Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, Conte

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, Conte

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Conte (jōvän´kōn´pē´dĕl´mērän´dōlä), 1463–94, Italian philosopher and humanist. To many in the age of the Renaissance, Pico was the ideal man, whose physical beauty reflected his inner harmony. He appears in Il Cortegiano of Baldassare Castiglione. In 1484 he went to Florence where he soon became one of the most active members of Lorenzo de'Medici's Platonic Academy and the chief exponent of Italian Neoplatonism. His studies in Hebrew led to the composition of his celebrated 900 theses on a reconciliation of Christianity with Platonic philosophy. In 1487 he was forced to recant 13 propositions, and his clash with Pope Innocent VIII led to his arrest (1488) at Lyons. Although attacked by the church, Pico's theses were an important symbol of the Renaissance blending of Christian and Greek ideas. Lorenzo invited him back to Florence, where he remained until his death, becoming a follower of Girolamo Savonarola. In his Oration on the Dignity of Man (c.1487) he proclaimed that individuals face no limits to their development except those that are self-imposed. His other works include Heptaplus, a mystical account of the creation; De ante et uno; and an unfinished attack on astrology. Sir Thomas More's Life of John Picus, Earl of Mirandula is a translation of the biography by Pico's nephew, Giovanni Francesco (1890).

See selections of his works, tr. by C. F. Wallis et al. (1965); and W. G. Craven, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1981).

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