The Limits of Influence: Pico, Louvain, and the Crisis of Renaissance Astrology

By Steven Vanden Broecke | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FOUR
HUMANISM AND COURT ASTROLOGY:
THE 1524 CONJUNCTIONS AT LOUVAIN

l. Introduction

The first two decades of the sixteenth century marked the rise of humanism as a prominent cultural trend in the Low Countries. While this development emerged from several places at once (including several Latin schools, epistolary exchange, printing presses, and private academies), its most forceful cultivation was centered around Louvain. Through the printing press of Dirk Martens, the university town obtained easy access to the fine fleur of Italian humanism, including authors like Poliziano, Ermolao Barbara, and Filelfo.1 Teachers like Martinus Dorpius adopted the didactic principles of Italian humanism, while the foundation of the Collegium Trilingue (1517) provided the local movement with an institutional identity that both Erasmus and Vives adopted.2

The work of Giovanni Pico played a significant role in these didactic innovations, as Marc Laureys has shown.3 The collection of Pico’s Auree epistole carried great weight as a suitable stylistic model for the teaching of letter writing. However, the interest in Pico was not limited to his relevance for the trivium. Richard Pafraet, whose production usually served the needs of the Deventer humanists, printed the first two books of the Disputations in 1502. The Parisian circle of Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples, arguably the most influential proponent of Piconian ideas in northern Europe at that time, also exerted a strong influence on Louvain humanism. We will see that the emulation of Pico’s Disputations was part of this trend.4

This chapter provides a detailed study of the Louvain reception of Pico’s Disputations. It shows how astrologers with court connections

1 IJsewijn, “The Coming of Humanism,” pp. 231–232.

2 IJsewijn, “Humanism in the Low Countries”; De Vocht, History.

3 See Laureys, “The Reception of Giovanni Pico in the Low Countries.”

4 See Renaudet, Préréforme et humanisme à Paris.

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