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Intellectual Life of the Painters of the Early Renaissance

  • Date Submitted: 01/27/2010 11:10 PM
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Before attempting to answer the question it is important to consider what we mean by ‘early Italian Renaissance. Unlike many periods in history the Renaissance has no obvious start and end dates, for the purposes of this assignment I will define the approximate period within which to look as about 1390 to about 1520. 1390 represents the time when the Carrara court in Padua was gaining an intellectual reputation of excellence, as well as this being about the time that two Roman coin like medals were cast of Francesco II and his father. This represents a typically renaissance trait of looking to antiquities for inspiration, as will be discussed later. The time around 1520 represents when Raphael died this was followed closely by the death of Pope Leo X, the second High Renaissance pope. It is after their deaths that the creative and optimistic mood in Italy began to fade. The decade ending 1520 saw Leonardo da Vinci leaving for France and then dieing there in 1519. There are many other examples that could confirm these dates as significant, and also many more that would dispute them, but for the purposes of simplicity we will take these as a guide. In the beginnings of the Renaissance painting was seen very much as a craft performed by members of the artisan class and not a ‘liberal art’. In fact the term artist was not used, as it is today, as a general term meaning painter and sculptor. ‘Artista’ was a term already in use by Dante, but it was used in reference to a University level graduate of the ‘liberal arts’, it is not until the beginning of the sixteenth century that it is used in a context resembling today's usage. The lower status of painting at the beginning of the Renaissance is reflected in the fact that members of the aristocracy or learned class did not generally practice it. A member of the Milanese aristocracy, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio’s epitaph stressed that although he was a painter, he was an amateur, because if it were thought that he made his...


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