 1453. Sultan Mehmet II led 80,000 troops against the 7,000 defenders Constantinople possessed. The Ottomans utilized 26 foot barrels that could launch stones weighing over one thousand pounds. The Byzantine emperor finally died in battle and the walls were breached. Importance: The Ottoman Turks, while kept at bay by the Hungarians, would attack again at the beginning of the sixteenth century and threaten to surround the Mediterranean, as they had already taken much of the land surrounding the Aegean Sea.
John Wyclif was a theologian. Noting the corruption that was widespread within the clergy, he claimed that popes had no power or authority granted by God and demanded that they be stripped of property and authority. His belief was that the Bible was the only true authority and urged that it be made available in all the vernacular languages for any Christian. He asserted that any ritual not mentioned in scripture was condemnable, such as the veneration of saints and pilgrimages. His followers were known as the Lollards. These ideas spread to Bohemia because of a marriage between the royal families of England and Bohemia. However, these thoughts were not fresh; they reinforced the teachings of the Czech reformer John Hus. Hus called for elimination of the clergy’s occupation with temporal matters and the corruption of the clergy. He also attacked the excessive power of the pope within the Catholic Church. Bohemians were receptive to these ideas due to resentment and pre-existing criticism against the Church. The Council of Constance summoned Hus and, although he had been guaranteed safety by the emperor, was arrested, condemned for heresy, and burned. Importance: This awakened the revolutionary spirits of Bohemia and the Hussite Wars continued in the Holy Roman Empire until 1436.
Pope Pius II issued the papal bull Execrabilis to condemn appeals to the council, which he saw as going over the head of the pope. He deemed such actions heresy. Execerabilis quashed the growing power of councils, as given by Sacrosancta and Frequens. Importance: The papacy regained its authority over the Church, but lost power over worldly governments and lost moral prestige. The Renaissance popes caused the moral gravity of the pope to decline further.
The Renaissance popes are considered to be the line of popes from the end of the Great Schism in 1417 until the beginning of the Reformation in the start of the sixteenth century. While the main task of the papacy is to govern the Church in spiritual matters, popes were also charged with worldly tasks, and during the Renaissance papacy, these temporal preoccupations eclipsed the spiritual duties of the popes. Some popes pursued politics and government of the Papal States shamelessly, such as Julius II. Julius II himself led armies against his opponents. To control the Papal states, popes needed unselfish servants. Without the dynastic strength of a hereditary monarchy, popes relied on nepotism to bolster their families’ interests. Some popes even raised children, such as Alexander VI. To much scandal, he even encouraged one son to make a state for himself out of the Papal States’ territories. The Renaissance popes did, however, encourage culture and art. Julius II, for example, commissioned St. Peter’s Basilica, and Leo X, great grandson of Cosimo de’Medici, commissioned Raphael to paint and hurried the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. Importance: The Renaissance popes’ actions led to a further decline in support and moral leadership as they committed acts thought to be too temporal for a spiritual leader to concern himself with.
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