Tag: Renaissance

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Pope Julius II is best remembered for the great art he commissioned. At any rate, the art is remembered, if not the Pope. In Durant’s telling, this is when the Renaissance shifted from Florence to Rome. Julius deserves credit for having commissioned the new St. Peter’s (Bramante), the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (Michelangelo), The School of […]

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Those of you who may have been following my diary for some time will recall that my interest in the Renaissance began with Barabara Tuchman’s ‘The March of Folly’ and her section on the Renaissance popes whose folly brought on the Reformation. I wanted to know more, and have been helped immeasurably by Will Durant’s […]

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The Kingdom of Naples is a constant presence throughout Durant’s history of the Renaissance. Naples is entwined in the history of the other Italian states as ally or enemy, conspiring with or against France or Spain, and apparently having no purpose but to make mischief in the rest of Italy. Here we finally get to […]

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Emilia is perhaps the least known section of Italy, although Ravenna is a city well known to musicians. In the Renaissance, it was a contentious buffer zone between Venice and the Papal States. Durant does not have much to say about the history or the art of this region. He notes such art as is […]

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I return after much digression to the Renaissance. Those who have been following my comments on this book may have noticed a pattern in Durant’s writing. While not slighting entirely the history of people and events, he will always devote the greater part of his attention to the art and culture of the time. This […]

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After Milan, Durant then goes on to discuss the lesser centers of art in Tuscany, Mantua, and Ferrara. Again and again we hear of an artist who develops some reputation in his native city, goes to Rome to seek fame and fortune “… and then Raphael arrives” and he sinks again into obscurity. Ferrara is […]

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Having followed the progress of Florence to the 1530s, Durant then turns to the lesser cultural centers of Italy during the same time period, beginning with Milan. Naturally, he follows the fortunes of the Viscontis and Sforzas, and its arts and (missing from Florence) its letters (poetry was big in Milan). I knew of the […]

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While historians usually peg the beginning of the Renaissance at the year 1500, the Renaissance in Florence definitely belongs to the 15th century (the quatrocento), from whence it spread to the rest of Italy, then the rest of Europe. In chronicling the Florentine Renaissance, Durant neatly alternates between history and culture. A bit of history […]

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As noted previously, Barbara Tuchman chronicles a fairly narrow time and place in history: Rome from roughly 1480 to 1530. I wanted to know more. Naturally, I turned to Will Durant. I used to own a full set of Durant’s Story of Civilization, but it took up a lot of shelf space, and I never […]

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I will treat these together because they are so similar in scope and method. There seems to be a consensus among historians to place the dividing line between the middle ages and the renaissance at the year 1500. I suppose it needs to be somewhere, but this tends to make the very interesting late 15th […]

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This is a massive tome covering the whole of Christianity. It is most useful, in the context of my investigations into the Italian Renaissance, for its brief lives of the principal characters during the decades around 1500, and for definitions of the more arcane terminology within the Catholic church. If you need to know the […]

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For over twenty years, Johann Burchard was the Master of Ceremonies at the Vatican, serving five of the Popes discussed by Barbara Tuchman in The March of Folly, and kept a diary the entire time. Mostly a detailed chronicle of the ceremonial protocols he managed, in later years the diary also included accounts of events […]

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This marks the beginning of an obsession with the Renaissance that is still ongoing Tuchman provides a detailed history of six popes from Sixtus IV to Clement VII, showing how their greed, venality, and resistance to reform resulted in the end of the power of the papacy and the rise of the Reformation. Tuchman wisely […]

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Anachronistic Costumed Nerds – RenFaire in the Time of Plague

 

A RenFair captured in a single photo

I majored in History and Secondary ed, with an English minor… and I carefully tuck all that away when I go to Renaissance fairs. It is a lot easier, that way, to just roll with the anachronisms and have fun. One of the regular acts that comes through Ohio, The KamiKaze FireFlies, sells t-shirts that say “Just a bunch of nerds, playing dress up in the woods,” and I cannot add to that. This fair (faire?), whose grounds are permanently set up just south of Wilmington, Ohio, is nominally supposed to be set in 1590-ish. So they have a Queen Bess and royal attendants, and of course (during a normal year at least, which this is not) they have jousts and sorta-period-correct games, but any actual adherence to historical accuracy is no more than lip-service and happy accident. In any other year this would have been a massive affair, with long lines just to get into the parking field, long lines of people donning and fixing costumes while queuing up to scan their tickets under the portcullis, long lines for food and drink, and dusty hot crowds cheering on the stage acts and jousts.

