The Humanistic Tradition I

 From the Ancient World to The Reformation

I. Short Essay (1 Question; 25 Points):  Answer fully one of the following questions. Remember to answer who? what? why? where? and when? for each question.  Illustrate your answers with specific references to artists, writers, or composers or to works of art, literature, or music.  Essays should be at least two double-spaced typed pages (500-600 words) in length.

1.  Desribe the layout, architecture, and sculpture of a Gothic cathedral like Chartres.  What was the "cult of the virgin'?  How does the sculpture and stained glass at Chartres reflect this cult?

2.  Desribe how the architecture, sculpture, painting, and music worked together to create a synthesis of medieval teachings on salvation and the divine order.  Uses specific examples to illustrate why a building like Chartres or Amiens Cathedral has been called "a Bible in stone and glass".

3. How did a plague like the Black Death affect the lives, psychology, and thinking of late medieval Europeans?  What does the excerpt from Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron tell us about the impact of the Black Death on 14th-century Florence?  What other disasters were visited upon 14th-century Europeans?

4. Describe the major characteristics of the work of each of these authors: Giovanni Boccaccio (“social realism”), Christine de Pisan (“feminism”), and Geoffrey Chaucer (“social realism”).

5. Compare and contrast Cimabue’s Madonna Enthroned (Figure 13.38) with Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned (Figure 15.7).  What is similar and what is different?  What do the differences reveal about the new direction European painting was taking?

6. Define the term renaissance.  Why is it applied to the cultural and intellectual changes that took place in Italy beginning in the 14th century?  What are the major characteristics of “classical humanism”?  Discuss at least three works that represent this concept.

7. Explain why Francesco Petrarch is often called the “father of humanism”?  He described himself as follows: “I am like a man standing between two worlds: I look forward and I look back.”  What did he mean by this statement?  How are some of fundamental conflicts of the Renaissance revealed in his writings?

8. Read the excerpt from Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man.  What is his main thesis about the nature of man?  How does he make his argument?  Which features of classical humanism are represented in Pico’s Oration?

9. Other writers also wrote about the new Renaissance concept of man and woman.  Describe the main features of the thought of Leon Battista Alberti, Baldassare Castiglione, Laura Cereta, Lucretia Marinella, and Niccolò Machiavelli.  Suppose these writers were all on a Renaissance “talk show”; what would the conversation be like?

10. Machiavelli’s The Prince is one of the most influential books in history.  What did he argue about the nature of politics?  Do modern nations, their rulers, and politicians operate in the manner described by Machiavelli?  What are the consequences of this behavior?

11. Study Donatello’s David.  What is revolutionary about this statue and what does it tell us about Renaissance concepts of sculpture?  Why did other Renaissance sculptors favor the nude?

12. Describe the relationship between Renaissance architecture (particularly the works of Brunelleschi and Alberti) and classical Greco-Roman architecture.  Use specific examples.

13. What are the characteristics of the art and architecture of the High Renaissance?  Compare Donatello’s David with that of Michelangelo – how are they similar, how are they different? How are the characteristics of the High Renaissance evident in the later work of Leonardo and that of Raphael, Palladio, Bramante, and Michelangelo?

14. Martin Luther did not “cause” the Protestant Reformation, but it did set it off by posting the Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg in 1517.  What prepared the ground for Luther’s challenge? What did Luther want to accomplish (read the excerpt from his Address to the German Nobility)?  Where did Protestantism spread and why?  What impact has the Reformation had on European (and World) History?

15. Describe the major characteristics of Northern Renaissance art.  Illustrate your points with examples from the works of Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

16. In what ways did the Northern Renaissance differ from the Italian Renaissance?  Is the term “renaissance” appropriate for what was happening in the North during the 16th century?  Support your opinion with specific examples from the text.

This Page is Maintained by Robert W. Brown
Last Update:  29.XI.2006

Return to Robert W. Brown's Home Page

Return to the History Home Page