Modern European Cultural History

 The Early Renaissance Style

The Early (Florentine) Renaissance, The Western Humanities, Chapter 11.

1. What are the approximate dates and location (be specific) of the Early 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?

2. 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?

6. 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?

7. Describe the problem of “linear perspective”.  How Renaissance attempt to solve it?  Why were Renaissance artists so interested in solving this “problem”?

8. Explain why some scholars describe 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 “Primavera.”

9. What are the major features of the early art of Leonardo da Vinci?  What is chiaroscuro? sfumato?  Discuss Leonardo’s “Virgin of the Rocks” as a Renaissance work.

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

11. What are the characteristics of Early Renaissance music?

12. What is the legacy of the Early Renaissance?

Questions on the Readings


1. According to Petrarch, what was the major failing of contemporary scholars and thinkers?

2. What made Petrarch aware that a renaissance (rebirth) of classical learning was needed in his day?

Leonardo Bruni

1. Why did Bruni pursue the study of Greek Literature?  What was the importance of the arrival of Chrysoloras in Italy?

2. Why did Bruni advocate the study of Latin grammar and the imitation of Latin texts?

3. Why did Bruni stress the importance of studying History, classical oratory, and classical literature?  Taken together, what do we call these subjects?

4. According to Bruni, what two things were needed to acquire a good education?

Petrus Paulus Vergerius

1. According to Vergerius, what are the “liberal studies?

2. What do people gain from mastering the “liberal studies”?

3. Which subjects did Vergerius recommend for study and why?

Pico della Mirandola

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?

2. What strategy or strategies does he use to persuade his reader?

3. What does Pico della Mirandola’s Oration tell us about Renaissance attitudes and values regarding man and his place in the world?

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Last Update: 20 January 2004

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