Great Cultural Epochs II

The Renaissance Style Part I: The Florentine Renaissance, Arts and Ideas, pp. 252-268

1. Explain Pico della Mirandola's main purpose in writing the Oration on the Dignity of Man. What is his concept of human nature and how does it differ from medieval concepts of man? What strategy or strategies does he use to persuade his reader? What does Pico della Mirandola's Oration tell us about Renaissance attitudes and values regarding man and his place in the world (particularly the perennial questions)?

2. What are the approximate dates of the Florentine Renaissance and what complex of historical conditions made it possible? What was taking place elsewhere in Europe at this time? How and why did Renaissance men and scholars see themselves as different from their medieval predecessors? What features characterize a Renaissance humanist? Does the Renaissance represent a revolutionary change in European thought and culture? Why or why not?

3. List and discuss the principal features of Brunelleschi's architectural style (refer specifically to the dome of Florence Cathedral and to the Pazzi Chapel). What makes these works characteristic of the Renaissance?

4. What are the principal characteristics of Ghiberti's sculpture? How does his work differ from that of Brunelleschi? Refer both to Ghiberti's competition with Brunelleschi and to the "Gates of Paradise." What makes Ghiberti's sculptures Renaissance works?

5. What characteristics of the sculpture of Donatello make him unique among Florentine sculptors? Refer to the statues on pp. 265-266.

Part II: The Florentine Renaissance. Arts and Ideas, pp. 268-289

1. Read carefully the section on Masaccio and study the pictures of the frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel. What are the distinguishing features of Masacccio's art? What is "atmospheric perspective"? How does Masaccio depict the drama of a situation? What makes these frescoes "Renaissance" works?

2. Describe the problem of "linear perspective." How did Paolo Uccello attempt to solve it? Was he, in your opinion, successful? Why or why not? Why were Renaissance artists so interested in solving this "problem"?

3. Explain why Fleming describes Sandro Botticelli as "the most representative artist of the humanistic thought" of the second half of the 15th century? In your answer, refer to the "Adoration of the Magi," the "Primavera," and the "Birth of Venus".

4. What are the major features of the art of Leonardo da Vinci? What is chiaroscuro? sfumato? Discuss either Leonardo's "Madonna of the Rocks" or "The Last Supper" as Renaissance works.

5. Explain how the nature of patronage in Renaissance Florence influenced architecture, sculpture, painting, and thought?

6. Identify the major characteristics of "classical humanism" (pp. 283-284); "scientific naturalism" (pp. 284-286); and "Renaissance individualism" (pp. 286-287). How do these characteristics also apply to Renaissance painting, sculpture, and architecture? What were the contributions of Baldassare Castiglione and Niccolo Machiavelli to the Renaissance?

Great Cultural Epochs II

The Roman Renaissance Style Discussion Questions: Arts and Ideas, Chapter 10

1. Describe the cultural setting of sixteenth-century Rome, indicating similarities with as well as differences from that of fifteenth-century Florence. Explain how both these differences and similarities helped shape the Roman Renaissance style, making it distinct from that of Florence. In particular, note the importance of the patronage system in each city.

2. Describe both the content and the form of Michelangelo's sculptures: The PiŠta and the Tomb of Julius II (especially the Moses). Explain (using Fig. 10.8) why the word terribilit… characterizes Michelangelo as well as the Moses.

3. Summarize the Neo-platonic interpretation of Michelangelo's frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Are there equally valid alternative explanations? If so, suggest one. Describe the style in which these figures are painted.

4. Explain how Donato Bramante's Tempietto symbolizes what Fleming calls "the revival of classical forms".

5. Explain how Michelangelo and other Roman Renaissance figures could simultaneously embrace pagan as well as Christian ideals, illustrating your answer with references to specific works mentioned in your text.

Great Cultural Epochs II

Northern Renaissance Styles

Part I:  The Northern European Setting and Flemish Art (pp. 312-324)

1. Summarize, based upon a reading of the opening section (pp. 313-315), the intellectual, political, economic, and cultural setting or context in which the Northern Renaissance took place.  Pay particular attention to similarities or dissimilarities between northern Europe and Renaissance Italy.

