Renaissance in the Arts – Cultural Development in the Modern Age
Under the influence of humanist ideas, the Renaissance flourished in Western Europe. Renaissance development was not homogeneous in all regions. It varied from place to place, but its greatest splendor happened in Italy, especially in the city of Florence, but also in the region of Flanders and in Germany. In general, they were places where commerce gave rise to a wealthy bourgeoisie, which was willing to finance the artistic and intellectual production of the time.
Families of merchant-bankers, kings themselves, or the Church, they hired the best artists to make sumptuous buildings, palaces, churches, statues, paintings in their cities or even to produce works of art in their homes. Known as patrons (reference to a sponsor of the arts in ancient Rome), these people became protectors of Renaissance cultural production, guaranteeing the livelihood of these artists.
In Florence, for example, the Medici were the wealthiest family in the city. Their fortune had begun thanks to the activity of the banker Cosimo di Médici (1389-1464). He founded an academy dedicated to the studies of Plato’s philosophy and was responsible for supporting sculptors, painters and architects who transformed Florence into a true work of art in the open
In general, it can be said that the Renaissance brought about an immense renewal in the most varied fields of knowledge and produced artists, thinkers, scientists whose works influenced all the intellectual production of the following centuries.
Faith and reason
During the High Middle Ages (from the 5th to the 10th century), the Romanesque and Gothic styles, essentially religious in character, prevailed in art. Art – mainly painting, sculpture and architecture -, sponsored by the Church, aimed to transmit to man the theocentric ideas of faith (conception that has God – from the Greek, Théos – as the center of all things), marked by a mystical character that sought to remove the human being of his earthly interests.
In painting, the transformation began with Giotto (1267-1337), who presented works with natural motifs and humanized figures. Around this same period, during the first phase of the Renaissance, Dante Alighieri(1265-1321), contemporary of Giotto, wrote the “Comedy” (later called “Divina”), consecrating the Florentine language, or the Italian language, practically as it is known today. The hegemony of Latin, the language of the clergy, as a vehicle for the transmission of knowledge was coming to an end. And the appreciation of regional or national languages (vernacular) will be of great influence for the subsequent emergence of national states, freed from feudal domination.
In addition to Dante, Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) also wrote poetry, valuing a theme committed to human existence, the love of a man for a woman, and presenting the essentially human values of the ancient Greco-Roman civilization. From these works, as from many others, anthropocentrism originated, which places man (from the Greek ánthropos) as the center of concerns and values reason over faith.
Also in the 14th century, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), a master of irreverence who expressed himself in the Italian vernacular in his greatest work, “Decameron”, a collection of short stories, in which he portrays popular customs and social panorama of its time.
Second phase of the Renaissance
The 15th century, the Four hundred years, comprises the second phase of the Renaissance. This is a period marked by a greater development of the arts in general and commerce. In that century, for example, great navigations took place , due to the need to find maritime routes outside the Mediterranean. In an extraordinary commercial momentum, Portuguese and Spanish conquered the Atlantic, paving the way for India and the New World.
The painting, in Florence, gave itself the luxury of presenting diverse currents, whose representatives were Tommaso Masaccio (1401-1428), of naturalistic style, Fra Angélico (1390? -1455), who developed an art more or less close to the Gothic style, and Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), who synthesized the previous currents.
Architecture, literature and fine arts have spread from Italy to other European countries. To the north, in Flanders, painters stood out who portrayed the daily life of the upper bourgeoisie. The most famous example is the painting showing the Arnolfini couple, by Jan Van Eyck (1395? -144l), one of the precursors of oil painting, which replaced many of the previous techniques and became one of the most sophisticated forms of painting , to this day. Also in Germany, prominent names emerged, such as Albrecht Duhrer (1471-1528), who portrayed in his work the decline of feudalism.
