Modern European Cultural History
Essay Questions for Examination I

I. Short Answer (1 Question; 15 Points).  Select one (1) of the following questions and answer it fully.  The essay  should be about two pages in length.  If sources are used, please cite them in your paper.  Your paper will be graded on its comprehensiveness, the quality of its argument, and the use of supporting evidence.  Review your essay for spelling and correct English usage.

1. What features characterize Renaissance humanism?  Illustrate your answer by referring to the thought of a specific humanist.  Does the Renaissance represent a revolutionary change in European thought and culture?  Why or why not?

2. Review the section in Matthews and Platt 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?

3. Describe the problem of “perspective”.  How Renaissance attempt to solve it?  Describe the types of “perspective” developed during the Renaissance and give at least one example to illustrate each.  Why were Renaissance artists so interested in solving this “problem”?

4. 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 High Renaissance style, making it distinct from that of Florence.  In particular, note the importance of the patronage system in each city.

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.

6. Summarize 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.

7. 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 Dürer’s Knight, Death, and the Devil and Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece.

8. Martin Luther, a scholar 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 religious changes brought by Luther.  Why did they occur?  What impact did the Reformation set in motion by Luther have on the arts, religious as well as secular?  What other “Reformations” (Protestant as well as Catholic) took place in the wake of Luther’s Reformation?


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Last Update: 25 February 2004

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