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Example research essay topic: Intellectual Life Of The Painters Early Renaissance - 1,309 words

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Before attempting to answer the question it is important to consider what we mean by early Italian Renaissance. Unlike many periods in history the Renaissance has no obvious start and end dates, for the purposes of this assignment I will define the approximate period within which to look as about 1390 to about 1520. 1390 represents the time when the Carrara court in Padua was gaining an intellectual reputation of excellence, as well as this being about the time that two Roman coin like medals were cast of Francesco II and his father. This represents a typically renaissance trait of looking to antiquities for inspiration, as will be discussed later. The time around 1520 represents when Raphael died this was followed closely by the death of Pope Leo X, the second High Renaissance pope.

It is after their deaths that the creative and optimistic mood in Italy began to fade. The decade ending 1520 saw Leonardo da Vinci leaving for France and then dieing there in 1519. There are many other examples that could confirm these dates as significant, and also many more that would dispute them, but for the purposes of simplicity we will take these as a guide. In the beginnings of the Renaissance painting was seen very much as a craft performed by members of the artisan class and not a liberal art.

In fact the term artist was not used, as it is today, as a general term meaning painter and sculptor. Artista was a term already in use by Dante, but it was used in reference to a University level graduate of the liberal arts, it is not until the beginning of the sixteenth century that it is used in a context resembling today's usage. The lower status of painting at the beginning of the Renaissance is reflected in the fact that members of the aristocracy or learned class did not generally practice it. A member of the Milanese aristocracy, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffios epitaph stressed that although he was a painter, he was an amateur, because if it were thought that he made his living from painting it would significantly lower his social status. It is for this reason that few people in the early Renaissance would see painting as a method of social advancement or to demonstrate intellectual ability. This did not however stop many painters having aspirations for higher social and intellectual status, despite their background and education rarely supporting this aspiration.

The majority of painters were brought up in the artisan class, this meant that painters seldom went to Grammar school or University. Most painters education was limited to the basic training provided by the abacus school. There are however exceptions to this trend, perhaps most notably Alberti. He attended Grammar school and graduated in law from University. Similarly Leonardo da Vinci was gifted in mathematics, as Vasari tells us, he began to learn arithmetic and after a few months he had made such progress that he used to baffle his master with questions and problems that he raised. # Even Leonardo did not have knowledge of Latin.

The study of Latin was not part of the abacus school curriculum. When Pietro Lorenzetti needed a text of the life of St Savings for his alter piece in Siena Cathedral; he paid a grammar school teacher to translate the text from Latin for him. Proficiency in Latin was a prerequisite to be considered a literate man in higher social circles. The lack of a humanist education on the part of the artist perpetuated the view of painting as a craft. Leonardo admitted in the last decade of the fifteenth century that he was not a man of letters he was saying he did not have a command of Latin I do not have literary learning but my concerns are better handled through experience rather than bookishness. # Despite this statement it is obvious from an analysis of the books in his library that he attempted to learn Latin.

A gradual increase in the number of Latin texts suggests he gained in proficiency in later life. Leonardo's library was certainly not typical of the early renaissance artists. The size and scholarly character of it was unheard of amongst his contemporaries. This effort on the part of Leonardo is evidence of his desire to advance his position within society. Leonardo did much to improve the view of artists, and himself became a courtier. Drer thought that it was important for young artists should be taught how to read and write Latin in order to be able to understand certain texts.

The style and quality of the early Renaissance painters handwriting can be a good indication of the types of education received. There is very little awareness of the new humanistic script early in the fifteenth century. This does change over the course of the century with some intellectually aspiring artists developing sophisticated humanistic script. This can be seen in Manlegnas letter of 1484 to Lorenzo the magnificent de Medici, as this is written in a refined humanistic hand. The effort to improve the quality of their handwriting shows that the artists are trying to emulate characteristics found in courtiers and other learned people. The awareness of the humanistic script also shows the desire of the artists to advance their social position and also the recognition that this cannot be done solely through the quality of their work.

There is a deliberate attempt on the part of the artist to gain intellectual credibility. The study of more intellectual fields was not solely for advancement within the intellectual community. Early in the Renaissance periods artists realised that education in more intellectual areas was essential to the advancement of painting from a craft to a profession. Lorenzo Ghiberti proposed that painters should embark on a study of grammar, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, philosophy, history, medicine, anatomy, perspective and theoretical design.

This would be a substantial undertaking for anyone, regardless of background. This curriculum was perhaps a bit too ambitious. Alberti was slightly more realistic in his treatise De Picture, | want the painter, as far as he is able, to be learned in all the liberal arts, but I wish him above all to have a good knowledge of geometry. # Geometry was particularly important to Alberti not just because of his passion for maths, but because in the same treatise he proposes a method of representing a three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional panel, called perspective. This was a substantial development for painting but did require knowledge of geometry in order to use the technique effectively.

The early experiments show that this was not an easy technique to master. The knowledge of geometry required was beyond that taught at abacus school. For a painter to embark on an extended curriculum of more intellectual study it would have been after their basic training at abacus school and even perhaps after their initial apprenticeship. At the beginning of the fifteenth century an artists apprenticeship would be very unlikely to contain a wider intellectual syllabus. This did change through the course of the early Renaissance; opportunities in the bottega allowed the painter to absorb intellectual ideas and understanding.

During the course of the early renaissance artists increasingly wished to take on apprenticeships that allowed the opportunity to expand their intellectual range, so these opportunities were seized with increased regularity. During the early renaissance there were shifts in the social status of the artist as well as the extent to which he was valued as an intellectual. This marked the gradual shift from the artist as a craftsman to a practitioner of the liberal arts. An artist favoured by a court might be awarded the title valet de chambre or familiaris. These positions were a significant advancement from the positions of other artisans, but he was not yet a courtier but h...

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Research essay sample on Intellectual Life Of The Painters Early Renaissance

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