Thursday, January 17, 2013

Italian Renaissance (pt. 1)

            The word Renaissance means "re-birth."  It's called this because artists and scholars at this time were interested in art and literature of Ancient Greece and Rome.  Artists studied the classical works to capture lifelike qualities in their own work.  The interest in the classics was called Humanism (which, defined narrowly, is the belief that each person in this world has individual dignity and worth).  There were two extremes, and that's why the shift from Medieval to Renaissance is so vivid.  I've already described the "humble" Christian art of the previous centuries—that art which was plain, simple, and unrealistic, aimed at giving a Gospel message to the illiterate masses and at exalting God (…and Mary…and the saints).  Come the Renaissance, and art explodes into colorful and ornate images that look far more realistic and less stiff (or contrite).  The figures in Renaissance art show fluidity of motion (sound familiar?).  It was back to Greco-Roman ideals.
Some considered the grandiosity of art as a show of pride, that only stuck-up, self-absorbed, narcissistic men could paint such extravagant and beautiful paintings.  If the plain art of the Byzantine Empire carried the connotation of humility before God, art of the Renaissance sent the opposite message.  This was an elevation and celebration of humanity, of genuine human expression and artistic talent.

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