Italian Humanists recover the classical past
Donatello St. George, detail Ancient Roman bust of the Emperor Augustus
When Renaissance artists looked for inspiration in the great works of classical antiquity,
they were essentially going “back to the future.”
This passion for the ancient world began with the humanists, scholars who rejected Medieval scholastic curriculum.
“History” and “literature” were not part of the traditional curriculum.
Humanists wanted to get into direct contact with the texts of antiquity, reading them in the original, and without the mediation of scholastic interpretations.
During the Renaissance, humanists began to see the ancient world differently.
Petrarch was one of the early humanists, who tried to imagine the ancient world in its historical context.
One of Petrarch’s most renowned writings is his “Ascent of Mt. Ventoux.”
Writers were not the only ones to be attracted by the ancient world
Donatello’s work broke new ground; he introduced innovations in sculpture such as the contrapposto stance, inspired by ancient models:
Polykleitos Doryphoros 2nd cent B.C.E. Roman copy
When Donatello first carved the statue of St. George for the Armorers’ and Sword-makers’ Guild it was displayed on the facade of the Church of Orsanmichele where this copy stands today:
Located in the bustling center of the city, these statues were only some of the many works of public sculpture that Renaissance Florentines saw every day as they went about their business past the Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria.
Though Ghiberti won the competition, there were many contenders for the prestigious prize.
Here is a site that compares two competition panels, Ghiberti’s and Brunelleschi’s versions of the Sacrifice of Isaac story
To this day, it is a monument that dominates the Florentine horizon:
Florence as viewed from Fiesole
Brunelleschi also designed the following quintessentially Renaissance buildings in Florence:
The interior of the Church of Santo Spirito
The Basilica of San Lorenzo
Pazzi Chapel, exterior
Pazzi Chapel, interior
…his naturalistic portrayal of the human body…
These paintings by Masaccio would be studied by Leonardo, Michelangelo, and virtually all artists of the Renaissance.
Though only twenty-seven at the time of his death, Masaccio revolutionized art.
Masaccio, Saint Peter Healing with His Shadow
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