Italian Renaissance Humanism in Art

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The Renaissance, as defined in Merriam-Webster=s dictionary, is the transitional movement in Europe between medieval and modern times beginning in the 14th century in Italy, lasting into the 17th century, and marked by a humanistic revival of classical influence expressed in a flowering of the arts and literature and by the beginnings of modern science. Many dramatic changes occurred during this time in the fields of philosophy, literature, and art. New emphasis was placed on enjoying life and the world around man, and talented individuals sought self-gratification through art and philosophy (Vary). In Italy, the Renaissance presented through literary and art themes a new humanistic conception of man. The rise of the Medici family also held a great role in the sponsorship of the arts.

Humanism was considered to be the most significant intellectual movement of the Renaissance. As its name implies, humanism was a philosophy that was characterized by its blending of the concern of the history and actions of all human beings, and their influence in the world, with religious duty (Vary). Humanists thought that every person had respect and worth and therefore commanded the respect of other people. The humanistic movement began during the early Italian Renaissance with the rediscovery of the writings of the classical Greeks and Romans, which were not only models of literary style, but believed to be guides to the understanding of life (Mirkin). Humanists did not see themselves as pagan=s, and the Church became one of the main reasons why the artistic applications of humanistic values flourished (Jovanovich 84). Two humanistic philosophers who greatly impacted the Italian Renaissance were Pico della Mirandola and Niccolo Machiavelli.

Pico della Mirandola, author of AOration on the Dignity of Man,@ believed and emphasized that humans could perfect their existence on earth because they were divinely given the ability to determine their own fate (Mirandola). He accentuated the superiority of humans and sought to portray man as good due to his creation from God. AOration@ described man as the perfect being and glorified man as the all around perfect creature (Vary). Mirandola=s humanistic views go as far to say that man is better than the angels themselves. He used many pagan references and strays away from the Church by using evidence from the Old Testament and quoted Heathens and Greeks.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote AThe Prince@, dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici which was written in order to educate man on successful ruling practices. What made AThe Prince@ so controversial was that it was a direct challenge to the papacy. It addresses how a ruler should gain, maintain, and increase political power by any means necessary and disregards any Christian standards of morality (Mirkin). AThe Prince@ was directly reflected upon Cesare Borgia who began the work of uniting central Italy by ruthlessly conquering and exacting total obedience from the principalities making up the papal states. Although he shared with other humanists a profound pessimism about human nature, Machiavelli nevertheless argued that the social benefits of stability and security could be achieved even in the face of moral corruption (Vary). He truly believed that humans were not ready to serve their country unless there was a special benefit to them as individuals. Machiavelli characterized men as being self centered and not willing to act in the best interest of the state (Machiavelli). Regardless of the Christian society he lived in, these pessimistic views of humanity led him to maintain that the prince may have to manipulate the people in any way necessary (Mirkin). So while he mocked human nature, he still believed that the ruling Prince should be the only authority that determined every aspect of the state and not the Church (Machiavelli). The new ideas developed by Machiavelli surrounding politics greatly influenced future monarchies and government....
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