Prominent Names in the Renaissance

The Renaissance:
The Usual Suspects
Prominent Names of the Movement
• The Humanist or intellectuals of the
Renaissance Age between the 14th and 15th
centuries called their age an “Age of Re-birth.”
• They as Petrarch believed they had emerged
from a ‘Dark Age’ and restored art, letters,
reason, and intellect to the world.
• They saw themselves as accomplished
individuals that succeeded because of their own
reasoning and intellect—not necessarily a
divine intervention.
• So what is this Renaissance? What goes under
the title in an outline?
• Certainly there is the humanism polemic that
evinces human reason above all other sophistry.
• But what does humanism mean— “a love and
concern for human beings.”
• “Man is a dignified creature simply because
God endowed him with free will, reason, and
the image of Godliness (spirituality or physical
• For some renaissance thinkers, it remained a religious
concept of “Faith seeking understanding.” God is
• Machiavelli suggests that humanism is preoccupied
with worldly and material human concerns—ie.
Politics and sociology. To Machiavelli, this is the
world—it is reality, one must deal with it—neither
good nor bad—just reality.
• Humanism can mean a devotion to the humane
disciplines, liberal arts and humanities(no theology).
• One of the best examples
was the quarrels and
contention between
Michelangelo and Pope
Julius II “Warrior
• The Sistine Chapel being
the bone of contention;
• He kept his work hidden
even from the Pope—
stating “when it satisfies
me as an Artist.” it will
be done.
• Dante is best known for
the Commedia—it was
actually his last work.
• 1) Vita Nuova—31 love
poems, treats love
allegorically—it brings
Dante spiritual
• 2) De Vulgari
masterful essay on
literary theory—can it
be a magnum opus in the
common vernacular?
• De Monarchia—a history between Popes and
Emperors—Dante upholds the notion of independent
empire—or a separation of church and state
• Still, The Divine Comedy is the most prolific and well
• It is full of literary allusions that can easily escape
human understanding.
• Keep in mind however, that Dante through his
writings and searching found Spiritual Salvation—he
found this through prose and love.
• The poem is an exploration of morality and
religion and how they form and shape human
• It suggests the power that one man and one
woman can have for each other;
• But in the end it is the mysterious love of God.
• We will move chronologically:
• Early period.
• 1) Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)—son of a
Florentine merchant.
• Early years spent in Naples; he enjoyed the
Patronage of an Angevin King who resided in
the French Court.
• He resisted studying the Law—he pursued a
career writing history and satire.
• Greatest work: Decameron—
Greek for 10 days—story of
young people who move to
avoid the plague and tell 10
stories a piece for 10 days.
• Scholarship treatises
included On the Genealogy of
the Gentile Gods—
• along with Petrarch—wrote
Commedia—the life of Dante
and gave them as public
• Francesco Petracco
(Petrarch) (1304-1374).
• The giant of the early
Renaissance; studied law for
7 yrs. Considered it crass
mercantilism of the mind;
• He wrote 366 poems of a
woman mysteriously never
truly identified—he must
have shadowed her from
afar—which speaks more to
Petrarch than the woman.
• His Secret Book wrote after the death of his
brother—is a dialogue between Petrarch and
St. Augustine—where Augustine reveals all his
character flaws—probably survivor’s remorse.
• He found some works of Cicero and studied
him—he also translated Homer into Latin.
• He was friends with many of the great
intellectual figures of his day—they also in turn
wanted to now him—first serious work on
Julius Caesar. (never finished—he died).
• He loved Books—very indicative of his
• “Books are welcome, assiduous companions, always ready to
appear in public or go back to their silent box, they can speak
or be silent, they can stay at home, or make the trek to the
woods … they can gossip, joke, encourage, advise, or
reprimand … they can give comfort or admonish …
• Said of himself … “ I am a clumsy searcher … [yet] I hold in
lieu of truth … I hold nothing, know nothing, and doubt
everything …
• Yet, he was also a religious person—”Theology is a poem that
has God for its subject.”
• Petrarch flourishes at the height of Florentine
• The Florentine Chancellor Coluccio Salutati
(1331- 1406) founded and endowed many
• He maintained a correspondence with many of
the scholars and thinkers of his day—he
patronized and attracted many scholarly
figures—he said that family life and public
service was more important than penance and
ascetic monasticism (a Cicero ideal).
• Argued for separation of
church and state;
• Believed that a free
republican government
nourished and
propagated idealism,
free people and free
institutions of
• He was a ‘Civic
• Guarino of Verona
(1374-1460) stressed a
classical paradigm shift
in education such as
Latin and Greek;
• This way common
vernacular would be
known from the truly
scholared individuals;
• Demarcation between
disciplines, genres and
levels of intellect.
• Guarino wanted students to not only study the
classics, learn the classics, but to emulate
classical behavior and values found in the
• He placed Rhetoric along side of logic and
• He thought that a republic of virtue could
easily be created in an environment of
graceful refined language.
• Lorenzo De Medici (14491492) called the
• Great family of bankers and
merchants—also a great
awareness of patronage for
the arts.
• He became head of state at
21—very popular leader
even with the lower classes;
• Good diplomat and leader,
able to maintain peace.
• He diligently and tirelessly pursued the notion
of Florence to be the cultural center of Italy,
which meant Europe.
• He spent half th state budget on books for the
Medicean Academy;
• Promoted civic humanism: “ask what you can
do for your country …”
• Inaugurated the courtly phase of the
• Enea Silvio Piccolomini
name to Aeneas Silvius,
not that uncommon in
this era;
• Tuscan, son of an
• Studied law, but was
attracted to classical
studies in Florence.
• Gave up the study of Law—traveled around
Europe for 20 yrs in the entourage of a
wealthy Cardinal;
• Wrote treatises, satires, and scurrilous tales—
he was quite the Cad;
• 1445-returned to Rome; 1448 a consecrated
Bishop; in 1458 elected Pope;
• Tried to Launch a Crusade; wrote a scathing
refutation of the Quran.
• Leonardo Da Vinci
(1452-1519) the
illegitimate son of a
Lawyer and a Servant;
• Handsome, versatile,
graceful, fine singer,
insatiable curiosity;
• Did not have a humanist
education—Latin awful
and no Greek;
• 1482 went to Milan worked as an Engineer;
painted portraits to make ends meet; designed
stage sets and costumes; drew maps, proposed
irrigation systems; created a central heating
system in Sforza’s palace; etc …
• 1499 Sforza fell from power, Da Vinci spent the
rest of his life wandering;
• Never finished a statue; about a dozen finished
paintings remain from a very prolific life.
• His greatest achievements were not paintings
but sketches and insight into nature,
mechanics, and anatomy/physiology.
• He designed, not really workable, helicopters,
flying machines, tanks, rapid fire weapons;
• His lasting legacy of course was the Mona Lisa
• Michelangelo
Buonoratti (1475-1564)
• Florentine of high birth;
• Vehemently opposed to
his choice of vocation;
• Was favored and a
patron of Lorenzo de
Medici; Greek sculpture
was being uncovered
greatly influenced
however, surpassed the
• The ambient political and religious turmoil
influenced him—he added human drama to
• Because of the advancement of human anatomy
his sculptures were very human like; very much
realism in his work;
• He sculpted David in 1501; most of his work
was an eclectic realism of Gothic, Greek, and
Christian. He also did the famous Sistine
Chapel and the Tomb for Pope Julius II.
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