Hitchcock and the Moral-Religious Criticism of Art

 

Have you listened to my new movie podcast about Psycho? During the discussion of the moral concerns and conservative intentions of the movie-making, we tried to bring in the objects of art, and suggested that Hitchcock shows the audience certain important juxtapositions of movie plot and works of art, of settings–like the imposing residence–and societies–liberalism. I want to show you the works of art and to discuss their importance to the movie’s moral concerns. I’ll discuss them in the order in which they appear.

1. The Bates house, a very stately, old-fashioned kind of California architecture. The design is taken from Ed Hopper’s House by a railroad.

Andrea del Castagno, Last Supper

 

This very large fresco has been a secret for most of its history. It was painted in the 1440s for the cloistered nuns of Santa Apollonia in Florence, which is why it was very rarely seen by outsiders. Eventually, it was covered in plaster, which is why it’s so well preserved, unlike the scenes above it. We have it rediscovered only since the suppression of the nuns by the military in the 1860s, and can now marvel at the poetic effect it achieves and see in what its greatness consists. Indeed, authorship itself was unwittingly a secret, but that, too, has been resolved. The last secret, not likely of resolution, is the story of the author. Castagno is little known except by slander and by his works, and the slander is not honest either. The most famous chronicler of Renaissance Italy, Vasari, offers a great big lie of a story accusing him of murdering another painter out of jealousy–so far as anyone can tell, the lie is meant to explain the dramatic quality of Castagno’s painting–his characters have no softness about them. Art history could step in to help us in our time of need, explaining what painting looked like before him and afterward, but that’s too much of a distraction. We can only attend to the mysteries in the painting itself.

This last supper is one of a rare number of paintings that articulate the mystery of the stories in the Gospels in a quiet way, through the technique. It strikes me that some such paintings make far more of a claim for their makers’ craft than you might expect of wall-painters who merely painted stories everyone already knew–the development of technique seems to be tied up with a reflection on what we believe. So I will first point out the Gospel elements of the painting and then look to what the painter added. You can see the Gospel of John, chp.13 faithfully followed in John lying on Christ’s bosom as Christ blesses him; in Christ’s having just given Judas the piece of bread that identifies him as the betrayer; in the confusion of the Apostles; and in Peter’s inquisitive intimacy. Piety is aided by the names that identify the Apostles. The Christian abhorrence of Judas is such that he’s depicted across the table–he does not confront us–his posture means he cannot look at us. On the other hand, it means, he’s closest to us of the gathering…

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This is a Deposition about which I also wrote last year. It’s a great big painting, about six feet by six, painted in oil on wood. Raphael painted it in his youth–he was about 23. This is a strange work–great artistry is put to work to conceal the terrible loss. Raphael is not showing us […]

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Leonardo’s Annunciation. (A youthful work, in collaboration with his master, Andrea del Verrocchio. It’s done in oil & watercolors on wood. It’s in the Uffizi, in the Leonardo room, where there are no Leonardo paintings, except this collaboration & another collaboration. I think there’s a Ghirlandaio in the room–another apprentice of Verrocchio. They should have called […]

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Today’s painting is another fresco–Andrea del Castagno’s Cenacolo–this one’s going to take me back to my student days–a professor took me to see this fresco in the Refettorio di Sant’Apollonia, due West of the Piazza San Marco; (our own Merina Smith’s favorite monastery in Florence, as I learned a month or two back…) This is […]

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