Western Civilizations: p. 373 - 391
& Vol. 1: p. 387 - 409
& Seminar 2 - Renaissance Ideals and Realities
- humanism: deﬁning your ideology
- art: decrease in religious themes, rediscovering pagan beauty, patrons were used
(competition amongst banking families caused conspicuous consumption to develop
reputations, use of perspective in art, classicism
- separation of Church and State
- movement from feudal to mercantile economies
- importance of classical texts
- reform of the education system towards the humanities
- inventions like the printing press allowed for the distribution of classical works
- scientiﬁc developments
- new social classes (mercantile class)
- urban life developed
- male dominance persisted despite these developments
- after the creation of a new middle class, commentaries on everyday life and instruction
manuals as to how to act appropriately in court life were necessary to inform new
classes like the mercantile class how they should act
- the station of women did change slightly for courtly ladies
- some ladies of the court were educated in the Renaissance however they would not
have studied the same things as men (dance and music rather than literature)
Perspectives From the Past: p. 387 - 409
I Libri della Famiglia (On the Family)
Leon Battista Alberti (1404 - 1474)
-> he was a Renaissance man; entered the papal service
-> examines the family unit and its role in rearing children
- “My ﬁrst consideration would only be to make my children grow up with good character
- a father should always encourage his son to be active and not idle; to try and have his
son learn a noble labour skill in case misfortune strikes his family
- to make a family fortunate:
* the number of men must augment and not diminish
* possessions must grow and not lessen
*a ﬁne reputation is precious
* avoid enemies while cultivating friendships - sons must take wives to keep them from sin and produce male heirs
- a wife should come from a family with a status not too great to over shadow that of the
husband, but not too low to be dishonorable. Man & wife should be of equal classes
- nature did not make every many equal, so ﬁnding a good job that ﬁts each man’s skills
- wealth can get a man esteem and praise but a man should work for honor as well
1) According to Alberti, the role of the father is to uphold the family and teach them how
to be honorable and successful.
2) A father’s authority is similar to all authorities at the top of a hierarchy, even a
monarch. They all seek to establish stability in their followers.
3) Education is important to human nature because it’s knowledge that allows you to
see the importance in all people no matter what career they take. It also gives you
status and power important to reputation.
4) Other authors in this series of works view education as the same mechanism for
establishing a reputation and upholding personal and consequentially family honor.
With the resurgence of classicalism, literature was viewed as ethical guides for living
so it was essential to nobility or those who aspired to become courtiers (Castiglione).
5) Alberti’s deﬁnition of honor is that of a person who pursues noble works;
accomplishing the best that they can by working hard and developing their reputation
as well as their families’.
6) Family and honor are very closely linked because one man’s honor will affect that of
his entire family. To Alberti who was an illegitimate son, he always felt pressure from
his family for honor because his reputation brought shame to them.
7) Alberti might deﬁne family as a hierarchy of men, with the father on top, dictating
practices and punishments to his son’s underneath in order to maintain propriety,
honor and stability until they start their own families.
Leonard Da Vinci (1452 - 1519)
-> he was born outside of Florence; a true Renaissance man mastering both science
-> his notebooks were ﬁlled with observations on perspective
- all things transmit their image to the eye by means of a pyramid; the nearer to the eye
these pyramids intersected, the smaller the image would appear
- perspective makes something ﬂat appear 3-D or in relief and vice versa
- when representing perspective in your work, it is impossible for your perspective not to
appear false, since someone else viewing the same subject will see something
different unless standing at the exact distance/elevation you were
- “the eye does not see distant objects as much diminished as they are in natural
- in natural perspective, the greater the distance the smaller something would appear
Review Questions: 1) The relationship between the perspective in nature and the perspective in the human
eye: according to Da Vinci, the distance and the elevation of the person from the
object changes the natural perspective
2) Perspective and mathematical principles are related because the convexity of the eye
affected the angle that the image approaches the eye
3) Perspective is contingent upon a multitude of other factors and is not constant
4) In terms of paintings, the idea of perspective changes how the art is viewed since
each observer will see something different
5) Da Vinci’s ideas on perspective and how it can alter text validates individuality and
the important of studies. Therefore it does not just apply to art but to theology,
philosophy and history as well.
- almost an instruction manual for artists
- connects to other works because his thoughts on perspective could be expanded to all
people in the Renaissance (ie. perspective on life)
The Book of the Courtier
Baldesar Castiglione (1478 - 1529)
-> this book presented the concept of a Renaissance man and worked as a guidebook
to court life
- generally, noble men of the courts have been born into that status and have been
trained to be there
- however for the new middle class that was not brought up as Court men and women,
they can study to “amend their natural defects”
- the true profession of the courtier should be as a soldier, this means they also need to
act bold and stern in the face of their enemies but modest and reserved when dealing
- courtiers should be well read in studies involving the humanities and well versed in
poetry and verse
- these guidelines apply to both noble men and women
- the aim of the courtier is to serve the prince by leading him towards right and
frightening him away from wrong
- following these principles will result in a good courtier
1) When Castiglione mentions “grace” he is referring to status and prestige amongst
nobles, not in the religious sense.
2) The author states that most “grace” is because of lineage since a father will train his
son to be just like him, however hard work and study can move someone from
“senseless folly” to a respectable estate.
3) Grace can be reached by both men and women but in different ways since the quality
of a court man and a court women are very different.
4) A courtier’s status is supposed to be evident in his reﬁned behavior. Without this he is
not ﬁt to represent the prince. 5) With the introduction of a merchant class and people from humble beginnings now
reach wealth, lineage and status are less entwined. The idea of a courtier being
someone of skill and reﬁnement rather than noble birth affects how power is
distributed in the social hierarchy.
6) The courtier is different from a knight because he shows restraint towards violence
and different from a monk because he does not abstain from violence if necessary.
7) The courtier’s “virtue” is an expression of his cultivation, working towards a sense of
Oration on the Dignity of Man
Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola (1463 - 1494)
-> a unique scholar in Renaissance Humanism
-> this speech was written for a public philosophical debate but was never presented
due to church interference
- scholars often of the greatness of man because of his acute senses, reasoning skills
- Pico notes a different reason for our superiority that changes the great chain of being
- he says that God had established the Chain well before humanity, and after the
creation of Adam, gave humans the capacity to change our status on the Chain.
- therefore humans have an indeterminate nature and have the freedom of choice
whether to degenerate to lower forms or be reborn into a high divine form.
- this represents the importance of the Renaissance philosophy of individuality.