Expansion of the Renaissance movement
The 16th century, that of the Five Hundreds, corresponded to the third phase of the Renaissance. It was marked by a further expansion of the cultural movement across Europe. In Italy, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) stands out , who made an enormous contribution to science and art. It is also important to remember the name of the mathematician, physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), one of the main responsible for the scientific development of the period.
Still in the visual arts, it is essential to consider the name of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), author of the frescoes in the Sistine chapel, and sculptures such as Davi, Moses, and others, which, due to their gigantic dimensions, show the human being’s greatness conception that prevailed in the Renaissance.
In the Five Hundred period, the term “humanist” spread throughout Europe. If Italy presented names like that of Nicolau Machiavelli (1469-1527), who stood out in literature, politics and philosophy, in England and France figures of the size of Thomas Morus (1478-1535) emerged , François Rabelais (1494-1553 ) and Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592).
Works and ideas
Machiavelli, in his work “The Prince” , described the model of the perfect ruler, laying the foundations of political science. He was also the author of the book “History of Florence”, in which, combining historical information with political reflections, he addresses some of the most striking events in the city that has become a symbol of the Renaissance.
Thomas Morus wrote “Utopia” , a work in which he idealized a perfect city in which governors and governed live harmoniously. With this idealization, the English author, in fact, was making a profound criticism of the society of his time, especially against those in power.
Rabelais (1494-1533) was one of the most popular writers of the period. With the amusing stories of the giants Gargântua and Pantagruel, the author satirized with much irony and shrewdness the church, the superstition and the dam that came from it. Another novelist who was consecrated during this period was the Spanish Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). In his most important work, “Don Quixote dela Mancha”, written between 1605 and 1616, the author not only satirized the cavalry novels, which were very successful at the time, but also discussed the hardships of the human soul.
In the field of philosophy, Montaigne (1533-1592) proposed skepticism as a method, stating that doubt is a necessary attitude in the face of everything, as it prevents fanaticism and develops tolerance, showing that no one owns the truth. In formal terms, his work also brings innovations: the “essay”, a genre that breaks with the logical rigor of philosophical dissertations.
Also on the philosophical plane, the name Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), a Dutch humanist who reconciled the new values with Christianity and criticized the retrograde stance of the church in the book “Praise of Madness” , should be highlighted . Its theoretical formulations, however, ended up displeasing both Catholics and followers of the religious Reformation.
Camões and Shakespeare
In Portugal the Renaissance would prove its fertility. With Gil Vicente (c. 1465-1537) the foundations of dramaturgy in Portuguese would be laid. The author wrote several records, among which “O Auto das Barcas” and “A Farsa de Inês Pereira” stand out. The poet Sá de Miranda (1481-1558), returning from Italy, introduced in his country the new style that was brilliantly handled by Luís de Camões (1527-1580), especially in his monumental epic “Os Lusíadas”, which reflects the splendor and misery of Portuguese expansion, at the same time that it narrates the entire history of the country, mixing myth and reality.
In England, William Shakespeare(1564-1616), adopting Italian poetic measures and adapting the sonnet to his language, also immortalized himself as a genius playwright, producing tragedies, reflecting the misery and the greatness of the human condition. Among his main works are “Hamlet” and “Macbeth”, although he became more popular with the tragedy “Romeo and Juliet”.
Decline of the Renaissance period
At the end of the 16th century, however, artistic or philosophical works already revealed certain stylistic differences in relation to those that were conventionally called Renaissance, and reflected changes taking place on the socio-political level. The Renaissance then began to disappear.
Among the main causes of this disappearance is the fact that part of the Church, accommodating itself to the capitalist way of life, broke with the backward Roman clergy, promoting several religious reformsthat originated new Christian churches. From then on, Europe divided between Catholics and Protestants became a continent in crisis, where obscurantism, fanaticism, religious wars and the fires of the Holy Inquisition predominate. In this arid terrain, of fear and uncertainty, the Renaissance lost the balance and harmony that made it flour