2. Look with care at the contents of Jan Gossaert's Portrait of a Merchant (c. 1530) and Hans Holbein the Younger's Allegorical Portrait of Jean de Dinteville and George de Selve (1533).  What do the details in these portraits tell us about the setting and character of the Northern Renaissance?

3. From the works of the Robert Campin (The Merode Altarpiece), the Van Eycks (The Ghent Altarpiece and The Marriage of the Arnolfini), Hieronymus Bosch (The Garden of Earthly Delights), and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (The Wedding Feast and Hunters in the Snow), identify the characteristics of 15th and 16th century Flemish art.  Compare and contrast it with contemporary developments in Italy.

Part II:  The Northern Renaissance in Germany and the influence of Martin Luther (pp. 324-339).

1. Albrecht Dürer and Matthias Grünewald are two of the greatest German artists of the Northern Renaissance.  Identify, in terms of both content and style, the characteristics of their art.  Pay particular attention to Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece.

2. Define the Latin phrases sic transit gloria mundi and memento mori and explain why pictures, such as Hans Holbein's Allegorical Portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve ("The Ambassadors"), that refer to these concepts are appropriate for the Northern Renaissance.

3. What are the essential elements of Christian Humanism (pp. 335-339) and how did this northern European movement of thought resemble and differ from Italian Humanism (represented, for example, by Pico della Mirandola).

4. Martin Luther, Fleming argues, "changed the map of Europe, . . . redirected the way people thought of themselves, their fellows, and the world about them."  What was the nature of the change brought by Luther.  What impact did the Reformation set in motion by Luther have on the arts, religious as well as secular?

Great Cultural Epochs II

The Venetian Renaissance and International Mannerism

Part I:  The Venetian Renaissance:  The following questions are based on Arts and Ideas, pp. 340-359.

1. In the city of Venice, what is the importance of St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, the Library, and the Procession (in Gentile Bellini's Procession in St. Mark's Square)?  What do these images tell us about the character of the Renaissance in Venice?  How is alike or unlike the Florentine Renaissance, the Roman Renaissance, or the Northern Renaissance?  Is a painting such as Bellini's a good historical source?  What are its limitations as a historical source?

2. Study the discussion of Palladio in the text and the pictures of his buildings (the Villa Rotonda, the Church of Il Redentore, and the Theater at Vicenza).  What are the characteristics of this architect's works?  Explain how they are typical of the Venetian Renaissance in particular and the Renaissance in general.

3. Venice has been called a paradise for painters.  Explain why the invention of oil painting was necessary before the beauties of Venice could be captured by artists and describe what opportunities this type of painting made possible.

4. Imagine that you are the curator of an art museum and the works of Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese described in your text came on the market.  You have the funds to buy two works.  Name the two works that you would purchase and explain why.  Also explain why your would not buy the other works.

Part II:  International Mannerism:  The following questions are based on Arts and Ideas, pp. 360-373.

1. Summarize the historical and intellectual context in which Mannerism appeared; explain how these years can be understood as a time of transition (c.1530-1590) between the Renaissance and the Baroque.  Finally, explain how the Venetian Renaissance and Mannerism can overlap.

2. Identify and discuss the major feature of Mannerism.  How can Mannerism be considered a reaction against the Renaissance?  How is it a continuation of the Renaissance?  Can it be both simultaneously?  Why or why not?

3. How do pictures like Pontormo's Joseph and Jacob in Egypt, Parmagianino's Madonna With the Long Neck, and Bronzino's Allegory of Venus differ from typical Renaissance paintings?  How are they similar?

4. How do the buildings of Romano, Scamozzi, and Zuccari resemble or differ from earlier Renaissance buildings?  Likewise, how does the sculpture of Benvenuto Cellini (especially Perseus and Medusa) and Giovanni Bologna (Rape of the Sabine Women) resemble or differ from Florentine or Roman Renaissance sculpture?

5. Explain what Fleming means when he speaks of the Venetian concept of "dynamic space and time".  How do these concepts relate to Mannerism?  Explain how Mannerism may or may not have prepared the way for the emergence of the Baroque style.

This page is maintained by Robert W. Brown; last up-date: 08.I.1999

Return to the CSP 201 Home Page