Florence, Rome, and the Origins of the Renaissance

Florence, Rome, and the Origins of the Renaissance

Florence, Rome, and the Origins of the Renaissance

Florence, Rome, and the Origins of the Renaissance

Synopsis

The years between 1260 and 1320 saw in Tuscany the flourishing of a rich literary and artistic tradition that signalled the beginning of the Renaissance. This study sets out to place the remarkable cultural achievements of those early years in full historical perspective. Holmes describes the world of Dante and Giotto -- and the circumstances in which their innovations became possible -- through a thorough examination of the politics, economy, culture, and religion of early Renaissance Tuscany, explaining how each of these factors inflenced the art of the period. A comprehensive and abundantly-illustrated historical overview, this book will be welcomed by anyone interested in Renaissance art, literature, or history.

Excerpt

The Italian Renaissance is sometimes thought to begin with the blossoming of classical scholarship under the aegis of Salutati and Chrysoloras in early fifteenth-century Florence. A period, however, which excludes the innovations of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, Giotto and Giovanni Pisano leaves out the origins of the prolonged outpouring of art and thought which the word 'Renaissance' evokes in our minds. The enrichment of artistic and philosophical conceptions which we owe to the Tuscan imagination runs in a line, interrupted but not broken and always standing out from the general development of European civilization, from the late thirteenth to the early sixteenth centuries. I have, therefore, ventured to apply the idea of the Renaissance to the lifetime of Dante, 1265 to 1321, when Tuscan creativity first appeared.

I have aimed in this book to put the major developments of the literary and visual arts in a-more general historical setting which includes their political and economic environment. I do not imagine, of course, that they can be explained in this way. The historical explanation of artistic creativity is always imperfect, even when the sources for it are very much better than they are in the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, there are reasons why the enterprise seems to be worth attempting. Tuscany in the age of Dante is the place and time when the arts began to emerge as a separate area of activity independent of ecclesiastical or secular domination. The ultimate result of this movement, which we see in the work of painters and novelists centuries later, is a notable feature of European civilization, arguably as important as science or the nation state. If the beginning is to be seen in perspective it has to be seen in both literature and the visual arts, which develop with a striking simultaneity around 1300. And for the historical imagination, it is tempting to try to see artistic change against the background of the social circumstances in which the artists lived. I have tried, therefore, to write about this episode in the history of painting and poetry as part of the history of Tuscany, adding a rather strong emphasis on the relations between the Tuscans and the papal court, which is essential to the story of the arts.

Apart from the inherent difficulties of writing history of this kind, I am also conscious of the amateurism which is the fate of a writer who attempts to embrace a number of widely different kinds of human activity, each of which has attracted the lifelong specialization of the experts. To attempt, even to a very limited extent, to see significant events of the distant past in a meaningful perspective in which different aspects of society are related, the historian must . . .

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