Renaissance and Reformation - Vol. 1

Renaissance and Reformation - Vol. 1

Renaissance and Reformation - Vol. 1

Renaissance and Reformation - Vol. 1

Excerpt

The articles in this encyclopedia constitute a critical survey of the ideas, events, and movements that marked European history between 1300 and 1700, the period from the first flowering of the Renaissance in Florence to the conclusion of the English civil wars. The set's title, Renaissance and Reformation, calls out the two defining movements of those centuries, movements whose great accomplishments in thought and deed at once summarized the achievement of the preceding two thousand years and laid the intellectual, social, and political foundations of the modern world.

An Age of Artistic Splendor. For many students of history, the meaning of the Renaissance is embodied in the achievements of its artists and architects. Preferring the glories of Rome and Greece to the traditions they had received from the Middle Ages, they midwifed a new world reborn out of ancient ideas. In Italy, France, and Spain the newly created wealth of the sixteenth century funded an artistic program that, while continuing to serve the interests of the church, as practically all medieval art had, was increasingly dedicated to creating a new secular art and to fulfilling the desires of Borgias, Medicis, and Viscontis for villas and country houses that were grandly built and lavishly painted. In the hands of Filippo Brunelleschi, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Donato Bramante, Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Albrecht Dürer, Caravaggio, and Artemisia Gentileschi, a new European art was born—in architecture imitative of late Roman classical styles and in painting dedicated to a new realism in matters secular and to an illusionism of unparalleled beauty in matters religious. This beauty is particularly striking in the works of Italian painters— Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is the great example—who brought heaven into the ceilings and domes of Italian churches. Within these pages are biographical studies of all these major figures and others; in addition, two overview articles examine developments in architecture and in painting and sculpture in close detail.

The radically new artistic styles that emerged in so short a time were an outgrowth of the radically new humanistic ideas of such thinkers as Petrarch, Desiderius Erasmus, Thomas More, and Pico della Mirandola, philosophers whose conceptions of God, human history, and most of all, the value of the individual life uprooted . . .

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