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Renaissance Comparison
Italian and Northern European Renaissance
Hum/205 Instructor: Eleisa Jordan Essie M Grayer

Renaissance means "rebirth." This term essentially came about as the Renaissance marked a new era in thought and feeling, by which Europe and its civilization were to be transformed in the future. The revelations that occurred in Italy influenced other countries for at least 200 years. Outside of Italy the Renaissance was more of a blend of the old and the new with religion being the most important factor. The Italian and northern Renaissance's, although both made advancements in style and beliefs, had many faces and events that were different. Humanism is defined as a literary movement that occurred during the Renaissance. Although it was understood to be the same thing throughout Europe, the Italians and the northerners conceived it differently. Some of the more important northern humanists include John Calvin, Thomas More in England, and Erasmus of Rotterdam. The Christian humanism of the north is easily distinguished with the "pagan" humanism of Italy. In the north, humanists studied the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible and read the Church Fathers so that they could further understand Christianity and restore its moral vitality. They generally regarded universities as centers of pedantic, monkish, and "scholastic" learning. These universities gave little interest to experimental science or even literary studies. The Italian humanists wrote in Latin, but often complained that it had become monkish, "scholastic", and in some ways useless. The schools in Italy preferred the more classical style of Cicero or Livy. Francesco Petrarca, or Petracrch, is known as the first man of letters. He criticized both the law and the clergy relentlessly. Lorenzo Valla became one of the founders for textual criticism and of his many accomplishments he proved the Donation of Constantine a forgery. The social and cultural similarities and differences are kind of imbedded in the essay; basically, they are religious differences. While Italy was Catholic at the time of its Renaissance, in the

North it started with the Reformation and the rise of Protestantism. In catholic countries they focused on strengthening traditional Christian imagery, sometimes to extremes (think of the Spanish Inquisition), while in the North, the focus was on education and being able to read the Bible on your own, which lead to iconoclasm. In matter of social and cultural influence on artworks, it pretty much boils down to the religious wars of the 16th and 17th century.

Ironically, it's the Italian Renaissance, with Renaissance Humanism, that brought the necessary impetus for the Reformation to happen in Germany. Already in the early 16th century people like Machiavelli were writing about a need for the Roman Catholic Church to reform, but not to the extent of separating from it which was what Luther essentially achieved. However, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Sandro Botticelli are tantamount with fine art during the Renaissance period. The Renaissance marked that moment when Western civilization made its transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world. Renaissance is marked by a proliferation of the arts, the sciences, and the tenets of humanism. In that era, there were three of the most greatest art genius of all times that they marked a landmark in the Renaissance and therefore in the world-wide history of the art: Leonardo Da Vinci, whose works of art were considered a significant representation of the concept of Renaissance Man because of the humanist emphasis on the individuals; and Michelangelo Buonarroti, whose ideal was the full realization of the individuality, someone with his work, revealed a deep understanding of humanity and reflects a neo-Platonic philosophy. And last but not least, Botticelli that also was one of the great ones at the time of the Renaissance.

Michelangelo's Piet, a depiction of the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion, was carved in 1499, when the sculptor was 24 years old. Michelangelos sculptures were very lifelike and this type of sculpturing was achieved during the Italian Renaissance era. Jan van Eyck was an important Northern Renaissance artist. He is credited with the invention of the oil-glazing technique, which replaced the earlier egg-tempera method. This allowed for rich details and luminous colors (later artists would work directly in oils on canvas, allowing the paintings to become larger and lighter, without warping or insect infestation). Whether or not Van Eyck was actually the first person to use this new medium may be of

secondary importance to the achievements of his work, for he was truly a master of meticulous detail and well-planned compositions.

Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Wedding, 1434

Moreover, the Duchy of Burgundy encompassed a territory from present-day eastern France northward to the sea, and included parts of modern Belgium and sections of the current Netherlands. It was the only state standing amid France and the vast Holy Roman Empire at the time. The dukes of Burgundy would best fit the description as a worthy counter-part to the wealthy merchants of Italy. But their wealth and patronage was their only claim to a similarity, because the type of patronage and works they funded contrasts heavily with the merchants in Italy. The Dukes patronage funded illuminated manuscripts, tapestries and furnishings to fill their many castles they owned. Unlike their wealthy Italian counter parts, the merchant patrons of Italy were keener on fresco paintings, sculpture and architecture. A guild can be the only true aspect of the Renaissance that the North and Italy shared as a whole. A guild was a center of learning and knowledge in a particular field of art or trade. The master or the head of the Guild and generally the best in that respective field, would apprentice out young men for the guild and teach them the tricks of the trade. Both regions of the Renaissance enacted the use of Guilds to help spread the knowledge. The Renaissance, in the North and Italy, was a monumental period of change, not just for the world of art and sculpture, but for religion, technology and the use of science. Under the Renaissance, human progress was making up pace. Regardless of the

comparisons and contrasts, the similarities and differences in painting and sculpture, the Renaissance as whole affected Europe on a wide scale. The most important element of the northern Renaissance was religion. In Italy the religious sense, if not gone completely, was passed into a cult in which God was glorified by works of art. Finally the Italian Renaissance focused on classical mythology and religious scenes. This civilization used fresco, tempera, oil and best known for figures with mass and volume. While the Northern European focused on domestic interiors, portraits, religious scenes and minute surface details. This civilization used oil on panel. Religious beliefs played a big part in the art for both the Northern European and Italian Renaissance civilization. The Italians and the northerners conceived art differently.

References Baron, Hans. (1966). The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in an Age of Classicism and Tyranny. Janson, H.W., Janson, A. F. (1997). History of Art (5th, rev. ed.). New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.